Feature: Jack Foley
THE hiss of tape may seem nostalgic in the land of digital recordings
and MP3, but for Montreals The Stills its more than
an scratch from the distant past.
That hiss recalls the bands very beginnings, because without
a simple, chunky-looking four track tape recorder The Stills simply
"Its like our Rosetta stone, you can trace everything
about The Stills back to that four track," explains Tim Fletcher,
The Stills 25-year-old singer-guitarist.
"A friend of ours, whod ran into financial troubles
in London, called-up and said take some of my belongings,
just send me some money, so we took that."
Splitting the cost with close friend and Stills drummer, Dave
Hamelin, a frantic exchange of ideas began hurtling between them.
"We shared the recorder, so Id listen to whatever
Tim did before me and then hed listen to what I done,"
"It would be, I liked his song, Im going to
try to make a better one. We created our own little universe."
From such early experiments, this private world began to take
shape, fleshed-out with a delicate melancholy born from a shared
"The only moments when we felt we could truly let go were
when we were recording," explains Fletcher, who, with Hamelin,
writes The Stills material.
"When youre playing, youre not thinking of anything
else, not even what youre playing, youre just doing.
So we created everything for those moments. Ultimately, we wanted
to feel like that all the time.
It was clear then their recorded experiments required a wider
audience, so recruiting lead guitarist, Greg Paquet, and bassist,
Oliver Crowe (both, along with Hamelin, 23), from various aborted
local band,s the four had served in, and in search of wider exposure,
they temporarily swapped French-speaking Montreal to spend the
Summer of 2002 gigging in New York.
They immediately garnered attention. Interpol became firm friends,
they supported The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, among others, and Vice Magazines
record label signed the band.
More touring followed, and after their debut release, the Rememberese
EP in April 2003, last Summer they again settled in New York
to record album Logic Will Break Your Heart, with ex-pat
Canadian producer Gus Van Go.
Echoing the four track swapping days, the pace was again frantic.
"We almost lost our minds," admits Fletcher. "We
had just two months to record the album.
"We recorded all day, then would just sit up all night in
this loft, in Brooklyn, freaking out over the next days
work. It was like working in a factory all day every day."
However, the urgency transfigured the album. Fused with paranoia
and desolation, but tinged with humour and hope, Logic Will
Break Your Heart is billed as 'a record of sweeping romanticism
struggling against a homogenised world'.
"To me, the album is about that defeatism," explains
Hamelin. "The world is heartbreaking. When youre young
and you have ideals you strive to push through boundaries, then
as you get older and are forced to get a job, you realise how
the system works and logic breaks your heart.
"A lot of the songs change their emotional attack,"
continues Hamelin, of the albums evolving dynamics. "Tim
sings all the songs on the record, except one, and I wrote 75%
of them, so he adds his emotions to my songs.
"Im always trying to be ironic, but when he sings
its more sincere which adds a weird twist.
Clearly, The Stills have drawn from some dark places, but among
the scything guitars and brutal percussion, soul-warming tunes
ensure their debut long player doesnt wallow in despair.
The album closes with the lullaby-like Yesterday Never Tomorrow,
and, by doing so, points towards a ray of hope.
"Theres a hope there, too," concludes Fletcher,
of the swirling emotions. "I guess if you dont have
that hope, then theres nothing."
The Stills will be hoping to build on their growing popularity
with a number of UK dates, in February, which are as follows...
10 London Brixton Academy (with Ryan Adams)
11 Nottingham Liars Club
13 Wolverhampton Little Civic
14 Glasgow Stereo
15 Manchester Night & Day
16 Buckhamshire Uni (with British Sea Power)
17 Leeds Joseph Wells
18 London 100 Club