By Harriet Kaplan
STASH (link) have only been together since July but the combined talents of DJ/rapper/songwriter Steph Prost and classically-trained vocalist Amanda Maze are making a big impact in the EDM/pop music world with their irrestible high-energy songs geared toward getting bodies moving on the dancefloor. Girl power, indeed. Songs like “Tear Me Down,” “Strip Me Bare” and “Red Cup, Pink up” have infectious hooks and hypnotic rhythms that continue to stay lodged in your brain once the party ends. Recently, Black on the Canvas sat down with the duo that hail from San Antonio, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama respectively making the rounds to promote their joint effort as a new group and seven-song EP on iTunes. The conversation touched how the duo met and pooled their individual, unique abilities to take on a genre known more for male artists than females, how they differ from your typical rising pop stars and belief their act will endure and have staying power regardless of trends.
What do you want to accomplish with this duo? Do you feel you are breaking down stereotypes?
Amanda: Steph and I have a common goal of making music that makes people happy and dance. It doesn’t necessarily have to be soul shattering. We want to make people forget the troubles they are going through at the time. I think that will be our goal throughout our career. I think we will throw in deeper material every once in a while. The biggest stereotype Steph and I have broken down we feel that when people we have come in contact with and work with realize we are fun to work. Steph and I have never had a diva mentality.
Steph: People think we are going to be jerks. Most of the dancers we are working with have worked with many artists, they say that often the experience is horrible. Then they meet us, that perception changes and they want to continue to work with us.
Amanda- You have been in other bands before and worked with other musicians. What is the difference being in a duo with Steph?
Amanda: I sang opera for a long time. I was used to being around the divas of all divas. That’s not the way I was raised. Steph wasn’t either. Just because we got a small stroke of luck and are riding this wave, doesn’t mean we are act differently or think we are better than anyone. The stereotype we break down is that we are fun people and fun to work with and are not going to be jerks no matter what level we end up reaching.
There is a lot written in press releases for the band about how you and Steph being very musically inclined unlike other EDM-styled groups. Are there any organic instruments used in the production and recording of the songs?
Steph: Everyone one of these songs was written with a guitar. I have played guitar my whole life. That’s my main instrument. Amanda plays piano.
Amanda: I was a music major in college for three years before I changed my major. I had to learn two brass, two strings and two wood winds and piano.
Steph: I played clarinet and trombone for a while. I played piano for a while. The songs were based on four chords and progressions on guitar. We transposed them to electro beats on piano synthesizers. I rap and Amanda sings.
Steph – Did you decide to create STASH after being a successful DJ? Is this your first attempt at being in a band? Has there been any challenges transitioning from being a DJ to a singer/songwriter?
Steph: I’ve always had the girl duo idea. I was involved in being in a DJ duo with another girl. I always thought that was different than being a single DJ or opening DJ. I had a stroke of luck when I was a DJ thrown into a lot of powerful situations like Sundance, SXSW and Red Bull Spring Break, I got to see all the other DJs in the game longer than me. I didn’t want to be stuck in the same pattern where they doing the same thing for five or 10 years as a DJ. A lot of DJs make beats or house music or whatever. I thought the pop angle was more approachable for me. I took a year to write these songs and work on them. I had always been jotting down notes. If you look at my phone, there are like thousands of different stanzas. So I drew on my experiences. With DJ success I was having, I got a really good manager who had worked on Christina Aguilera’s first CD.
He was the engineer on it and got a Grammy for it. He hooked me up with Nick James who worked with Justin Bieber. I started writing with him. He helped me learn how to write a structured pop song. Meeting and working with Nick, he helped me take all the scattered pieces of my songwriting and put it all together. While I’m working with Nick, I was searching for another girl to be in the duo with me. I got 200 responses through Facebook, Twitter and L.A. Casting looking for a singer. I need a partner for an EDM duo. A singer – preferably brunette. My old partner when I was a DJ was a blonde girl. I needed the contrast of two different people. I didn’t want it to be perceived we were related, either. That contrast would help us appeal to different audience. So people sent me You Tube videos and Soundcloud links. I met with 10 of the 200 people in person. Amanda was the winner. We had a nice dinner at Chic-A-Fill (laughs). We went there four times. I did the first round and met with all these people to see how their personalities were and if we meshed. Unfortunately in this industry, it’s a look thing. A lot of people don’t look like their pictures. They submit head shots. There were three girls I didn’t recognize when I went to meet them. When I met Amanda, I thought she was cuter than her pictures.
Amanda: We have that contrast of the blonde and brunette. The short and the tall girl.
Steph: We are pretty much oppositions looks wise and every way.
Amanda: When it comes to decisions, you look at other girl groups, there are very strong opinions floating around. There ends up being conflict from that. Steph and I have the opposite problem. We are the opposite in that we can’t make a firm decision.
Steph: We are pretty much open to anyone pleading their case.
How far do you think you can take the EDM/pop concept as far as a long-range career? Do you see it evolving into anything else? I ask because you write part, good time, fun songs?
Steph: With this project, we’re making the songs more pop and less EDM. I think EDM is on a wave right now but at the end of the day there is pop music. We have left the door open so the songs can go more in a pop direction. We have worked on live performances with a band. We can sing to tracks or around a live band. We have worked with Kesha’s guitar player.
