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The Morning After with The Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples

Feb 02, 2002 Tindersticks Bookmark and Share

With influences that ranged from Scott Walker to Leonard Cohen, Britain’s The Tindersticks arrived on the scene in 1993 to a bombast of critical acclaim. The slow and orchestral six piece soon built up a worldwide cult following. In the last couple of years the band has released two drastically different albums. Can Our Love takes The Tindersticks sound one step further, by taking in ‘70s soul influences. Trouble Every Day is the soundtrack to the Clarie Denis French film of the same name (the band also scored Denis’ 1996 film Nenette et Boni) and is mainly an instrumental affair. The Tindersticks music is very cinematic anyway, often sounding like the soundtrack to a rainy, drunk, lonely Parisian street at 2 in morning. Funnily enough, when we spoke to lead singer Stuart Staples by phone back in the spring of 2001 in between the release of both those albums, he is recovering from a hangover.

Mark Redfern: Does the band feel an affinity with other UK acts like Cousteau, The Divine Comedy or various other acts, or do you feel the Tindersticks are just doing their own thing?

Stuart Staples: I never really felt an affinity to anybody, really. It’s just been kind of our own line to follow, really. I don’t really feel close to their music. I think it’s very different.

What was it like working with Isabella Rossellini on a “Marriage Made in Heaven” and how did that collaboration come about?

We had the song for a while and I suppose, it kind of grew back into something for us and we wanted to record it and we had kind of an idea of a singer as an actress. So we decided to do a big orchestral version of it and actress to do it. And she was the person who we wanted to do it so we approached her, tracked her down. She came to this play in New York and you know, just got into it. It was a good thing.

Did she have singing background before that?

We were kind of aware that she had done a bit a singing in like Blue Velvet and things like that. I suppose it was more the idea of her. It wasn’t really like there were any other contenders for it, you know. It was just for the sound of it.

You also recorded with Ann Magnuson, I think, are there any other actresses you would like to work with?

That’s right. I suppose at that time of our writing the most important thing both of those songs, “Marriage Made in Heaven” or “Buried Bones,” the most important thing was to be, like the female part be like a character. It didn’t want to be…the song didn’t want to lament at all. We wanted the female character to be quite strong. It’s just like the songs and what they kind of ask for. Just kind of go with that, we didn’t make any kind of plan for it. It just kind of grew into that, really.

Keeping with the movie thing, you guys did the soundtrack with Claire Denis film Nenette et Boni. I was wondering if the band plans to do anymore soundtracks or work with Claire again?

Last year we recorded a song for Claire’s new film, it’s called Trouble Every Day. That’s the first thing we did that was kind of fully orchestral, scored with an orchestra. It was very different. So yeah, I think we’ll be working with Claire later this year, as well. With Claire it’s kind of a personal thing, at the moment. But I don’t know that at the moment we want to dedicate that amount of time for something like that.

Getting a little more personal, what would you say is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory, jeez, I don’t know. I think it was kind of tainted by photographs. It probably revolves around some of my mother’s terrible shots of me in a certain situation or on a swing in the garden, or something like that. But there’s nothing that burns away at me.

What would be the perfect way to die?

Jeez, I don’t know. I travel a lot on tour busses and you can’t help but think of the sound it would make. When you’re like that in the middle of the night and you can feel it drifting around. You can’t help thinking about the noise it would make.

The band did a cover of Pavement’s “Here.” Why did you pick that song and did you ever hear any feedback from Steve Malkmus?

He came to see us one night in London and I think he was pleased. I think he liked it. And just that kind of feeling that you could do something with it but it’s like when we write songs in general it’s like six people and you need something that kind of, you know inspires energy and creativity in everybody to push and pull. It has to go through a few different stages to kind of become something.

Would you say the same for “We Have All the Time in the World” (the James Bond song from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and originally sung by Louis Armstrong) and the Four Tops song you covered, as well?


Are there any other songs the band’s dying to cover or thinking of covering in the future?

No, not at the moment, but I’m sure something will come along. But it depends on the situation you’re in at the moment. There are a lot of things that are going on with our own stuff and that sort of fills your mind.

