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Orange, California, United States | SELF

Orange, California, United States | SELF
Band Folk




"Lib at Large: Stonehill debuts its socially conscious tunes at Green Arts Festival"

A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS folk-rock band from notoriously conservative Orange County? Sounds like an oxymoron, I know. But that's what sparked my curiosity about Stonehill, a band from the OC making its Marin debut April 2 in the San Geronimo Valley Community Center's Green Arts Festival, presented by a crew of students from San Anselmo's Sir Francis Drake High School.

Stonehill is a newly formed modern Americana quartet built around 26-year-old Caleb Stanton and his 24-year-old brother, Nathan. Like the brothers in the Kings of Leon, these guys come from a Christian background, but there's nothing preachy about them.

"We're passionate about social justice and environmental issues, but we're not the kind of band that gets on the microphone and goes on a rant," Caleb said, speaking from his home in the town of Orange. "And we don't want to be a band that just says we're passionate about stuff. We want our actions to prove that. We want to represent that with what we do, with the organizations we support."

There's a long list of those, most notably, a grassroots environmental group focused on promoting positive messages in the entertainment industry.

When the Stanton brothers heard about the San Geronimo festival, they were more than willing to make the trek to Marin to play for people who can appreciate where they're coming from.

"We're big on philosophy," Caleb said. "We love talking about what we like and what we don't like. And there are a couple of things we're committed to. One is that we want to make music we want to make, not necessarily the crap that's on the radio."

That said, after listening to some of their songs, I could imagine them being played on progressive college radio, if they aren't already. "Freedom Hill," for example, is a lilting acoustic ballad with a serious message condemning the sex trafficking of children, and the apathy that allows such atrocities to happen.

A sample of the lyric: "Oh, child, there is a place where the hungry eat their fill/And dignity is not disgraced for a sick man's dollar bill/Oh, Beast of Apathy, we're going for the kill/Where courage meets injustice lies the road to Freedom Hill."

Strong stuff, but Caleb insists that their shows are more joyful than anything else.

"Lyrics are hugely important to us," he said. "I can't stand dumb lyrics. So we want to write about things that matter, that are relevant. That said, if you read our lyrics, we may be singing about intense, raw stuff, but at our shows we just like to have fun."

The Stanton brothers formed Stonehill just six months ago. Caleb, the lead singer, plays banjo and lead guitar and Nathan plays bass and sings backup; their friend Christian Vandal also sings and plays rhythm guitar, and another pal, percussionist Ian Jahns, rounds out the sound.

Caleb has a degree in history from Tabor College, a tiny Christian school in Kansas. While a student there, he learned to appreciate traditional American music, specifically bluegrass, a style he brings to Stonehill.

He and his brother are members of Community Christian Church in Anaheim, which he describes as "a haven for socially minded people."

The small, 250-member congregation leads a communitywide recycling effort, donating the proceeds to the International Justice Mission, an organization that fights human trafficking. Church members also fix cars for single mothers for free, and high school students make sandwiches for the hungry people.

"Don't get me wrong, we're a collection of broken, screwed-up people," Caleb confessed. "We just think there's a responsibility for those who are blessed to give from that abundance for the greater good, you know?"

For the past three years, he's run the church music ministry, but recently stepped down to give himself more time to pursue Stonehill.

"We're young, we're unmarried, and we thought, 'We've got to go for this music thing one time and see what happens,'" Caleb said. "So we're just trying to keep it real, making music that moves and inspires us." - Marin Independent Journal


Stonehill - The E.P. (2010)
- Canvas
- Song #3
- The Tide
- Freedom Hill



Brothers Caleb and Nathan Stanton have been playing music together for years.  Both grew up playing the piano, and started adding more instruments to their repertoire as middle schoolers.  Caleb attended college in a far away land called Kansas, thus halting the brothers' musical exploits for four years.  In Kansas, however, Caleb grew an appreciation for historical American music - specifically bluegrass.  Today, many of Stonehill's songs contain bluegrass-influenced acoustic guitar and banjo.

Following college, both Caleb and Nathan got "real jobs" like good American boys do.  After a few years of that, however, they decided music was what genuinely inspired them so they formed the band Stonehill.  Joining the brothers were their good friends Christian Vandal and Ian Jahns, who happen to be crazy talented.  The full band only recently began playing together (Summer 2010) but has already generated a core, rapidly growing fan base and interest from independent record labels. Some recent highlights were their Worldfest 2011 showcase and the amazing opportunity to perform with double platinum recording artist, Vertical Horizon.

A large part of Stonehill's music is about world-betterment, and they do their best to live up to the message by teaming up and fundraising for organizations such as the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Green Lifestyles, International Sanctuary and more.

Currently, the guys feel so lucky to be playing shows and festivals with such positive responses, for people who are really listening to the music. A few of Stonehill's influences are: Frightened Rabbit, Third Eye Blind, Mumford and Sons, U2, Coldplay, Flogging Molly, and Ani DiFranco.  Eclectic, we know.  We like it that way...