Technically we’ve met Stillhound before, but the last time we caught up with the Edinburgh-based trio was back in July 2015.
A lot has happened since then – their stunning debut album,’ Bury Everything’ (read our full review), is due to be released on 23 September and they are playing a handful of shows across Scotland to promote it.
As excitement about their debut builds, we caught up with synth player and producer Dave Lloyd to hear about how the album was made and what’s coming next for Stillhound.
BM: You’ve managed to create an album that is completely addictive and literally impossible to sit still and listen to. I think anyone who’s seen me on my commute will testify to that. How would you describe it?
Dave: It’s kind of a homage to the past. We actually began it as a different group called Discopolis. We had some initial success and hype, but we were really young. So Ray, our manager, got involved and basically got us to step back and hone the music and our live performance. We’ve been working on the album launch campaign for a year now as Stillhound. So the music was written over a very long period. Some tunes from the album take inspiration from the bands we were listening to at the time like Bloc Party, Interpol and deadmau5. And then in later years our tastes moved so we polished off the album with more of a left-field direction.
BM: It’s been a labour of love for a long time then. Are you still excited by it?
Dave: We can jam and change it up slightly when we play live, which is a really nice feeling when you’re working with songs that you wrote so long ago. But the main thing that actually gives me that kind of buzz again is talking to people that tell me they really like it.
BM: Did I hear correctly that you had thirty songs that came out of one recording session?
Dave: I think it would be fair to say that we have about thirty tunes in total over the entire time we’ve been together writing – as Stillhound we’ve been together for a year and a half but we were five years before that as Discopolis. For the writing session that you’re probably referring to I think we wrote eight songs and six of them made the album.
BM: How have your writing trips to the north of Scotland influenced how you approach writing and the end result?
Dave: The cabin in Aviemore is such a lovely place to be and we’ve always found that when we go to a place like that the best stuff comes out. You’ve got the sun beating in or it’s really snowy outside and you feel like you’re in the forest writing and that has a huge influence. We have written some songs successfully at home – we wrote ‘Lofty Ambitions’ that way – but the vast majority of the times that we’ve tried to write at home it’s just been sub-par. When we go up on these trips it just captures us. We stay up until six in the morning writing and we’re together the entire time. And then occasionally we have to break out of that to go to the shops and we feel like hermits when we go in. We feel like everyone’s looking at us weirdly as we shuffle around unwashed and disheveled!
BM: When you’re all together like that how does the writing process work?
Dave: It never ever goes the way we plan! One thing that’s interesting is, in general, all three of us individually produce quite left of centre electronic music. But when we all come together we somehow end up writing pop tunes quite a lot of the time – we don’t know where it comes from. None of us are remotely religious, but sometimes it does feel like someone’s guiding you and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s been a funny complex for us – juggling between the pop and the left-field. We all go back and forth on where our hearts are lying with the band in that way.
We’ve pretty much already written the second album. We’re probably going to sit on that for a year or something just honing it. We’ll write the base of a track and then we’ll be adding and removing layers for months until we’re happy with it. I don’t know whether we’ve got better or matured but we were much more minimal with the second album. We were able to put in far fewer layers and feel like it was all there, which was fun. Working with Gareth Jones, who mixed ‘Bury Everything’, really helped us out. One thing I’ve picked up on is it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how bad you are, you still benefit from going to someone else because that person can make the hard decisions that don’t affect egos. We’re pretty good at giving each other hard truths now but having someone separate from the band who can just make those really harsh calls is so important. It makes such a big difference to the end result.
BM: I was actually going to ask you about working with Gareth Jones – so how did that come about?
Dave: Our manager got us to put together a wish list of producers we’d love to work with and contacted them. Gareth responded and we all really loved his stuff. He did the first Interpol album and obviously Depeche Mode and Erasure. For us Interpol was the real selling point because the first Interpol album is one of our favourite albums collectively. Before any buttons were pressed he came up to see us in Edinburgh, we spun him some tunes and he gave us some comments on it. He’s a really cool, down to earth guy. We then went down to London for a no strings attached session and we did ‘Mountain Rescue’ with him. It was completely different from the mix I did, in a good way, and so we decided to do the whole album with him. We went down there for a week and did the whole thing and then sent him loads of really annoying emails asking for tweaks constantly. I think we were on the eleventh revision on one of the tracks and I felt that if I sent one more email things might go down a really dark path!
