INTERVIEW: Tindersticks | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Image by Richard Dumas

Twenty-five years into a career, plenty of bands settle into cozy legacy and complacency. What a delight then that at their quarter-century, Tindersticks are continuing to challenge themselves and their fan base on their superb new album and short film series The Waiting Room. Ahead of their return to Sage Gateshead this month, I talked to front man Stuart Staples about their ongoing evolution.

After a difficult line-up split and reconstitution in the late noughties, Tindersticks have now settled into a quintet format that has brought new energy and dynamism to the band’s material. Reflecting on their work since their return in 2008, Stuart notes, “Since the dissolution of the original line-up of the band we have been rebuilding, exploring different avenues. Along the way we have been lucky enough to find Dan McKinna and Earl Harvin who, over time, have had a huge impact on the way we work. Exciting things started to happen with The Something Rain, though with The Waiting Room I felt a balance of musical personalities, a balance between the five of us. The Something Rain was the end of a three album run of pretty solid work to find this band again. That album bought with it a sense of arrival. It felt important that we got off that track and had a look around for a while.”

We are always looking for new sounds and approaches, though ultimately the songs determine what they need

The gorgeous, sweeping melancholy of their work is a constant, but on their latest album The Waiting Room they pursue looser, stranger arrangements and new instrumentation to continue their forward momentum. “It felt important that were allowed to make music with no immediate reason,” Stuart explains. “The other projects [the soundtrack for Bastards, the Ypres orchestral score and the Across Six Leap Years album of re-recordings] gave us time to be together and we always dedicated some of that time to any new ideas. In a way, Across Six Leap Years has allowed us to be free of the weight of our past – something that fed into the making of The Waiting Room also. Eventually we had a bag full of them and a moment when it felt right to start to form an album. We are always looking for new sounds and approaches, though ultimately the songs determine what they need. Saying that, I have been looking for an opportunity to use slap bass and steel drums for quite some time!”

One of the most dramatic departures on the album is the dense drone of lead single We Are Dreamers, which also features vocals from Savages frontwoman Jehnny Beth. “Dreamers started life as a sound check jam, when I put my acoustic guitar through a distortion pedal and connected with the vocal idea. Earl caught that rhythm and I managed to catch a snippet on my phone. The song’s arrangement is just about true to that moment. When we were working on the recording proper, I was looking for a missing element that I thought, in the context of the album, to be a brass arrangement with Julian Siegel. I was then part of a David Lynch tribute concert that Jehnny was also a guest singer for, when I heard her sing I felt it was her that was missing from the song.”

The Waiting Room also differentiates itself from previous Tindersticks releases by virtue of its accompanying films, with each song becoming the subject of a short film. Describing the genesis of this ambitious project, Stuart reveals: “The idea started in 2012 from being part of the jury of the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival and meeting its director Calmin Borel. I spent a week immersed in this world – a seed was sown. At the end of 2014 The Waiting Room existed in a sketch form and we revisited the idea – gradually the film project came to life. Calmin introduced some of the directors, and some I knew already. It was about matching directors to songs.” Fans attending their upcoming performance will get to witness the project in full, with Stuart advising, “There will be two sets: the first will be The Waiting Room in its complete form with the films, then the second set will be more traditional.”

The film for How He Entered even provided a starring role for a masked Stuart. “I bought this donkey mask a few years ago from a theatrical antique shop in Strasbourg. It is very old and has become a presence, almost an alter ego, around the house. When we had the photo session arranged with Richard Dumas I decided to take it along to see what happened. After taking photos of me for twenty-three years I think Richard was relieved to have something new to look at (though I suspect he fell in love a little with this donkey man). In the photo session we discovered this character, and this surprisingly gave us the album artwork and his own film.”

As happy as the band are with the results of this new project, Stuart also recalls their previous video excursions with mirth. “I am very proud of the early films made with Martin Wallace. I remember fondly the groan of disappointment when playing our film for Travelling Light to our record company – for some reason they believed that if we had a shiny performance video we could be successful! A grainy study of a young couple in the North of England didn’t seem to impress them.”

Tindersticks play Sage Gateshead on Wednesday 4th May.

 

Like this story? Share it!