TINDERSTICKS are in danger of becoming a national treasure. After all they’ve (or more pertinently lead figure Stuart A Staples has) since 1991, largely making thought-provoking dark pop and emotive vignettes, always concerned with mood as well as just melody and structure. To that end, they have always turned ears and drew people towards them.
Just out via City Slang is new album Distractions. It’s a follow up to 2019’s No Treasure but Hope, and once again Staples has has subtlety moved canvasses, with the latter album’s expansive mood traded for a textural minimalism. Any worry that there wouldn’t be moments to treasure on Distractions only needs to listen to “A Man Needs a Maid” or recent single “Man Alone” to know that there are genuine gems to add to Tindersticks already impressive canon.
We spoke to Stuart about the album, lockdown, life and everything else.
Hello Stuart. We’re excited by the release of Distractions; can you tell us a little about it?
Even though the album was formed during the confinement I think it is borne out of restless energy that was left when our touring was cancelled. There was a growing momentum, that energy needed to create something. I already had the beginnings of “The Bough Bends” and “Man Alone”; gradually the album formed around those ideas – although we had to wait for restrictions to ease before we could be together and make the final recordings.
Can you place it amongst the Tindersticks albums at all – in terms of its feel? Is it the angry album? The desperate album? Could you give it a byline?
Over the last ten years we have made music in varying ways, whether the orchestral soundscapes of Ypres, the electronic score of Les Salauds, or the abstraction of the High Life score. In a way our last album, No Treasure But Hope, broke that progression, it was a time to come back together and make our music and write songs in a naturalistic way. I think Distractions keeps the rigour of the songwriting of No Treasure… , but it is not interested in traditional song structures and arrangements. Sonically it is probably closest to The Something Rain, but it is very different in its intent.
Given the times we’re living in, was it a distraction to make it?
To make music in the best of times you have to suspend reality; it can become overwhelming. Music needs a sense of adventure and playfulness. Yes, this became harder to achieve in these times, everything was difficult. The other side of this is that, now it is finished, I hear the need, the desire in the music. We had to fight for it every step of the way and it shows.
Was there any positives to being in lockdown: did it give you the time to concentrate on the creative process, or did in fact having time mean you had to try not to go overboard with things?
To be forced to stop and look at our lives and our processes is not a bad thing for us all – individually and collectively.
You covered the Television Personalities “You’ll Have To Scream Louder” back in December – we’re they an important band for you?
Yes, The Painted Word was released in 1984 when I was 18. It was an important album for me at that time, so many great songs. When I felt the urge to sing ‘Scream Louder’ last April I was surprised of how deeply it was ingrained in me – I just knew it completely.
We loved Man Alone – can you tell us about that one? It’s pretty long – are you finding songs getting longer these days, or was it just that one that happened to go that way?
Well I know from the start that it was a journey, a drive, I just wasn’t sure about where it was heading. It took a while to figure that out. As with all songs all I can do to is be true to the initial feeling, to listen to what it is trying to tell me, to try and satisfy it.
Have you been able to communicate with the band over lockdown, and do anything creative recently?
Making Distractions left me feeling a little burned out; I needed time to recover – I can laugh about it all now! Just starting to drift back into my studio, there are always ideas on going.
What plans do you have moving forward in 2021, if and when we get out of this situation? Are you keen to tour the record, or move forward with creating something else?
I never envisaged Distractions being toured. This gave the album a freedom that I appreciated. That said, the idea of singing for people again is very powerful for me. I cannot describe the feeling of having something so fundamental taken away. 2022 is a big anniversary year for us – 30 years is hard to ignore. We are bracing ourselves for a wave of nostalgia! I hope that can translate into live concerts.