The path for ’90s grunge stalwarts Stone Temple Pilots has long been lined with roses and thorns. The band has faced hurdles along the way that most would find insurmountable. And yet, brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz have continued writing, creating and performing with STP for nearly three decades, even after the death of frontman Scott Weiland. The band bottled up that experience and channeled it into its latest album, the all-acoustic Perdida.
Much of the new album is influenced by its time with Weiland at there helm.
“There’s been a lot of life that’s happened. What better gift than to be a musician and to document your feelings? bassist Robert DeLeo said.
Weiland’s drug addiction, run-ins with the law and multiple stints in rehab took their toll and contributed to the band’s initial split in 2002. But the core of the band remained close, performing in various capacities without their troubled frontman. In 1997, the DeLeos and Kretz enlisted vocalist Dave Coutts to form the short-lived band Talk Show, and in 2006 the DeLeos teamed with Filter’s Richard Patrick to form Army of Anyone.
The band reconciled with Weiland in 2008, but the cracks would return a few years later, leading his firing in 2011. The band recruited Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington to take the helm in 2013, releasing an EP and touring for two years.
Tragedy struck twice, with Weiland dying of an accidental overdose on a tour bus in late 2015 while on a solo tour and Bennington committing suicide two years later. While both frontmen were multiple years removed from the Stone Temple Pilots, their deaths still came as a shock and took an emotional toll on the band.
With the weight of the past 20 years on their shoulders, the DeLeos and Kretz began to plan for the next chapter.
In early 2016, the band launched an extensive search to find a new vocalist. DeLeo said he struggled to define what would make someone the “right” choice for the band. Over a year, many famous names were bandied about social media. Ultimately, the band went with lesser-known former Dry Cell frontman and “X Factor” contestant Jeff Gutt. Stepping into the shoes of someone like Weiland or Bennington is a tall order, but DeLeo said that Gutt checked all the boxes.
“There’s so many variables of being right,” DeLeo said. “I think it was someone who could obviously sing, and perform and write, and be a great person to be around—that’s what makes up Jeff.”
The revitalized STP got to work quickly, releasing a self-titled seventh album and hitting the road with Gutt at the helm in 2017. DeLeo praised Gutt’s innate music sense in the studio, especially given the tall task of creating an acoustic album.
“It’s a pretty heavy thing to lay on a new singer—a full-on acoustic record—it’s that deep,” DeLeo said, laughing. “He just got it; I wrote music and expressed how I was feeling, and lyrically he knew what was being felt.”
Robert and Dean DeLeo had a revelation in the early stages, tapping into the foundation of where the band’s songs begin and building from there.
“All songs for me and my brother really come from acoustic guitar,” DeLeo said. “You have the choice whether you want to take them electric or keep them acoustic, and with everything we were going through in life, I think it was a decision to keep the songs in that place where they were best represented.
“It’s not really the direction the band is going in,” he said. “It was just kind of a stop off to reassess life, take a little breather and document what’s happening in our lives at this moment.”
As time passes, the band’s older material takes on new meaning for DeLeo, which manifests in a number of ways; either a new interpretation of a lyric or a memory connected to a time a song was written.
“The songs become more etched in your being and your soul; they represent 30 years of life,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look back at their life. Shit, I have songs to prove it. … That lives with me every night that I perform those [older] songs. There’s not a moment that I don’t go on stage and think about them. That’s the beauty of music; songs live on, and they become part of the thread of our lives. It’s even a whole different realm when you write it.”
DeLeo noted how far Stone Temple Pilots have come since their debut appearance on “MTV Unplugged” in 1993. While he was nervous and lacked confidence at the time, he wishes the band could have documented all its albums acoustically.
“There was definitely a nervous energy back then,” he said. “I would say [Perdida] is more of an, ‘I need to get this out’ therapeutic kind of energy. … I don’t know what the next record’s gonna be like. … I just know at this moment we needed to make this record. It was more than just playing; it’s therapy.”
The band expanded its creative process for Perdida, bringing in additional musicians to add new sounds and round out the acoustic foundation. Bill Appleberry plays keys on a number of songs. Adrienne “Abe” Byrne plays the flute on “I Didn’t Know the Time.” The guests were able to interpret the band’s material in different ways.
On “Years,” he was inspired by saxophonist Paul Desmond, who composed the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five.” DeLeo wanted to bring a Desmond-esque energy to the track, recruiting sax player Chris Speed for the challenge.
DeLeo sings lead on “Years,” a first on a Stone Temple Pilots record. He felt an attachment to it and Gutt suggested he lead.
Stone Temple Pilots had an entire North American acoustic tour planned that was set to begin this week, but had to call it off when Gutt injured his back. An acoustic Australian tour is still planned for April and the band will definitely be on the road next fall, supporting Nickelback. The band hopes to reschedule an acoustic tour here later in the year.
“[Playing acoustic] is kind of like being around a camp fire instead of on the streets of New York City with all the horns and sirens,” DeLeo said. “I’m a fan of music and have had the opportunity to ask my idols what they wrote about, and it still captivates me.”
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.