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 Santis
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
Boasting fun music
and energetic live shows that promise to make you move and sweat, Stiffed is
poised for success. Stiffeds EP, Sex Sells, was released earlier this
year and was received warmly by critics, while leaving fans hungry for a full
Before going into
the studio to record Stiffeds 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
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 thats 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.
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 arent 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 wasnt 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 didnt 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, Ive 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 its 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
thats 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 thats 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
AHHA: Wasnt 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 hes just like a brilliant
person anyway. So it wasnt like it was a happy thing to happen, but it had
to happen at the time. The thing is hes still gona be involved with us, when
we record our new record hes gona record some tracks on it.
AHHA: Okay, so its still love?
Santi: Yeah. But our new drummers name is Andy Vick and hes 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 thats stuff.
AHHA: I read on your bio why you called the group Stiffed, but things couldnt
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
AHHA: If you had to describe Stiffs sound to someone, what would you say?
Santi: If I didnt have to categorize it, I would just say that its up beat
and that its fun and its definitely like energy music, but its melodic and
its definitely rock obviously and its pretty aggressive at times, but still
melodic. And its catchy and it actually has a lot of humor in it. But if I
had to classify it, I would say its 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 dont work on vocals, I never really even sang before this project.
I sang in chorus when I was fifteen at school (laughs), and it wasnt selective
at all, like everybody did it, you didnt have to be a good singer. Beyond that
I never even thought about it.
AHHA: Whats 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 Ill 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 dont even make sense and sometimes there not even real words.
Then Ill go back an actually listen to what it sounds like its saying and
build lyrics around what it sounds like already. So if it sounds like its saying
something then Ill 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 Ive 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. Its a very spontaneous way of writing which I like. Theres
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 Im sleeping and Ill 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 well
lay it down and then Ill 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 dont even put changes in it, then they come and put changes
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 cant really separate it from the fact I mean I am a black
person. So I dont care if people say, yeah youre black and youre a woman.
Yes I am, and Im doing this music, thats fine, cause its true. And all my
experiences of being that are obviously gona be in my music just because Im
a person and what I am comes out in my music. No, I dont 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, thats when I have a problem. When they try to categorize my music
by the fact that Im black, like its black rock, as opposed to just rock, thats
what I have a problem with. But obviously my experiences culturally and sex
wise is gona come into my music, thats just a fact. I just dont like when
that becomes the focus, like Ive done interviews when they just ask me about
that like the whole time and they dont 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 thats 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. Id 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 arent exposed to and dont try and that a
shame. I love when I see blacks kids even playing instruments, cause thats
something that a lot of black kids dont do anymore cause they dont have the
programs or whatever. I would love to be a role model, like yes Im a black
person but I can do anything I wanna do. Like I dont 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 arent 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 its definitely fun, high energy. If you come to one the New York shows
were everybodys too cool, youre 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, thats not true, cause when you get a lot of people that
actually know your music and are really into you, than its also fun. A lot
of times when you get a new audience and nobodys really heard of you, people
are really into but they just kinda stand there and look at you because they
dont 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 its fun.
AHHA: Do you find some of the waiting and seeing is cause heres this black
chick in front of a punk rock band, and everybodys like whats 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? Ive had one experience where the crowd wasnt 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 its kinda
fun, because you just extra wild out, but usually people are really excited
especially when its 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 wasnt sure if it was the right crowd, but they
actually really loved it. They were a fun crowd.
AHHA: Right now youre on and independent label, would you like a deal with
Santi: Eventually, but only when its like we dont have to prove ourselves,
like maybe once its already established that were good. I want it to happen
maybe after this up coming record.
AHHA: What are you listening to these days?
Santi: Ive been listening to the same things for like the last year and a half.
Ive got Gary Newman in my car. Ive the best of the Cars. I just bought that
Outkast CD and Ive got Chronic 2001 in my car.
AHHA: Okay. You mentioned a full length album earlier, hows 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?
AHHA: Theres a rumor floating around that you were once involved with Mos Def,
any truth to that?
Santi: Yeah, theres truth. Definitely past way over, it was years ago.
AHHA: Theres also a rumor that the song Golden Boy, from Res album was written
about Mos Def, any truth to that?
Santi: I dont want to talk about that, I think thats a stupid question, and
not to dis you, but I dont think it has anything to do with Stiffed and Ive
been asked it a lot and Im not answering it anymore.
AHHA: Fair enough how can people find out about Stiffed?
Santi: Stiffedmusic.com. Only thing is it isnt 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).