Indie Mixtape 20: Been Stellar Is Still Stellar On ‘Scream From New York, NY’

Dirty Hit usually brings to mind English pop artists like Pale Waves, Beabadoobee, and The 1975, but, now, the label is also cashing in on post-punk. Been Stellar, a quintet based in New York City, blends incendiary riffs, biting songwriting, and caustic delivery, all with a melodic bent that also appeals to the pop-minded listener.

Their debut album, Scream From New York, NY, plays like a highlight reel of Been Stellar’s many strengths. Consisting of vocalist Sam Slocum, guitarists Skyler Knapp and Nando Dale, drummer Laila Wayans, and bassist Nico Brunstein, this band is an American counterpart to the massive wave of great British post-punk, such as Shame, Dry Cleaning, and Black Midi, that has been a predominant subgenre of the 2020s thus far.

Ahead of the record’s release on June 21, Been Stellar sat down with Uproxx to talk about Blink-182, ping-pong, and their love of South America in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Skyler: We’re here, we exist.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

Skyler: I’d like it not to be “remembered” but listened to. When you hear good music, the time period and context doesn’t matter. If something real is made, I like to think it burns itself outside of linear time.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

Skyler: Basquiat is always my creative North Star. Even though my favorite things he’s done aren’t musical (although his recordings with Gray are very cool) his relationship with language and imagery always pushes me to make something that matters. As of late, Elliot Smith has also started to reach those ranks as well.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life, and what was it?

Sam: We had fish and chips on the coast, driving into Glasgow a couple summers ago. Life-changing.

Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.

Sam: When Sky and I were in high school, we went to go see a band named PUP play in Grand Rapids, MI. It was the first ‘punk’ show I had been to, and I just remember how sweaty we got. Great live band.

What song never fails to make you emotional?

Sam: “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

Laila: A tattoo gun on Amazon.

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

Nando: I’d say probably when we slept in this person’s house in Denver during the Catcher tour. The host was this sort of Burning Man-esque techno DJ, and we arrived after driving overnight from Chicago for 16 hours, and he was mixing trance music, and there were just a bunch of dudes hanging out there. I remember he had a massive jug of water that apparently had bleach in it, and it was just standing on the kitchen counter, so some of us got close to drinking it, could’ve been bad. But nonetheless, we were happy to have a place to stay for free for the night.

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform, and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?

Nico: Personally, my favorite city that we’ve performed in is Madrid, but the best shows we play tend to be in London or other cities in the UK. We all really loved our show in Hull a couple of years back. I think we all really want to perform in Tokyo or anywhere in Japan soon, and I would love for us to make it to Buenos Aires as well.

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

Nando: things take time, don’t try to rush or force anything. Just do your thing, be yourself, and eventually things will make more sense and fall into place.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

Nando: I am really good at ping-pong, like insanely good.

If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?

Nico: Probably to help send food where it’s needed.

What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?

Nico: I think it could be a great tool to enhance and inspire different creative avenues that maybe someone would not have gone down, but I think the overall fear of using it as a crutch is obviously there. Chord packs and other tools out there especially for solo producers and songwriters are already out there and my hope is the same with them, is that people will learn how music works through using them rather than relying too heavily on them.

You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you and the location it would be held.

Laila: I would throw a music festival at a skate park and the lineup would be:

System of a Down
Lazer Dim 700
Black Eyed Peas
Ice Spice
Mexican Slum Rats

Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?

Sam: Evan Dando’s YouTube is pretty interesting.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

Laila: I have a couple tattoos, but my favorite is this one that says “I love life” in the palm of my hand. I got it from this really cool artist named Sandy (@iluvvvlife) in LA. It was the most painful 10 minutes of my life but it was worth it.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Laila: We huddle in a circle and take deep 3 breaths all together.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Nico: Natalie Portman from the Star Wars prequels.

You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?

Nando: I’m renting a camper van of some sorts and driving through South America. Even though I was born in Brazil, I’ve never gotten to see much of the other countries there. It would be nice to see Patagonia, the Andes, Machu Picchu and much more. Of course, it would be great to go to the Amazon too, and explore the northeast of Brazil that has so much great food and music too. El Salvador has been on my bucket list for quite some time now, and it would be great to go during Carnaval. The music and culture of South America is incredibly rich, and I love how the different cultures of immigrants and Native Americans have shaped art-making over there. I would bring my brother, my cousin, the band and a bunch of my closest friends.

What is your biggest fear?

Skyler: My biggest fear is not having something to make music about. It is a fear that I encounter all the time, and even though I know it will eventually pass, it is never not a massive threat to my well-being.

Scream From New York, NY is out June 21 via Dirty Hit. Find more information here.