Interview: Thomas Wesley Stern

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Public Enemy once told us “don’t believe the hype.”

This does not apply to Thomas Wesley Stern. Believe all the hype.

The band, straight out of the heart of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens is a marvelous band that performs a beautifully composed Americana and folk. Now don’t get worried about hearing the word “folk.” This isn’t a bunch of hipsters donning Stetsons and throwing vests on for the sake of bearded pop culture glory. No, these guys are the real deal. Close your eyes and listen to their tunes and you could easily picture Thomas Wesley Stern records being found next to the folk icons of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s got a gloriously honest nature to it and it’s the kind of folk/Americana sound that even the staunchest opponents of folk can dig.

Recently, we caught up with the guys to talk about their sound and their upcoming show at Happy Mondays at Wonder Bar.

Thomas Wesley Stern is: James Black, Bobby Jackson, Gary Mayer, James Herdman, Joe Makoviecki, and Justin Herdman

The Story of Our Name: Our band’s name is formed by the three middle names of our founding members: Joseph “Thomas” Makoviecki, Robert “Wesley” Jackson, and Gary “Stern” Mayer.

We’re based out of: The Pine Barrens of Ocean County, New Jersey

Any new music coming out: Our third full-length Never Leaving, recorded at Lakehouse in Asbury Park, comes out in early Spring. Our promo single, “Daughter of the Farm” is on Soundcloud.

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Can you talk about the artists that have inspired you? Also, what people in your life have inspired you to create music?

Our brothers and sisters, parents, friends, family and various. Our friend Andrew gave Gary his first banjo. Five years ago our friend Tom allowed us to practice in a shed where he lives when we had no where to play. It shaped our sound and made us realize we always wanna sound as close to the way we do in a house or backyard on stage.

There are so many bands out there in the Asbury scene to check out — outside of your sound, which no one else really has, what do you think separates Thomas Wesley Stern from everyone else?

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We aren’t sure what separates us, but we focus a lot on our lyrics, our harmonies, and switching between the many instruments we bring everywhere with us. We won’t even have a show and we still bring all of our guitars, violins, banjos, etc. With us because you never known what’s going to happen.

If someone read this interview and never heard you before, but decided to check you out, what song would you recommend they listen to in order to understand what Thomas Wesley Stern is all about?

Hard to say. Every song is a different installment in what we’re all about. Browsing a few videos on YouTube.com/thomaswesleystern gives a pretty good survey of what we do.

What can the people coming out to see you guys perform expect to see from you guys in terms of a live experience?

Original music that is informed by the past but does not adhere to it or try to re-live it.

What’s on the horizon for Thomas Wesley Stern in 2015?

Releasing our new record, Never Leaving. Traveling to Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee in April for a nice three week tour. And taking it all around your country in the next year.

Thomas Wesley Sterns performs tonight at the Light of Day Edition of Happy Mondays along with Those Mockingbirds (Adam Bird Acoustic) and The Villanelles. There is a $5 donation at the door and proceeds go to the Light of Day Foundation.

Thomas Wesley Stern cover created by Jesse Herdman of Accidental Seabirds/Video was shot by Francis Lill

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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beauty daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom
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Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites