The day his eight and thirteen-year-old sons come and tell him they’re moving to Hollywood to join a band is the day bassist and songwriter Robert DeLeo might need to reach for the blood pressure medication.
“I think that’s when I’m going to have a heart attack…,” he tells me over the phone. “Because I think that’s when my mom did: when she knew I was going there and forming a band.”
That band eventually turned into Stone Temple Pilots who entered the thick, early ’90s rock scene only to emerge on the other side of the decade as one of the few groups to make a lasting impact. When their longtime lead singer Scott Weiland passed away three years ago, a unique voice of that era was lost.
For a brief period of time, while Weiland was not with the band, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park took over as lead singer. He also died tragically only last year and with their passing, music lost two of the best frontmen of rock from the past two decades.
The band emerged from both losses this year, touring with their new self-titled album. I caught up with DeLeo ahead of the band’s performance at 93.1 FM’s annual charity concert at Irvine’s FivePoint Amphitheatre to take place this Sunday, October 14th.
Called “Jack’s 13th Show” the event benefits the nonprofit Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and in addition to STP, features 311, Alien Ant Farm, Everclear, Neon Trees and Third Eye Blind.
The show marks the second half of a remarkable year for STP. Their first album created with new lead singer Jeff Gutt entered the Billboard 200 chart upon its release. It was their 10th album to do so, including the one they recorded with Bennington.
And to be back in Orange County, CA is really special DeLeo says, as a particular performance at Irvine Meadows early on marked a high point at the beginning of their career.
“There are a few venues that stick out and Irvine Meadows is one of them,” he says, “Because you know, that’s kind of where we got our start. We did Lollapalooza ‘92 in the daytime there and right after we did that we played a place in Newport Beach called the Roadhouse and we left to go on our first tour.”
However, DeLeo’s ties to Southern California go back even further to when he was a young kid growing up in Point Pleasant Beach along the Jersey Shore: surfing, skating and dreaming of rock and roll.
“Back then, in the ‘70s in New Jersey,” he says, “You had to go to the back of Skateboarder or Surfer magazine, I mean that’s how I got my first Vans sneakers, were filling out a little thing and you know sending it to California and waiting two months to get a pair of Vans.”
Little did he know then that he would find his way to surf the Pacific Coast, where he could pick up his Vans in person and where his brother Dean would end up joining him as lead guitarist in the band. Through turbulent times, the songwriting shorthand he and Dean developed over the years became a hallmark of Stone Temple Pilots.
“I think Dean and I, as far as writing songs, we kind of have our thing…and that’s kind of where we live and it’s kind of been that way since Core, the first record and it’s just a process that we naturally do and it’s part of the joy of having your brother be the other part of your musical uh, concoctions,” he says, laughing.
The new album sounds like classic Stone Temple Pilots, however crucially not on autopilot. One standout is the lush ballad “The Art of Letting Go.” With beautiful construction and a heartbreaking melody, its lyrical poignancy is not lost; keeping in mind everything the band has gone through in recent years.
Although the DeLeo brothers have their songwriting language together, getting the band together and working in the studio was essential to the making of this album.
“Most of that was really trying to get to know each other just the four of us, with Jeff, and kind of getting in a room which is really the healthiest way to do it, is just getting in a room and starting to play,” he says. “I think writing music for a singer, it’s like writing a script for an actor, and Scott was a great person to write music for. He really took that piece of music and made into like a little play and got into character and that was a really fun exciting thing and it still is a really fun, exciting thing to do.”
Indeed, a zen-like quality of renewal and recharging seems to be a skill DeLeo has latched onto. An avid fisherman, he had just squeezed in a fishing trip between gigs when I spoke with him, saying: “It’s kind of my therapy.” The recharge will serve him well as the band goes from Sunday’s show to touring with Seether in Canada later this month.
“It’s been fun getting out there and playing songs again,” he muses. “Everybody is really loving what we’re doing right now and I think it shows and I think you can hear it. As long as we can do that and we enjoy it, we’re going to continue doing that. And I’m thankful, I’m really thankful for it,” he says proving that sometimes the art of letting go means finding the way forward.
Catch up with Stone Temple Pilots while supporting a good cause this Sunday, October 14th at FivePoint Amphitheater in Irvine. Tickets are on sale now at: http://www.ticketmaster.com