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DS Interview: Wes Hoffman and Friends’ Wes Hoffman and Jacob Boyd on the St. Louis punk scene, their upcoming full-length and playing with A Wilhelm Scream

Wes Hoffman was a name I hadn’t heard in years, at least since I left the Lou in 2013. It was during an interview with the American Thrills guys last month where Hoffman’s name was mentioned, and that spurred me going down a rabbit hole and researching just about everything there was to know about […]

Wes Hoffman was a name I hadn’t heard in years, at least since I left the Lou in 2013. It was during an interview with the American Thrills guys last month where Hoffman’s name was mentioned, and that spurred me going down a rabbit hole and researching just about everything there was to know about the guy, including the significant hiatus he took up until 2017.

For years Hoffman was well known in the St. Louis punk community, and although he wasn’t too active around the time I was discovering the local punk that STL had to offer, his name was one I was fairly familiar with. But time marched on. I moved to Nashville and fell out of touch with the local bands of my former residence … until now. Come to find out, Hoffman has emerged from hiatus and has a shit-load of killer pop-punk anthems released under the moniker Wes Hoffman and Friends.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with the man himself Wes Hoffman, along with bassist extraordinaire Jacob Boyd and we covered a ton of ground, everything from what spurred the hiatus, what to expect from their debut-full-length due out later this year, and a whole bunch more. Attached below are the two singles from their debut record, and if I’m being honest, they’ve been playing nonstop on my Spotify. There’s no concrete date for the record yet, but these two tracks both intrigue and excite the hell out of me. Thanks again to the guys for sitting down with me, and be sure to check them out at one of their upcoming dates in a city near you. Cheers!

(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just three guys shooting the shit.)

Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): I appreciate you guys taking the time. Yeah I heard your name [Wes] from the American Thrills guys, I did an interview with them last week, week before and they mentioned you guys. And your name was one I hadn’t heard in a long time, I used to live in St. Louis about 10 years ago. So I was looking through your profile and I saw you had a record coming out, I thought it’d be a cool interview to do.

Wes Hoffman: Hell yeah man well we’re excited to be here. Yeah Jacob and I have been playing music together for almost 23 years now, it’s 22 1/2 years no 21 1/2 years so I really wanted like incorporate the other guys that are in the band and have them do interviews and stuff like that so this is the first one.

I’m always pumped to have more guys on the interviews. I think the last few I’ve done it’s been like more than just one guy and I like doing it, the more guys the better I think. So yeah kind of the first thing I want to talk about, I know Wes you kind of took a hiatus from the music scene in St. Louis. I wanted to see if you could walk me through kind of your music career I guess from beginning to end. I know you had a pretty good presence starting out and then you took this hiatus and I wanted to see if you could just walk through, beginning to end, what groups you played with, what everything looks like?

Wes: Well you know I was in high school, I grew up like an hour away in Vandalia IL, about an hour away from St. Louis. I actually met Jacob our senior year in high school after we graduated. We both played a show, it’s really silly *laughs*, but it’s the County Fair in Fayette County, Illinois. Both of our bands were playing and we both kind like recognized each other, like you know when you see a person and just they have a vibe or like the way that they’re dressed or something, you’re like “oh man I kind of want to talk to that person, like I have something in common”. And so we became friends and both of our bands that we were in in high school just dissolved because we moved on. And then we had a band called, we started out as Samus, like Samus from Metroid *laughs*. That’s what it was called the first like few months. Then changed it to the Livingston project and this probably would have been late 2001, early 2002. Then I moved to Texas for a little while, but Jacob stayed in the band and they kind of changed the sound a little bit. At the time bands like Thursday were really coming up, like kind of that melodic hardcore, metal core sound with like screaming and singing you know. So then I kind of came back in 2003 or 2004 and I had a band called the Citation and we played around off and on until about 2006. And then, at the time, I met my ex-wife and I kind of put music on the back burner for a while. I kind of went through that whole phase of when you’re in your like mid 20s of “Okay well I have a job and I bought a house”. And you know we ended up getting married and everything and I was like “well I don’t really have time for music anymore”, which I think a lot of people that play in bands go through that. And, sadly, maybe they just lose passion for it and they don’t stick with it. But it was like 2015, I came back and started playing again; played in a band called Why Not. And then my buddy at the time he was like “hey, let’s get a practice space”. He played drums and so we started playing, and then Why Not, it was kind of like winding down a little bit. I really caught the spark again to play music and I wanted to keep this going, no matter what, so I’ll just name this Wes Hoffman Hoffman. For a long time it was Wes Hoffman Positive Punk, now it’s Wes Hoffman and Friends. I just kind of thought, no matter how I do this, I know I’ll always wanna keep playing music so I’ll just use my own name with it. So shortly after that, we brought in Jacob and we’ve been going pretty strong now for over five years, since 2017.

