Archive for Justin Stewart

Category Five – a retrospective

Posted in Bands that died, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

How could I not do a post about my old band?

It’s been roughly 10 years since I started playing music with Justin Stewart, Blake and

In the fall, Blake's moving from NYC to Boston and attending Harvard Business School! He always was the brains behind the band.

Colin Boeh in Category Five.  We called it quits in the summer of 2004, so I guess it’s been almost exactly 6 years since we played our last show.  Seems like all the places we used to play have since changed hands or closed down completely – which is a little sad.  Hell, even the websites we used to maintain have closed down (mp3.com has been gone for a long time and I lost our homepage domain when I graduated from Penn State – we still have a Purevolume site though!).

I know the chances are that if you’re reading this, you already knew the band.  I guess at the end of the day, I wanted a place to share and post the music – and to post some of the demos that you never got a chance to hear!

Nervous & Worried (click to download the album)

Colin grew out his hair and his beard - depending on the season you can find him in Maine or Idaho. Usually somewhere away from crowds.

Shortly after joining Category Five (formerly Exit 3) in 2000, we started looking for a place to record an album.  At this point, we were opening for the Buzz Poets at Banana Joe’s in the Pittsburgh Strip District and playing with other kids at the Cyber Golf (a mini golf course that used to be a movie theatre) in Butler, PA.

When we finally started tracking at Soundscape Studios, we were really wet behind the ears.  None of us had any idea how to record an album.  I think we blew through almost $10,000 making the album – we even had Justin’s dad take out a $5,000 loan to finish it up.  I remember at the end of the recording process, we won a battle of the bands at Club Laga that afforded us the ability to record two new songs for album – they ended up being “Freezing Rain” and “White Houses”.

One of the things I’ll always remember about the studio was hiding in the vocal booths and writing the music for “Lucky Summer Sky” on an acoustic guitar.  In the dark.  It was a really emo time in my life.

When the album was finally finished, Justin and Blake drove to Canada to pick up the albums from the manufacturing plant because it was somehow cheaper than getting all the boxes shipped to us (we pressed 1000 copies).  I remember them tracking me down in the halls of Seneca Valley when they got back to school and dropping a copy into my hands.  I don’t think I had ever been more excited about something in my entire life!

Justin quit vet school - and at the ripe old age of 30, he still spends most of his time traveling to video game conventions.

These days, I can pick the songs apart a little bit.  Our songs sounded very similar to each other.  The single guitar parts, the lack of depth in the bass, the way Justin interchanges “she” and “you” in “Lucky Summer Sky”, making for a somewhat confusing lyrical experience – they all drive me a little nuts.  We were young though, and I’m still extremely proud of this album.

Low Tide (click to download the song)

We recorded this song at Mr. Smalls Funhouse in Millvale – I want to say in late 2001.  This was for a local Pittsburgh band compilation that we had a chance to be a part of – and I think it just provided us a good opportunity to get back into the studio and record something new.  Aside from that compilation and shows – I don’t think we ever posted this on our website or Mp3.com or anything.  I think this was in our transitional period where we were in the middle of trying to find a second guitarist to fill out our sound.  We did eventually re-record it, although that version was never completed.

2002 Demo Tracks (click to download the EP)

As we were starting to play better shows (we got to play Warped Tour in 2001, opened for Billy Idol – and played at the Pittsburgh rib and wing fest!), Joe Seles (who was a stage manager at Club Laga at the time) asked if he could play guitar in our band.  Having tried a couple other guitarists in the past, I think we were all a little weary, but Joe actually showed up to the first practice with parts written to most of our songs.  He was an technically savvy guitarist and it actually allowed Colin a little freedom to start exploring different chords and riffs and improve his own playing (although I would say it took a while for Colin to feel comfortable with another guitarist in the band).  Shortly after Joe joined, we moved our gear into his basement in Pittsburgh and drove out to his place 2 nights a week for practice.

