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Escape Velocity

The Sound Of Endless Summer: Still Corners Interviewed
The Quietus , January 11th, 2011 09:36

They've only just sorted out a settled line-up, but Still Corners' dreamy-pop is as polished as it comes. They talk to Darren Loucaides about countryside clichés and Twin Peaks

Listening to Still Corners' music, you could be forgiven for imagining them as quiet, serious types. Their songs are eerie and tremulous, like echoing caverns of sound, and yet also delicately precious, a combination that demands conscientious craftsmanship. Live, their music "rocks more", as one of the band puts it, and, coupled with the video projections, consistently casts spells on audiences. On stage, though, the band remain fairly static - focussed, it seems, on the task at hand.

Far from the outlook of introspective dullards, though, The Quietus find the three members of the five-piece we speak to - vocalist Tessa Murray, guitarist Leon Dufficy and principal songwriter Greg Hughes - to be warmly open, brimming with humour and playfulness. There's a remarkable, almost telepathic bond between them – a bond that they're willing to let you in on, like an old friend. In the last few months, Still Corners have put out two singles, 'Endless Summer' and 'Don't Fall In Love', as well as recently releasing a cover of 'Eyes' by Rogue Wave, all of which has begun to earn them some much-deserved attention.

They're also set to release a single with Sub Pop in February, coinciding with a string of US dates in March, followed by an album later in the year. This may all seem to have happened very quickly, but the band's story really begins back in June 2008 with the release of an EP, Remember Pepper, written and recorded by Greg (who moved over from Austin, Texas, eight years ago), and his first meeting with Australian émigré Leon shortly beforehand.

So how was Still Corners formed? I've now heard about a Hawaii party.

Greg Hughes: Hawaii?

Leon Dufficy: Yeah, that's where we met.

GH: Oh, in Hawaii.

LD: No, not in Hawaii! The Hawaiian party.

GH: I was like, 'Did we?' Yeah, the Hawaiian party. We met in January 2008. At that time I didn't have a band for my music, and when Leon came along we put one together, basically. [The project] had been going for a long time – it's gone through a few changes. But we've finally settled on a line-up.

Before the current line-up, Remember Pepper was released, which is really just you, Greg?

GH: Yeah.

LD: You were very secretive about it!

GH: Yeah, you're right, I was secretive…

LD: Well, it wasn't secretive as such. It's just that I'd known Greg and I'd seen his other bands, and we'd gotten along. We were already pretty good friends. And I knew that he was working on stuff, and then all of a sudden, he's like 'Check this out'. And I was like, 'Oh my god! What happened here? Where did this come from? This is amazing'. And I was instantly like, 'I've got to get in on this'. It really blew me away.

And Tessa entered as part of the new line-up…

GH: Yeah. We were lucky in finding Tessa. She came aboard about a year and a half ago. And it seems to be going really well.

LD: There's a certain tone in a female's vocals that we really like. It's a natural tone that you can't train and you can't learn. And it took a while to find that.

GH: Tessa and I met on a train platform. We both got the wrong train, we were dropped off in the middle of the night and no-one was there but us two.

True story?

GH: Absolutely true! You started talking to me...

Tessa Murray: Yeah, I said, "Did you get the wrong train too?" And I was waiting for ages for the next one.

GH: And you said you were in a choir and I was like, 'Oh, that's cool'. Because a lot of our vocals are quite choir-like. And we exchanged numbers, and the rest is history.

Do you still write everything, Greg, or has the new line-up meant a more collaborative approach?

LD: It's mainly Greg.

GH: I still write and record the songs. I have a studio and I write and record there. Then I bring it to the band and we try it out live.

Are you determined to keep the recording process 'in-house'?

LD: We've tried to use producers but it's so hard to explain to someone what the sound is that you have in your head. We've pretty much scrapped every single thing that we've done with a producer and gone back to what Greg's done.

