A Stoermer is coming

by Ashley Reynolds

Former Killers bassist and philosophy major talks introversion, going solo
Mark Stoermer sits on a sofa to the side of the entrance into the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. He’s not taking up much space, but rather, cozying up in one of its corners.

At 6’5’’, Stoermer is lot taller than what I had imagined, but his stature is balanced with his introverted demeanor. He remembers being this way even as a teen; a trumpet player at the age of nine and a rock band guitarist at the age of 14, Stoermer discovered his knack for music before most of us learned to drive.

Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and Jimi Hendrix composed the soundtrack to his shy formative years. Interestingly, before Mark found himself obsessed with Nirvana’s Bleach and Nevermind, he was prepubescently a fan of Public Enemy.

“If we’re taking it way back, the first album I ever bought was Public Enemy’s Yo! Bum Rush the Show. And I bought that at Warehouse Music when I was about nine or ten, and just because I thought the tape looked cool,” he reminisces.

“And your parents were OK with that?” I ask.

“I mean, yeah… My parents weren’t super liberal or anything. So they didn’t really ever censor my movies or music.”

Stoermer doesn’t strike me as someone who grew up in Vegas, but he most certainly has. It’s where his family resides, and he and The Killers co-own a studio there. Stoermer refers to NorCal as his “home away from home,” however, but because he doesn’t have much going on there musically right now.

“That’s the thing about being a musician, and being on the road or whatever. At a certain point, you don’t have to be in one place; when you’re not touring.”

Fans took it pretty tough when The Killers announced Stoermer’s decision to take an indefinite break from touring with the band. In their statement to Alt Nation, they cited his reasoning for this being “releasing a solo album” as well as “to pursue other educational goals.”

“Back when The Killers started I was actually a philosophy major at UNLV. I was finally getting my footing and getting more serious about school, but then the band took off. I don’t regret that, but then I had to drop out. And I even had attempted, here and there, to go back, but I always had to drop because our schedule was so busy. And I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to finish—partly just to finish what I started.”

He makes it crystal clear that he’s not going back to school in pursuit of a new career or anything, but rather just to finish what he started while he has the time.

“But also just the educational aspect, and I think it’s important. And although I think people can definitely be educated on their own, I think, for me anyway, and probably for others, the structure of university learning is different from others. I think it pushes you more. Even if I don’t need a degree. I just kind of want that structure.”

As for showcasing his solo projects in front of live audiences? That’s not really on Stoermer’s immediate radar right now. The closest thing to a live show that he’s had was when he and a few friends “played in the corner” at Grandpa Johnson’s in L.A. the other day.

“I’m not trying to be modest.” Stoermer says when I give him an incredulous look, “Just because I play bass in a band that has ‘made it,’ and we played stadiums and whatever, has nothing to do with singing and putting a band together and playing the guitar at the same time—things I haven’t really done. And so I feel comfortable keeping it organic, and [taking] baby steps; starting from the bottom. And maybe it doesn’t go much of anywhere else, but the ideal setting for me is to keep it natural and true to the project. And, ‘true to the project’ that it’s in its infancy, as far as the live setting.”

I peg the sound of Dark Arts to be moody—the complete opposite from anything that I’ve heard from The Killers, and Mark agrees. His music videos and lyrics are more on the abstract side—not really having a definitive meaning in either.

“I gravitate more towards moody,” he agrees “or even slower songs— I just figure: if I like something, someone else will. I’m not trying to please all of the people, all of the time. Just some of the people, some of the time.”

Contrary to the archetype of the egotistical solo rock artist, Stoermer doesn’t gloat about being a bassist for a seven-time, Grammy nominated band. He doesn’t think he’s the best singer, and he was hesitant to release his solo project.

“I never sang before my first record, and I felt like that was really an experiment. I didn’t even know if I was going to put that out. There [were] demos that I was writing, and that I [thought I would] maybe give to people, or give it to a different singer. And then it seemed like ‘the only way I was going to finish this is to finish it myself,’ and that’s why I did the first one [Another Life]. But that’s the first time I ever even tried to sing… And I’m improving, but it’s a whole new instrument to me.”

Check out more of Stoermer's music on his SoundCloud