On Tap Tonight: American Hi-Fi at Viper Room

Adam Elmakias
L to R: Drew Parsons, Brian Nolan, Stacy Jones, Jamie Arentzen

Only in the music business could someone go from drummer to frontman to A&R executive to songwriter and musical director back to singer all in the span of a decade. But that’s exactly what Stacy Jones did, and now he’s back with American Hi-Fi, the band he started in 1998 when sales were still on an upswing and the future looked very bright for power-pop aficionados. The band performs their only L.A. show at the Viper Room on Friday.

Jones had already completed a crash course in the industry thanks to stints with '90s alt-rockers like Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo, and Hi-Fi was among a slew of buzz band signings, achieving its most successful run in 2000, when the song “Flavor of the Weak” became a modern rock hit. Its accompanying video, which parodied the already hilarious cult doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot (see it below), was another high point. But five years later, the band had been dropped by Island Def Jam, then Maverick, and Jones took a decidedly different route: He joined the Epic Records A&R department. The post was short-lived -- six months in total, though he was paid out the remainder of his two-year contract. “Classic music business,” he says with a laugh. 

Staying behind the scenes for a stint, Jones was hired to produce  a little-known band called Open Air Stereo (of Laguna Beach fame) then tapped by their management to work with Miley Cyrus. The result were two hugely successful albums, 2007's Meet Miley Cyrus and 2008's Breakout, after which he became her de facto musical director. It’s a job Jones enjoys tremendously. “She’s legit,” says Jones. “I love the music and I love her. She's got a killer voice, is so great to work with and she takes it really seriously. I think a lot of people don't realize that.” 

In fact, inspiration for new Hi-Fi tunes came while out on the road with the teen queen (the band’s guitarist Jamie Arentzen is also touring as part of Cyrus’ band). The end result: this summer’s Fight the Frequency, a return to form for Hi-Fi, although Jones cautions, he has no expectations. “Zero, he says. “Especially in this day and age, when people's attention spans are so short. Maybe we'll get lucky and end up on some awesome bill with the Foo Fighters or something. That would be a dream come true.”
Meanwhile, Jones insists he’s not bitter about any part of his music business experience – the good, the bad, the ugly. “I'm proud to say I’m not a jaded son of a gun,” he says. “I'm still optimistic that you can make music and have fun. I'm happy that you can still have a career in music. It's different than it used to be, obviously, but there's nothing else I'm qualified to do at this point in my life. And there's really no other field that I would want to work in. Unless the Lakers want to draft me as a point guard; maybe the Senior PGA tour perhaps?”