GH: We'd go to these producers who are awesome, and we'd come back and… we don't even have to talk about it...

LD: He and I would look at each other and just go, 'delete, delete, delete'. It's just so accessible to do it yourself these days. Because you have all the gear, you can sit at home on a Friday night when everyone else is out partying and write a pop song about how you're not out partying!

Do you encourage Tessa to do her own thing or do you sing a melody for her first?

GH: She's really good at harmonies and we try to find what works with her voice. I can't really sing… Oftentimes I'll hum a part and she'll say, "No that won't work". She'll suggest I change the key or modify it.

TM: I've been doing choir stuff since I was about 11 and at one point in my life I was singing five days a week on various things. Reconciling that with being in a band… while there were a few things to learn at the beginning, I think it was a perfect grounding. Being up there on stage could be a bit nerve-wracking at first, though; in a choir, no-one can really hear if you mess up your part, but when you're there singing on your own…

Do you all enjoy playing live? There's a stillness to your performing that might be interpreted as shyness.

GH: Yeah. I mean I'm shy. I'm really shy, to be honest.

LD: We don't really want to be a band that jumps around, you know, we're not into Guitar Hero! It's not about that, it's about being a great band that can perform the songs that we love, creating an atmosphere on stage.

GH: And that's key – creating an atmosphere, a mood. The film projections, which Leon does, are a huge part of the live performance. Because we want to create an atmosphere and mood. We want to turn the lights down. What we're doing on stage isn't so important… The projections are the visual representation of the music; we're trying to interlink what you're seeing and hearing.

The songs do evoke so much imagery; do visual arts influence you?

LD: I think it's something we've always been into. If you hear a beautiful song or something that's recorded amazingly it's the same as if you see a beautiful old 60s film on 16mm. I get the same vibe from that.

GH: You can see movies or a TV show like Twin Peaks and they all have something that you take a way with you, that clicks with you. It's all about that feeling – we want the songs to do the same thing. Our influences, which we always talk about all the time, they make us feel this…something. But how that gets translated into a sound – I don't know, it's weird.

LD: It's higher than you, Greg.

Are there unifying themes to your work? Nature seems to be a pivotal subject.

GH: Yeah. On this new track there's this recording of crickets running through the whole thing, and on Remember Pepper there's 'Fall Sparrows', which isn't a song really, it's just me looking out of the window and seeing sparrows doing their thing, and what I thought that sounded like. Our music's all about those little moments, sitting outside, seeing something beautiful – the lights twinkling on the sea, say – and being inspired. We like the outside, strolling through the woods. All those clichés! I'm a big fan of the English countryside, I really love it.

Leon: But it's not like we actually go outside all the time, and say, "It's a beautiful day, look at that glint of sun…".

TM: I kind of do do that!

LD: Ha, yeah you kind of do. But you never know when those moments are going to hit. You could be sitting in your lounge flicking through a magazine. It's so hard to pinpoint. But it does come back to a lot of the 60s films we like –because they are shot in that 16mm dreamscape scenario.

Is it quite hard to come up with cover artwork when the music is so visual?

GH: We definitely talk about it a lot.

LD: I think the artwork is something that we're not so confident in. We're still trying to hone our skills there.

TM: Our friend, Gary Sykes, did 'Don't Fall In Love's artwork. But it was Greg's idea, based on…

LD: Rosemary's Baby [1968 film].

GH: And with 'Endless Summer', Leon took the shot.

LD: Yeah we went to Norway a couple of months ago. We were hanging out there and there was this beautiful lake, probably one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever seen. We were there for about four days, we swam in it a bunch. And we took that shot…

GH: And we were looking for a cover for 'Endless Summer' and Leon said, "What about this?"

LD: Actually, we didn't think about that one too much.

TM: If they had known how far it would go they would've talked about it more!

LD: We're always on the look out for stuff, though. We have a little folder full of ideas, collected over time…