Stick To Your Guns Spark Change With Their #HopeBringers Initiative
Story by Shannon Shumaker
Music and charity work have almost always been tied together in one way or another. You see it in the various benefit shows that are announced almost immediately following any sort of national disaster or tragedy (see New Found Glory’s #PARKLANDSTRONG Benefit Concert or The Avett Brothers upcoming Hurricane Florence Benefit) and we witnessed it for years on the Vans Warped Tour with Feed Our Children Now! and the countless non-profit organizations that the festival was involved with. Most of the time, it goes unnoticed unless brought to light or amplified by incentives for free stuff, but long-standing hardcore band Stick To Your Guns are working hard to normalize charity work and giving back to local communities on their upcoming run with Emmure with their #HopeBringers initiative.
Over the years, Stick To Your Guns’ music has become synonymous with the charity work that their fans do on a daily basis. From donating blood to volunteering at animal shelters or working with local community organizations, the band is frequently tagged in photos and videos from fans who associate their music with the work that they are doing to try and make a difference in the world. Rather than letting this idea simply live on social media or run in the background, Stick To Your Guns are working to highlight it on their upcoming tour.
The concept is simple: the band is asking that fans take pictures or videos of themselves working to make a difference in their community and post it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #HopeBringers. On the upcoming run of shows, the band will select a few of the #HopeBringers to feature on social media and win a pair of tickets to an upcoming show. But for drummer George Schmitz and the rest of the band, this initiative is about more than just cool points on social media or free stuff - it’s about encouraging their fans to make a difference.
“The hope is through initiatives like this, we can at least bring about some kind of collective consciousness awakening or realization,” Schmitz expressed just a few weeks before hitting the road, “I mean, that’s always the endgame with our music anyways.” When we met for coffee to discuss the #HopeBringers initiative, he was admittedly stressed about the hard work that comes along with organizing charity events while on the road, but more importantly, he was excited for what it would bring. Not only is the band encouraging fans to share their work on social media, but they’re also organizing events at four select shows on the upcoming tour.
For each city, the band took care in partnering with specific organizations that are working hard to make a difference, and although it has been a lot of hard work, it’s worth it. In Anaheim, the band is hosting a puppy chow drive at their show on October 14th, and when they’re in Denver on the 21st, the band has partnered with Denver Homeless Out Loud and Food Not Bombs to collect donations for the homeless. In Pontiac, Michigan, they’ll be hosting a water drive for Flint.
For the upcoming Denver event, Schmitz took care in finding organizations that not only aligned with Stick To Your Guns’ goals, but were excited to be part of the initiative and inspired him to get involved. “I think an organization like Homeless Out Loud… It’s really indicative that you can just be the type of person that’s like, ‘Well I don’t know what I’m gonna do, but I have these sleeping bags and I’m gonna hand them out.’” he explained “Food Not Bombs is setting up outside the capital and feeding people, they’re like, ‘People need to eat. I don’t know what I can do, but I can cook all of this food and I can serve it to them.’ That’s the type of work that’s really inspiring to me.”
“Denver Homeless Out Loud had a YouTube feature of some homeless vets talking about the work that Homeless Out Loud and Food Not Bombs are doing and I feel like that really gave me perspective,” he continued “These organizations are going directly to people as opposed to the homeless people having to uproot all of their belongings that they have with them to go to that shelter. It was really encouraging.”
“Not everybody has to like everybody, but we all need to respect one another.”
Almost immediately, our conversation turned to what Stick To Your Guns would like for the #HopeBringers initiative to accomplish and what they want fans (or even those who don’t see eye to eye with them) to take away from it. As Schmitz said in the announcement video, #HopeBringers is designed to encourage anyone to get involved in their local communities, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.
