Interview: With Joel, Ethan and Jarrah From Stoker

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The first time I saw Stoker was on the funky graffiti art filled stage at Tomcat in Brisbane one night. I was there to catch one of my favourite local bands, Ellis Dewald. Stoker hit the stage after Ellis and I literally stood there with my mouth open in awe of the ridiculous level of talent that graced the stage in front of me. Stoker are almost too good to be true. With Joel Zahner on vocals and bass, Ethan Smith on guitar and Jarrah Thornell on drums. These guys play with experience and talent that seems way beyond their years. The Psychedelic Rock And Roll scene in Brisbane is in safe hands with bands like Stoker really taking off right now. Stoker work hard and play hard and are dedicated to their band, their sound and the magic they create through their music. Since I saw them back in June it has been a whirlwind of gigs and other great things happening for the Stoker guys. They are still gigging hard but also focusing more now on recording which has fans really excited. But let’s start at the start and discover how Stoker first came into existence…

How did Stoker first get together?

Jarrah: Joel and I had been jamming in high school and every lunch break we would be in the studio. We did a course at Tafe, it was a certificate III in music. Ethan got kicked out because it was a school based certificate and Ethan dropped out of school to work. So anyway, we started jamming as a five piece band and it always ended up with just us three turning up to rehearsals. So we were just like, this is it, we don’t need anything else. The three of us have the same sound and we had the same ideas but different. We were on the same track… Nah actually we don’t really get along, we had a punch on about five minutes ago but it was fueled from alcohol and love *all three of them laughing* No but it really helps, we are pretty close. We live in a desert and just hang out with each other, nobody else. We played our first gig in August last year. We were jamming a couple of months before that, so it’s been just over a year now.

Where did the name Stoker come from?

Ethan: There are two stories to this one. We actually came up with the name before this but Jarrah lived at a place called Stokers siding. We came up with the name before that but that really solidified it. One night we were all in the car right and we were having some klunkus’s and then the klunkus got clogged and all at once we all said ‘We need a stoker!’ and we all looked at each other and said ‘STOKER!’ It was fate.

Jarrah: But so basically we came up with the name from an area that had a little mansion on a hill. So pretty much because I lived in Stoker siding and that was one of the names on the list and that solidified it pretty much.

Joel: It is like little cabins out in the bush, so we could just hang out in the bush and jam and listen to music.

Jarrah: It was an awesome self sufficient cabin that I lived in and the boys would come over pretty much every weekend and so we kind of had two territories. I got us some gigs in Byron and the boys got us gigs in Brisbane around the fortitude valley. We all live in Brisbane now.

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Joel and Ethan. Photo taken by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography.

You recently had your ‘Meltdown’ Tour to celebrate the launch of the new single, how did the tour go?

Joel: We drove down. We had two shows we drove down for, Cambridge Hotel and Captain Cook Hotel in Paddington. Paddington was pretty good but they booked us on a night where there was a major sporting event. So they told us about 10 minutes before we went on stage that they had to cancel it because they were like there is too many people here to watch the game. So us being how we are, we were upstairs in our room because we were staying at the hotel for the night and we grabbed our guitars and we were like nah we came from Brisbane, we are gonna play! So we got on stage and by the first song we had like every tradie that was watching the football in the room with us which was pretty good. Then we traveled down to the Cambridge Hotel two days later and that was a fantastic venue, great sound. It was pretty much a full house. The highlight was at the end we did a show at Mo’s Desert Clubhouse on the Gold Coast in Burleigh. That would have been the highlight of the tour for us I would say. It had the biggest production and a big crowd. The sound there is crazy; it is like a big warehouse sort of vibe. You got heaps of art. It is probably my favourite place to play on the Gold Coast.

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Jarrah. Photo taken by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography.

You’ve got a few gigs coming up, but the one I want to talk about is Rock For Rain! I think it’s a kick ass line up, what do you guys think?

Ethan: It is a great line up! Concrete Palms! Alex is a ripper guitar player. Rangi is my boy! He is the best hey I love Rangi. The Desert Sea are such a sick band! We rate them highly, they are all really good blokes. We played with them at Mojo Burning Festival and they are legends. I haven’t seen Hammers yet but I have heard they are really good and TrashQueen too.

Who are some of your favourite local bands you’d like to give a plug too? (All of the guys were saying the bands they love, hard to tell who said what here!)

The Royal Artillery, Double D’s, Belligerent Goat, Concrete Palms, Port Royal. Jarrah: Cassowarys, you gotta get onto them, they play bass with like a violin bow! Yeah nah it’s fully weird, it is like a bass cello, he performs black magic on it too like Jimmy Page. You gotta see them. The bass kind sounds like “Wooooaaammmm” . Hobo Magic, they are were it’s at. There are so many good bands in Brisbane!

All of a sudden the guys are all laughing harder than before.

Jarrah: Oh Wow, There is actually a green tree frog in Ethan’s hand!

Joel: Ethan has just walked back up the stairs with a green tree frog in his hand.

That is so cool, that means the rains are coming! It is an omen! Rock For Rain!

So can each of you tell me one thing about yourself that no-one would know?

Ethan: Hmmm something that no-one knows about me… My favourite food in the world and the best food in the world is a 7:30 in the morning beef and mushroom pie. That is something that I am obsessed with, whenever I go to the bakery I have to get a beef and mushroom.

Joel: Everyone seems to get confused when I tell them, this whole time I have been singing for Stoker I have been channeling Kanye West through our music. Noone will believe me. There is a bit of a conflict with the band, with the boys playing Rock And Roll and me being a big Kanye fan.

Jarrah: I actually text Kim Kardashian on a daily basis. Nah that’s not real. My favourite food in the world is a beef burrito.

Joel: Every time we get paid we spend all our money on a beef burritos and beef and mushroom pies.

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Ethan playing his guitar with his teeth! Image captured by Elizabeth Sharpe of Ummagummamumma – Live Music Photography.

You guys play with talent and experience that seems way beyond your years, I swear you are all reincarnated musicians or something?

Joel: Yeah we made a deal at the crossroads *laughs*

Ethan: We are just addicted to playing music with each other. The blues always changes, it never stays the same, like 100 years ago it was Robert Johnson then it was like Muddy and Willy Dixon and all that. But like you can’t have that today, it wouldn’t be the same, so we’re like Muddy today. A lot of other people are doing the same kind of thing. There is a big blues movement happening because it is the most relative music around today I think. And it is coming back like heavy too!

…and Rock For Rain is all about the Rock and Roll!

Jarrah: I mean you can go searching for something else, but Rock And Roll is there at the end of the day. Hopefully there will be rain coming from the sky. We want the sky to cry!

Stoker are on the epic line up for Rock For Rain coming up on November 17th at the Jubilee Hotel in Brisbane. Rock For Rain is proudly brought to you by Juicy Blue Entertainment and all proceeds from ticket sales go directly to Drought Angels for our farmers in crisis. Get your tickets now through OzTix and make sure you catch Stoker when you’re there!

Click HERE to follow Stoker on Facebook.

Click HERE for the Rock For Rain event page.

Click HERE to get your tickets!

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