Okay cool. Yeah so I really wanted to kind of hammer on the St. Louis punk scene because I don’t feel like it gets enough credit sometimes. Like I know you’ve got like Dan Vapid, the Methadones, and I’m big fan of the Fuck off and Dies; I love those guys man. But I don’t feel that some of those bands get enough credit from anywhere outside St. Louis. I want to know what some of your favorite local bands are, tell me a little about the St. Louis scene, how it’s doing. I know you’ve got 314 punk which I wanna talk about a little bit later too, but I wanna get your guys’ take on the scene itself.

Wes: I definitely agree man, there are some pretty good bands here right now. There are a lot of good bands and there are a lot of shows happening. I think post Covid everybody was like “alright we wanna play some shows, we wanna get our names out there and start doing stuff”. I would say some of the bands that we really like, that we play with a lot are the Chandelier Swing, kind of a newer band, they’ve been around for about a year. But a lot of those guys have been in other bands and they kind of remind me of like Four Year Strong, like that early 2000s pop punk.

Jacob Boyd: Yeah literally I was gonna say Chandelier Swing, they’re so good. What’re some of the other bands we’ve played with? Dialogue is fantastic. Like Wes and I pretty much like all the same bands so whatever he says, I’m gonna say

Wes: There’s a band, we haven’t played with them yet, they’re called Inner City Witches and they kind of have a little bit of like progressive, a little bit of a little bit heavier sound. They sound a little bit like Turnstile. So yeah there’s a lot happening right now and it’s really kind of an exciting time. I feel like the St. Louis music scene kind of ups and downs. We’re definitely on an upswing right now. There are a lot of people coming out to shows and there are a lot of bands that are doing a lot of stuff. Some of the bands here are starting to go out of town, ourselves included, so I’m really excited about it.

That sounds a lot like Nashville too. Some bands are starting to go out of town and we were kind of on an upswing right before Covid. Then Covid killed it with some of the local bands and some of the local shows, but it’s finally starting to come back. It’s real nice seeing some of the local bands start to gain some more momentum and they’re starting to tour out of town.

So yeah, I wanna hit hard too on the new record, try to kind of promote it a little bit. So what’s the background on the new record, is this kind of like a compilation of songs you just collected over time or did you kind of set out like “alright let’s come up with a new record, let’s write enough songs for new record”? Are these songs that you’ve compiled over your career are they all brand new?

Wes: These are all pretty much brand new. It’s gonna be called ‘How it Should Be”. I have two of the songs that are gonna be on the record out on Spotify right now, two singles, ‘Where Summer Never Ends’ and ‘A Second Too Soon’. And yeah I mean we put out this EP, it’s been almost a year now, ‘Rewrite the Story’ and I wanted to put out a full-length and take my time with it. So over the course of, I mean it’s been over a year now that I’ve been working on this record, finally next week it’s gonna be starting to get mixed and mastered. So I’m really excited about it; the tough thing is you know, like I said, I’ve been working on this for like a year now and I’ve continued writing. So now the new stuff that I’ve been writing I feel like is so much better than that. I mean the record is already gonna be great, you know what I mean, but I feel like the new stuff I’m writing is already better *laughs*.

