The Lowdown: Interview with Stellify

The Lowdown: Interview with Stellify

"Someone just needs to say Fuck It. Fuck You. Fuck This. Lets all fuck each other! Lets do our thing!"

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Last Edited by: Ffion Davies October 9th, 2012.

I recently went down to Camden's Dublin Castle to catch Stellify perform live. Before the show I got to hang out with the lads, we drank beer and we talked. We even had a cartwheel introduction from bassist Ben Clark! You can check my review and pictures of the gig HERE. For those not in the know about Stellify, read on to hear what the lads have to say about their music and their lives, and even Shania Twain!

Stellify are (L-R):

James Howlett - Lead vocals / guitar
Tim McNicol - Drums
Ben Clark - Bass
Richard Costello - Guitar / backing vocals

AltSounds: OK lads, so we don't know much about you, firstly how long have you been together?

Tim McNicol: Ha, we've been trying to work this out today!
James Howlett: Me and Richard first started writing together.
Richard Costello: Yeh about 18/24 months ago.
James: We stated writing acoustically though, we were originally gonna do a folky acousticy act.
Richard: Yeh we used to play in James' kitchen, recording stuff on our phones!!
James: But then the more we got into it we decided to get Tim involved who I'd worked with before in a group called The Stellars.

AltSounds: Oh ok so that's how you knew Tim, how did you know the others?

James: Ben Clark was an old mate of mine and Rich and I work together, we're firemen..
**(calm down ladies!)

In walks Ben at this point and after a bit of a to-do about whether the drink he has for Rich is a bloody Bulmers or not, we're back to it...

James - But in answer to the original question, as a four piece we've been together almost a year, since November 2011 I think...

AltSounds: So this is only you're second gig, are you nervous?

James: No, not as much as our first gig last month at the Fiddlers Elbow! There's a real buzz in here tonight; a much better vibe than before.
Tim: Yeh and the sound is much better here too.

AltSounds: You just mentioned that you (James and Rich) write together...is that generally how you start out with a song?

James: Yes, Rich and I generally write together.
Rich: We're always sending each other ideas and then bring them to rehearsals and all work on them together.
James: And then Ben rips it to pieces!
Ben: Yeh I'll always say its shit! "Change this cord", "Get rid of that", "Change this lyric" and then Hey Presto!! (All laugh)
James: Ben's kind of like our producer too. We'll bring a tune in and then re-write it with Ben involved. And then Tim lays down his beats when he can get down from Derby.
Tim: I just do what I'm told!

Altsounds: As the drummer should do! (All laugh)

Ben: Yeh, we still get no fucking royalties though!
James - I told you already, 2.5% is more than enough ;-)

AltSounds - Tim, you live in Derby, you have a family and a full time job. Rich and James you guys have full time jobs too...how is the band affected by this?

Ben: Oh come on, this isn't Tricia!!
Tim: It doesn't really, it works out OK. The other three write and then I just come down and do my thing, it works for us.
Ben: Don't put yourself down mate! He is the bollocks!
James: Yeh he is always on point!
Richard: When Tim comes in it feels like it all just comes together.
Ben: I wouldn't go that far, that's when I come in!
James: Haha! No, Tim knows where we are going with our tunes and he just sots right in.

AltSounds: One of your tracks, 'The One', has a real early Coldplay feel to it in the melody line, are they someone you've been influenced by?

(At this point the band ALL have a shocked / pissed / happy look on their face...oh dear!)

James
: I've definitely been influenced by Coldplay without a doubt. Their hook riffs are awesome!
Ben: *groans.
Richard: But anyone you listen to and get into influences you. But it's the simplicity of Coldplay's stuff, like Oasis too.
James: Yeh the riffs just creep in!
Ben: BOLLOCKS! Listen to Coldplay's last album - factory made!
AltSounds: Yeh but we're talking early Coldplay material.

