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Santi White: Stiffed

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Although the name

Santi White may be unfamiliar to you, her emotions and lucid lyrical prowess

are more known to you than you may know.

As the scribe of

11 out of the 12 songs on the highly acclaimed How I Do album by Res,

Santi White was instantly praised and acknowledged by the critical world as

an authentic talent, while many fans of Res’ music remained ignorant of Santi’s

existence, not to mention her contribution to How I Do.

Inspired by the

success of How I Do, Santi sought to find her own musical platform, from

which her unique voice could be represented solely by herself, unfiltered and

void of any middle man, thus, Stiffed was created.

A Philadelphia native, Santi does not fall into the earthy trend of black musicians

that Philly has become so well known for. No, Stiffed is a punk rock band, pure

and simple.

Boasting fun music

and energetic live shows that promise to make you move and sweat, Stiffed is

poised for success. Stiffed’s EP, Sex Sells, was released earlier this

year and was received warmly by critics, while leaving fans hungry for a full

helping.

Before going into

the studio to record Stiffed’s first full length LP, Santi spoke with Allhiphop

Alternatives about the creation of Stiffed, what she thinks about being ‘that

black punk rock chick,’ and how she really wants it to be all about the music.

AllhipHop Alternatives: Talk a little about your background and how you got

into music?

Santi: Well…my father was really into a lot of music and he use to play music

in the house all the time when I was little kid, so I guess that’s probable

how I got into music in general. He use to be really into like jazz and reggae,

and world music like Fela Kuti. He took me to see people like Fela and James

Brown when I was seven. So we got to go to a lot of shows and stuff as kids.

And then I guess when I was little I grew into hip hop from watching Beat Street

and Breakin’ and all that stuff and me and my brother use to try and break dance.

And I remember the first little piece of a song that I wrote was after I watched

one of those movies, and I tried to write some song called City Streets (laughs),

I think I was like eight. And then after that I started writing hip hop lyrics,

from the time I was like 12 to about 19 to be honest.

AHHA: Really?

Santi: Yeah, that what I use to do, cause I use to write poems and I use to

write rap lyrics all the time and I even wanted to produce beats so I bought

a SP1200 and ASR-10. Then I think I felt like I wanted to do something more

melodic, cause I was a music major is college, so I was exposed to whole lot

of different stuff. I studied hand drumming, I studied West African Rhythms,

Experimental, Classical, just all kinds of music. And I think after that I just

wanted to add more melody and not do just hip hop stuff, not that I was actually

ever performing it, I was just writing it (laughs). So then I just started writing

songs after that just for fun and then very shortly after that I did the Res

record. Res was somebody that I knew before because our parents were friends

and I was working at Sony and Epic cause I thought I wanted to own a record

company. And then Res called and said she wanted to put together a demo, so

I ended up writing songs on the demo and I ended up quitting my job and just

working her album.

AHHA: Many people aren’t aware that you wrote 11 out of the 12 songs that appear

on Res’ album. Of course Res’ singing the sound of the album played a big part

in the albums success, but many people loved the lyrics Res sang and that attracted

many people to the album. So was there any element of frustration, in that your

work was being so well received and admired, but you remained fairly unknown?

Santi: No I wasn’t frustrated cause…I think what happen was all the press started

actually bigging me up more than anybody and it actually made it easier for

me to go and do Stiffed.

AHHA: How did Stiffed come about?

Santi: After I was done working on the Res project and I just felt like I really

wanted to…ya know I was still writing songs and I didn’t really want to be in

the situation again were I was writing songs for somebody else, because I felt

like after that I wanted to really hear my songs come out the way that I had

intended them in my head and not have to deal with somebody else singing and

somebody else producing. So I was talking to Chuck, who was our drummer at the

time and he also drummed on the Res record, I’ve known him since high school.

And I was like, yeah I want to do this, so he said come back to Philly. So I

went back to Philly and we started recording stuff and then within a year we

started playing it as Stiffed. Once we started doing shows it kinda took on

a life of it’s own. We did little shows in Philly for like a year, year and

a half. And once we came to New York is when it all started happening because

that’s where all the industry people are and all the people who knew me from

Res and all the people I knew in New York, cause ya know I lived in New York

for eight years. Right after our first show in New York, we went and recorded

the EP really quick in Woodstock, and we got Daryl from Bad Brains to produce

it, and that’s kinda when it was official cause we actually had some material

for people to buy.

AHHA: Who Comprises Stiffed and have there been any line up changes?

Santi: On the EP was me, Chuck Treece on Drums, Chris Shar on bass, and Matt

Schleck on guitar. And the only change is that Chuck Treece is no longer the

drummer.

AHHA: Wasn’t that your friend from High School?

