Joe Stack: A Musician About Town

As we sit at a front table at Cool Beans sipping beers, Joe Stack excitedly mentions that he’s relieving one of our coworkers of a gray, female foster kitten she has. That’s one of his agenda items for a Thursday. He’ll also be printing and posting flyers around town. His days off from work are Wednesday and Thursday, and he finds that he is fueled by an “appetite of wanting to be on top of the world and doing all [his] stuff.” For Stack, that means that not a moment goes by without his music getting around town, whether through promotion, practice, or performance.

Stack is kind and quiet, which lends itself to a sort of modesty in regards to a number of his accomplishments. He and friend Garrett Phelps have been jamming together in PurlSnapShirts for 7 years. Stack plays the keys in the band Uver, and he writes songs and performs on his own. He can play guitar and bass. Stack mentions that it sucks that he hasn’t had time to devote time to other music projects that have come and gone over the years, as if his involvement in the Denton music scene weren’t already a strongly felt presence.

His indoctrination into a wide range of music started at home. His father is a country songwriter who showed him the likes of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, and his sister — twelve years older — introduced him to groups like The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana. When Stack heard Green Day, he knew he wanted to play the guitar. He was enamored with the prospect of playing “that simple shit that I knew I could do, just power chords.” At 12 years old, he received a guitar and taught himself every Green Day song he could. From there, and with his myriad influences, he began writing his own songs.

“My music is predominantly sort of Southern, but I try to keep it interesting and a little bit experimental, sometimes psychedelic when I’m recording,” Stack says. “I try to add special effects. I’ve always kind of said folk rock [was my genre]…recently I’ve been calling it ‘sentimental hogwash rock.’”

From the age of 17, Stack has played with friend and fellow Denton musician Garrett Phelps in the group PurlSnapShirts. As their name indicates, their repertoire follows the classic country vein, but remains avant-garde, incorporating elements of acoustic punk rock. Stack describes Uver as “real, interesting rock” that is predominantly the songwriting of Fritz Schwalm. Stack sees his role in the group as “trying to serve [Schwalm’s] songs with my keyboard playing.”

And Stack’s own music? He sees it as a mix of those groups, and his songs are a constant way for him to deal with what happens in his life. Stack describes his latest EP, Feeling Shape, as a “bunch of sad-ass love songs.” Also a poet, he sees the major difference in the writing processes as the smooth rigidity of a song within a time signature, although his lyrics certainly lend themselves to more than their face value.

Between those three major dedications, his Flight of the Conchords cover band with coworker Zach Fletcher, and performing “dark lounge” music with his brother, Stack rarely goes two weeks without performing somewhere. Denton has always been home, and he notes that what he likes most about being a musician in town is the likemindedness in desire to both perform and engage with music. In his evolution as an artist, Stack is looking to become more of a career musician step by step, and has two shows booked in Dallas next week. He will be performing at the House of Blues on Sunday, December 11, and at The Curtain Club on Thursday, December 15 (you can view a calendar listing his current performance dates here).

“I hadn’t really been trying to utilize Dallas until the past couple of months, but I’ve been really looking around, trying to figure out what the best venues for my kind of style would be,” Stack says.

Stack makes sure to plug his last show of the year at J&J’s on Thursday, December 29. He seems nearly starstruck talking about performing at the new space upstairs for musicians, and about the acts he has seen there thus far, even more so than about the House of Blues. He made the flyers himself: a line drawing of a Joe Stack-esque man lassoing down the moon.


Header image design by Brittany Keeton