Listen // 'The One'



AltSounds: There's another track I wanted to ask you about, 'Exhale', who wrote the lyrics to that?

Ben, Richard and James: ME!
AltSounds: Come on now, truth...
James: It was Richard
Ben: Yep, he's the best lyricist in the band!
James: Oh, really?!

Listen // 'Exhale'



AltSounds: Come on, lyrics, tell me about them...

Richard: It's about something that goes wrong and how you react to it, the self destructive tendencies you might have.
Ben: A bit like when you pull a brick out of the tower in Jenga?!
Richard: YES! It's just like Jenga!

AltSounds: What, love?

Ben: Relationships.
Tim: Its a hard track to pin down really.
Ben: Yeh, like a hyena on acid.
Tim: It was actually meant to be a pretty dark track

AltSounds: Yeh, but the strings really lift it - how did they come about then?

James: Ben Hook - he does like Drum n Bass / 'astro funk' stuff and he has a great ear for string arrangements.
Tim: We just kind of threw it at him and said it needed strings!
James: We didn't say what we wanted and where, we just said do what you feel. Just the strings alone are amazing. But, Richard wasn't a big fan of them.
Ben: What do you think of them?

AltSounds: Yeh I love the subtlety of them. Normally strings in a rock context are a big statement - something a band can really work with live and make a big deal of.

Richard: I thought they were all wrong and I'm still not convinced. It was the wrong direction for me, for what I had in mind for the track.
James: That wasn't a loggerheads though. It was just timing as Rich wasn't in the studio at the time.

AltSounds: Age wise you're an older band, especially in comparison to a lot of new and emerging bands out there. Do you think this is an advantage or disadvantage?

James: Musically, an advantage. For records companies it'd be a disadvantage as we're too old to be manipulated!
Richard: Plus we've not got as much time due to our jobs and families
Tim: Lyrically I think its an advantage, we've got a lot more to talk about and draw upon
James: Writing in general its an advantage, the way we structure songs and stuff.
Tim: And our taste in music is so eclectic spanning our years / lives and beyond.
Ben: But if its good, its good; age doesn't matter.

AltSounds: True. But 10 years ago would you have written what you are writing now?

James: No. Not at all.
Tim: Even from our time in The Stellars there's been a big change and that was only 7 years ago.
James: You hone your skills.

AltSounds: Do you think there's a market for Stellify right now?

James: Yeh, absolutely. There's a massive gap in the market. People that were brought up on the like of Pearl Jam, Weller, that kind of stuff - they're not being catered for. Record companies are only putting money into trends and then they move on to the next one, its fickle. There's room for older bands writing mature songs with longevity.
Rich: But we're not trying to fit in though - you either like us or you don't.
James: We're still aiming high tho!
Ben: Yeh, look how many people bought Shania Twain's record, 28 million?! Who actually likes her though?!
James: We want it all, show me a musician that doesn't, that hasn't set out to be the best. I'm not sure the UK is the right place for us though. It'd be the US or Canada.

AltSounds: What do you think of the UK scene at the moment then?

James: Its a pile of pig shit. I was watching the UK Top 40 the other day - never again! There's just no content at all.
Ben: There's no great guitar bands that are truly on top.
James: No, everyone's too busy pumping money into the likes of Will.I.Am.
Tim: There's a few gems nowadays but 20 years ago there was a huge list of great songs - there isn't that any more.
James: It's like a brand, someone needs to blow it away!

AltSounds: Someone like Stellify?

(They all grin at me ridiculously at this point!)

James: There is going to be a movement, I think Stellify will be part of it.
Rich: Someone just needs to say Fuck It. Fuck You. Fuck This. Lets all fuck each other! Lets do our thing!

And on that note, the lads have to dash to get ready for their set. The pints are downed and off they go.
Keep an eye on Stellify's Facebook and Twitter pages for more live dates and of course, download your copy of the début EP The Exhale.

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