Stone Temple Pilots had already found a winning formula twice before the March 26, 1996 release of their Third album «Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop».
The combined US sales of their first and second albums, “Core” and “Purple”, reached the 10 million mark. (Both albums have since been certified for an additional two million US sales each.) Stone Temple Pilots had already cemented their place as household names. Reaching arena status. And recording a permanent footprint on the radio.
They may have been maligned by critics on the road to success. But future classics like “Plush,” “Creep,” “Interstate Love Song,” and “Big Empty” found their way into mass rotation in 1993 and ’94. And they have remained staples. since then. Then “Tiny Music” blew the doors off the then-widespread notion of the band as purveyors of a contrived-by-the-numbers grunge style meant to capitalize on the prevailing trends of the day.
The album significantly expanded on the riff-based heavy rock on which Stone Temple Pilots and their contemporaries had built their fortunes. In places, “Tiny Music” shows that this group was more than capable of breaking free from rock entirely. From “Press Play,” Rhodes’ piano-driven instrumental improvisation that opens the album, it’s suddenly clear that there had always been a lot more to Stone Temple Pilots than perhaps even their most ardent fans knew.
“It took a while to get a feel for what we’d become,” late frontman Scott Weiland told MTV as the band was about to finish “Tiny Music.” The question was: “Did we turn into a butterfly or did we turn from a worm into a fly?” he added. “It could have gone either way.”
Decades later, that transformation still sounds as dramatic as the words Weiland chose to describe it. Most of “Tiny Music” still finds the band relying predominantly on riffs, but even those songs introduced a whole new range of colors to Stone Temple Pilots’ vocabulary.
On “Love’s Pop Suicide” and “Big Bang Baby,” for example, the band replaced the chunky, off-key style of earlier songs like “Wicked Garden” and “Silvergun Superman” with a tattered new interpretation of ’70s glam rock.” Art School Girlfriend” fuses British post-punk with jazz, while “Tumble in the Rough” veers towards pure punk, albeit with a more layered version that sounds like it’s been filtered through the ’60s as it the band prioritizes texture, tone, and mood over attack.
Similarly, the meandering, breathy “Ride the Cliche” hints at prog so unobtrusively that prog and classic rock influences meld seamlessly. “Adhesive” veers toward quintessential indie rock, with Sketches of Spain-inspired trumpet solos reminiscent of images of Miles Davis guesting on one of Yes’s early albums if Yes had invented emo. The ambiance is so spacious it’s as if Weiland’s harmonies and Dave Ferguson’s trumpet notes are being transported through a canyon.
Up and down the track list, hints of psychedelia give the songs a sparkle and freshness like dewdrops on blades of grass. By the time listeners reached the Beatles-influenced “Lady Picture Show,” it’s pretty apparent that Stone Temple Pilots had intentionally chosen to avoid muscle for finesse, volume for dynamics, and density for space.
By far the most striking outing came in the form of a decidedly unironic foray into bossa nova. “And So I Know” paved the way for new adventures in sensitive territory, which can be heard on two of the band’s latest albums, 2001’s Shangri-La Dee Da and 2020’s Lost.
“I had been writing songs like that since I was probably 15 years old,” bassist/guitarist/songwriter Robert DeLeo tells UCR in an exclusive interview. “I was very drawn to jazz at a young age. It had great appeal to me. I don’t know why, but probably the first records I pulled out of my parents’ and grandparents’ basement were jazz records.”
Apparently, Stone Temple Pilots had a song like “And So I Know” before anyone knew it. As DeLeo reveals, “Interstate Love Song” started out as a bossa nova tune. To demonstrate, DeLeo puts the call on speaker, grabs an acoustic guitar off the wall, and strums the strings to the rhythm he had initially envisioned.
“I remember when ‘Tiny Music’ came out,” DeLeo says with a laugh. “I was reading a review and they basically called ‘And So I Know’ a Vegas style song. Bossa nova is far from Las Vegas. For me it is the most natural, organic and relaxing music in the world. I really appreciate Joao Gilberto, and I love the way the music spilled over into mainstream music here. I love the record that Antonio Carlos Jobim made with [Frank] Sinatra, and the way all that bossa nova spilled over to Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert.
