Rocking the veg lifestyle: Tampa Bay musician Andy Stern

The local musician talks about living and playing without meat.

click to enlarge Andy Stern, drummer (Feral Babies, Early Forms), guitarist, bassist; vegan. - NICOLE KIBERT
Nicole Kibert
Andy Stern, drummer (Feral Babies, Early Forms), guitarist, bassist; vegan.


We reached out to three local musicians to get a feel for their eating habits and how they relate to their jobs and daily lives. The answers were rather enlightening. Here’s what Andy Stern — a local musician and drummer in Feral Babies and Early Forms — had to say. More Q&As with Sulynn Hago and Brad Gilmore here and here.

Why vegan?
I’ve been eaten a vegetarian diet since I was 16 years old (42 now). I grew up in the ‘90s hardcore scene, which was not just about music, but also delved deeply into educating each other about environmental and social issues. My best friend at the time gave me a copy of Diet for a New America by John Robbins, which outlined the connections between diet, environment, health, and most importantly animal cruelty. Suddenly, I realized that my food wasn’t just a product. My choice to eat meat directly supported animal suffering, which is something I couldn’t condone. Luckily my parents were health conscious, and had already cut red meat from our household diet, so my becoming vegetarian was something they supported. Over the years, I continued to educate myself about animal rights through literature. By the late ‘90s, the internet presented something much more impactful – videos of slaughterhouses, animal cruelty, lectures discussing the impact of factory farming in every aspect of our culture. It was one thing to read, but video evidence was impossible to ignore.

Transitioning to veganism nine years ago was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but was working a job that required I dress in business attire. Synthetic leather hadn’t gotten to a point that it was presentable, but once it did, I immediately made the switch.

Some of your favorite vegan foods and meal staples? What about dessert?
I’m vegan for ethical reasons. That doesn't mean that I ignore nutrition, but I also am not one to pass up less healthy options because I’m concerned about calories. Vegan “comfort foods” are my go-to items. Mac n’ cheese, eggplant parmesan and vegan pizza are among my favorites. As for deserts, So Delicious coconut ice cream (a favorite among many of my non-vegan friends as well) and Oreo’s (yup, they’re vegan!) are my stand out winners.

How do you supplement any dietary needs?
I make sure to take my daily multivitamin, as well as a B12 supplement. I’d considered getting B12 shots, but after checking my blood work, my doctor determined that I’m in excellent health and don’t require anything more. I watch my food intake to ensure I’m not depriving my body of anything it needs, but the truth is, it’s not hard to do. There are so many healthy vegan food options, you’d have to try hard NOT to meet your dietary needs. Of course the inevitable question, “Where do you get your protein?” The protein myth is one that’s gone on way longer than I’d ever expected. Not only do most people get more protein than their bodies actually need, but the fact is, plant-based proteins are abundant and take less time and work for your body to use. Plus they’re devoid of many of the steroids and toxins that are subsequently ingested in factory farmed meat. So yeah, I’ll take tempeh, kale, or okra to get my protein over chicken any day of the week.

How vegan are you? Does your veganism extend to clothing, furniture, etc.?
I'm a level 5 vegan — I won't eat anything that casts a shadow. Actually that’s a quote from a Simpsons episode, but how could I resist using it? The real answer is that due to my ethical disagreement with animal cruelty, my choice to live vegan extends to every facet of life I can control. I’m fully aware that no belief is without hypocrisy, however. Certainly some choices I make unknowingly support the industries I oppose, but I try my best to avoid doing so at all costs.

Favorite vegan-friendly hang-out(s) around Tampa Bay?
I’ve been going to Trang Viet in Tampa since college and it’s still one of my favorite vegan friendly restaurants. They have an entire vegan friendly section on the menu. More recently, I’ve been a regular at both Bodega and Nitally’s in St Pete. At Bodega, my go-to is the Tempeh Cuban Sandwich, and at Nitally’s, I’m all about Panang Burritos or Chipotle Pad Thai. Neither place is fully vegan, but both are outstanding at catering to varied diets.

Do you ever cheat?

My reason for living vegan is based on ethical conviction, so cheating isn’t an option. It boils down to one simple equation: Does my desire to satisfy a temporary urge outweigh my repulsion towards supporting suffering and murder? The answer is never yes. I honestly miss no foods or products. Having a clear conscious is more satisfying to me than giving into a temporary craving.

What do you do on the road?

When I used to tour in the ‘90s, it was more difficult. Now, it’s incredibly easy. The last time Feral Babies went on tour, I gained about 5 pounds! Sulynn and I had no problem tracking down vegan foods in every town we visited. Pretty much every major city, and even smaller town, has either a vegan restaurant, bakery, or veg. friendly option. Also there are tons of apps that guide me to good places, and social media has been a huge help. The vegan community is amazing, hugely supportive, and inviting. I’ve had the pleasure of not only discovering new restaurants, but also dining with new friends made through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

How do you stay fit? What do you eat before/after your workout? Favorite work-out songs?

I’d like to think that playing music counts as exercise … but it doesn’t really. I’m rebounding from an accident that resulted in damage to my hand, three surgeries, and physical therapy, so fitness has been more challenging. My dog LucyFur and I go hiking a bunch, I ride my bicycle when I can, and have been getting more into yoga and meditation practice. I do my best to eat clean before and after any kind of workout since Oreos don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value. Dark leafy greens, beans, and lots of water. As for music, Propagandhi, 108, Iron Maiden, and Jawbreaker are in constant rotation when I’m enjoying the outdoors and being active.

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