In the late summer of 2002 we started recording a brand new EP of songs.  We re-recorded “Dub Vee” and “Low Tide” and laid down the 4 new songs that we had written with Joe.  Tentatively, I think all the songs were titled “Genitals and Scissors” with a number associated with them (it was an inside joke revolving around a trimming accident) – but most of them were renamed (except G&S1).  We recorded drums for the EP at some place in the Northside of Pittsburgh.  Blake was a champ and knocked out most of the songs a lot quicker than he ever had before.  The rest of the recording was done at our producer’s home-studio in Dormont.

Joe got married... he basically has the ultimate punk rock family. An adorable wife and several pit bulls.

During the middle of recording, I went off to Penn State.  Joe ended up quitting the band in the late fall and we scrambled to pick up the pieces a little bit.  Justin finished 3 of the 6 tracks on the EP, but the other three still don’t have vocals on them, sadly.  When we attempted to get the studio tracks back from our producer, it turned out that he had actually lost our hard-drive.

I still listen to these tracks often – I think they ended up sounding a lot more mature and listenable than our earlier material (a lot of that can be attributed to Joe – and us growing up a little).  It’s a shame that we never ended up with a finished product though.  I still think “Genitals and Scissors” would’ve been a great song, had we finished it.  Fun fact – I have since gotten a HUGE tattoo of the lyrics to “Our Finest Hour” on my chest.  Oh yeah, I’m EXACTLY like that highschool quarterback that can’t let go of the glory days.

Last Songs (click to download the songs)

Tim moved to Florida and started a new band... And I assume took a lot more drugs.

After Joe quit the band, we played a couple shows as a four-piece again (one of them was opening for Brand New and the Movielife at Club Laga) but we intended to fill the spot eventually.  Our friend Tim Lease stepped in and played guitar for us starting in early 2003 (I vividly remember a weekend spent hanging in his garage teaching him the songs and lounging in his hot tub).  We finished out my freshman year at Penn State by winning a battle of the bands and playing at the student run “Movin’ On” festival at the end of the year.  That was a pretty triumphant time for us.  I think we all felt like we could still be a band even after Joe (who was a pretty strong influence on us all) had bailed.

We spent the following summer attempting to write new material.  The result was one song that we labored endlessly over.  I think we may have only ever played it once or twice to a crowd and we never recorded it.  Stew and I were both working for my dad doing construction and it felt like we barely ever attempted to play any shows.  The next year we didn’t do much together – but we did get together and play one last show in the summer of 2004.

As for me, I'm just kinda hanging out. Workin' in New York. Drinkin' too much.

At the end of college, I started to get really into recording songs in Garageband.  So our final opus wouldn’t ever be completely forgotten, I attempted to recreate it in demo form.  I also recorded an electric version of “Lucky Summer Sky” because I’ve always wanted to see what that might sound like.  They’re a little rough, but I’m satisfied with the results.  Maybe not as satisfied as if we had recorded them both as a band.  Who knows what’ll happen in the future though.

Happy 30th Birthday, Justin Stewart!

Posted in Recommendations with tags , , on May 20, 2010 by stevenreedkelly

Justin Stewart foolishly eating a habanero pepper. The results were priceless. Click the picture to see!

Today is Justin Stewart’s 30th birthday.  Yep.  The big 3-0.

For those of you that don’t know Justin (or “Stew” as his friends affectionately refer to him), he was the singer in my highschool band, Category Five, and my roommate during senior year of college.  I consider him a close friend and a mortal enemy.

Some of Stew’s favorite things include video games, desperately consuming fiber and having his desktop wallpaper switched to something grossly offensive while he’s away from his computer.

Recently, Justin has become a certified (and employed) veterinarian.  I guess that’s kinda cool.

In honor of Justin’s birthday, I’m posting a Category Five song called “There’s Ink on My Shirt” that we never really let out of the vault.  It was recorded during our attempt to make a follow-up EP to Nervous and Worried.

Happy Birthday Stew!