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Spill! Interview with Greg Hughes of Still Corners

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For London UK's Still Corners, there has been a steady progression over the past four years or so. From their first self-released EP "Remember Pepper?", to a tidy few 7" records and single releases, a compilation track for Fierce Panda, and the band's mainstay for single releases via The Great Pop Supplement: this group's combination of film and daring psychedelic sentimentality must have grasped the ears of the taste-makers at Seattle's Sub Pop and given them a tug. The label soon released a single for the band's track, "Cuckoo", from their forthcoming debut LP (which will also be released on the label). The upcoming album; Creatures of an Hour, is the grand realisation of primary songwriter and keyboardist Greg Hughes--but Hughes, who prefers to stick to the background, would prefer if the focus were on each song's lovelorn story as well as his dream-scape and vision-filled collaboration with band members Leon Dufficy, Luke Jarvis, Paul Mayhew, and of course; lead-vocalist Tessa Murray, for her lovely whispered, and definitely celluloid-approved, delivery. 

As part of our interview, Hughes expressed that he would love to eventually work with well-known producer David Fridmann (Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips, Wintersleep, Neon Indian, etc.) but for the group's debut all of the songs have definitely received very personal attention at his own hands--Hughes recorded, and mixed, everything himself at his studio in Greenwich, in the South of London.

Still Corners upcoming US dates include their arrival in Atlanta, GA and then on to NC, DC, and the group has a few feature showcases at Public Assembly in NYC as well as the sold out Mercury Lounge CMJ showcase with The Dum Dum Girls, J. Mascis and others. Also included is a very exciting Philadelphia date with The Rapture and Metronomy on October 21st, at Voyeur (for Making Time) and then Great Scott near Boston before heading on to Canada, and then back through to Chicago and Minneapolis before finally departing for home.  

Girl About Town: As well as the dream, and film-like quality of the sound Still Corners are known for--there is also an underlying dark sensuality/current to a lot of the songs that you produce. What is your ideal environment for song creation: and what type(s) of inspiration would you wish for people to take away from the songs that you create?

Greg Hughes: I'd like to think that when people listen they are transported to some where else and they are moved by the music, that they feel something.  I don't really think much past that.  I think this collection of songs is darker because they were written during a dark time in my life after a break up.

You've been releasing songs as Still Corners for around five years now; was there ever a turning point where you thought: "This is it. This is the one." the song or sound that would take you to where you needed to go (in a specific direction, or mindset) to fully realize your sound? Or are you still evolving?

Definitely still evolving.  I think with every song I just let it come out and try to get out of the way of it and wait to see if it clicks.  I wait for that click and if it doesn't happen then the song usually sits there collecting dust.

Your first full-length album, Creatures Of An Hour (Sub Pop) is due out this month. Do you find that there is a fine line when it comes to what you would like to stand out and what actually does when it comes to the final mixing/mastering process?

I think because there's no clock it allows the freedom to relax and experiment more, see what works and what doesn't.  You can potter around, dive into older songs, try out new parts, etc.  When something starts to sound good I just try to bring it to life life in the mix.  I'm not a great engineer or anything, no training, I just use my ears and go with what feels right.

Being based out of London--do you have a favorite part of the local scene that is happening in the UK that you would like more people to know about?  Is there someone or something in the local scene that helped to foster your own group while you were forming your initial sound?

London is really big city so I've found that unlike smaller cities it seems more difficult to cultivate a proper scene.  Everyone is so spread out.  The closest thing to a scene I've found is in Stoke Newington where the guys in the band live.  Tessa and I live in Greenwich but whenever we go up there, there's a good vibe.  Promoters like Lee Gordon who runs the Folke Newington night and has just opened up a bar has put on a lot of great shows with like-minded musicians and friendly people.  It's nice to go up there and have that sense of community.  All it takes is a few people and some great bands.

What types of instruments do you each play: the organ on Endless Summer in particular seems to stand out. Your music sounds very layered as well: what other types of instrumentation or effects do you hope to use in future compositions that you haven't been able to experiment with yet?

For Creatures of an Hour I used a lot of the Vox Continental organ sound and for the guitar I played everything through a pedal called a Lovetone Cheese Source.  These were handmade in England by Dan Coggins but are no longer available.  Everything went through an API Lunchbox with an API 512, 527, 550a and these modules have a wonderful warm sound.  Tessa sang through a combination of a Mojave MA200, Shure SM58, and Neumann KMS105.  Future stuff should have a more analogue synth stuff.

How did you all meet and form the band?

I met Leon a few years ago at a Hawaiian party, we talked about film soundtracks and horror movies.  When I released Remember Pepper? I thought it would be a good time to start a band and play those songs live.  I asked Leon and he came aboard and turned Luke on to it for bass.  I was looking for a singer for a long time.  One cold January night I was taking a train to London Bridge but for some reason the train passed my stop and took me another 20 minutes down the line to Kidbrook.  I got off and another person got off and came up to me and asked if I had boarded the wrong train too.  It was Tessa.  We started chatting about all sorts while we waited for the next train to pick us up.  She told me she was missing choir because of it and I thought "hmmm this is good!".  We exchanged numbers and started working on demos together...a full year later we started releasing full songs.  The rest is rock n roll!

If you could imagine a movie being made featuring yourselves or your music: would it be more of a fashion film that featured your backing soundtrack and figures moving throughout a silent storyline, or would it be something more akin to the movie Blow-Up where the audience would be solving a mystery of some sort and your band would play during a climactic scene?

Blow Up all the way.  Great film.  I imagine a David Lynch meets Hitchcock for an eerie suspenseful type of thing.

My favorite song from your singles is the B-side Wish; "just one wish, can't resist", is there a lyric that stands out when Tessa sings it in particular for the band that turns a song into something unexpected? Or a song that you can't get out of your mind after you play it? 

Thank you.  I like the lyric, "Turned around the corner and saw your face, every time I look something breaks..."  It's been in my head for a while.  Tessa sings it beautifully.

Still Corners - band site / sub pop / myspace


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