Jacob: Yeah totally. The songwriting progression it’s really hit a pace now and like even the stuff that we’ve had around for like 7-8 months that Wes wrote and we recorded for this new record, it’s like Wes has already written 10 more tracks that are so phenomenal; it’s like “wait can we sneak one of these on to the record”, like they’re just getting better and better and better. And it’s like we already wanna release another EP after this record, but obviously you gotta pace things a little bit. But like the songwriting is just really hitting a new level and it’s really fun to be a part of.

Wes: Yeah man it’s kind of like the more you do something, the better you get at it, you know. I have tons of songs that will never seen the light, that no one will ever see except for probably me and Jacob because I send him usually most of the stuff [I write]. And I think it’s just that the syncing has helped me become so much better of a songwriter I’ve just written so many songs, not all of them are good, but now I’m at the point where like most of what I’m churning out is pretty good

Then is most of the songwriting primarily you Wes or is it a like collaboration type thing with all the guys you’re playing with?

Wes: Yeah so most of it has been me up until this point. Especially with the EP, I really wanted to put out something that really had my fingerprint on it all the way around. But I can’t play drums so everything on the EP and on the upcoming record, I played all the guitars and bass and our drummer did all the drums. Then we did have the guys come in and do like some vocals and some other stuff too. Like I’m just one of those people, I wanna be prolific and I’m constantly writing and trying to throw stuff out there and constantly trying to better myself. At this point, being at our age, it’s hard enough to get all the guys in the room for practice for an upcoming tour or something like that; we all have girlfriends or wives and careers and other things that are happening in our lives. I almost have another like five songs for an EP demoed out. But I really would like to, who knows when this will be because the new record hasn’t came out yet, but I really would like to do a few songs where everybody kind of collaborates a little bit. Maybe go away for a weekend and kind of figure out “hey how do we wanna write these songs”. Everybody in the band is super talented at what they do, it would be really interesting to kind of see what we could come out with as a collective effort.

I wanted to ask about ‘Where Summer Never Ends’. What’s kind of the meaning behind that song, walk me through the writing process; just kind of background on that song because that’s a killer track.

Wes: Yeah so with that one I kind of wanted to have more of an aggressive Hot Water Music kind of feel to it. And the song itself is about like you know if you’re ever in a situation that you don’t want to be in, do you hold out to try to see if it’s gonna work out or do you just take the easy way out and move on. That song, it’s probably one of my favorite songs to play live. We just had a really big show here in St. Louis and when we played that everybody just went ape shit, it was awesome *laughs*.

Jacob: Yeah when Wes first sent me the demo for that song, I was like “holy crap, this is a single”. Like that song had me more excited than almost any other song we’ve done and I love most of our songs. But like that song just blew me away; I was like “that has to go on the new album”. So that’s the lead track on the new album

That’s one I’ve been hooked on and then I’ve also kind of been hooked on ‘Far From Yesterday’, so I really wanna talk about that one too, see what the meaning behind that one was too because that’s been one I’ve kind of had playing nonstop.

Wes: Oh dude, thank you man. Yeah you know, that’s a really high-energy track too. We usually play that second and people are usually jumping around; that’s one that I feel like a lot of people know the words to as well. I wrote that song in the summer of 2020 so even though people are just now discovering these songs, they’re kind of old you know, a couple of years old. But that song specifically was about me going through a pretty major life transition. I moved out of my house, I closed my business, I started a new job, just kind of the anxieties and the feelings of like “hey this is a whole new thing”, and I’m basically rewriting my story.

Do you kind of have a timetable like “we might do another single in two months, six months, maybe try and have the full length out in a year”, what’s that look like?

Wes: ‘Thunder’ I think will actually be the next single off of it and we’ll probably put that up with like a lyric video or something as soon as it’s mixed and mastered. So I would say maybe a safe estimate would be early March. And then I wanna put out one more, ‘Paper Hearts’, with a video as well and that might not be, I like to space things out a little bit, maybe May or the middle of May, something like. Then hopefully we’ll put out the album either in the summer or the fall depending on how everything shakes out. We’re talking to a few labels about possibly partnering to put it out, but nothing solid yet.

