Still Corners are a band that we’ve been keeping a very close eye on here at The Line of Best Fit, ever since we featured their track ‘Endless Summer’ as a Song of the Day back in July 2010. Since then, the band have toured the States and Europe, released a handful of very well received singles and also signed to the highly revered American label, Sub Pop. One album and plenty more shows later, and The Line of Best Fit finds themselves in London’s The Social with the band’s Greg Hughes and Tessa Murray, to catch up on Stil Corners’ recent whereabouts and to talk about the album that’s had us holding our breath in anticipation for so long, Creature of an Hour.
“We’ve actually been working a lot on new music. It’s really exciting.” says Greg of Still Corners’ activity over the summer. Might some might find it odd to discover that a band has already started working on the second album before the debut has even hit the shelves? “We just have a strong work ethic so we’re always down there.” he elaborates. “We turned it [Creatures of an Hour] in on April 25 and the next day, I was down at the studio writing new songs. After I turned it all in, I had a period of about 2 weeks where I wrote a bunch of songs and they were really bad…!”
“Yeah, I’d come down to the studio and he’d say ‘I’ve written five songs today!’ or something ridiculous!” adds Tessa, the band’s softly spoken vocalist. “And then it came to a stage where I’d go down and it was a good song again. And I’d think ‘thank god that hasn’t lasted!’”
“I think if you just keep doing it every day, something happens. That’s my theory, anyway!” adds Greg. “What we’ve been working on really hard for the last month though is the live show, revamping it, working hard and getting it all ready to go to the US. For a month. Coast to coast!” The US tour in question is will see the band play shows from Florida right across to California, playing alongside acts such as Ganglians, Class Actress and Metronomy. So what’s been modified in the live set up in preparation for this tour? “Well, I’ve switched to drums,” says Greg, referencing the departure of drummer Paul Mayhew earlier this year. “We’re working more with samplers and things like that, so we’ll try to incorporate that and see how it goes.”
Whenever a line up of a band changes, the dynamic inevitably shifts too so did Greg find the transition to sticksman an easy one? “I’m a guitar player first and foremost, so it is a little bit weird. But playing drums is a lot of fun. And it’s such a different instrument to all of the other instruments – you’re sitting down, you’re away a bit and you’re also providing the time for the whole thing, so I dig it, I think it’s cool!”
“And we were really keen to stick with the four of us for now” adds Tessa of the line up change. “Because you know when you’ve worked together with people for a long time, to bring someone in is hard. And I like it because it means I get to play a bit of keyboard, which is fun… it gives me a bit more to do! And It’s been nice to have time to practise before the album comes out, not play so many shows and be able to come back and reflect on what we’re doing.”
The album was shipped off to Sub Pop in its finished and readied state back in April. With a six month wait between turning the album in and releasing it, the anticipation for the record’s release must have been extremely high in the Still Corners camp. “For such a long time, we hadn’t played it to our friends or anything, only the band and Sub Pop had heard it and that was it.” says Tessa. “So to start getting feedback on it was nice. I think when you’re just sitting on something, you start thinking ‘Hmm…was that actually a good idea?’ and second guessing yourselves.”
“It all starts with the recording,” says Greg of the band’s method of creating a live version of their music, “so when we get in a room, we flesh it out with the other guys.” The “other guys” being bassist Luke Jarvis and guitarist Leon Dufficy. “Sometimes you can’t do every single thing on the record live, so you take the essence of the track and try to inject some energy, maybe make it a little faster, or something like that.”
“And it can work the other way around in some instances” adds Tessa. “One of the tracks, we changed it a bit for the live show, then when we started recording it like that, it didn’t really work so we had to go right back to the beginning and use the exact same structure that we’d used first time round. Obviously, the live versus recorded is so different.”
“It really is. I didn’t think it would be, but you play something and think, ‘well that’s just so… boring, live.’ And then you have to do something different” says Greg. “I heard the guy from Washed Out say the same thing, that when he started putting his live show together that he thought it sounded so slow. Speed is one thing, you’ve really got to pick up the pace of it. But it never would’ve occurred to me that there’d be such a difference. But we just hammer them out and see what happens!”
When an album is as highly anticipated as that of Still Corners, the first listen can sometimes be a bit of a difficult experience, doused in the worry that it’s not going to live up to expectations. But in this instance, there was absolutely no need to fret. Still Corners have delivered on all of the promise showcased in their earlier releases and as such, Creatures of an Hour is a gorgeous collection of hazy, absorbing tracks wrapped in atmospheric reverb, with Tessa’s soft and entrancing vocals lullingly leading us along the album’s trail. The songs themselves prompt cinematic visions akin to those which inspired the writing of the tracks, with film having been a big influence over its creation. It’s an album which is rich, deep and full of expression and carefully constructed dynamics.
“I really like ‘Cuckoo’” says Greg of his favourite track from the album. “I really like ‘The White Season’ too, those are my two favourites. But I think ‘Cuckoo’, for me… probably because it was so hard, and it went through so many changes. It ended up being this really minimalist, tiny song from this huge song with loads of stuff going on. I listened to it today for the first time in a while, and I really liked it. Is that ok to say that?! ‘I really like this song I wrote!’ ”
“It’s hard to choose one, ” adds Tessa. “There have been a couple of times where we’ve listened to the whole thing, and we kind of had this ‘woah’ moment. That’s something that we created!”
In the early days of Still Corners, was the idea conceivable that one day, the band would be signed to Sub Pop and about to head over for a coast to coast tour of the US? “No. Not in my wildest dreams! ” replies Greg.
“Its weirder for me” says Tessa, “because Still Corners was in existence before I came on the scene. I only really joined properly last April. So, 18 months later to have a record and been signed to Sub Pop is just insane. I’d never even sung in a band before that, so it was a rapid, accelerated journey! I was helping out behind the scenes with demos and stuff, because they were looking for a singer and I could sing, so it was like – ‘well I’ll just help out on vocals!’ And then gradually, it got to a stage where they were comparing the vocals on the demos to the singers they were trying out…”
“Yeah, we had a lot of try outs and then I remember James from Lawrence Arabia said something like ‘these demos are great, you should go with this…’ adds Greg. “But I’m so slow, it was like a year later when I went ‘Oh yeeeah!’. It was so silly. And it all happened really quickly after that.”
“A guy tweeted about our music and said it instigates “origin-less nostalgia” ” says Greg. “And I thought about the stuff that we do… and then about bands like Beach House, as they have quite a nostalgic feeling. And Washed Out as well, and I just wondered if there’s this thing happening now where people are tapping into this. It doesn’t seem like it used to be like that, but now, all of a sudden, you have Beach House, Memoryhouse, Washed Out… When you listen to the music, it reminds you of things. When I first heard Washed Out, ‘Feel It All Around’ a year ago or whatever, it instantly made me feel like I was 10 years old again. No other piece of music has done that. I felt like I was back on my 10-speed, with my headphones ( listening to Hall & Oates or Duran Duran!) I was instantly transported back, so when people say that about us, I think it’s my favourite compliment, that they feel that nostalgia. It’s so fucking cool.”
Creatures of an Hour is out now through Sub Pop.