Stillsuit Vocalist Julian Vasquez on the Band’s Return, New Recordings + More

Photo: Cory Bonfiglio

Stillsuit will always have a special place in my heart. Not only was the band formed in my hometown of Queens, NY, but they also featured three fellow Latinos in their lineup. But most importantly, Stillsuit wrote some of the most exciting and groundbreaking songs of the '90s hardcore era. Though the quartet only released an EP (Green Spock Ears, 1995) and one full-length (At the Speed of Light, 1996) during their initial run, their impact was felt.

The group broke up soon after their album dropped in the mid-'90s, but Stillsuit returned last year with a triumphant show at Brooklyn's Saint Vitus. On April 13, they'll be taking the stage again, this time at BK Bazaar Cellar in Brooklyn, so I reached out to Stillsuit vocalist Julian Vasquez to catch up with him and find out what's been brewing with him and the reunited band.

First off, now that you’ve had some time to think about it, how do you feel about the first Stillsuit reunion show, last year? Were you happy with the way things turned out in terms of the performance?

Extremely happy with the reunion show at Saint Vitus. Sound was great, energy was amazing, smiling faces everywhere, and a pretty perfect bill as far as the long relationships we have with the guys in the other bands. I'm so glad Sunny [Singh] from Hate5six came out to film and we sold lots of t-shirts! 

Did that show spark the interest within the band to do this next show, or did you always plan on doing more gigs once you got back together to practice again?

When we decided to play this show, we went into rehearsals with the goal of just having a great performance and to have fun. There was no immediate plan. During rehearsals we would have discussions about what we all feel as a whole on moving forward and to what capacity. We would discuss who we would do any future performances with, how have other bands been received during their so called “reunions," and where we were all at in our personal lives. Everytime we would get together, it felt good just playing music together. Before this show was even in the cards, [guitarist] Orlando [Arce] and I would get together every now and then and discuss writing new music in general just to be creative.

Once we performed, it just sparked an interest to continue jamming. We talked about a new Stillsuit EP, featuring B-sides from At the Speed of Light, which would feature three songs from that era in which were never recorded. We discussed two songs Orlando and I wrote after Stillsuit split and rewriting them with [bassist] Manny [Carrero] and Dimi [Douvas]. Again, all talk.

I guess when you get older and you are not pursuing the same dream as when you were kids, music becomes fun again. Don’t get me wrong, it was always fun, but now there is no pressure and as you mature, you realize more how important it is to create what just makes you feel fulfilled.

Stillsuit at Hungry Charley's, Syracuse, NY, 1997. (Photo: Ryan Canavan)

It sounds like you and Orlando have a really strong musical and creative bond.

Orlando and I are always throwing music at each other for inspiration. Out of the dozens of bands we would exchange, we were always inspired by the more adult sounds of the noise punk movement. So, next thing you know, here comes a demo of this song Orlando sent over the interwebs for all to contemplate. Orlando and I got together in a rehearsal space and banged out the foundation. When we set out to write new music, inspiration came of course from Quicksand. Not particularly musically, but more in tune to, what would this band sound like in 2018? I’m all about sick dance breakdowns and teenage angst, but you can not recapture that in your 40s. This is a step to what the Suit will sound like in this day and age. So, I would say we are most excited about writing and recording new tunes. 

From a vocals perspective, did it take some time for you to feel comfortable singing/screaming again, or was it like riding a bike?

[Laughs] Like riding a bike, Carlos! But like all musicians, you still have to practice on your own. I am more focused and aware and also physically in great condition. If there is a challenge, it is just adapting my voice to what levels of craziness I can handle. 

Stillsuit, Lower East Side, 1997. (Photo: Michael Benabib)

What song got the best reception at the first show? 

I think "Opposition" always gets the best reaction. It's just such a great song. But the whole show in all got a great reception. I’m so glad it was captured by Unartig and Hate5six. If any readers are interested, go checkout the footage on YouTube

Will you be playing the same setlist at the April 13 show?

For the next show we are playing a different set. Dropping a few songs, adding some we didn’t play and playing a new song, possibly two. After this performance, it is important to know that we as a band are one to look and move forward. We plan on just getting together, continue to write and record. For any future performances, we just want to play new music, no more looking back. Look, its 2019, I listen to alot of current bands, read a lot of content and listen to hardcore/punk-related podcasts. If there is anything I have learned, young kids just care about the bands who have a real legacy or what is current and relevant. Our generation is lucky if they can even make it out the house past 8pm [laughs]. We are getting together solely for the purpose of being artistically creative.

If our fans are at all interested in following us, we are here for them to come along with us on this new journey. Hopefully with the way technology is now, we can reach more ears and gain more of a fanbase in these times.

Stillsuit, 2019. (Photo: Trey Young)

If you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Stillsuit song and why? When I interviewed Orlando for the site, he said “Heartburn” was his favorite.

That is never a fair question, especially for a singer/lyricist. I can tell you what my least favorite songs are [laughs]. With our music, there is so many layers. It is hard to pinpoint to someone which song to direct them to in order to understand what the band sounds like. I can tell you this, "Opposition" is always a good starting point. It is heavy, it is groovy, and is structured. It's also lyrically relatable for the younger generation who struggle with growing into their own and the culture that surrounds them.

From At the Speed of Light, I will tell someone to listen to "And the Winner Is" for the ferocity of the riff. I will also have them listen to "Bicycle for Two," as it is an upbeat catchy poppy punkish feel with some good Sonic Youth noise thrown in there for the listener to remember we are anything but conventional. The thing about Stillsuit songs that are hard for me to say which are my favorite will always have to do with lyrical content. I have primarily always written my lyrics before the music and would need to find the rhythm in the words that follows the vibe of the music. 

Tell me a bit about how the next Stillsuit show in Brooklyn came together.

As far as the next show, it wasn’t planned. [Saint Vitus co-owner, guitarist of such bands as Mind Over Matter and Primitive Weapons] Arty Shepherd asked us if we would do this show with Vault and gave us free reign on asking other bands to join, so we said yes. Justin Scurti is my cousin, so we have Death Cults, and we love Chris Daly’s band High Disciple, so It works out to keep it in the “old guy” former members of category [laughs]. We had offers to play shows from other friends, but life gets in the way. 

Tickets for the Stillsuit, Vault (ex-members of Snapcase, Avail, Threadbare), Death Cults (ex-members of Pilot to Gunner, I Hate Our Freedom), and High Disciple (ex-Texas Is the Reason) show at BK Bazaar Cellar on April 13 are available here. Give Stillsuit a follow on Instagram.


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Tagged: stillsuit