This is kind of a question for both of you guys. So in what I’ve heard from you guys, I kind of hear the melodic side, I know you did a show with A Wilhelm Scream, I kind of hear that melodic side. But then I also hear the pop-punk side, like you said with Four Year Strong, I kind of hear that too. I want to hear what both of you guys think, what are your influences?

Jacob: I kind of grew up on like the Get Up Kids, like pop punk, kind of safe pop punk because you know my parents weren’t cool with anything too out there; like MXPX and all that stuff. I was in a punk band in high school and I grew up around a lot of like indie punk, early 2000s pop punk. And that’s like a lot of what I even still listen to. Like that time period, like early 2000s punk, pop punk specifically, is a huge influence for us I think. The older you get, you’re exposed to more and more influences, but there’s something about those early bands you listened to, you know, they really stick with you, whether you like it or not. They really kind of shape the way you look at music.

Wes: Yeah I couldn’t agree more. I think the bands that you really embrace in formative years when you’re like 13 through early 20s, those are the bands that really leave their mark on me. Yeah MXPX, the Get Up Kids were another one that people compare us to quite a bit recently, not knowing that that’s like one of our favorite bands *laughs*. But also, I mean I love A Wilhelm scream, I love like fast, technical punk. I’m definitely nowhere near the guitar level of those guys, but we try to throw little flashy riffs into our songs and stuff like that; that’s always fun for me. Face to Face is another big one for me.

Yeah I love those guys, I actually just did an interview with Matt Riddle not too long ago.

Wes: And No Use for a Name, I think he was doing No Use for a Name also. Yeah I mean No Use for a Name and Face to Face, they just kind of had more of that melodic sensibility. Then I would say like more modern bands, the Menzingers, I’m a huge fan of the Menzingers. They kind of have that like Midwest style, that kind of Bruce Springsteen songwriter-type feel. I like them a lot and Bayside, I know Bayside’s been around forever, but they just put out an EP and a new single and their new stuff is some of the best stuff that they’ve ever put out.

So how was that show with A Wilhelm Scream over at, where was it, the Ready Room?

Wes: It was supposed to be at the Ready Room, but it was at the old Rock House. It got moved, the Ready Room has not quite opened yet. They’ve done a few shows there, but I think there have been like some issues with like permits and things like that. But it was awesome man, we’d never played there before. I wanna say it maybe holds 200 people and there were probably around 100 people there. It’s a Tuesday night in St. Louis and Four Year Strong was also playing in town that night too. And In Flames. St. Louis, the tough thing about our city is we’re a big city, but we’re not like Chicago; if there are a couple big shows happening in the city like A Wilhelm Scream, Four Year Strong, and In Flames, like they don’t all succeed. We’re just not big enough; whereas that happens in Chicago, it’s fine because there are like several million more people there to go to all those shows. Here it’s just a little bit different. But it was great, those guys ripped and they’ve been one of our favorite bands for years, for decades.

Yeah I finally got to see them a few years ago here in Nashville at the End actually and there were maybe 75 people there, it was unbelievable. But we ran into that same problem the other day where we’re not a huge city, but we had a bunch of shows going on the same night. I think we had like Counterpunch and A Vulture Wake which is Chad Price from All, Lagwagon was playing the night before so everyone was there, and then we had I think Clutch, so like nobody showed up for A Vulture Wake which kind of sucked but it was such a killer show.

So then what about Punk in the Burbs up in Chicago with Bollweevils and Much the Same, how was that show?

Jacob: Oh it was a lot of fun, yeah. It was a dope event, we were really lucky to play there and get a good time slot, never played Chicago before. We got to meet a lot of bands…

How many bands played that show?