Santi: Yeah, he still is my friend. Chuck is a brilliant amazing drummer and

he has so much history in the punk rock world and he’s just like a brilliant

person anyway. So it wasn’t like it was a happy thing to happen, but it had

to happen at the time. The thing is he’s still gona be involved with us, when

we record our new record he’s gona record some tracks on it.

AHHA: Okay, so it’s still love?

Santi: Yeah. But our new drummers name is Andy Vick and he’s not even up on

our website yet, but in the next couple of weeks it should be up along with

our trip to London and all that’s stuff.

AHHA: I read on your bio why you called the group Stiffed, but things couldn’t

have been all that bad, and if so could you expound?

Santi: There’s not much to expound on. I was going through a rough time and

I felt jerked over, so I named the project (demo) Stiffed before it was even

a band yet. And once it was a band, we were Stiffed. It’s just the notion of

being fucked over. Not too deep.

AHHA: Why is the EP entitled Sex Sells?

Santi: Because it was sort of making fun of that notion. If you look at the

cover of the EP, you see that the guy’s face is very serious and deeply contemplating

something stressful or heavy (hence all the sweat). He is also out of place

and a bit awkward (in a suit on the beach, an alien in his environment). And

then you have this half-ass lady scribbled in the background in a bikini, totally

forced, begging for attention where it’s really not that kind of show. Something

more serious is going on. So to call the album Sex Sells sort of makes fun of

the idea that you need sex to grab attention. Especially for me as a performer,

people are always telling me I need to dress sexy, and I’m not really interested

in dressing sexy. I dress to sweat on stage, and that’s it. Don’t know if that

makes sense.

AHHA: If you had to describe Stiffs sound to someone, what would you say?

Santi: If I didn’t have to categorize it, I would just say that it’s up beat

and that its fun and it’s definitely like energy music, but its melodic and

it’s definitely rock obviously and it’s pretty aggressive at times, but still

melodic. And it’s catchy and it actually has a lot of humor in it. But if I

had to classify it, I would say it’s post-punk, new wave.

AHHA: What are your thoughts on the comparisons you get to No Doubt?

Santi: Whatever. People got to feel like they know something. I think it’s a

lazy comparison, but it doesn’t really bother me. I like Gwen.

AHHA: I love you voice, do you work on your vocals or do you just sing it how

you feel it?

Santi: I don’t work on vocals, I never really even sang before this project.

I sang in chorus when I was fifteen at school (laughs), and it wasn’t selective

at all, like everybody did it, you didn’t have to be a good singer. Beyond that

I never even thought about it.

AHHA: What’s your writing process like?

Santi: Well, the main way I write is I sit down in my room and I play around

with the guitar or the bass and I just come up with some riff that I think is

really catchy and then I lay the whole thing down with not even any changes

in it, just like one riff, and I’ll write the whole melody and the whole song

over that. But mostly melody, I just sing what ever words come in my head and

usually they don’t even make sense and sometimes there not even real words.

Then I’ll go back an actually listen to what it sounds like it’s saying and

build lyrics around what it sounds like already. So if it sounds like its saying

something then I’ll just go back and write lyrics that sound like that and just

make it make sense, and usually it works. Because I feel like that way you are

letting the song dictate itself. And I’ve written enough, that it is a fun challenge

for me to make it work, and it ends up being about what ever is on my heart

at the moment. It’s a very spontaneous way of writing which I like. There’s

been other times where I actually like…like “Golden Boy” from Res’ album was

pretty much a journal entry and I took it and made it fit into a song format.

And then sometimes stuff comes to me when I’m sleeping and I’ll just roll over

and write it down, or call my voice mail on my cell phone and just mumble it

into the phone. Or sometimes my band will write stuff and bring it in and we’ll

lay it down and then I’ll just write lyrics to that, but usually theirs has

all these changes and everything in it, theirs is more complex, cause usually

when I write I don’t even put changes in it, then they come and put changes

in.

AHHA: Do you feel any pressure to make the fact that you are an African-American

woman a focus in your music or to pay attention to that in your music?

Santi: Umm…Well you can’t really separate it from the fact…I mean I am a black

person. So I don’t care if people say, ‘yeah you’re black and you’re a woman.’

Yes I am, and I’m doing this music, that’s fine, cause it’s true. And all my

experiences of being that are obviously gona be in my music just because I’m

a person and what I am comes out in my music. No, I don’t have a problem with

that. What I have a problem with is being classified, because my music becomes

not the main focus and me being African-American or being a woman becomes the

main focus, that’s when I have a problem. When they try to categorize my music

by the fact that I’m black, like it’s black rock, as opposed to just rock, that’s

what I have a problem with. But obviously my experiences culturally and sex

wise is gona come into my music, that’s just a fact. I just don’t like when

that becomes the focus, like I’ve done interviews when they just ask me about

that like the whole time and they don’t even ask me what my music is like.

