Dec. 30, 2004

Stroke 9 Shoots to Repeat ‘Little Black Backpack’ Success

By Randy J. Klodz

The Bay Area native pop-rock act Stroke 9 has seen gold-record success with its 1999 album “Nasty Little Thoughts,” and as Chicago stands as one of the band’s best markets, Stroke 9 plans to make a Chicago splash for a Jan. 8 show at House of Blues in support of Bottle of Justus.

Stroke 9--which features Luke Esterkyn (vocals), John McDermott (guitar) and Eric Stock (drums)--first drew the acclaim of fans worldwide with the catchy 1999 pop-rock anthem “Little Black Backpack” and its head-nodding lyrics: “Don't wanna talk about it / I say why not? / Don't wanna think about it / I say there's got to be some good reason / For your little black backpack / Up, smack, turnaround he's on his back.”

While the band has since released 2002’s “Rip It Off” and the most recent release “All In,” which hit stores Nov. 9, Stroke 9 may be known more for its early hit than for anything else. And the band’s members fully understand.

“Probably more people know us as the band that played ‘Little Black Backpack’ than as Stroke 9,” said Stroke 9 singer Luke Esterkyn. “When you have a song that’s played on the radio a lot, and it’s your one hit that got big, more people recognize the song than the name of the band, which is what it is,” he said. Esterkyn attributed some of the lack of name recognition to the fact that songs are often played on the radio without the name of the band given to the listener.

Stroke 9’s latest album “All In” features a steady blend of rock and pop, with the album’s opener “How Am I Gonna Know” packed with enough catchy goodness to make it this year’s version of “Little Black Backpack.” “Words to Live By” seems like a semi-inspirational 2004/2005 version of the Baz Luhrmann’s anthem “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” which somehow found its way into high-school graduation speeches every year following its 1998 release. The low-key “Faux Gucci Girl” lightly mocks the fakeness of some of Hollywood’s females and the string-section laden “Set You Free” was written with the help of ex-Third Eye Blind guitarist Kevin Cadogan.

Though Stroke 9 hasn’t officially mapped out a tour itinerary for the months to follow, Esterkyn said that he and his band plan to tour with the popular pop act Sister Hazel in the near future.

House of Blues is at 329 N. Dearborn St. Tickets for this 18+ show are listed for $12 each with show time scheduled for 9 p.m. For more information on Stroke 9 log on to www.stroke9.com.
Stroke 9 Photo: Ralf Strathman