“It’s difficult because the big clapback we get from a lot of our fans - or I guess people who disagree with our political stance - is ‘you guys are taking this partisan stance and you’re alienating your fans.’” Schmitz said, “And we had a lot of conversations and said, ‘Okay well, we do have a stance and there’s a clear line that we draw where we stand on certain issues.’ We don’t want that to be obscured or diminished by trying to appeal to everybody, but at the same time, we wanted this initiative to be broad and inclusive.”
“Not everybody has to like everybody, but we all need to respect one another,” he continued, “There’s one side that’s doing unspeakable, horrible things - and that’s not exclusive to republicans, I’ll wrap up a whole slew of liberal democrats in that - then there’s a whole other side that’s fighting for people’s self determination and equality and emancipation, and that’s the side we’re on and that’s the side we want to amplify.”
Fans of Stick To Your Guns (and even those who might not align with their political beliefs) are well aware of where the band stands on multiple issues, but for #HopeBringers, the band hopes that the conversation can focus more on helping others rather than debating beliefs or opinions. “I can argue all day about whatever topic online, but I gotta help out here, man. I don’t know whether that’s helping the homeless community or posting flyers for local ballot initiatives, just something that I can do,” he concluded, “Let’s have this act as a motivator or something that’s a catalyst for people. Even if maybe politically or ideologically you’re at odds with us, you can still look at somebody who needs help and be like, ‘Well I should help them. Because I’m a human and they’re a human.’ That should be the basis for our understanding.”
This hope for the initiative is also why Stick To Your Guns chose to kick it off during a tour with a band like Emmure, who admittedly has a wildly different fanbase. Rather than looking at it as an obstacle, the band sees an opportunity to get more people involved in making a difference, even if they’ve never listened to their music. “Honestly, that’s why I really jumped at the opportunity to do it on this tour, because it’s a co-headliner with Emmure, and Emmure clearly has a wildly different fanbase than our band,” Schmitz explained. “But that to me is a challenge. That’s more of an opportunity for outreach.”
This has been a common theme for Stick To Your Guns over the years, as well. The band is excited to tour with artists that you might not expect to see them with, like Motionless In White or I See Stars, and as Schmitz explained, it isn’t a for-profit motive, it’s because they hope that they can introduce kids to hardcore or inspire them to make a difference. “Our band is notorious for being buzzkills. I’m okay with wearing that hat. I don’t care if you find our band and that gets you into hardcore, then you find Madball and you think our band is whack,” he said with a laugh. “As long as it gets you into this music, because this music is so politically and socially charged that you can’t help but be motivated or affected by it.”
“I would hope that we could inspire people to understand that they do have power outside of their vote. Their vote isn’t the only way that they can affect change.”
So what should fans and newcomers alike take away from the #HopeBringers initiative? It might seem daunting to try to change policy on a national or global level, but locally, there’s a lot that just one person can do. That’s what the band wants to drive home with #HopeBringers. “I want people to see that these organizations are accessible and this is stuff that you can do in your free time,” Schmitz said when talking about working with Denver Homeless Out Loud and Food Not Bombs.
“I know that people get disenchanted with electoral politics, and I mean, the system is fucked,” he admitted, “The whole thing is rigged, it fucking sucks and it’s a horse race that I hate participating in, but I want to romanticize electoral politics and I want to believe that your vote makes a difference. Clearly I get kicked in the fucking face every year, so I get it. I get how people are like, ‘fuck this, I’m out.’ But this is something that you can actually make a difference in on a local level.”
The goals that Schmitz and the rest of Stick To Your Guns have for the #HopeBringers initiative might seem lofty when looking at the big picture, but this is something that will take time to accomplish, and the band (and many of their fans) are happy to put in these hours. Whether it means partnering with local organizations on every stop of a tour in the future or encouraging fans to get involved or start their own initiative, every little bit helps. For local bands, Schmitz encourages them to reach out - it’s not as daunting as it looks.
“A lot of this has been starting with Google and just going where that takes me. Really it just starts with finding a way to contact them,” he explained, “I’ve been talking to Food Not Bombs on Facebook, really informally just on messenger, but they’ve been really receptive. Denver Homeless Out Loud had an email and three of the guys that are associated with it are responding to me ASAP with everything.”
