Tom Staton and Christopher House met at an empty church while taking shelter from a massive snowstorm outside of the small town of Nederland, Colorado in the November of 2003. Staton was a struggling solo artist and House was fronting a local Boulder five-piece called House Party. Their meeting was as surprising and impromptu as their first collaboration later that night, a cover of Neil Young’s “Pardon My Heart.”
From all accounts, it was a magical evening. By the time the streets cleared the next morning, they had written their first two songs together and the Staton-House Band (briefly named Charles Axlerod) was off and running.
By early 2004, the band was cutting its teeth playing bars around Boulder, Colorado and tracking music for their debut release, Joy Motel. The initial batch of songs (“Get in the Car,”“This Place, This Love”, “Vicky”) dealt with themes of love and loss, something that remains consistent throughout their career.
The initial line-up of Tom Staton (vocals, guitar) Christopher House (lead guitar), Kati Rainwater (bass), Kelton Sakai (piano) and Danny Tagerson (drums) wouldn’t last through the recording of Joy Motel, as the rhythm section of Rainwater and Tagerson transitioned to Rick Bayless (bass) and Steve F. (drums).
As the audiences for their live show grew so did the buzz, ultimately leading to them signing with Guy Oseary of Red Hot Chili Peppers/Madonna/Maverick Records fame. Sessions for Joy Motel wrapped over the summer, and October saw the release of their first record.
While it failed to make a big splash, Joy Motel is a classic debut. Songs such as “Coyote Kisses,” “Pretty Girl Needs Loud Shoes,” “The Impossible Machines” and “Disciple of Osiris” still resonate a decade later and are mainstays in their live act.
Christopher got married to Pip Gethers and had a daughter, Denny, in mid-2005, and the band jumped right back into recording their follow-up, Staton-House Band. The self-titled record (a.k.a. The Green Album to die-hards) was released without much fanfare but does mark a clear progression for the band, especially on tunes like “Netherland,” “Mist of Pain,” Spamming My Girl” and “Song for the Forgotten.”
This period also marked one of personal turmoil for Christopher House. Divorce, rehab for alcohol, relapse and a near-fatal car crash ended the year for House, but the accident brought a surprise new love to his life, the immortal Janine Beckwith, the on-call nurse at the emergency room. Janine fueled a creative streak in Christopher and helped fill SHB’s next release Alexander Street with all-timers such as “Besotted”, “We Fooled No One” and the title track.
They cemented their status as a “must see live band” with an exhaustive touring schedule, gaining a slew of new fans (and respect amongst the critics) along the way. The band won their first of three consecutive Best Live Act awards from Billboard Magazine in early 2008.
This period also resulted in an amazing unreleased song “November Girl,” (that story is told elsewhere on the site) and the mythical Kitchen Sessions. But it wasn’t until the release of the seminal In The World that the Staton-House Band truly took their place among the most successful, important American bands of the new century.
Sadly, the good times were followed by more personal tragedy for House, including the loss of his daughter Denny (in a tragic car accident) and his relationship with Janine. As in the past, House poured his pain into the recording sessions of In The World, resulting in its first single, the infinitely catchy “Timothy Doesn’t Matter”, and the bracingly confessional “Janine”, which despite not being a single, won the Grammy for Record of the Year.
After another lengthy tour, tension grew within the band, manager Guy Oseary was fired and everything culminated on that fateful night in Des Moines in 2010, forever known as The Fireworks Incident. After House contracted a fungal illness that sidelined him for eight weeks, the remaining dates of the In The World tour were cancelled, and the future of the Staton-House Band was in doubt.
Which is why it was such a surprise to everyone when Mumble and Shine, the next SHB release, was released quietly in spring, 2011. The “Staton Album” was spearheaded by Tom and most of the recording was done “marathon style” by Tom and Tom alone over a few weeks the previous summer. While the album has stellar moments (“Letter From A Lover,” “Got Nothing For You,” “Another Drama Filled Day,” “Steptember”), it had a lukewarm reception from fans and critics (and the band itself, who refused to tour behind it).
A live performance from three years earlier, Live from Grimey’s/Nashville, was released for Record Store Day, 2012, in order to fill the void left by the uncertainty of the band’s future. Surprisingly, the live record immediately spawned a song that broke all the rules to become an airplay/fan favorite. It was a last-minute choice by Tom Staton to cover the Nils Lofgren song about Keith Richards, “Keith Don’t Go.” Daisann McLain, writing for Vogue UK, probably said it best. “This band is becoming everything we needed and everything we wanted.”
Turmoil continued to swirl around the band with the screening of the band’s documentary “She Sells Seashores by the Seashell” at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival. Hurt feelings and legal battles waged. The documentary remains unreleased.
The band regrouped with Sleepwalker in the summer of 2013, a solid entry in the Staton-House Band canon. House had returned as a more consistent contributor with a run of three songs that kicked off the album with a new vigor. “Just Between Us,” “All the Beauty You Will Ever Need” and “Imposter Syndrome” are SHB live staples, the latter two marked by Christopher’s return to his once-signature 12-string sound. The last song on the album, a 14 minute-opus entitled “I Almost Saw This Girl Get Killed”, has a mythical backstory that is explored elsewhere on The Blue and the Black.
By the time of the fall, 2014 release of Radio and Windows, the Staton-House Band had grown into its role as a seasoned American band. There were few others that had weathered as many storms, or racked up as many memorable songs for its avid following. The years of touring markets of all sizes had kept their fan base strong. The Radio and Windows tour spanned eight months and three days, and by the end of it, once again, the band went their separate ways to recuperate. House went to work on a techno-style EP, released in the summer of 2015 under the name of Peppy Flavors called Stay Peppy, Stay Free.
The band regrouped in summer, 2015 to record a new album. The result was Consider the Stars. A return to form that includes such standout tracks such as Steve F.’s “City of Lights in The Dark”, “Psychosassic”, “Losing Ground” and “Tesla’s Lovers.”
The band will be supporting the album with the upcoming “Capture The Flag” tour. It’s scheduled to go through 2016, ending at the Los Angeles Forum.
As for what’s next for the Staton-House Band? “More,” says Staton, “and better. That’s our motto, ‘More and Better.’” Asked the same question for The Blue and the Black, Christopher House answered in e-mail: “The Future? I see us all like we’re on one long episode of The Monkees. Everything is a little too colorful. Everyone is a little manic. The songs are catchy and pretty good, and nothing gets too sad for too long. It might all even be a dream. But I see an ending… and here it is… we’re all on the end of a long dock, just endless blue, a beautiful blue, leading out to a vast ocean. And we’re all standing there… and then it cuts to black.”
”The blue and the black… get it?”