A friend recently admitted to sitting on buses, listening to music, staring pensively out of the window and pretending to be in a film. Another quickly affirmed her indulgence in similar pursuits, readily conceding that she was once so enthralled in the figments of her imagination – murmuring key lyrics poignantly, a single tear rolling down her cheek - that a fellow passenger intervened and she was forced to create some wild narrative involving lost lovers and the wilds of Russia. Ah! The bittersweet romance of the 149, with the simple addition of an iPod. Still Corners create music ridiculously appropriate for such occasions; songwriter (and ardent Cinephile) Greg Hughes acknowledging that he often uses the emotional impact of films as source material.
Appropriately, the story behind the bands formation would sit happily within the realms of filmic fantasy. Hughes explains that he serendipitously met his singer, Tessa Murray, on a deserted train platform on a dark, wet, January evening ( “if that bench had been dry – there would be no band. It’s really weird”). Be warned, however; the internal cinema Still Corners sound-track, will not be wholly saccharine. Their debut album, “Creatures Of An Hour” (out via Sub Pop) is deliciously eerie, ethereal and genuinely atmospheric. As if your dreams were directed by David Lynch.
What can we expect from your upcoming live shows? I know you’ve used projections in the past, is that something you plan to continue with?
Yeah, we like to try and create an atmosphere so we turn all the lights down on stage and add the projections; they project directly on to us. We don’t actually do that much on stage –no knee slides and guitar solos – so we like to have something for people to look at. Also the live stuff is a bit more edgy, a bit more rock ‘n’ roll. We try and inject some energy.
You say you want to create an atmosphere. You’ve said that about your music generally as well. What type of atmosphere are you trying to create? Can you put it into words?
Yeah – I guess something just a little bit out if the ordinary, a little bit eerie. Sort of dreamy and we would like to think that we are transporting the audience a bit, you know?
It’s interesting you use the term “eerie”. I know parallels have been drawn between you and David Lynch – arguably a master of eerie. Is that a parallel you are happy with?
Yeah, absolutely. I love David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti – the guy he uses for the soundtracks. The scores are really great at projecting that eerie vibe in his movies and TV stuff.
You are quite and international band – with members from the UK, Australia and America – do you find that you have a similar musical background? Did you grow up listening to the same kind of stuff? Or was it quite disparate?
I am from the US and Leon is from Australia so we might have been a little bit different - Luke and Tessa are from England - we kind of bonded over different kinds of things. Tessa grew up listening to a lot of different stuff. Her dad is a big muso so she listened to a lot of Can and a lot of classical – she plays piano and stuff.
After your first EP you received a lot of online praise and I assume because of that a lot of label interest. What led you to go with Sub Pop? Do they hold a particular appeal to you?
I really liked some of the bands they had signed previously – bands like The Shins and Low and of course Beach House more recently. They flew over and they saw us play, we went out for dinner, we had a few drinks and it just seemed really natural. They are kind of laid back people, so we just went with it and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll.
Your first full length album is out next month via Sub Pop. Can we expect a similar sound to your previous releases?
Yes, I think so; I think it is a little bit similar. The darker side of pop I guess.
Cover Art is in danger of becoming something of a lost medium in the digital age. But the cover for “Creatures Of An Hour” is really gorgeous. Who made it and how did it come about?
Oh thank-you! Yeah, I absolutely love the cover. Basically I’ve always done everything DIY, for better or for worse. I’ve done my own covers and I’m not that great a graphic designer so I was talking to Jeff – he’s the art director at Sub Pop – and he got a lot of artists and put them in front of my face. One of them was called Scott Cambell. I looked at his stuff and it was one of those weird things where you just like every single thing that person does. I completely fell in love. So I called him and he was actually a fan. He did our cover, so it was just fantastic.
Was it a collaborative process or did he give you something fully realised?
He gave us something fully.
I understand you are also doing a release on flexi-disc; what the thinking behind that was?
That was an idea of Sub Pop’s actually; that we do a limited release track. We went to a London Studio to do it – so that was fun. It was kind of a different way of doing things. It’s called “Cabot Cove”. I think they’ve limited it to 200. It also has a nice design. I think it is out now.
I haven’t seen many things on flexi-disc.
I know! Me either. I want to hear one! I had actually never even seen a flexi-disc. They are done on plastic, it’s really weird. It’s a kind of a cool, old-school thing.
I’ve read that you met your singer – Tessa – on a train platform. Is that true? What’s the story behind that?
Yeah. I was going to London Bridge. It was January. It was dark and for some unknown reason the train passed through London Bridge and went to Kidbrooke – which is like another twenty minutes, or fifteen minutes or something. So I hopped off the train and this other person got off and came up to me and said “did you get on the wrong train?” and I was like “yeah”. It turned out it was Tessa and she said she was missing choir because of it. That pricked my ears up because we were looking for a singer, so we exchanged numbers. She was working on our demos for about a year before she actually joined the band. I was like “why don’t you just join the band?” It was a long, organic process. But that’s how we met. She actually told me recently that she was going to sit down on a bench - but that it was wet outside and the bench was soaking wet, so she came and spoke to me. It is really weird, because if that bench had been dry – there would be no band. It’s really weird.
That’s lovely! I understand you write the songs and the lyrics, although Tessa sometimes writes the vocal melodies. I find there is a detached quality to the singing – hazy, like you are listening to it through a dream, almost like Broadcast –is this a conscious decision or by chance?
I think it is by chance. I don’t think they are that detached. I find them kind of emotional. Yeah I think it just comes out like that, that’s just how she sings. Her singing is soft I know Trish Keenen did a similar thing so there is a similarity there. We kind of come up with them together. But we are experimenting with different things so on the next record it might be a bit more varied, I don’t know.
You might share the song-writing?
I read recently that you sometimes use found sounds in your work. Do you use something like found sound as a seed from which the rest of the song grows? Or is it something you layer on later?
Actually – I don’t use found sounds – I think I read that somewhere recently too! I create everything in my studio on my own, but sometimes it will start with like an eerie sound or a weird keyboard sound and I will work around that. I am trying to think whether I have ever used found sounds. Sometimes I use samples of things but not like a sampled music part – like a sampled piano, a real piano but sampled – nothing already made if you see what I mean.
In regards to your song-writing process; do you come up with a melody and a traditional song structure first or could it be something like an image that prompts a composition?
Well, usually I’ll start with anything like a bass line or a guitar part and then I’ll sing something over the top and Tessa will come in and I’ll be “I am thinking of something like this”. But I can’t sing very well, so she’ll sort of bring it to life. It can really be anything, like a drum beat or even something from a movie. I’ll be like “God, that’s a really great bit of the movie, it’d be great to do a song that does the same kind of emotional kind of thing”.
Talking of different art-forms – film specifically – there seems to be a kind of cross pollination of art forms in your work. Is that something you are interested in?
Yeah – definitely film. I am a big film nerd so I watch a lot of Hitchcock. I was just actually just watching the Twilight series again [Laughs]. I actually find they are quite good! I really watch everything from bad movies to great movies and that finds a way into the music.
There also seems to be some literary influences too. Is that something you are conscious of doing?
Yeah I read a lot of Robert Frost – I like his stuff quite a bit. I got the band names from one of his poems called “New Hampshire”. I like lots of authors so yeah, I think so.
Is that something you can see yourself moving into?
I think I’ll be sticking to music.
It’s a pretty wide field!
Yeah, absolutely. We spoke to Greg Hughes, the Still Corners frontman, ahead of his deliciously eerie debut – “Creatures Of An Hour” – on Sub Pop.