Still Corners are on a roll. Two stellar albums under their belt, bigger shows and critical acclaim from various media outlets. Their second album, Strange Pleasures was released earlier this month, and this was followed by a perfect headline show at London's XOYO. We caught up with Still Corners brainchild, Greg Hughes to discuss the new record, recording techniques and future plans.
How did Still Corners come together? Was there an idea of the sound you wanted?
I met Tessa on a train platform one night in London. We were both were going to London Bridge but the train accidentally went to Kidbrooke station. She came up to me and asked if I had got on the wrong train and because there was a 20 minute wait until the next train we started chatting and it came out she was going to miss choir and I was looking for a singer for my music project so I was like, hmmm. We exchanged numbers and she came over to the studio and we started working together. A very lucky coincidence!
I was looking for a name that lent itself to the music, something a little though provoking. I was on a huge Robert Frost kick in 2007, that's all I read that year. My eyes ran over the words "still corners" in his poem "New Hampshire" and it was like yeah that's it!
I understand that you are originally from Austin, Texas? How did it transpire that you found yourself in London and now in Still Corners?
I moved over here to be with an English girl I met in 2001. It didn't work out but over the years I've built up my studio and life and I've been here ever since.
Your latest single Berlin Lovers hints towards a more obvious dancier side, is there any reason for the apparent shift, any bands that have influenced that, or just a natural progression?
I think Tessa and I were just writing a lot of songs and some of them ended up having more beats and we just liked it. I remember with Berlin Lovers that I wrote that in 10 minutes, the whole thing. When we finished recording it we were listening back and dancing around the studio, it was fun.
What's behind the title "Strange Pleasures"?
Tessa and I were doing these songs and one day I said something like these songs are strange for us but fuck it, we love them.
And how does the songwriting process usually work in Still Corners?
I write and record/produce all the songs and Tessa sings. We collaborate and exchange ideas on the vocals and chords, sometimes more than others. Occasionally a whole song just pops out like in Berlin Lovers and sometimes it takes ages like in Fireflies which had something like 20 re-writes.
I understand you've been busy studying the art of music production. Any odd or unique recording features used on Strange Pleasures?
I re-amped a lot of the keys which I'll be doing A LOT more of. Also on We Killed the Moonlight it's all processed analogue, analogue EQ, compression, everything. I think in terms of vocals that song stands out a bit because the vocals are very easy on the ear, very pleasing. That's the API 550a EQ which was developed in the sixties and just works. It also gives a little grit to the signal.
Is there an underlying theme/concept running through Strange Pleasures?
There's a few ideas running through it, travel being one and the strangeness of new love being the other. There's a wanderlust vibe there, I think we spent so much time in the car touring the US that it came out on the record. Summer is another, I love the summer.
Your first record, drew a lot praise from various circles and helped carve out your name in the industry. Did this create any pressure when making the second record. Or do situations like that even affect Still Corners?
No not at all, we're just trying to work as hard as possible at creating something worthwhile, something that pushes us and something that we can be proud of. We want people to cherish it and for it to become part of their lives. Believe me we're a hundred times harder on ourselves than anybody else, it's just part of the territory I think.
You are signed to Sub Pop, who have had and still do, an array of legendary band on their books. How does it make you guys feel to be on Sub Pop and how have they helped develop the band?
Amazing, their roster kills. I love all those bands. It's a total honour.
You guys have played the odd show, any stand out gigs you’ve played?
Our last XOYO show in London was my all time favourite show, everything clicked. We really went for it, the sound was great, there was sweat, it was fantastic.
Have there been any particularly memorable high points for you as a band over the past few years?
There's so many, playing shows and meeting cool people is always a highlight, making this last record was amazing. Making the video for Berlin Lovers was a blast, Christian the director is a real dude. We're looking forward to our US tour with CHVRCHES in a few weeks, I've always wanted to play the Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd.
Your one desert island disc and why?
Miles Davis Kind of Blue because you could listen to that at least once a day and not get tired of it, there's a lot of depth there plus it sounds amazing.
When I mixed Fireflies I used Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" as the reference mix. I think one person figured that out. I think it's kind of funny. If you listen to both the songs and flick between them the instruments are all balanced the exact same. I love that song, I don't hear many epic pop jams like that anymore so I tried to re-create it in Fireflies.