“I don’t want to say that community work is easy to organize, because holy shit it isn’t, but accessibility is easy now with how much social media there is, and your phone is a tool - you really can organize some pretty powerful shit in the palm of your hand. I would hope that we could inspire people to understand that they do have power outside of their vote. Their vote isn’t the only way that they can affect change.”
“We are a subculture that is outside of the confines of civilian society and we went here because we needed a place to go because we didn’t fit in there. But having said that, we should take what we learn in hardcore and apply that and try outreach.”
As far as the future of Stick To Your Guns and the hardcore scene, Schmitz hopes that this can become the norm for their upcoming shows. “I would love to see this be a regular thing. It’s what we always talk about with hardcore. We are a subculture that is outside of the confines of civilian society and we went here because we needed a place to go because we didn’t fit in there. But having said that, we should take what we learn in hardcore and apply that and try outreach,” he suggested, “I think that’s the biggest thing that I want to work on, moving forward with our band. To take what you learn and move it outside of this niche music community.”
For those who want to get involved with the #HopeBringers initiative, the possibilities are endless. It doesn’t matter if you start small by simply bringing a donation to one of the four shows that will be accepting them or volunteering a few hours of your week at a local organization. Everything makes a difference, and the more everyone works toward that common goal, the easier it becomes.
“We’re talking about changing the nature of social fabrics and how we approach our day to day lives, and I think it starts in flexing those types of muscles - compassion and empathy or a willingness to want to help people,” Schmitz concluded. “I really want everyone to understand, let’s meet in the middle on at least humanity. I think we can all agree on a baseline sense of humanity and we should start there. It’s a lot of work to be done.”
Stick To Your Guns will be hosting events in coordination with local organizations at the following shows on their upcoming tour. In order to get involved, lean a little more about each event on the band’s Facebook and bring one of the suggested donations to your show.
Anaheim, California October 14th - Puppy chow drive
Bring: donations of cat/dog food, cat scratchers, durable dog toys, or fleece blankets
Denver, Colorado October 21st - Homeless outreach
Bring: sleeping bags, blankets, tents, tarps, heavy winter gloves, hand-warmers, or hygiene kits
Pontiac, Michigan October 25th - Flint water drive
Details to be announced
Jacksonville, Florida November 5th - To Be Announced
Stick To Your Guns Tour Dates:
10/11 - Seattle, WA at El Corazon
10/12 - Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre
10/13 - Sacramento, CA at Aftershock Festival
10/14 - Anaheim, CA at House of Blues
10/16 - Mesa, AZ at The Nile
10/17 - San Diego, CA at House of Blues
10/19 - Las Vegas, NV at Brooklyn Bowl
10/20 - Salt Lake City, UT at The Complex
10/21 - Denver, Co at Summit Music Hall
10/23 - Lawrence, KS at Granada Theater
10/24 - Chicago, IL at House of Blues
10/25 - Pontiac, MI at The Crofoot
10/26 - Rochester, NY at Anthology
10/27 - Clifton Park, NY at Upstate Concert Hall
10/28 - Worcester, MA at Palladium
10/29 - Montreal, QC at Club Soda
10/30 - Toronto, ON at The Opera House
10/31 - Philadelphia, PA at Theatre of Living Arts
11/01 - Sayreville, NJ at Starland Ballroom
11/02 - Richmond, VA at Canal Club
11/03 - Carrboro, NC at Cat's Cradle
11/04 - Atlanta, GA at Masquerade
11/05 - Jacksonville, FL at 1904 Music Hall
11/06 - Fort Lauderdale, FL at Revolution
11/07 - Tampa, FL at The Orpheum
11/09 - San Antonio, TX at Alamo City Music Hall *
11/10 - Houston, TX at Scout Bar *
11/11 - Dallas, TX at 2513 Deep Ellum *
* = without Wage War