Rising Stars [Issue
Changes May Be Good By
The Stills took the
world by surprise with the release of their debut album in 2003. Logic Will Break
Your Heart was a work of genius – one of those rare albums that crawls into the
soul and somehow soothes the pain and fills up all the emptiness. I must admit
that as a huge Nirvana fan, and after years of not having a favorite band, I found
what I was searching for in this Canadian four-piece from Montreal.
They stepped in right
when I (and maybe you, too) was getting sick of all the melodramatic bands with
the super catchy tunes, the disconnected lyrics, the cool haircuts, and the designer
punk outfits! And then came The Stills with this incredible energy and boldness
that would pierce through every layer of emotion in your body.
For their sophomore release, The Stills bid farewell to their art-rock apocalyptic
approach and headed toward a more rootsy 70s-influenced direction. A complete
reinvention for a band that with only one record became so dear and near to my
heart. So, as a fan, yes, I was saddened (or dare I say, heartbroken) to see the
departure of that blunt yet mysterious sound; but as a journalist, I must recognize
and respect this brave step toward musical evolution and creative growth.
A few weeks ago, I chatted with Tim Fletcher (vocals, guitars) about the new record
and all the changes that they have gone through during the past two years. In
September 2005, the band announced the departure of founding member Greg Paquet
(guitars). Dave Hamelin moved over from drums to replace Greg and lead the vocals
for the band. Shortly after, touring keyboardist Liam ONeil and Sea Ray
drummer Colin Brooks were also added to the new lineup.
The arrival of horn-led tunes and piano-based arrangements has softened up the
bands original post-punk edges. We adopted a different philosophy;
something away from the first record, described Tim. It happened naturally
but I think consciously, we wanted to divert and not repeat ourselves again.
Without Feathers is a fine collection of mostly celebratory songs in a major key,
but the lyrics are filled with tangible anguish and sensitivity. In the
first album, we were touching on themes of love and alienation. In this [album],
we were actually dealing with those things in our personal lives, said Tim.
Lyrically, this is much darker than the first one, but the music is more
hopeful to counterbalance that. Soulful songs with organic arrangements,
group vocals, and country-influenced music are themes of this album. Dave is a
phenomenal songwriter/lyricist with multidimensional creativity, but his vocals
(as a lead singer) lack the depth and strength needed to bring out the wonderful
textures of his compositions. As for Tim, their new sound is another experiment
during this journey and a learning process in figuring out music in
all its shapes, forms, and facets.
Risks, energy, mysteriousness, and unpredictability were what made The Stills
a special band three years ago. They just managed to reuse all those characteristics
in a different way now. And as Tim said, we can only grow from here and
become more adventurous.
The anticipation of what they will dip themselves into next time is exciting,
and I think I am ready to fall in love with The Still all over again.