AHHA: What are your thoughts on the fact that you, being an African-America

woman who is the lead vocalist of a punk rock band…you will be giving a lot

of little girls a new reality to shot for, just a different dream other than

the standard R&B vocalist kind thing? What do you think about that?

Santi: I think that’s exciting and think that is seriously one of my goals,

not just in my music, but just in how I live my life in general. I’d like to

see all black kids more open to try all kinds of things, not just things that

are typical for black or urban kids to try. Like I snowboard and do all kinds

of stuff that a lot of black kids aren’t exposed to and don’t try and that a

shame. I love when I see blacks kids even playing instruments, cause that’s

something that a lot of black kids don’t do anymore cause they don’t have the

programs or whatever. I would love to be a role model, like yes I’m a black

person but I can do anything I wanna do. Like I don’t have to only do hip hop

or play basketball…like I played lacrosse when I was in college, ya know. I

would love for there to come a time where black kids, just like white kids,

did all kinds of stuff. So if I can be role model for that, I would love that.

Especially for women, for young girls, girls aren’t even taught to go for their

dreams, their taught to do the safe thing like get married and have kids, and

that is retarded.

AHHA: What is a Stiffed live performance like?

Santi: Ahhh, it depends on what night you catch it (laughs). But I would hope

that it’s definitely fun, high energy. If you come to one the New York shows

were everybody’s too cool, you’re less likely to see dancing, but if you come

to an all-ages show you might see some people jumping around which is like the

best show really. Usually the younger the audience the more fun it is to be

honest…then again, that’s not true, cause when you get a lot of people that

actually know your music and are really into you, than it’s also fun. A lot

of times when you get a new audience and nobody’s really heard of you, people

are really into but they just kinda stand there and look at you because they

don’t really know what to expect and their just sort of watching rather than

being apart of the audience. But in general you should come prepared to move

around, cause it’s fun.

AHHA: Do you find some of the waiting and seeing is cause here’s this black

chick in front of a punk rock band, and everybody’s like ‘what’s she gona do?

Santi: Sometimes yeah, sometimes that is the vibe, but usually its fun, because

that the funnest thing when you open your mouth and everybody in the place is

like ‘what?’ I’ve had one experience where the crowd wasn’t that into it, it

was in DC and it was a really bad booking, it was a show with Cody Chestnut

and someone had booked it that I think was really trying to categorize me as

this new black rock thing and it was an R&B show, like the people before us

was doing a Soul Train line. And then we went on and they were like ‘what the

fuck?’ They were just so not into it (laughs). And in cases like that it’s kinda

fun, because you just extra wild out, but usually people are really excited

especially when it’s like a straight punk rock crowd.

AHHA: You performed at the Black Lilly in Philly, how was that?

Santi: They were great, they love it. That was something I was actually a little

reluctant to do too, cause I wasn’t sure if it was the right crowd, but they

actually really loved it. They were a fun crowd.

AHHA: Right now you’re on and independent label, would you like a deal with

a Major?

Santi: Eventually, but only when it’s like we don’t have to prove ourselves,

like maybe once it’s already established that we’re good. I want it to happen

maybe after this up coming record.

AHHA: What are you listening to these days?

Santi: I’ve been listening to the same things for like the last year and a half.

I’ve got Gary Newman in my car. I’ve the best of the Cars. I just bought that

Outkast CD and I’ve got Chronic 2001 in my car.

AHHA: Okay. You mentioned a full length album earlier, how’s that coming? When

will you start recording?

Santi: We need to start recording this month, cause it needs to be done by the

end of the year.

AHHA: When will the public be able to buy it?

Santi: By the beginning of next year.

AHHA: You got any working titles for the album?

Santi: Nah

AHHA: There’s a rumor floating around that you were once involved with Mos Def,

any truth to that?

Santi: Yeah, there’s truth. Definitely past way over, it was years ago.

AHHA: There’s also a rumor that the song “Golden Boy,” from Res’ album was written

about Mos Def, any truth to that?

Santi: I don’t want to talk about that, I think that’s a stupid question, and

not to dis you, but I don’t think it has anything to do with Stiffed and I’ve

been asked it a lot and I’m not answering it anymore.

AHHA: Fair enough…how can people find out about Stiffed?

Santi: Stiffedmusic.com. Only thing is it isn’t updated, but within a month

all the new information should be up there. But the songs from our EP are on

there so people can listen to us.

AHHA: Any last words?

Santi: Nope (laughs).

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