Stapleton - Our Returning Champions

Feature by Dave Kerr | 24 Jun 2008

The circumstances of Stapleton’s formation might be textbook, but they’re no less romantic for it: future singer (Al Paxton) meets would-be drummer (Gordon Farquhar) at primary school, kids become good friends, enjoy their fair share of punk rock and go in search of like minds to make something of it. Along the way, the duo endures a few line-up changes until they find their current components in the form of guitarist Andrew Cook and bass player Nico Weststeijn. Et voila, Glasgow has another badass band.

Four albums and one EP into their career, these purveyors of emotive indie rock have been on hiatus until recently, with the constituent parts of the band pursuing other musical interests in the interim (see Avast!, Metronomes and Elements of the Seventies), but Farquhar insists that this stop-start work ethic has served Stapleton well: “It was clear after we toured [2005’s] Hug The Coast the way the band operated was going to change. The following year focused us on writing in a more organic, instinctive fashion, and this resulted in Rest and Be Thankful, recorded two years ago. Things happen slowly in our world, the periods of inactivity might be frustrating for some, but they make our more productive moments all the more rewarding.”

But, as musical trends and standards have changed around them in their decade-plus career thus far, have their influences evolved in tandem? “I don’t think that our influences have changed much over the years – brave, heartfelt and honest music still kills me.” Certainly, on the evidence of the recently released Rest and Be Thankful, Stapleton’s style remains entirely unaffected by the current 'nu-whatever the fuck' zeitgeist. Having shied away from any gratuitous horn blowing to evolve at their own pace, they’ve retained a healthy level of critical success and sustained a loyal fanbase throughout. But there’s still the question of whether Stapleton ever feel as though they’re under a glass ceiling, and if that might leave a kink in their neck. “It might be nice to have a slightly higher profile, particularly in our own country, but it’s not something we give much thought to.”

What Stapleton do give a great deal of thought to is the quality of the studio production that backs up their understated songwriting: a business they took so seriously that they flew to the U.S and sought out prolific ex-Jawbox frontman J Robbins to helm their second-last album. On this occasion, however, they were fortunate enough to find the right studio engineer on home soil.

“There are few high quality, respected and affordable engineers in this country,” explains Farquhar. “It would have cost more to record with a mediocre engineer here than it did to work with J for three weeks in the United States. It’s a crazy situation but I think bands are beginning to understand the options available to them. I would encourage anybody to work with J, if they can: the results of Hug the Coast speak for themselves. Similarly, the new record also sounds great, and that’s all down to [Dundee sound engineer] Robin [Sutherland – Laeto, Copy Haho].”

The band are set to make a live return with a UK tour plotted this month, yet several points in the new album allude to a sense of closure. This isn't the end for Stapleton though, surely? “I can understand why people might think that, but the elegiac aspects of our music have been present since we started," Farquhar contends. "As far as what the future holds, it’s pretty clear: If it still feels inspiring to get together and play music, then we will. There’s no urgency or pressure to do anything, and we are all happy with that, but I’d be disappointed if Rest And Be Thankful was the last you heard from us.”

Same here.

Rest and Be Thankful is out now via Xtra Mile.

Stapleton play City Function Suite, Dundee on 6 Jul and Nice'n'Sleazy, Glasgow on 8 Jul