Guide to SKOPJE

Tindersticks – 20 years of making music differently

The best music in the world is the music that persuades us that there is no other music in the world. Twenty years on from their debut, Tindersticks make music that makes you feel just like that. They are one of the most brilliant and original bands to emerge from Britain in the early 90s when the UK charts were dominated by the guitar driven pop- indie scene. Even later the band’s music stood apart from the current and ever changing music trends. Their music is a beautiful mélange of subtle touches of film music, soul jazz, French chanson, cabaret, pop and all of that accentuated by the singer Stuart A. Staples’ distinctive and shivering baritone. Their latest album is “The Something Rain,” which is an intriguing listen and artistic triumph.

We caught up with one of the band’s founding members, keyboardist David Boulter in Novi Sad, one of the cities on their current tour in support of the new album. The interview took place after the 2-hour concert that was beyond anyone’s expectations. The band performed a set list that saw it playing songs from various points of their career, even unexpectedly unearthing gems from the past thus surprising even the band members, but the spotlight was given to the new album and the new songs. The 2 hours flew by without a notice. The enthralled crowd showed no intention of calling it a night when they finished their set as they clamored and yelled for another set of songs. It didn’t take long for the band to reappear and it gave the crowd a truly moving and appropriate encore. Overall, the concert at the Youth Theatre became memorable both for the audience and the band.

The new album, „The Something Rain„ is really a great record with plenty of great songs. Please talk about the creative process behind it.

When we released our last album “Falling down a Mountain” we felt really invigorated and refreshed from starting again as Tindersticks, as we had stopped for awhile. But it still felt a little like something similar to what we did before whereas when we set out to do this record we definitely felt like there was a need to think about it in different ways so we kind of started writing different songs, different ideas and we bought old drum machines, old keyboards and just trying to start it from a different kind of direction. It wasn’t like Stuart’s sitting and playing a song on acoustic guitar or it wasn’t based around a piano or a ballad or something. It was about different ideas and we tried to think about it in a more different way.

What sort of evolution of the band do you see with this record?

I suppose the biggest thing is just enjoying it. We have found ourselves in a situation where after 17 or 18 years of being on a record label, we were not on a record label anymore, so it kind of gave us a freedom to do something different. But at the same time it put us under a lot of pressure to come up with something that works without the safety net. If we had it we wouldn’t be able to carry on. I think it made us want to challenge ourselves and push the music a bit more.

How did songs like “Medicine” or “Chocolate” come about? What were some of the ideas behind them?

“Chocolate” was an idea or a story that came very quickly. On our second album I wrote a story called “My Sister” which Stuart read. This time it was another story that I did. I actually did a little demo and send it to Stuart and we thought this time it was best for me to just read it and stay with that. And I suppose it just came to that very quick as there was some space after our last album and was thinking of maybe making some small EP and to try to do a thing of my own. In the end, it kind of inspired Stuart to write a couple of songs, so we kind of got together for a few days and we had 5 or 6 songs and we said this maybe is a start of something bigger and maybe is the next LP we should think about. In bigger terms, we invited some more people from the band to do what we can and we built on the songs and after about 8 days all together over a period of 2 or 3 months we had 15 to 16 songs. It kind of grew there.

Please talk about the working relationship the band has with French film director Claire Denis. For the last 10 years, the band has been doing soundtrack music for her films.

She is someone we met and was very inspired by the song “My Sister” to make a film called “Nanette et Boni,” and she came to see us in Paris around the time of the second album and asked us if we would be interested in making some music or if she could use the music. I think as soon as we met her we kind of liked her and we realized watching her films she makes movies in the same way we make music. It wasn’t about trying to make an impressive movie that everyone would go and see and would make lots of money. It was inside of her that she needed to express which is very similar to our music and her films don’t always make complete sense. They leave you wandering what is actually happening which is very similar to our music. Sometimes it is very open to people to interpret the way they want to.

To me, the music of Tindersticks has innate cinematic qualities to it. Were you aware of that at the time before the band actually began recording music for films?

Yeah! That is why we wanted to do a soundtrack because people have mentioned it. Personally I was very interested in soundtracks and it affected the sounds we use on our first and second album and ever since I’ve been having a different approach to song structuring and not just verse, chorus, guitars aka I’ve been trying to find different colors in the music and different methods of making music work. The great thing about working with Claire is that you are allowed to make music you want to whereas making soundtracks for a big Hollywood producer, they would tell you exactly what music they want and where and that is not the kind we are not interested in. It doesn’t give you any space to express yourself. I don’t think we felt the need to make any more soundtracks but it is good to work with somebody like Claire who gives you a chance to do something different.

The band is currently on tour promoting “The Something Rain.” What will happen next, after the concerts are over?

I suppose this year is kind of 20 years of Tindersticks, so we think for us it kind of started 20 years ago but I think we plan something for next year that celebrates that. This year is all about the album that just got released and we are thinking about the celebration next year.  Hopefully something else will grow next year.

Nenad Georgievski