BM: But surely it’s just another step in what is a really collaborative process?
Dave: It’s been that way from the beginning, for better or for worse. I almost feel like this was part of the demise of Discopolis – we produced all the tracks ourselves. We were really precious about our sound and we didn’t want to work with anyone – but we were terrible at doing it ourselves. I don’t regret it though because now I am very confident as a producer and a mixing engineer and so are the other guys as well. We feel that it’s thanks to that kind of immature decision that we’re now able to make very mature decisions.
BM: That makes sense. How would you describe the style of your music now?
Dave: Like everyone else we find it very difficult to pigeonhole ourselves. When we’re asked for a genre we usually just say electronic. We used to say shoegaze – but using the literal term of the word rather than the actual genre, because there’s a lot of shoegazing going on in the music and the live performance. I guess indie electronic is probably the closest description, but I really hate the sound of that. There’s loads of bands we like, but the whole generic indie band thing has become a little bit suffering and it’s something we’re really trying to avoid.
BM: I want to describe your music as samey – but in a really positive sense! You know what to roughly expect from each track but it never becomes repetitive. There’s a definite theme running through the album. How would you describe it and was that intentional?
Dave: To be honest I’m glad to hear that because the biggest problem we’ve had over the years, I would say, has been writing in the same style between songs. I understand that doesn’t come across in ‘Bury Everything’ because on the final product I think we nailed that, but it wasn’t like that for a very long time. We had so many songs and lots were cut from the album that we actually preferred, but we were trying to put an album together and cohesiveness is really important in that way…or sameyness!
BM: You have some live dates coming up – what can an audience expect from a Stillhound live show?
Dave: Well we don’t play with Cat (Myers) – the drummer we wrote the album with – anymore, so the live show is further into the electronic realm. It comes across like three producers doing quite a lot live electronically, rather than a band. We’ve been through lots of different versions of the live show, but it’s really quite good now so we’re sticking with it. Laurie does quite a lot of the electronic drums on an SPD, like a drum pad, and we play lots of synths on stage with as minimal backing track as possible. None of the songs sound the same as the album versions, they all sound a bit louder – not in terms of volume but, for example, the guitar really stands out when we play live.
BM: And what venues are you most looking forward to playing?
Dave: The one I’m most looking forward to will be our home town album launch at Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh – where we’ve not played for a very long time. That’s a really nice place and we’ve got so many friends and family members who’ve been waiting for this for ages, who’ve invested time and helped in the creation of the album, and so it’ll be really nice to finally show them what we’ve done with it. We’ve also got one in Glasgow, which will be a lot of fun as well, playing in a new venue called Mono. I’ve not played there before, or even been there before, so I don’t really know what to expect. In terms of a venue I’d love to play one day, I think one that sticks in my head would be Koko in London. I think that would be a lot of fun.
BM: So, there’s obviously lots coming up. What else can we expect from Stillhound in the future?
Dave: After the album release it’s going to be an EP that will probably come next. We’ve got maybe twelve or thirteen tracks waiting and they’re in a bit of a different direction, so we want to put an EP out that represents that change. It’s definitely a shift to the left but still remains pretty accessible. That’s all I can really say at this point! Our priority right now is simply making music. Now that we’ve got this album done and we’re able to see the results, all we can really do with our time is focus on writing some new stuff to follow it up with.
BM: It’s about keeping that momentum going now?
Dave: Exactly. We never ever want to go another five years without releasing music!
You can find out more about Stillhound, and get your copy of their album, on their website. They are also playing a small run of shows:
Sep 22 – The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Sep 23 – The Tooth & Claw, Inverness, United Kingdom
Sep 24 – St Nicholas Bandstand, Old Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Sep 24 – Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Sep 29 – Mono, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Oct 07 – The Mash House, Edinburgh, United Kingdom