What’s the one Tindersticks song that you’d put on a mixed tape for someone who’s never hear the band before?

On a mixed tape, I don’t know, I don’t think any of them, really, but I suppose one of my favorite songs at the moment that I’ve been playing a lot lately is “She’s Gone,” off the second album. I kind of like that one.

How would you say the Tindersticks have evolved musically over the years?

How? Just in our own way, really. I think we started to make our first record in a kind of very naïve way and like with very little technique. It’s just kind of, I think, people individually and together have gone through their own path to push something. I suppose, it’s just trying to get closer to something and finding different ways to get there. I think that’s what it’s all about, really. I think songs, writing songs have the same kind of objectives from when we started, you know, before a song, you know, of trying to capture a feeling or something. I think we’ve just gone in a different way of trying to find it, to try to learn new ways to do it.

Would you say the lyrics are more autobiographical or are they more derived from observations?

They’re, in a certain way autobiographical…it’s not like this happened and that happened. It’s just mostly with a feeling at a certain time that makes you want to write something. I suppose, those feelings are autobiographical in the way of capturing something, but not in a way of a narrative.

Which Tindersticks album would you say you’re most proud of?

I’m kind of, don’t say this, most proud of the last one. But before that, I probably would have, I don’t know. The last one’s kind of the closest thing to where we’re at the moment. And, I think it caught a feeling between the six of us and that’s not something that we’d managed to do to such an extent before.

Did you have interesting, or maybe not so interesting jobs before you were in the Tindersticks?

I’ve always been in bands, but I’ve always kind of had to pay the rent. I’ve worked in shops and warehouses and like building yards, and you know, things like that. But it was just he music was always rather a sort of an escape for me.

Does the Tindersticks pay the rent now?

Yeah, tries. Some months are okay.

You don’t have to do any building work? Some bands I’ve talked to, some bands that are even respected and well-known still have to have day jobs or do commercials, stuff like that.

No. Oh no, I haven’t done that in some time.

Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?

No, I’m fairly dreamless at the moment.

What are the current bands that you’ve been into lately?

There’s a band in England that I like at the moment called the Mull Historical Society. We’ve done some shows with them recently. Their music has a lot of imagination to it.

Do you know any good jokes?

Not at the, moment, no.

How would you like the Tindersticks to be remembered in 10 or 15 years?

It’s not something I give any thought to. I think about like now, what we’re doing. I don’t really give much thought to it.

If you could be any fictional character, who would

you be and why?

I’m not really up to these questions. No, I’m not really up to it. Put the most entertaining one that you can think of.

You can be a fictional character that doesn’t answer questions. I’ll think of something. I think all that I have left now is, what’s next for the band?

We’re going to be working on a film soundtrack for a couple of months. And then we’re going to be touring Europe with an orchestra in the fall.

Wow, a full orchestra, cool,

We’re should be picking them up in the cities as we go around. It’s going to be a new thing for us.

That’s interesting. So, do you do it a few days in advance do you practice with the orchestra that’s there?

We did it recently in Belgium, we kind of went to the show rehearsed in the afternoon then played that night and did pretty well. You know, every few weeks in different places. Should be edgy.

Would you ever do something like that in America?

It’s something we are talking about, especially if it works in Europe, you know, that way. It’s just got a lot to do with money and venues. I think it’s something that definitely we would like to do. We have to figure the logistics of it. It is something we’re looking at.

Yeah, it does seem like it’s something easier to do in Europe.

I think we could manage it in a few major cities.

Right, wow, that’s really cool. Well, I think that’s all I have, unless there’s something you want to tell the world. Not that this publication reaches the world.

No. That’s fine.

Well, thanks for your time and I hope you get over your hangover.



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January 10th 2011

As soundtracks go, Trouble Every Day is a definite cut above the typical Hollywood mush. Tindersticks create an elegant and unsettling collection of small mood pieces that stand miles apart from anything else you are likely to hear at the local multiplex. The visual and cinematic qualities always inherent in Tindersticks music also allow this music to be enjoyed as a listening experience apart from the images and narrative of Denis’ film. “Rolex Submariner

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