The Stonewall Vessels wanted me to meet them next to the train tracks. Admittedly, it was at the swanky Railroad House in Marietta, where the band was already waiting with a reserved table. The Stonewall Vessels are a boisterous band, constantly talking over each other towards the greater goal of making a unified point. Both in conversation and music-making, the Vessels are all about uniting for the greater good. This adds to their charm, which is already in good supply. This leads to moments like when we discussed the origin of the band name.
Each member has a slightly distorted version of where the name came from.
“I like the word ‘vessel,’” says Luke Krizner, guitarist.
“Josh [McNamee] is a big history buff and I was like ‘that’s stupid,’” adds vocalist and sometimes-guitarist Darrion Washington. “But we combined our heads.”
McNamee, who is also on guitar, mentions both the idea of a stonewall defending a vessel and the legacy of “Stonewall” Jackson as potential definitions. “The band name doesn’t have to do with him necessarily, but more not wavering and being true to yourself.”
That same sincerity bleeds through to the music, as well. The songs featured on their most recent release, “Colours,” are various shades of sincere rock and roll. Stadium-ready singalong “Same Thing” and psychedelic campfire dirge “Intervalle” are worlds apart on paper, for example, but it’s the lyricism that binds them.
“Open my eyes. I’m so out of it/Go outside, the grass is all dead” from “Same Thing” neatly calls back to “We slept in beds pretending/We die inside with force fed lies” from “Intervalle.”
The band first came together nearly five years ago in October of 2011, when Krizner, McNamee and bassist Jake Salinger would jam together in high school.
“Luke, Jake and I were in a bunch of different bands in high school,” says McNamee, “Then [Darrion] hit us up on Myspace and was like ‘let’s jam!’”
After an initial show in Mount Joy at Rainbow’s End youth center, the band decided they’d reach out to Salinger, who was recording the show.
“I didn’t know Jake at the time but our mutual friends were asking if he could film the set,” says Washington. “We played for seven people or something stupid like that. It’s still on YouTube.”
“I filmed it from a storage closet!” Salinger smiles.
However, in a turn of events, the band kicked Salinger out for a few months before a fortuitous encounter at a Guitar Center.
“I ran into D at the Guitar Center in the acoustic section. I was there with my dad,” says Salinger. “We started jamming on a song and he was like ‘we need you to come back.’”
“We were doing the weird, Doors-like ‘band without a bass’ thing,” Washington says. “It didn’t feel complete because it was just guitar on top of guitar. I felt like an asshole for thinking Jake shouldn’t be in the band. We were teenagers.”
As with most moments of band honesty, this serious discussion devolves into jokes.
“I was a weirdo, though,” laughs Salinger. “I was like 15 at the time and had a mullet.”
“I hated that fucking mullet!” says Washington. “Make sure you put that in the story.”
With all of the strings in place, the Vessels attempted to find a permanent drummer. Their first drummer, for example, told them that they were holding him back from his potential. They played a show in Gettysburg recently and the drummer showed up, sad that he quit.
“I think one of the most important things in terms of jamming with somebody is having the correct chemistry. Not just how they jam, but their personality,” says Krizner. “We all have the chemistry that allows us to perform as one. When Josh Perry started playing together with us it was like that [finger snap].”
“We ‘auditioned’ him in this dinky basement,” remembers McNamee. “What’s ironic is that we jammed on this song about our old drummer who was in the hospital because he tore his ACL. It got completely rewritten.”
“We were making fun of him like, [sings] ‘He’s taking his meds in his hospital bed,’ and just being idiots,” laughs Washington. “We also wrote a song about a cow once. ‘Lonesome cow, not many friends…’”
With the finalized lineup, the band started constructing “Colours” piece by piece with what the band called “honest jams.”
Not long after the release of the album in mid-2014, the group was contacted by Lancaster’s Prava Creative Studios. Prava brought them in to record some of the songs off of “Colours” live, which led to the Stonewall Vessels being the first official signing by the studio. They’re now one of three artists on the label.
“They help us with a lot of things, and we get to keep our intellectual property, as well, which is nice,” says McNamee.
“They also said that if a big label swoops us up one day, they want that to happen,” says Washington. “As long as we mention their name.”
The boys are back in Prava recording their “Colours” follow-up currently. The album is already written and tentatively titled “Through the Weird and Wild.” Washington explains:
“There was a time in my life when I was seeing this girl and I didn’t know what she wanted from me,” Washington explains. “It was like, [sings] ’Through the weird and wild/Take this hand, don’t let me go/Some mutated shadow man/Vanished to a conscious land.’ It’s like, through everything, all the weird emotions, the arguments, you being indecisive, just shut the fuck up and hold my hand. And that’s kind of how I feel about the band as well. This album is going to define what we went through the last couple years. Through the weird and wild, you know?”