Stonefox Is Back as a Trio With Big Plans
Stonefox shows are dramatic, booze-drenched affairs with lots of head-banging, blues-riff shredding, and ambient guitar noise that end with tiny frontman/guitarist Jordan Cruz flying headlong into the drum kit or some other mass of instruments. The energy builds until the crowd and the band are reeling out of control, but what's most remarkable about Stonefox is the synchronicity among its three members.
Even when not driven by the mad energy of a live show, the trio of 23-year-olds that comprises Stonefox appears as one unit with three heads as they look up, calm and expectant, from the tiny booth in the corner of the Duck, a brick-walled juke joint in their hometown of Boca Raton. Guitarist David Barnard looks squished between drummer Jeff Rose and Cruz, but despite the fact that the band called it quits just five months ago, they don't seem to need too much personal space from each other now.
On May 1, Stonefox played one unofficial, but still well-attended, reunion show at the Poor House in Fort Lauderdale under the name Falco, and the band will play an official reunion show Saturday night at Propaganda with the Freakin' Hott and Zombies! Organize!!.
Before its farewell show last January, Stonefox had released two 12-song albums — the second, Back on the Wire, just a few months before the breakup — and undertaken six tours, two of which were ambitious journeys that led them to the Northeast and as far as Cleveland and Chicago in less than two years. Through incessant local performances, they'd developed a good deal of buzz and a sizable following. Just when whispers of A&R attention began after the Miami Music Festival last December, Stonefox imploded.
After a well-attended farewell show at Fort Lauderdale's 1921 venue in January, the local scene was suddenly left without its youngest promising new band. What we didn't know at the time was that Cruz had issued an ultimatum that didn't sit well with his band: New York, or else. "I was born and raised in Boca Raton," Rose says, "and I never had a problem with living here. I think that was one of the things that led to the breakup."
Reflecting, Cruz says of the ultimatum, "I guess that's not the best way to present it to someone if you want them to come with you." Just a couple of days after the show, Cruz set off for Brooklyn, where he started putting together a new band called the Electric Heels. The experience, Cruz says, made him long for what he'd left behind: "It was like when you have an ex and then when the next person comes along you think, 'The old person did this.' I was thinking when I was playing with people in New York that I wished it was Stonefox."
Distance had the same effect on Barnard. "It took the misplacement of the band to make us realize what we had." He reflects on the band's origins: "When we first made 'Neckface' [a song off of the band's first album, Dead in the Sun], we worked on it all night almost and then we put it on in the car and we were like, 'What the fuck did we just do? It's not out there, and we love it.' And we forgot about that."
All three members of the band agree that the strain of having a fourth member, bassist Ross Fuentes, threw off the easy chemistry of the jamming that fueled their prolific songwriting (Stonefox has more than an album's worth of unreleased material) and limited their live show.
"We've all known each other for a long time and gone through growth spurts together. We're as close as actual siblings," Cruz says. "When we brought someone else into our mix, it kind of fucked everything up. Yeah, it expanded our sound, but when he joined, it was like someone playing catch-up."
When it comes to playing and jamming, Barnard says, "We don't have to talk about it. What we did was just teaching."
Rose adds, "We tried to write new songs, but it just didn't gel."
Jordan summarizes, "It became too political in the band because it stopped making progress after a while, and we were spinning our wheels."
Fuentes, whom New Times reached by phone, acknowledges that the band did "have an extensive back catalog that I didn't know and that they'd been playing together as Legère [a band all three members were in before Stonefox]. But," he says, "the thing that made that difficult was the personal beef and grudges that had been held for a long time. People would get frustrated, and I wouldn't understand personal things."
Fuentes, who met Stonefox when they toured through Atlanta and started traveling with them soon after, says he moved from Atlanta to Florida last October to play with Stonefox when it became apparent to him that the band was not, as had been discussed, going to relocate to Atlanta. When he got to Florida, he found that the vibe had changed: "The three of them were not getting along that well. There were a lot of personal problems with the members, and it was not the way I expected it to be. We weren't having practice that often. I wanted to play all of the time, and everyone else had something going on."
In February, after Stonefox had played its farewell show, Fuentes moved to New York to put together the Electric Heels with Cruz. "Me and Jordan were the go-getters, and I wasn't really that happy in Florida," Fuentes says. "We kept getting disappointed by the lackluster scene and attitude toward live rock 'n' roll. It was a quick and impulsive decision we made and moved on. At the time, Jordan's opinion about the prospect of being in a long-term business relationship with the other guys was not that good."
However, by the time Cruz returned to South Florida in April, he had a new appreciation for his hometown and his sights set on rekindling the spark of the original three-piece lineup of Stonefox — without Fuentes.
The reunion, however, was not a given for drummer Jeff Rose: "There was a thought in my mind that it wasn't going to work. The drama had settled and the uncomfortable stuff that I'm not getting into was at an end. We all sat down and had a lot of talks and reconciled misunderstandings."
Cruz says, "We laid everything out and said, 'If we go from here and reconcile everything and get to a point where we could all say that we believe in it this much and want to make a career out of it, then we'll do it.' "
Rose adds, "If I wasn't as confident as I was in the band, I wouldn't be doing this. None of us want to do anything else. Stonefox has the biggest chance of doing something big, and we're definitely in it for the long haul."
That's all well and good, but can South Florida once again consider Stonefox our own? "The moving aspect is gone for good," Cruz replies. "I got it out of my system for good."
Moving forward, Stonefox plans to release an EP, play more local shows, book summer and fall tour dates, and find a label to release its next full-length album. Yup, that's right. Cruz insists, "We will not release our next album without a label."
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