We’ve waited and waited and its finally here… Still Burning swaps knitting patterns with the North East of Scotland’s best kept secret… Stanley.
You’ve just had your debut album launch at the Lemon Tree, how did it go?
Ramsay: We were pleasantly surprised by how well the Launch Night had gone – we would never have predicted such a good turnout (200 plus), and it was a joy to play in front of such a welcoming crowd. The set that we played was a lot longer than the type that we’d normally have played – we wanted to make things a bit more special for our audience that evening, given the nature of the event. We’ve now seen photos and also video footage of our live set, and we didn’t appreciate at the time just how dramatic-looking the lighting was on stage, even if this meant that we couldn’t see our instruments at times or our drummer Billy for most of the evening! The support acts were great (Danny Young and Aly Salam, His Name Is Codeine), and along with DJ Delane’s music choices it made for a really eclectic mix. I’ve never been a fan of gig nights where all of the bands featured sound similar. We also sold a lot of CDs on the night, and we even had to sign some of them, which was a concept alien to all of us!
You’ve been quite hard to track down of late, what has the build up to album launch night been like?
Stephen: Things at Stanley HQ are in full swing at the moment, we’ve been rehearsing A LOT – it feels like a musical workout at times, rehearsing from 8.30pm till sometimes 1am every Tuesday & Wednesday, but we love it!
Will you be touring the world to promote the album?
Stephen: Along with our manager Steve L.R. Amos, we’re planning a short tour around venues in Scotland for the end of April – one of these is Glasgow’s “The Flying Duck”, where we’ll be appearing as part of the “Spangled Cabaret” night that’s held there and is put together by the wonderful Paul Ross of “Scunner” fame. Beyond that we’re due to play Aberdeen Beach Ballroom as part of the “Big Beach Ball” event and later on that evening at the Shmeet night in Peterhead Mambo’s (yes, you read that correctly – TWO Stanley gigs in ONE day!). We’re also set to record a live session for Vic Galloway’s BBC Radio Scotland show on the 21st of May as well as hopefully playing more shows up and down the country.
Was it recorded locally?
Ramsay: The album was recorded with much love and care in our very own Stanley HQ (i.e. our home studio). Steve Podlesny ultimately came up with the song & lyric structures, the rest of us helped to arrange them all and then in turn stamp them with our own signatures, Steve then engineered and mixed the songs and finally a chap from Glasgow called Alex McNutt mastered everything so that you get the end result that you’ve now got.
Its been a while in coming this album innit? Will we have to wait another five years for the second one?
Stephen: Ha ha! Eh, well…we know that this album has taken a lot longer to record than it should have. We could easily list the reasons why, but that’s a novel or indeed a film in its own right! It’s been quite a journey to get to this stage. We recorded around 20 songs for this album and picked the ones best-suited for a 12 track album. We’re on a roll now however, and there’s absolutely nothing or no one stopping us from potentially getting another album out by the end of the year. We’ll also be releasing a very limited 7” single shortly and are also thinking about releasing an EP of tracks that didn’t make it onto the album. There’s even talk of a record company putting out a possible single in the next few months.
For readers who don’t know you what is the who, why, where of Stanley?
Ramsay: Most of your readers will be aware that Stanley have been going for a few years now – like most bands there have been a few line-up changes during this time. The current line-up consists of Stephen Podlesny on lead vocals, keyboards, and guitar, Geoff Jones on vibes and keyboards, Billy McBain on Drums, myself (Ramsay Clark) on guitar and backing vocals and Scott Coutts on bass guitar, trombone and backing vocals. Obviously, Stephen’s been there right from the start, of course – he originally formed the band with fellow music students at Aberdeen College. I’d been aware of Stanley for a while before I actually joined them myself, and was always impressed about how big and complex a sound they’d managed to get on those early demos and also at their gigs. As a band, we never stop developing and working on sound however, and with each new person that’s come into our band something different seems to get added to the mix which helps keep things fresh.
Oh, and the name, from Stan Laurel I believe? Whats that all about then?
Stephen: The name Stanley is indeed inspired by Stan Laurel. We love Laurel and Hardy. Some of the song structures and also the type of chords that we use are inspired by music of the 1920s and 30s as well as the slapstick humour of entertainers like Laurel and Hardy.
And the album title explained?
Stephen: “Animals with amazing disguises” has always been the title of this album. It kept us on track throughout the whole writing process. Inspired by Charles Darwin, it’s all about where we came from and how we’ve evolved.
Did Paul leaving make a great deal of difference, or just a change you had to adapt to?
Stephen: It was unfortunate that Paul left the band, but we had to respect his decision to do so, and as a band had to just get on with it. We auditioned a few different guitarists but to no avail. We then had quite a radical idea about how to deal with the situation and convinced Ramsay (then Stanley’s bass player) to play guitar, thinking it would be easier instead to find a new bass player. This move has certainly paid off as we now have Scott who not only plays bass but also plays trombone as well as providing backing vocals, which in turn gives us the opportunity to pull off 3-part harmonies live.
