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The Stands - Everything is based around the melody and the lyrics

Feature: Jack Foley

IN WHAT is turning out to be an exciting year for emerging bands, Liverpool's The Stands is yet another alternative outfit that could be worth getting excited about.

Break-through single, Here She Comes Again, had people reflecting on the heyday of The La's, while anyone who listens to the debut album, All Years Leaving, employs the same sort of simplistic songwriting techniques that ensured The Beatles and the Stones enjoy such a lasting legacy.

Hell, Djs are raving, and Noel Gallagher is talking them up - so much so that the band, itself, is keen to thank him.

Not bad for an outfit which was the brainchild of Liverpudlian songwriter, Howie Payne, who started on the path to success a couple of years ago, having spent years wrestling with centuries of musical history.

" I was playing a lot of acoustic nights on my own," he recalls, in an interview on the band's website.

"Just doing my own stuff and a lot of traditional music and early blues. I was getting into songs that were four or 500 years old and it got me thinking, ‘Who wrote these songs? And how did they come to last so long?’

"After a while, you start to hear the same melodic structures over and over again. They’re really simple.

"Everything is based around the melody and the lyrics. That led me to think that I should form a band that was just about that. I mean, I’m not interested in fashion and I’m not interested in hipness. All I wanted to do was write songs from the heart. So that’s what I did..."

The Stands - comprised of Payne on lead vocals and guitar, Luke Thomson, on guitar, Dean Ravera, on bass, and Steve Pilgrim on drums - subsequently played their first gig at Liverpool’s cult Bandwagon Club, in Christmas 2001.

At that point, they were an amalgamation of several groups, Howie being joined on stage by his younger brother, (and member of the Zutons), Sean on drums, Robbie, from the Hokum Clones, on guitar and Martin Campbell, on bass.

The reception that night was so good that, coupled with the burgeoning success of local acts like The Coral, Howie realised that the time was definitely now.

"It made me realise that people were interested in what was happening up here," he explained. "The choice for me, though, was: 'did I want to rush it and get my songs out there with everyone else or did I want to leave some time? In the end, I decided to leave some time and let it come naturally..."

It wasn't until the following year, however, that the band really started to develop, gradually mutating into their current line-up.

"I knew what I wanted to do," says Howie firmly, "so I did it. If people wanted us to play in London, we did. If people wanted us in Manchester, we went there. We didn’t want to be the next big thing, we just wanted people to hear our songs..."

But while the desire not to seek instant fame is admirable, Howie kept one eye on the future and started to consider how to construct the first album, determining, early on, to avoid compromises of any sort.

Hence, by the time they signed with Echo in April 2003, The Stands had already recorded over 90 per cent of the record.

"We got a bit of help here and there," laughs Howie, in humble reference to the likes of Noel Gallagher, who first caught up with them during one of his frequent visits to the Bandwagon, and quickly offered them time in his Buckinghamshire studio.

"Noel’s brilliant," asserts Howie. "He’s a great lad, I love him. He just sat in the corner going, ‘That sounds great’. He actually phoned me up before we went into his studio and said to me, ‘I don’t care where you do it, I just want to be there when it happens’."

The result of Noel’s encouragement and Howie’s single-mindedness is the type of debut that sounds both instantly recognisable and totally fresh; and one which you really ought to grab a hold of.

And the successes keep on coming. Following their support slot shows with JET, and the sell-out NME Awards Show, The Stands have announced a 12-date tour that will see the band hitting cities across the UK in March this year on the following dates:

Thursday, March 11 - Bristol Fleece and Firkin
Friday, 12 - Stoke Sugarmill
Saturday, 13 - Leeds Cockpit
Monday, 15 - Manchester University Academy
Tuesday, 16 - Preston The Mill
Thursday, 18 - Edinburgh Venue
Friday, 19 - Glasgow King Tuts
Saturday, 20 - March Sheffield Leadmill
Sunday, 21 - Middlesborough Cornerhouse
Tuesday, 23 - Birmingham Academy 2
Wed, 24 - Brighton Concorde 2
Thursday, 25 - Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Wednesday, April 7 - April London Mean Fiddler

Needless to say, Howie is looking forward to the forthcoming dates, adding:

"I'm really excited about it. We always look forward to playing anyway because we like going out and playing live - it's not a bad old life really rolling around the country playing music!"

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