Everyone has had the dream where they join a band and proceed to fully indulge in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll in the most hedonistic way possible. For the few lucky ones that get to actually live out this reality they will finish the tour with a hell of a hangover and a couple of stories they might not want to share with their loved ones, but no lasting damage. That is, unless the band you are on tour with is Stars in Stereo. If you spend any time on the road with guitarist Jordan McGraw and drummer Drew Langan you’ll most likely be coming home with a tattoo and chances are it’s not going to be a tattoo you wanted.
“We have a tattoo roulette wheel,” McGraw explains. “We have this app with a bunch of horrible tattoo ideas and instead of settling bets with money we settle them with spins of the wheel.”
Both McGraw and Langan have felt the wrath of the wheel in the past; a memorial tattoo to pop singer Selena is in McGraw’s near future while Langan will soon be inked with an even more bizarre tattoo.
“I have to get one of a jackalope breakfast scene,” Langan laughs. “Luckily that one is a little bit open as to how I want to do it, it just has to involve a jackalope and breakfast food.”
Some of the choices on the wheel are downright diabolical: a 98 Degrees tattoo, the word “Mosh” inked into an armpit and a unicorn shitting out a gray scale rainbow are some of the more fear-inducing tattoos. Making the wheel even more dangerous is the stipulation that you can’t hide the tattoo. In other words, that rainbow-defecating unicorn isn’t going to be hiding on your butt, it’s going to be in full-view of everyone. Not all of the tattoos lurking on the wheel are bad though.
“I think the best story with the wheel is when we made some poor girl who was cutting our hair on the road take a spin,” McGraw recalls. “She got a pretty good one. She had to get one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ namesakes with the corresponding facemask. She ended up with a portrait of Michelangelo wearing an orange mask. That’s just a good tattoo.”
Once you take a spin on the wheel you better be prepared to go through with the ink, Langan does not take kindly to people who dishonor themselves by refusing to follow through with the tattoo.
“When the Los Angeles Kings played the Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals I made a bet with a guy who was a huge Devils fan,” Langan says. “As we know the Kings won and seven months later this guy looked like he was going to welch on the bet. So I was just probably drunk enough and I decided to get a Devils tattoo just to make him look like a dick.”
That Devils fan has found himself the comic foil for tattoos gotten by the Stars in Stereo boys on more than one occasion. McGraw, Langan and bassist Frogs McCormack all have a pair of brass knuckles tattooed on them to commemorate their buddy’s unfortunate brush with law enforcement.
Recently Stars in Stereo were able to take a respite from mocking their friends and getting ridiculous tattoos to record a follow up to their self-titled debut album. After spending much of the last two years on the road together McGraw, Langan, McCormack and singer Bec Hollcraft knew that they wanted to head in a different direction with Leave Your Mark (which was released on 6/24 and can be found here). After feeling that their sound was altered in ways they didn’t necessarily want by producers on their last album the band opted to record this album on their own.
“The goal was to do something that was entirely us and more reflective of our lifestyles than the last album was,” McGraw explains. “Touring for the last year plus really gave us some insight into how we want our sound to develop and how we can incorporate the energy from our live show.”
When left to their own devices Stars in Stereo were able to lock themselves in a room to create the album that they wanted to make. When they were recording their previous album the band had felt as if they were trying to please a producer; without that outside influence they were finally free to do what they pleased. The new philosophy for the band is based on the idea that if all four members of the band agree on something it can’t be that bad. After all of the time that they have spent together they have gotten to a point where they trust their own musical choices completely and it has led to an album that has a rawer sound than their first album, which is exactly what they were looking for.
“It’s definitely closer to our hearts than the last record because we were so involved in it and because it was all us,” Langan says. “We have been living and breathing this record and nothing else for the last few months.”
Now that the album is out Stars in Stereo will soon be hitting the road once again. One of the great thrills that they have on the road is when they meet fans that have gotten tattoos of the band’s logo, an act that Langan considers to be the highest form of flattery that the band could receive.
“The first one we saw was crazy because he got it even before our first album came out,” McGraw says. “He just saw us, liked what he saw, and came to the next show to buy the album with the huge tattoo on his arm. We thought about going up on stage and pretending that this was our last show as a band but we couldn’t go through with it.”
Since they appreciate the artwork fans are getting on their skin, the band has come up with a policy assuring that anyone that comes to one of their shows with a tattoo of their logo will get to watch the show form the side of the stage. Months ago Rocket From the Crypt had to rescind their long-standing policy to let people with tattoos of their logo into shows for free since so many people had gotten the ink, McGraw believes that the more the merrier when it comes to Stars in Stereo’s tattooed fans.
“If we had 30 people come to a show with tattoos I’ll set up some couches and a bar on the side of the stage,” McGraw says with a laugh. “I don’t care. That would be so awesome. If you are that dedicated to our band we definitely owe you something.”
Every time McGraw and Langan see a fan with a tattoo dedicated to their band they see proof that they have left their mark on someone’s life, in that same vein some very respected tattoo artists have left their marks on the skin of the two band-mates. McGraw has had extensive work done by the much-revered master of black and grey, Mister Cartoon.
“I’ve been going to Mister Cartoon here in L.A. since I was 18,” McGraw recalls. “We just finished up both of my arms, my left arm is all Alice in Wonderland themed. My other arm has a haunted, dead city along with Heaven, Hell, and some other mythological stuff. He is awesome, I’m about to go back to him to start my chest.”
McGraw keeps returning to Mister Cartoon to get work done for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that he has gotten nothing but excellent tattoos from Mister Cartoon but a secondary reason may lie in the horrible tattoo that sits on top of his index finger. While McGraw was having the inside of his middle finger tattooed the artist (McGraw would rather leave him unnamed) asked him to hold down his index finger. The artist told McGraw to release his finger a second too early and the result is a random line that won’t wash off.
“It was the only time I have ever had a tattoo artist say ‘oops’ and actually mean it,” McGraw laughs. “It’s a full blown fuck up. I’m not even mad because it’s actually one of my favorite things I have permanently on my body. I feel like the shitty tattoos have better stories.”
Langan has a black and grey sleeve tattooed by Manny Briseno that is mostly dedicated to the idea of “travel,” but other than that the majority of his tattoos are more random than McGraw’s. His right arm is a mixture of traditional style tattoos that have been thrown together and tattooed by many different artists including Jim Sylvia. Sylvia is also responsible for Langan’s most striking piece.
“I already had some text on my collarbone that said, ‘This too shall pass,’” Langan says. “I knew that I wanted a bird to go with it because of the way it would look on my chest. I decided to go with the owl since they are typically depicted as the wisest birds.”
While creating Leave Your Mark the members of Stars in Stereo had a chance to think about the various “marks” that they have left on each other—both creatively in the way that the various members have influenced each other musically and physically in the tattoos that they have forced each other to get through the fiendish tattoo roulette wheel. This introspection has allowed the band to create an album that represents exactly who they are and they hope that the album will leave a mark on those who listen to it as well.
Leave Your Mark is on sale now and can be picked up through iTunes.
Check out more of Drew and Jordan's tattoos in the gallery below