Sideways Reign

Here’s something we haven’t heard of before – a feature with a band member that ran for the U.S. Senate. That’s right – lead singer of the Union, Washington-based band Sideways Reign, Justin Stang ran just last year for a seat to help shape this country. And looking at the band’s history, I probably would have voted for him. He and his band mates (cousin and guitarist Casey Dehe, drummer Mike Dennis and bassist Cody Goodwin) are a DIY band that continuously gives back. They run the Sideways Reign Foundation, a non-profit that awards an annual scholarship, sponsors a youth soccer team, and has adopted a State Highway. The band is also a sponsor of a child in need in Bangladesh– all of this funded by proceeds generated by the band’s live shows. Good people, no doubt.

The band has a release you should hear about too, the follow-up to their “Scale Mt. Epic EP”, an LP titled “A Stand For All Stages”. The collection holds a mix of rock, blues, folk and reggae. We asked Stang for more information: “We self produced and recorded in a staggering four days. Just about everything was done live and/or in only a few takes. This is not to mention that we also had a shoe-string budget as well.  As a result, the listener gets a glimpse into what one of our shows is like, because we tried to capture that essence on the CD. It's a very straightforward and honest representation of Sideways Reign as a band.”

Needless to say, you should pick up “A Stand For All Stages”. And catch Sideways Reign live (they’ve played in five countries after all) – they’ll be playing the Western part of the states starting this month. If you’re at SXSW right now, go hang out with them. There’s a whole lot more to learn, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Sideways Reign (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Justin Stang (JS): We're a rock band that loves to jam; however unlike many bands in this genre we're first and foremost a singing band with very structured songs.

PEV: Calling Union, Washington home, what kind of music where the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert? PEV: Tell us your take on the music scene is like in your hometown and what was it like trying to break into it?

JS:  All four of us have very diverse musical tastes from folk to rock, blues, reggae, metal, hip hop -you name it, someone in the band likes it (or has at some point)- which makes for a really creative environment for us to work in.  My first concert was Billy Joel on his Storm Front Tour...which was awesome!  Union is such a small and rural hometown most of our playing involved travel to Seattle or closer to Olympia.  The music scene in Olympia, WA is going through an interesting turn at this point... It seems with a very big historical part in Northwest music, it's now going through a transformation and searching for it's new identity. We made a point to go out and find bands we liked in the scene when we were starting out and worked to make connections and play shows whenever we could with any of those acts.  It was crucial to have mentors help to show us the ropes.

PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live Sideways Reign show?

JS: Our favorite shows are loud and rowdy, super high energy from the band and the crowd.  We are definitely there to entertain, and work as hard as possible to leave the listeners with a memorable experience.

PEV: The band has a bit of a family element too, featuring cousins Justin and Casey playing between family visits, later meeting the remaining band members. Back then, did you think your hobby of playing together would come to this?

JS: Casey and I look back on those times and laugh - kids with guitars, playing around a campfire.  I'm not sure either of us expected we'd still be at it, but can't really say that there is anything else we would rather be doing.

PEV: Having all been in other bands before how is playing with Sideways Reign different then those other people you may have played with?

JS: This band is all very close- if not best friends. While only two of us are technically related, we're certainly all family.  That's something you don't get to see very often and most of us never had that playing with other groups.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JS: Initially, I think music was the greatest coping mechanism and writing was the best outlet for us to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life.  Everyone has tough times and playing music and writing songs can make all that struggle disappear.  Our best ideas come from what we can all relate to best.  Love gained or lost, a rough day at work or a great story.  They all have a way of leaving an impression.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

JS: We are always surprised.  We go out everyday and try to move forward, gain another fan, write another song, play another show, but it never ceases to amaze me how surprised I am when people come up and say that a song has changed their life or helped them through tough times.  

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Sideways Reign?

JS: It may be surprising to know that our first band van did not have enough seats or seat-belts for everyone! Half the band rode in lawn chairs in the back (which I do not condone or recommend!) Also Mike is the only band member with a tattoo...and he has enough for all of us!

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?

JS: I think it's something that's always been there for all four of least somewhere in the back of our brains.  Every year we set goals as a band and they always involved becoming more committed to the career.

PEV: Tell us about your debut release, “A Stand For All Ages”. What can fans expect from this?

JS: We self produced and recorded in a staggering four days.  Just about everything was done live and/or in only a few takes.  This is not to mention that we also had a shoe-string budget as well.  As a result, the listener gets a glimpse into what one of our shows is like, because we tried to capture that essence on the CD.  It's a very straightforward and honest representation of Sideways Reign as a band.

PEV: Having played in five countries and countless cities, how is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

JS: We all love to travel and take road trips, camp etc.  The road is terrific for really learning about yourself and your friends/band-mates. We truly enjoy the adventure and the journey.  The best part is probably when you have reservations about a particular tour stop and are pleasantly surprised by the reception or welcome that you receive from strangers.  The worst part is for sure the shower situation.

PEV: Justin, tell us about your run for Washington Senator in 2010? What made you decide to run and what happened as a result of this experience?

JS: I felt that a majority of the people in my small hometown were being ignored when they voiced their concerns to our elected officials, particularly concerning western Washington's beautiful environment.  People began to tell me that they were going to write my name on the ballot instead of the choices they had and I embraced that sentiment.  If people thought I could do a better job, I was certainly willing to listen and try.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

JS: We couldn't do what we do without the love and support of our friends, family and a good portion of our town.  Our hometown shows are some of the best because they're so comfortable.  Playing at home is like wearing your favorite sweater...It makes us feel great trying to return all that support and love with a great show.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JS: We spend a great deal of time outside, playing disc golf, camping, traveling. We also love to hunt for great bar-b-q and pizza.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?

SR:  Dispatch is a truly inspiring independent band we would love to work with on any level.  They have played a big part in showing us we can go out and do this. As for a past would have to be John Lennon or Bob Marley...either would be too hard to pass up!

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JS: I really like The White Buffalo lately...what a great voice.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think each of you would be your career?

JS: Tough question...Casey and I used to be garbage men...perhaps that is where we'd all be...

PEV: So, what is next for Sideways Reign?

SR:  We have a big tour planned throughout the western US in March with a big stop at South By Southwest in Austin Texas and we're currently hard at work recording our next album, which will be out later this year.  Additionally we will launch our new in early March.

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