Driven by their philosophy that “if you can’t feel the music, then it’s not worth listening to,” the four piece Kentucky based powerhouse Sexstone draws on their brand of heavy rock with a vintage, almost psychedelic edge to explore, on their highly anticipated debut album, The Painful Side of True. Rolling lyrically like a diary of the life of lead singer and driving creative force Steve Bauer, the dynamic set includes newly revamped plugged in versions of four tracks that appeared in acoustic versions on Sexstone’s teaser 2008 EP Stripped.
When your home base is Madisonville and you hail from rural Western Kentucky, finding success as an indie band requires ingenuity, a lot of word of mouth, and literally creating gigs from scratch. Rather than listing hotspot clubs on their resume like groups from larger cities, Sexstone proudly talks about renting out VFW, legion halls and bigger shows at the town square in Dawson Springs. Their recent CD release party for The Painful Side of True drew 200 to the city’s Elks Lodge. Being part of a smaller town also means a lot of community based fundraising gigs, and Sexstone has built a strong rep in this area with shows benefiting the Make A Wish Foundation, Relay For Life and CJ’s Bus, which was named after a young boy from Evansville, IN who died in a tornado and raises money for disaster relief.
While the intensity and versatility of tracks like “My Night,” “Where” and “Wait For Me” might find listeners thinking that Sexstone was rockin’ this way from the get go, the current lineup and vibe actually emerged from a period of great evolution. Long time pals and founding members Trent Riley (bass) and Steve Wheeler (guitar) launched in 2004 with a different lead singer and a dark and heavy, “Doorsy” sound. While the original goal was to move away from previous cover bands and create a unit featuring original material, Riley and Wheeler whimsically tried a different tack at one point to draw attention and started looking for a female lead singer to flesh out their concept of doing 80s hair band songs with a country twang to it. While decidedly male, Steve Bauer, a Cincinnati bred singer and Madisonville based teacher, responded, sent a few MP3 files, auditioned live and soon became the lead singer and chief songwriter of the newly revamped Sexstone.
“Steve brought a huge songbook to the group, and many of the tracks on The Painful Side of True are the result of putting our own spin and arrangements to lyrics and songs he had,” says Riley. “We all really love the versatility, with some taking on a country rock flavor, others being pop-punk, with a little Three Doors Down and strong ballads. Steve Wheeler and I grew up loving those 80s hair bands and KISS, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains. Bauer draws from the 90s influences of Matchbox 20, Our Lady Peace and Third Eye Blind. It’s a great fusion of influences we can build on and progress with.”
The members of Sexstone—including new drummer Bryan Thomas—proudly assert that all of the songs on The Painful Side of True are about real life, geared to inspiring fans to connect with deep emotions and circumstances in their own lives. Case in point: who hasn’t been there at the end of a relationship, giving a sarcastic kiss off like “Thank You” to the lover who just left and ruined his or her life; the percussive, hypnotic rocker is the first single the band is submitting for airplay on various internet sites.
They take a more poignant approach to the graceful power ballad “Wait For Me (Soldier’s Song),” a song about a soldier leaving his pregnant wife to go off and fight, knowing his child will be born without him there. Sexstone dedicates the track to all of our nations soldiers; a video created around the track by a fan drew more than 10,000 in one day. Their melodic yet edgy mid tempo ballad “Where,” the first song Steve Bauer ever wrote which contemplates the sometimes scary future of a relationship, was featured in the horror film “Widow,” which debuted at the Louisville Frightfest.
“Our songs offer a balance between the cynicism of ‘Thank You’ and the hope of ‘Lift’ because that’s real life, always up and down,” says Riley. “We enjoy the feedback we get from fans everywhere we play, and it’s a great feeling to be onstage listening as they start singing our songs along with us. Everyone can take one of our songs and compare it to something in their own worlds, as if we’re providing a sort of therapy! But it’s a great feeling that keeps us striving towards our goal of making music full time and making it what we live for.”