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Zach Velmer of STS9

The Element of Surprise

Sound Tribe Sector 9, the five-piece instrumental band from Santa Cruz that has built a following with crazy light shows, visual art and space-out jams, is back on the road in support of their latest LP Peaceblaster. STS9 kicks off its tour on February 26th with a four-night stand at the Fillmore. Drummer Zach Velmer spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from Santa Cruz.

SF Station (SFS): Can you describe the STS9 experience?

Zach Velmer (ZV): It’s always an evolving thing, which I think is a good thing. We always try to push the boundaries and the experience. At this point, we have developed our own identity, which includes our 1320 record label and a community of other artists, and everybody that helps us do what we do.

As simple as it is, we just try to keep maintaining and creating art. We try to keep it interesting. People want to come back because it was not the same thing as the last time they saw us. I think the element of surprise has done nothing but helped us.

SFS: Are politics also involved with that identity?

ZV: Yeah, it includes social and political ideas. As we get older, we understand our part in society and our ability to make a difference. I definitely think it’s a huge part of what our footprint in the world is. Through charities and albums, we try to have a positive affect on the world. We try to do our part and do what we can to make a difference.

SFS: What do you have planned for your four-night stand at The Fillmore?

ZV: We have a couple things. We have some new lighting and ideas. Nothing that I can tell you, but we are excited and pretty inspired right now.

SFS: Do you really tour with $500,000 worth of lighting equipment?

ZV: I have no idea how much that shit costs. It’s a big part of our show. It’s all about the music, but it’s also about the experience. We enjoy both dynamics about what they do for our show.

SFS: Do you have a favorite lighting toy?

ZV: I just like the new technology that is out. I like the LED technology -- the soft LED screens and the hard LED gear that is almost like an erector set with four-by-four squares that allow different designs. I also like the old-school strobes, which are effective, yet not expensive.

SFS: What do you do personally to push the limits of your craft?

ZV: I try to keep learning and practicing and gaining knowledge. I also try to enjoy life and get inspiration through nature, relationships and other art.

SFS: What do you do to enjoy life when you are not doing music?

ZV: I love vacating. I love vacations and tropical places. I just got back from Hawaii and I’m rearing and ready to go. It was nice to be able to check out before going on tour. It’s a huge thing for me, and a crucial element to balance what I do.

STS9 performs February 26th-March 1st at the Fillmore. Tickets are $26 and the shows start at 8pm or 9pm, depending on the night of the performance.