Amanda: I think when the time comes, we will have a permanent band. We want the right people involved with the music that know it well enough so we don’t have to rotate musicians in and out.
Who has inspired you both musically in terms of creating your sound and style?
Amanda: Steph and I have pretty diverse musical taste. We love rock music. We were listening to Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” on the way here to the interview. We love classic rock and hip hop. We obviously love pop and dance music. I think it will be 80 percent pop and whatever we are feeling at that moment. Whether it’s EDM or we want to do a rock thing. Though, a collaboration with a country person could be cool, too.
Steph – How did you meet Kim Fowley, producer of The Runaways with Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Curie?
Steph: I met him in West Hollywood on Halloween. I was at Fubar on Santa Monica. The first year I lived in L.A. I designed a swimwear line and I was wearing a swimsuit on Halloween. He came up to me and he was in full drag. He kept circling around me the entire night. I thought he was crazy. He got my phone number and kept calling me for the next week. He asked me: “What are you a pop star?” He then said: “You have something about you.” He asked me to come to his studio and he asked me: “What can you do” ? I said: “I can rap.” I rapped for him on the phone and I was at the Costco parking lot. A week later, I was in the studio with him. We made maybe four or five songs. It was me and one of the first girls I worked with a long time ago. He was the first person to put me into a studio. He made me write a rap within a minute or two. Then he recorded it right on the spot. It was the first time I knew I could write music or do raps. At this time, I had been DJing six months. I have been DJing three or four years now. It was October 2011. I haven’t talked to him in two years. Working with Kim I saw as the intro to what I could do.
I met some people through that experience in the studios nearby. We worked on a few things together. Then I met someone who played guitar with Lionel Ritchie. I made a set of three songs with that musician. After I made those three songs, I got a manager who used to work with Christina Aguilera. I had a product of what I wanted to show the next person I worked with and thought this is what I now want to do. But, at the same time, I felt the quality could be better. We made our songs in the house and in the studio which was the size of a closet. It’s been interesting process, that’s for sure.
Tell me about your gig this past Thursday at Mickey’s in West Hollywood. How did it go? Who is your biggest demographic?
Steph: We are just starting to get out now and play shows. We are very new. We have been together since July. It was kind of a quick turnaround. I had all the songs ready to go. It was nice Amanda was able to come in and kill the vocals. We were able to hit the ground running. With our combined experiences working with other groups, we came together joining forces.
The gay boys really had a good time and some rushed the stage. It was a first live show last Thursday. It’s awesome to be performing in front of people again. One of the dancers in the “Tear Me Down” video has a lot of pull in the gay scene arranged our show at Mickey’s.
Amanda: We have a lot of people on Instagram that comment on our pictures. They say: “I love you guys, can’t wait to hear more music.” Some people have done some cool Anime photos of us. We’ve had 50 year old men say they like our stuff. We have done a good job of not excluding a lot of people. My mother is 64 and obsessed with “Red Cup! Pinky Up.”
Steph: I think when I wrote the songs I wanted them to be friendly to all demographics. When I was young. and my mom would take me to school, I would make her listen to Top 40 radio. I wanted to make music when parents are driving their kids to school, they don’t hate it. We don’t have swear words in our songs and they aren’t angry songs.
Are you relying on social media to get the word out about STASH and I read your songs are getting radio airplay?
Amanda: 25 to 30 stations to have picked up our songs. The biggest markets are Las Vegas and San Francisco. There are some in Texas. Also Long Island, NY and Palm Springs. We utilize social media always posting photos of what we are doing, photo shoots, etc.
What is next for STASH? When will the first EP be released?
Steph: The EP is on iTunes and there are seven songs. First single is “Tear Me Down.” The EP features very poppy songs.
Amanda: Every song has its own personality. They don’t sound the same and there are a couple of remixes. You wouldn’t listen to say two songs and say this one sounds like the other one.
Steph: I think you give yourself a limited shelf life, if you make all songs sound the same. Where do you go from there? You have to leave the door open so your next follow-up CD or EP is something you can build off of what you already started. We want to set up a long term situation for the group. I wanted to make sure the songs could individually stand alone as singles.
Steph: Our management is looking for artists to put us on a tour with. The idea is to have STASH be the opening act. In January or February, we’re going to do a radio tour featuring us sing three songs live. We have acoustic versions of the songs as well. We just signed with CEG. We are thankful they took us on. Hopefully, we will go to Las Vegas this Summer and DJ events. Like a Vegas pool party. We are a pool party friendly group (laughs.) We were thinking playing a show and then playing a club later that night reaching two different audiences. Do some Spring break stuff.
Tell me about how fashion plays into the image of STASH and what that represents?
Amanda: We show our personalities through our clothes. Obviously Steph is more edgy. I have a more glamorous, classic type of style. People will like our differences. Most girl groups dress the same or have similar outfits. We are opposites and diverse. Pop people try to make characters that are very elaborate. I think it’s nice to be yourself. People recognize when you are being genuine even in a performance when we are a heightened or exaggerated version of what we are yet it’s still at the core of who are as people. It’s just a more flashy show version of that.
Photo Credit: Taylor Lewis (link)