Tindersticks Still Have a Voice
Published Mar 09, 2012On the eve of a four-night engagement at the London, UK's Soho Theatre, shows that would also serve as the launch point for the European leg of their tour, Tindersticks' singer Stuart Staples was silenced by a bout of laryngitis. Discussing the release of their ninth album, The Something Rain (via email of course), Staples listed first amongst his immediate goals: "just being able to sing and rely on my voice again; something I have always taken for granted. I have just been hit around the head with just how precious it is to me."
The Something Rain has all the trademark weary romanticism and slinky bohemian seductiveness fans of the Nottingham band have come to expect, but with a looser, more collaborative approach that came from working in a home studio with Staples also acting as engineer and producer. "Our studio has no control room, no barriers, everyone in the same room. The heart of the album was made with only the five of us in that room. It's much more fun to get in a creative space and see what happens (always keep recording)."
This collaborative spirit, along with a slightly perverse sense of humour, manifests in keyboardist David Boulter's nine-minute story "Chocolate" that kicks off the album. "'Chocolate' was the only song that created a starting point for the album to unfold from. It sets a pace… for the album to move forward." The O. Henry-via-The Crying Game scenario also showcases a cheekiness that undercuts the bands somewhat serious image.
That "serious" side was bolstered through 2011 as they toured in support of their recent Constellation Records collection, Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009. "The film work with Claire has always been in conversation with our other work, they bounce off each other. Each time we start a score for Claire, it forces us to step into uncertain territory musically. This exploration then feeds in to our music as a whole." Staples elaborates on this with specific songwriting examples, like "working on the last soundtrack, White Material, we were able to spend significant time thinking about the ideas in a more abstract form, taking structures apart and mutating them. This work let us approach songs like 'Medicine' and 'Frozen' in a different way."
It's clear that Staples is committed to this 20-year-old band, despite a hiatus that stretched for five years from 2003 until 2008 with the release of The Hungry Saw. When asked whether he saw the current incarnation of the band as Tindersticks 2.0, Staples conversely qualified the away time added to "the overall line of progression. I learned so much [on solo album] Lucky Dog Recordings. [It] was the model for The Something Rain as a way of working, gradually searching from small ideas. Though now I am surrounded by a wealth of great musicians who all have something to say."
On working with Constellation and continuing to build a North American audience, Staples offers that "working with Constellation is really important for us, there is so much we share in our outlook and aesthetic. Reaching new people is something we all hope for and work together towards. If this album has no effect, maybe I'll quietly pack up my guitar and apply for that job at the post office."