11 Questions: Rob Stauffer
by Brent Cole
Having lived in Whatcom County for nearly 23 years, spending most of that time in the transient music scene, it’s common place to watch my friends and acquaintances leave town for greener pastures (much to my chagrin). It’s so commonplace, in fact, it rarely fazes me anymore… that is, except for the upcoming departure of “Handsome” Rob Stauffer (the nickname is one I gave him many years back). Having played in such legendary local bands as The Love Lights and Bright Weapons, Rob is moving to Costa Rica this summer, leaving behind the beauty of Whatcom County. I’ve known Rob for well over a decade, ever since he gave me the initial The Love Lights demo for review – which I did and included some minor critiques. He emailed soon after the review was published, thanking me and taking to heart what I had said. I instantly knew he was a good one. Over the years, I’ve loved his bands and loved chatting with him as we grew older through the scene. Always there with a kind attitude and a quick smile, Rob did, in fact, turn out to be one of the good ones and his presence in the community will definitely be missed. That being said, I couldn’t be more excited for his new adventure and applaud him for launching his life into the next chapter and unknown.
And with that, I introduce you to Rob Stauffer, this month’s 11 questions.
Who are you and where did you come from (tell us about yourself)?
I was born Robby Roy Stauffer and grew up on a farm in Lynden. I play bass in Bright Weapons, teach middle school, and have two fluffy cats named Kevin and Toby.
You’re moving to Costa Rica. You’ve lived in Whatcom the majority of your life, going to school at Meridian, what are you most looking forward to as you leave?
I’m excited for culture shock, and eager to get out of my comfort zone. Mostly I want to speak Spanish, ride motorcycles up volcanoes, and surf in December.
Conversely, what will you miss most about Whatcom County?
This year’s been crazy because I’ve been out of town more weekends than I’ve been at home. It’s made me fall in love with Bellingham more than ever, so I find it interesting that just now I’m journeying onward. Besides friends and family, I’m really going to miss the accessibility of everything, from Baker, to the lakes, to (mostly) bike friendly traffic. I think I spent years taking what we have here for granted, and it wasn’t until I started adventuring that I realized I could spend my life here and never run out of trails, mountains and mysterious lakes. Also the art in this town is so incredibly honest. Sure there’s pretentiousness in any artistic community, but there’s a brilliant modesty that Bellingham always tends to maintain.
Having been in town and active in the music scene for years, what has been the biggest change you’ve witnessed?
I think Hollie Huthman mentioned it in her 11 Questions, but it’s so interesting to watch how things go in waves. When the 3B shut down in 2005 you would have thought the end days had arrived. And yet the Wild Buffalo was still playing blues open mics on Saturdays, and look where they are now. And The Shakedown, and house shows, and Make.Shift – it’s as vibrant as ever. People will always appreciate and inspire one another here, and although it may look different, Bellingham will always pump out amazing art.
Who is your all-time favorite local band? (It’s ok to say it, you’ll be leaving.)
It’s been pretty incredible to watch Josh Holland develop as an artist and musician. Wild Throne is something that makes me rethink music as a thing, and reminds me I should be practicing my instrument way more. It’s just been incredible to watch him develop over the last 10 years, and I respect him so much as a person that it makes it even that much more fun to follow.
Joe Metzgar’s the same way. I watched every Deadly Sinclair show at Chiribins around 2006, and then he was doing Karate Kitchen, and I’m pretty sure I caught every set they played. Now he’s moved back into town and is starting a new project, just when I’m moving. Gah.
Where will you eat your “last meal” in Bellingham?
I haven’t been there in a while, but I picture brunch at Bayou on Bay. That place is like a second home to me and their food makes me cry tears of joy. That, or Wander with some Highway 542 in front of me. Seriously, Wander, am I right?
When your stint in Costa Rica is over, do you plan on moving back to town? If no, where will you be headed?
I signed a two-year contract, but I found that most people who teach down there don’t come back any time soon. I’m honestly looking for a life-changing experience, so I kind of hope to get lost down there for a while. Although I do have a lot of nephews and nieces in Whatcom County so I can’t imagine getting away with not visiting once a year.
You’ve played in a soul-pop band (The Love Lights) and punk-pop band (Bright Weapons), what style will your solo album be?
Bright Weapons has taught me a lot about letting my guard down when crafting a song, so I hope that shows in the new material. Honestly I just want to make something that sounds like a Nada Surf record. I’ve always been into well-written pop music, which Ben Ballew helped me develop in The Love Lights. Jeff Ballew is playing bass on the new record, so it definitely has a Love Lights groove to it, and Sarah Jerns will be playing piano, so that’s almost half the band right there.
What’s it been like mixing your day job (teacher) with your night hobby (rock ‘n’ roller)? Ever have a student say “my parents like your band?”
Ha, that definitely happened with the Love Lights when we were playing bigger bills at The Wild Buffalo. With Bright Weapons I now run into the problem of having students in the audience, which can be fun, or kind of weird. Last summer I played a show at Make.Shift where a bunch of my punk students showed up and couldn’t hack it in the pit, which consisted of a bunch of tough high school girls. I think I earned a little street cred after that.
Any chance there will be a Rob fest with The Love Lights, Bright Weapons and your solo material being played live one last time?
Yes! I mean, kind of! I’ll be playing the Green Frog July 10 for my album release/going away party. As far as Bright Weapons, we’re trying to put together one more show before I leave so be on the look out.
Any last thoughts?
I can’t thank this community enough for the opportunity to play with so many incredible people. Making music for me has always been about getting to spend time with friends that I respect and care about, and Bellingham has been the perfect place to develop these relationships. Friends, please keep in touch and know that you always have a place to stay in Costa Rica. Pura vida. Vamos!
Published in the June 2015 issue of What’s Up!