What is the songwriting process? Who does what, and how do your songs take shape?
Ramsay: Stanley’s songwriting process isn’t really any different to other bands out there – Stephen will often let the rest of us hear the basic structure of a potential new song down at Stanley HQ, we’ll jam on it and refine it over several run-throughs. Nothing unusual to report really – obviously we’ve been known to record and perform quite complex songs, but the actual songwriting process is nearly always the same.
From what I’ve seen, a Stanley show is one that takes and keeps your attention. How hard is it to create that with a sometimes noisy and chatty atmosphere going on in a venue?
Stephen: You just answered that question for us! Ha Ha……! It’s just something that you get used to.
And now a question from Lord William Sangster of Hazlehead… would you consider writing a James Bond theme if asked?
Stephen: TOO FUCKIN’ RIGHT! When do we start?
And for Ramsay, did you applaud Ross County on their promotion to the SPL? Will we ever see the Dees back in the big league again?
Ramsay: I certainly did NOT applaud Ross County on their promotion to the SPL! Being a third-generation Dark Blue I was most upset went the Staggies won the league and condemned my beloved Dundee FC to an EIGHTH season in the Scottish First Division! Ach, credit where credit’s due – County have only lost ONE game so far this season and therefore are deserving of their title. As for Dundee, I fear that the possible demise of Rangers will give us our only means of a possible promotion to the SPL as opposed to being promoted on merit. Anyway, that’s enough about Scottish football – we’re here to answer questions on Stanley!
What do you make of the current music scene in Aberdeen?
Stephen: We don’t really see ourselves as being part of any “scene” as such, but a lot of our good friends and acquaintances are musicians who perform in and around Aberdeen. Most musical genres are pretty much represented by bands and performers up here, which is something that we like about music from Aberdeen – it keeps things diverse and interesting.
And your favourite local venue to play?
Ramsay: To be honest, we’ve yet to find it, and anyway, our “favourite venue” changes depending on how many times we’ve played it of late and what sort of reception you get while performing. They’re all different, and we’re always on the look-out for somewhere new to play.
Any exciting tales of Stanley on the road? Drunken, sexual or otherwise?
Ramsay: Without sounding dead boring, until we get a tour manager that is willing to drive us to every gig and let us get our collective haircuts down we’ve not really all had a chance for some full-on, unadulterated excess as a band. The closest that we’ve come to it was when we played Inverness last year, and even then we were all staying in a cosy, tartan-carpeted B&B! We’re working on it though!
Any festivals lined up this year?
Ramsay: Again, we’re working on it – we’re all hoping that by finally having an album to promote it’ll give us good reason to play lots of gigs, festivals etc. We’re in talks about playing at a high-profile festival Down South in September, but we can’t say too much about it right now. Festival-organisers – you know where to find us! (Stanley’s contact info can be found on their website, link at the bottom of this page)
And indeed any plans for 2012 and beyond?
Ramsay: We’ve kind of answered this question already – our album’s due imminently, we’ve potentially got at least 3 other releases in the pipeline (the limited vinyl 7”, an EP of non-album tracks, a single via a record label) as well as recording a follow-up to the debut album, although I suspect that we’ll probably record it outside our Stanley HQ and in a recording studio, finances permitting. We’ll hopefully be playing a LOT more gigs, get more airplay, more media coverage and also hopefully gain more fans along the way.
Any ambitions for Stanley, sensible or otherwise, where’s your dream venue and who’d you have as a support?
Ramsay: For me personally, it’s got to be King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut in Glasgow – I’d be VERY happy if Stanley were given free rein to put together a gig night for them at some point in the near future. As for supports – I’d go for our good friends Scunner and also a band from Largs called Brown Bear And The Bandits. We played with them in the Tunnels recently – I didn’t know anything about them beforehand, and just thought that they had a really interesting set-up. I’ve got a soft spot for three-pieces, however – especially ones with female drummers!
Your five desert island tracks?
Ramsay: It changes all the time, but at the moment it’s:
“I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten” – Dusty Springfield
“If You Go Away” – Scott Walker
“French Disko” – Stereolab
“Surf’s Up” – Beach Boys/Brian Wilson
“Found A Little Baby” – Plush
Billy: As soon as I’ve chosen these I’ll have a new five!
“Something Better Change” – The Stanglers
“Road to Nowhere” – Talking Heads
“What Difference Does it Make” – The Smiths
“Tales From The Riverbank” – The Jam
“Loser” – Beck
“Someone Great” – LCD Sound System
“Lets Dance” – Chris Montez
“Not Great Men” – Gang of four
“Comic Strip” – Serge Gainsbourg
“Hearts” – I Break horses
And finally, your favourite flavour of crisps?
Ramsay: Golden Wonder’s “Salt & Vinegar”, as they’re wonderfully tart!
Billy: Salt and Shake. I like the free gift.
Stephen: Highlander’s Sea salt, so soft to crunch and they don’t cut your mouth open.
Right I think thats about it for now lads, good luck with the album and the world tour and hopefully catch up with you again very soon, Still Burning.