Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chicago area musician Josh Stockinger presents captivating folk rock on new album


The name HorseThief itself conveys an air of mystery.

On his latest album, "Horses and the Paranormal," The HorseThief blends rock, folk and elements of psychedelia in a captivating fashion that will likely appeal to fans of such bands as The Lumineers and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes.

The HorseThief is the musical persona of Lombard resident Josh Stockinger. I had the chance to talk to him about the recording of "Horses and the Paranormal."

Q - Good talking to you. What goals did you have for "Horses and the Paranormal" and do you think you achieved them? Were you trying to build on your previous efforts?

Thanks for your interest, Eric. The record was an ongoing project for about three years, and there were times I felt like giving up.  

But I'd say I accomplished my main goal by seeing it through to the end. I feel good about that.  

Musically, I wanted to incorporate more instruments than I used on my first release and continue to explore and express sounds and ideas that interest me and reflected a state of mind. Really, the songs are just momentary reflections from a guy in a basement.  

I do it because I love music and want to throw something honest on the pile.  

Q - Once again, you play all the instruments yourself. What are the pros and cons of literally being a one man band? Is having total control over a project worth all the extra work? 

HorseThief started as a one-man operation because I hadn't played music in years and didn't know any musicians in my area. Since then, I've become friends with several musicians, and we've worked together on recording projects here and there. 

But HorseThief feels personal, and I've intentionally kept it that way. I like to be alone when I write and record because I feel less self-conscious and more open to making mistakes and working through them.

On the downside, it can be painful, like looking in the mirror too long or hearing your own voice on an answering machine. You have no other minds or talent to help build a song and you're constantly forced to face your own limitations. 

It can be kind of harrowing, but that's a good reason to do it.

Q - What is the story behind the HorseThief name? How does the name represent your music?    

I grew up in a small town in southern Illinois and once heard a friend use the term "horse thief" to describe another buddy who stole his motorbike, which cracked me up. These were guys who loved John Wayne movies, vandalism and road-tripping out in the country. 

I always liked how the phrase had something of a "that bastard" ring to it, while at the same time coming across old-fashioned and clean, so to speak. Anyway, I thought of it again when I started making music and the songs turned out to be more soft and rural than I'd envisioned, though somewhat dark. 

To me, the term "horse thief" reflects both negativity and sensitivity. One friend of mine described it as a romantic insult, and I liked that. It also reminds me of home. 

Q - Who are your biggest musical inspirations and how do they figure into your music? 

That's a tough one because, even with music I don't necessarily enjoy, I find it fascinating to hear how someone else does it, and I own thousands of records that I listen to around the clock whenever I get the chance.

To me, just being in the presence of music can be inspiring. I'm a big fan of musicians who aren't afraid to forge their own paths. At the time I recorded the album, I was listening to a lot of Jonathan Richman. 

I don't sound anything like him, of course, but I took away from his music a stronger desire to be consistently and unapologetically sincere. I always tell people it's difficult to sound like yourself. 

But that's what I aspire to do with HorseThief.

Q - How would you say your music has evolved over the years?

Between my first release and the new record, I thought the songs became more developed and the performances were better. At the same time, I wish I had taken more risks and been more adventurous, both musically and lyrically.  

I also learned a lot about recording, having switched from an 8-track to a computer program between projects. As for the HorseThief sound overall, it's dramatically different from the punk rock I played during and after high school.

Q - How would you describe your music?

I guess HorseThief thus far has primarily been rural and somewhat brooding folk-based music. I've tried to incorporate texture and psychedelic elements here and there, maybe some spaghetti western-ish allure and rock. That said, I don't have my mind set on a certain sound.

So far, this is just what has come out. I think I might switch gears entirely for the next project.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you music fits into it? 

I wish I was more involved but, to be honest, I'm largely out of touch with any local music scene these days. As a record collector, I've worked my way through a lot of the great blues and jazz and rock to come out of Chicago over the years, but I'm way behind on contemporary stuff.  

That said, I've made a point in the last several months to try to get out and meet other local musicians because I want to be more engaged. I want to get out of the basement. 

Q - Do you have any plans to perform your songs live? Would you form a band to perform them live? 

I don't have any current plans to play live. I am interested in starting or joining a band but, if I did, it probably would be separate from HorseThief. And, hopefully, loud. 

Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations? 

I never really thought about it like that. The dream right now is to keep doing music in whatever form that takes and, hopefully, progress. 

I have a lot of ideas and am interested in other people's ideas. The trick is making them happen and keeping up with the daily grind.