Jacob: There were two days and probably like 12 to 15 bands each day, maybe that’s too many…

Wes: The first night I think there were maybe like 7, but the second day there were definitely like around 15. It started at noon and it goes, I think we were there until midnight. So really like 20-plus bands probably. But it was really cool, Much the Same was another one that was kind of lumped in with A Wilhelm Scream back in the day, like that fast, technical punk. And then the Bollweevils were awesome, and Bumsy and the Moochers, a ska band, they were a lot of fun too. We had a good crowd and I think we gained some new fans. It’s always nice to make connections. Actually one of the bands that played the night before us are from Chicago, Bad Planning, and we’re gonna go on a little like four-day run with them coming up here in February. We were just really thankful for the opportunity, it was a lot of fun and we’re excited to go back to Chicago now.

What day are you guys playing up there, do you know the date for that?

Wes: February 17th, it’s a Friday at Subterranean.  

So what’s your guys’s upcoming show schedule look like, I know you said you’re doing an out-of-town run?

Jacob: Yeah it’s like February 16th through 19th, we’re doing Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, and then back in St. Louis again. And then the very end of March, early April, we’ve got another three-day run with our buddies from Stay the Course from Wichita. We’re doing a three-day run with them, the 31st of March and 1st and 2nd of April, KC, Lincoln, Nebraska, and then Columbia, Missouri Columbia

Wes: Yeah so with both of those tours, of course we’re going out with like awesome bands on the road, but at all of those shows, the Bad Planning run and the Stay the Course run, we picked all the local bands that are playing those shows. So, in the past, we maybe went to a city and a promoter has found locals or you know the venue has maybe found a couple locals to play; we’ve researched and found all the locals bands in those cities that we thought would be a really good fit for us, stylistically but also feel like they’re into it, they wanna get people out to the shows, where it’s not just “oh, we hopped on the show four days ago”. On the Stay the Course run, Kansas City, Lincoln, and Columbia, I booked all of those myself as well, so I really liked the behind the scenes part of it also. Like I like the booking and the the business side of being in a band too. And with those guys, we did like a little three day run with them earlier this year in April of 2022 and we just like hit it off with them as like friends. Of course we like each other’s music, but they were so much fun just hanging out with and we just had like an instant connection with them. If we could have it our way, we’d probably do a little weekend run with them every year just because there our guys

So the last thing I really wanted to hit on was 314punk, the group you started Wes. And I did some research, but can you kind of tell me about it, I don’t really know a lot about it.

Wes: Yeah man, absolutely. So actually I sent Jacob when we first started releasing music in 2021 the songs that are on the the EP ‘Rewrite the Story’. I was doing a lot of interviews with places covering the underground pop punk scene as a whole, but there was nothing in St. Louis that I could see that was like “oh hey if you wanna get your music out to people in St. Louis, here’s where you do it”. So at the time, Covid was kind of still in full swing and people weren’t going to a lot of shows, there was like limited capacity and all that. So I went on a really long walk, during Covid I’d go on these really long walks and just kind of think and talk and I sent Jacob a really long message about like …

Jacob: Yeah it was like 30 minutes long *laughs*

Wes: I was like “we need to start something that showcases punk rock in St. Louis”, partly so that when we have songs out people know about them. But if we’re in a band and we’re wanting something like this, then other bands are probably wanting some centralized place where people can go to see what’s happening in the St. Louis punk scene. So I started an Instagram account and I started just reaching out to bands that I knew and said “hey can I feature you on this page”. That was April of 2021 and so I’ve been doing it for like a year and a half now and then I started having bands from out of town come to me because you know they’re probably going on Instagram searching punk in St. Louis or something and 314punk is maybe the first thing that comes up. So I’ve had a lot of experience in booking shows for my own band, but also bands in the past and I was like I can start booking shows here. The first show that I booked, they’re called You Vandal, they were coming through and they had actually just gone on tour with Bad Planning and they were like “hey one of our shows dropped, can you get us a show?” And I have a pretty good relationship with a small venue here called the Sinkhole and I sent them a message and got a bunch of local bands on it, we probably had close to 100 people show up to the show on a Wednesday night, it was a really decent show. I want people to come out and see shows here, I really just wanna help showcase like punk in St. Louis. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot of work, I’ve taken a little bit of time off here around the holidays. I don’t think people realize it’s a lot of work booking the shows, promoting the shows, posting stuff online. I’m not in this to make a profit, I’m just doing it because I want people to know about punk rock in St. Louis.

