Anatomy of a Song: Greg Hughes of Still Corners on “The Message”

Slow Air Out Now via Wrecking Light

Aug 28, 2018 By Greg Hughes Web Exclusive
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A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist's life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Greg Hughes of Still Corners discusses "The Message." The American/British dream pop duo also features Tessa Murray and the song can be found on the band's latest album, Slow Air, which was released a couple of weeks ago via their own label, Wrecking Light. The song was originally shared just before the release of Slow Air, via a self-directed atmospheric video, which was filmed alongside a highway in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California (the track was one of our Songs of the Week).

Slow Air is Still Corners' fourth album, the follow-up to 2013's Strange Pleasures (a criminally under-appreciated dream pop gem released via Sub Pop) and 2016's Dead Blue (also released on Wrecking Light). The new album was recorded in Austin, TX, in a studio designed by Hughes, although the band is now based in Woodstock, NY. Read on as Hughes discusses the musical and lyrical inspiration behind "The Message," which is followed by the song itself.

We had just returned from filming the "Black Lagoon" video. We had driven all over Texas, Arizona, and California, ending up in Carmel, which is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen. It was that sense of space in America that inspired this song.  Those huge open endless roads and little roads that wind off into nowhere. We always felt like driving off to see where they went. We tried to capture that feel on "The Message," a lonesome highway vibe, clouds in the distance.

We had a Rumours-inspired drum track we had used for another song but that song wasn't working so we re-purposed it. That was the origin, just strumming back to that beat. The chorus ended up coming first, Tessa and I were singing over the changes and that first lyric just popped out, "Driving till dawn, call you from the station." We went with that and remembered a story of a friend who was dumped via voicemail, which is not very nice. We created a little story where the person is leaving town, driving off, and pulls over to make the call from a gas station before leaving forever. Kind of a cinematic vibe. We like you to picture the scene in your head while listening, the music supports that imagery. For this we were definitely going for a Western noir vibe and used guitars to emphasize that feel. Different types of reverbs and delay moving in and out combine to create an atmospheric feel to it. We wanted a deep low end, so we added some low end EQ to ground the track. I feel like songs with deeper low end feel more "serious" for some reason. We added a storm recording I did of a thunderstorm in Texas to add atmosphere to the song.

As far as gear goes, the bass we used was a Fender 1956 reissue direct into a Neve pre-amp into a Distressor, no bass amp was used on this one. The guitar was two different amps, for the first guitar part we used my trusty Fender Princeton and for the second guitar solo we used a Roland Jazz Chorus JC-40, which has a super dry sound that I love.  Vocals were done through a Shure SM7B, a very famous mic, used by everyone including Michael Jackson on Thriller. Very flat and neutral sounding, takes EQ very well. We rounded out the sections with an OB-6, including the bridge, which was a short little sequence on it.

Read our review of Slow Air.

In 2016 Murray wrote a My Inner Geek guest blog post for us about Star Trek: The Next Generation and you can read that here.

Still Corners Tour Dates:

North American Dates:
9/6/2018 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's
9/7/2018 - Norfolk, VA - Charlie's American Cafe
9/8/2018 - Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch Music Festival
9/9/2018 - Washington, DC - DC9
9/18/2018 - Brooklyn, NY - Elsewhere
9/19/2018 - Montreal, QC - Bar Le Ritz
9/20/2018 - Toronto, ON - Hard Luck
9/21/2018 - Cincinatti, OH - Beachland Tavern
9/22/2018 - Grand Rapids, MI - Pyramid Scheme
9/23/2018 - Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen
9/25/2018 - Minneapolis, MN - Turf Club
10/25/2018 - Austin, TX - Barracuda
10/29/2018 - Phoenix, AZ - Rebel Lounge
10/30/2018 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
11/1/2018 - Los Angeles, CA - Resident
11/2/2018 - San Francisco, CA - Neck of the Woods
11/4/2018 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
11/5/2018 - Seattle, WA - Sunset
11/6/2018 - Vancouver, BC - Fox Cabaret

EU Dates:

11/19/2018 - Sofia, Bulgaria - Central Military Club
11/22/2018 - Athens, Greece - six d.o.g.s
11/23/2018 - Zürich, Switzerland - Bogen F
11/25/2018 - Madrid, Spain - Costello Club
11/26/2018 - Barcelona, Spain - Razzmatazz 3
11/27/2018 - Paris, France - Espace B
11/28/2018 - Amiens, France - La Lune Des Pirates
11/29/2018 - London, UK - Pickle Factory
11/30/2018 - Bristol, UK - The Louisiana
12/2/2018 - Glasgow, UK - Broadcast
12/3/2018 - Manchester, UK - YES
12/4/2018 - Oxford, UK - O2 Academy2 Oxford 
12/6/2018 - Groningen, The Netherlands - Vera
12/7/2018 - The Hague, The Netherlands - PAARD
12/8/2018 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Q-Factory 

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August 28th 2018

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