“That is a magical moment for me and my childhood,” he adds. “There are good memories there. It makes me think of many people who are no longer in my life every time I hear that music. It’s a calling card from my past.”
When DeLeo played the idea to Weiland, there was a similar response. “It sort of reminded him of when he was younger and what he and his parents were listening to,” recalls DeLeo. “It’s always the kind of thing with a singer, where you want to make them fall in love with your song a little bit. When you do that and take them to a place of, ‘Oh man, that reminds me of when I was little and I did this,’ that’s when things really come out.”
DeLeo said his choice to record most of “Tiny Music…Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” while living together in a sprawling mansion in California’s Santa Ynez Valley helped his bandmates and producer Brendan O’ Brien to become more receptive to ideas.
“I felt [listo para explorar ese tipo de sonidos] the whole time we’d been making records,” DeLeo says, “but I think it was the freedom and openness of being in a home environment like that, where you could really live there and be a little bit more free. You don’t show up somewhere and go, ‘Hey, um… check this out.’ And besides the fact that he was very, very into a lot of bossa nova and was really digesting it at the time. That song idea was ringing inside of me. I just started doing it one day and everyone was liking it, which was good. If someone had said, ‘Ehhh, I don’t know,’ then we probably wouldn’t have done it.”
Stone Temple Pilots had recorded Purple’s basic tracks in just 11 days, according to a 2017 Yahoo Backspin interview. This time, the band was able to stretch, living out their dream of following the lead of classics like Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
In the new liner notes to the reissue, DeLeo tells veteran music journalist Katherine Turman that the house itself inspired the exploration, as the band was curious to record in several different rooms. That, in turn, generated a greater variety of tones. Being ensconced in the picturesque wine country didn’t hurt either.
“Some of my favorite records ever made,” he says, “were recorded at home. And it was a great experience creating the sounds yourself instead of being in a studio and assuming the sounds were going to be good because of the space you were in and the equipment that was there.”
The recording arrangement did not fully insulate Stone Temple Pilots from stress. At this point, Weiland’s problems with heroin addiction had already publicly derailed the band’s progress once.
“This was coming from the success of Purple and being in a position where we probably should have toured that record for about two years, but we ended up on the road for only six months,” recalls DeLeo. “It was a big, big disappointment, so it was a very productive time for [el guitarrista de Stone Temple Pilots] Dean [DeLeo] and for me, especially to write about what we were going through.”
Songs that didn’t appear on “Tiny Music” ended up on Talk Show’s 1997 self-titled album, the one-off group that the remaining members of Stone Temple Pilots formed with singer Dave Coutts after Weiland’s problems further delayed the schedule. from the main band. again.
Weiland looked visibly gaunt and worn in interview clips from this time. His voice was hoarse, but strong nonetheless. He channeled his problems into the lyrics, though he did so from oblique perspectives that weren’t always obvious. At various points on the album, Weiland’s voice has a glowing, upbeat quality that belies what he had in mind. Despite all of her sunny hooks, “Lady Picture Show,” for example, is actually about a dancer who’s still haunted by the trauma of gang rape when she later falls for her.
“All of those songs,” reflects DeLeo, “had a great sense of despair.” Still, Weiland was able to weave magic out of it, and Tiny Music contains some of the most powerful musical statements of his career.
“Scott was brilliant at making up images. I think he was a real poet,” adds DeLeo. “I never asked him about what he was doing or what he was singing about. I never felt that [era mi] place to have to go there. If I had a song and I sang a tune I already have, like ‘Interstate Love Song,’ if he picked it up, great. But he would never have told her to sing certain lyrics. [Sus palabras] They came from a place so productive and well done that I wouldn’t touch that.”
At one of the most creative points in their history, Stone Temple Pilots upended the alternative rock cliché from which they had directly benefited. “Tiny Music… Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop” still sounds as bold, innovative and unique as when it was released.
“When we were doing Core,” says DeLeo, “I thought I was going to play vibes two records later on ‘And So I Know?’ I’m not sure. I didn’t think of that at the time. I mean, I expected to be [haciendo algo así eventualmente]. We have grown up with so many types of music, from [Led] Zeppelin to Bill Evans. There is a broad aspect of music that I had the pleasure and honor to grow up in. When you pick something from the tree that is musically in one of those ranges, you’re going to try to address it as best you can.”