Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9)

Taking a unique perspective on performing, Sound Tribe Sector 9 is not just about the band and the music it makes.  It’s about creating an environment.

With nary a spoken word, STS9 strives to infuse venues with a positive vibe. The band’s complex blend of funky psychedelic improvisational dance-rock and groove serves as the backdrop for an atmosphere from which fans can take many things. There are elements of spirituality, learning and healing. It’s definitely an opportunity to expand one’s horizons.

It’s also an environment of equality, where there is no vocalist and no one band member in the spotlight. It begins with a projection and light show that seems to draw no line between the audience and the band. It goes further to include fellow artists who take part in the experience, like the painter who creates his own representation of the performance or the massage therapist who shares his healing craft.

The concerts draw devoted fans who are inspired to dance for several hours and some who make their own recordings of the jams.

“We enjoy a very comfortable, open environment at our shows where it’s a really positive vibe and people can come and relax, open themselves up and just engulf themselves in music for three or four hours a night,” STS9 bassist David Murphy told POLLSTAR.

The spirit of the San Francisco/Santa Cruz-based band does not end with the musicians. Every single person involved in STS9’s business is a friend first and considered crucial to the group’s success.

“We see it as the people who aren’t on the stage are the ones who make the show happen every night,” Murphy said. “If you don’t have those people, you’re not a band.”

Those who help create the STS9 experience include Isaac Cohen (production manager), Kris Harris (projections/DJ), Erik Krudener (sound engineer/massage therapist), Colby Miller (tour manager), Gene Smith (merch), Saxton Waller (lighting design, DJ) and Steve Beatty (FOH Sound Engineer).

“We would never want to go out and hire people that we don’t really know to come in and help create our vision because it is a vision that we all share together – all of the crew,” Murphy said.

In the music industry, finding an artist manager and agent to share in such a non-money-, non-fame-motivated vision wasn’t easy. But just like every other member of the team, the band was friends with manager Peter Jackson and CAA agent Scott Clayton before bringing them onboard.

“Having to deal with the business side of music is really hard for us, all the way down to picking your manager, because our music is something that’s very special and sacred to us as is art itself,” Murphy explained.

He said Jackson, who was Widespread Panic’s production manager for five years, was a friend of STS9 percussionist Jeffree Lerner. Jackson was one of the few people who could understand where the band was coming from and portray that to the music business.

Sound Tribe Sector 9

“It is interesting managing these guys because it is such a dualistic vision,” Jackson told POLLSTAR. “While we have to be commercially viable to insure our very survival out there in the real world, there also has to be this other side of our business that is focused on furthering this vision.”

“In this industry, you hear so many horror stories about how people are not very nice in the music business, but I think if you carry yourself with a certain amount of positivity and have good faith in your fellow man, it will come around more often than not.”

From a booking standpoint, it would seem like a grassroots band would be well served by a small agency, which was the case with STS9 and Treeline Artists until recently. Murphy spoke very highly of Treeline agent/owner Chris Cate, who still plays a role in the band’s business, but STS9 felt it would need a major agency to accomplish its long-term career goals.

“We are more of a unique band in that we’ll never have the pop appeal, we’ll never have the radio appeal – probably a lot due to the [absence of] singing. So we felt like we would have to really find unique ways to sustain ourselves in the music industry besides touring,” Murphy said.

He explained how CAA offers the opportunity to pursue international touring, work in movie and television scores, and video game music.

“We love playing live music and recording music, and that probably won’t change for a few years.  But I guess we’re trying to look down the road at our careers and how will we sustain ourselves in the industry because the music industry is a very hard thing to have stability in.”

One thing the band has decided to keep in-house at this juncture is its record company. After concluding a two-album deal with Landslide Records, STS9 is planning to launch its own yet-unnamed label, which will release an album of live recordings this spring.

In other endeavors, the band is looking to tie education into the concert experience, playing college and high school campuses. Perhaps in that realm, the members can share their scientific view of music.

“We look at it even in biological terms – that the body is 75 percent water and therefore, water molecules resonate with music and with sound,” Murphy explained.

Jackson mentioned that the band is also looking into sponsorship deals with like-minded organizations – like organic food companies, for example – “and having it not be criticized by our fans, but appreciated.”

In the meantime, STS9 is set to launch its next tour February 28th.

“It’s flabbergasting as to why people come to see us and don’t go see other bands. It still baffles me to this day,” Murphy admitted. “But I do really feel like we give something to people that is unique.”