The Unquiet American

Until now, American Hi-Fi has kept a low profile. The last we heard from the L.A. power-pop quartet was 2005’s Hearts on Parade for the Maverick label. The long silence is partly because of frontman Stacy Jones’ gig as music director and touring drummer for Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana. The Hi-Fi recently self-released a fourth album, Fight the Frequency, which balanced a melody-to-heaviness ratio of monster riffs (“Frat Clump”) and glossy ear-candy (“Acetate”). Soundscraper phone-chatted with Jones prior to American Hi-Fi’s all-ages show at Count’s Vamp’d (formerly Feelgoods 9 p.m., Feb. 12, 6750 W. Sahara Ave., 220-8849).

From drumming for Letters to Cleo to Cyrus, you have a track record of helping pop-music ladies rock a little harder. How’d you end up a musical feminist?

Wow, never been asked that. Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of chick-rock bands in my life. But when I was coming up in the ’90s there were so many girls playing heavy music that it didn’t seem like a big deal. There don’t seem to be as many ladies rocking out now. Letters to Cleo was the first band I ever played in that had success, and we toured with Belly, Veruca Salt and got lumped together on bills. We just all became friends. I’m a dude, I like sports, but I guess I have a sensitive side.

You produced an album for a Vegas band called The Cab.

For their new album I produced five songs and did session drumming. They did more songs with a hip-hop producer. They’re just talented, great guys. I’m the producer you go to if you really want to play your own instruments. I’m old-school and like to get the band together live in the studio. My favorite records have lots of imperfections on them, but they’re what keep you coming back. You hear a squeak on the acoustic guitar fret and it adds personality.

What is it about power-pop that draws your imagination?

I’ve always been a melodic guy and a rock guy. I loved all the classic-rock stuff, then got into heavier music later on, especially textured, rhythmic bands like Helmet. But the artists I always return to are melodic whizzes with clever lyrics, great arrangements—just superb tunesmiths like Elvis Costello, Fountains of Wayne. And I love Dave Grohl. Foo Fighters and Oasis are probably my two top bands.

Is there a message in the new album’s title track? Lyrics: “Pirate satellite transmission/and truth is power if you listen/This is our time to shine.”

It’s a self-empowerment song, yeah, and the first one I wrote when I decided to get the band going again. I think it captures the feeling that we’ve been in a band together for 10 years. I almost feel like American Hi-Fi has been this inside joke for the four of us, a boys club where we go out and play rock music for fun. It’s a labor of love, which means the pressure’s totally off.

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By Andreas Hale

Independent East Coast Hip-Hop