Stella Research Committee and the noisy art of perpetual motion

The Cincinnati/Columbus noise-rock act is releasing a new album, 'A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness'

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Stella Research Committee (left to right): Lauri Reponen, Tony Squeri and Kevin Hall.

In Cincinnati, U.S. Route 52 goes right along the Ohio River. Whether jogging or driving alongside the waterway, vocalist/guitarist Kevin Hall likes to listen to music while in motion. It’s a free-flowing feeling, where nothing is locked into a grid.  

That perpetual movement carries over to Stella Research Committee, the noise-rock trio Hall fronts alongside fellow Cincinnati musician Tony Squeri (synth/keys) and Columbus drummer Lauri Reponen, who also plays in Honey Spikes. Hall and Reponen began playing college basement shows together 10 years ago while attending Ohio State, and on Friday, March 12, the experimental band they formed will release its fifth album, A Proposed Method for Determining Sanding Fitness.  

In 2019, Hall and Squeri headed north on I-71 to meet up with Reponen in Columbus for recording sessions at Musicol, where they leaned heavily on Squeri’s electronics to give the songs the feeling of constant motion they craved. While Stella Research Committee’s atonal guitar and cathartic caterwauls have more in common with forebears like Cherubs and Throbbing Gristle (or, more recently, Daughters), Reponen compared the band’s recent direction to a krautrock aesthetic, in which synthesizers and programming propelled the band forward, leaving Reponen more open to percussive experimentation. 

“It gave me some freedom as a drummer,” Reponen said in a recent Zoom call with Hall. “I think we're going to continue to go in that direction, playing with the boundaries and the role of each instrument.” 

Hally’s dystopian lyrics often mirror the dark, doom-laden sounds throughout Sanding Fitness. On “Dustkop,” he describes a future in which rival supermarkets create private military companies and battle over water control. In the video for “The Blast Cabinet Conference,” Hall created a bizarre science-fiction scenario for the purpose of making fun of the internet. 

“I came to the conclusion that I should run with the dumbest idea possible, so the premise of that video was that some schizophrenic basement person was giving a presentation on how robot callers — the robots of the robots — have actually become sentient, and they're trying to steal data from human beings to learn how to be human,” Hall said. “I grew up with [websites] like Something Awful, stuff that predated 4chan. It was a time where you could tell when things were more obviously insane. … Those sites have been co-opted to where it's just rampantly everywhere now.” 

The internet, in fact, is what ties this new batch of Stella Research Committee songs together, Hall said. “The worst dystopian memes that seem to be floating around are all posited by people that are against those scenarios happening, supposedly, but then it just keeps getting shared more and more. You get to a point where someone may actually look at some of those and go, ‘Oh, yeah. That's actually a great idea. Why don't we do that?’ That’s my worry,” Hall said. “That ties in to some of the sci-fi crap I read, so it seemed like a perfect fit. … It's not necessarily good-vibe material.” 

“Yeah,” Reponen said. “It’s a feel-bad album.”