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Dying Scene Album Review: Brian James Hoffman – “Fool’s Gold”

Before I start this album review I just want to make sure that we clear any conflicts of interest; I distributed this record through my “label”, but I made the label for my band and decided to also release my buddy Brian James Hoffman. Did I do it cause he’s my buddy? Totes. That being […]

Before I start this album review I just want to make sure that we clear any conflicts of interest; I distributed this record through my “label”, but I made the label for my band and decided to also release my buddy Brian James Hoffman. Did I do it cause he’s my buddy? Totes. That being said, I’ve always been a fan of Brian’s lyricism and the way he conveys a constant dull ache of existing in a space that doesn’t feel right. Fool’s Gold is only the latest release from Hoffman who has been releasing midwestern sad-dad folk rock for almost a decade.

The opening track “Nothing Left to Say” lilts in with soft strums of acoustic guitar. Hoffman’s voice croaks over the treble of the plucked high strings. As we join Brian in this verse, he laments, “If a man’s worth what’s in his pocket today I ain’t worth a fuckin’ dime” and the chorus is ushered in with an echolalic satisfying, “I always keep talking long after there’s nothing left to say.” Before the verse brings us back to unabated anxiety in lines like “nothing hurts more than the truth that I’m never gonna mean that much to you.”

“Fool’s Gold” is the thematic center, this is an album of steady acoustic guitar and painful memories. “Don’t give me no fool’s gold, don’t try to save my soul” is poignant from an artist who is from the middle of nowhere in South Dakota. There’s no shortage of people trying to “save” you in that area and so little actual help to found. “As I see these lines growing on our faces and I thought by now I would understand” shows the desperation of growing old without actually growing at all.

Out of Sight and Apathetic are two songs in Brian’s repertoire that always seem to find new meaning in each iteration. I remember these tracks from an album Hoffman released in 2016, Lessons in Losing, but the new recordings of them seem even more sparse, highlighting Brian’s trodden soul, “I’m tired of reaching out for feelings I don’t have, another day goes by and here I stand, I’m tired of getting walked all over on.”

One of the newer tracks that Hoffman includes in this collection of songs, Crumpled Up Poem, almost caps the record off with positivity. Sadly, when you’re a #sadboi like myself and my friend Brian, the closest we get to happiness is just nostalgia for a better time. The same pain that makes us aging punks feel like we might have a few years left in us, “these tattered spiral notebooks show my history and who I am, and a lot of parts are in pencil but some parts are in pen and there’s still another empty page waiting to be written.”

A cover of “Mama Tried” is the true ending to this album, and can’t we all relate to disappointing our mothers? I won’t presume to know how this album was recorded, it’s definitely a raw sound, a few P-pops, some inconsistent volume between songs, but as a whole I think the production of this album helps serve the emotion behind it. If we had the energy to be perfect we wouldn’t be who we are, right?

I think of Fool’s Gold as similar to the element that it’s named after; Brian James Hoffman may not be a gilded shiny star, but he’s trying to find his worth and that’s worth more than gold.

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Exclusive Videos: Watch the new video by Wes Hoffman and Friends!

Today we are thrilled to bring you the premiere of the new video from St. Louis pop punkers Wes Hoffman and Friends! The video is for their new song "Where Summer Never Ends" and was directed and produced by Dane McCrary and Lane Twellman. Wes Hoffman said of the song, "“With ‘Where Summer Never Ends’ I wanted to write a fun, summertime tune that was easy to sing along to as well as relatable. The song is about deciding whether or not to stay in a difficult situation or to cut your losses and simply move on. We had a lot of fun filming the video and asked a lot of our friends to come be a part of it. We’re really looking forward to playing this one on the road.” The song will be on their upcoming LP due out next year and you can pre-save it right here. Wes Hoffman and Friends released their EP Rewrite The Story earlier this year. Watch the video below.