London-formed duo Still Corners released their fourth record in August, having relocated to Texas in search of new inspiration. Slow Air is tight, steady and imbued with the heat of a scorching American summer. With the influence of the cinematic music of Vangelis and Harold Budd, the record conveys a sense of immensity with sprawling instrumental sections and the lyric-less track ‘Welcome to Slow Air. The eerie vocals of Tessa Murray are just one instrument within the vast soundscape of the record. The band chats with The Student about the story of Slow Air, the effect of self-production, and the influence of place on their music, ahead of their show at Broadcast, Glasgow on 3rd December.
Congratulations on the release of Slow Air – the record is stunning. Where did the journey of this record begin?
Thank you very much. We wanted to change it up a bit so moved to Texas, we had always had a great time in Austin so moved there and started songwriting. An environment change like that works on you on a number of levels, all the primal stuff is different like the air, the sky, the flavours, people, buildings all that stuff. It’s always working on you behind the scenes and we fed it all into the songs.
What can you say about the process of writing and recording it?
They came out of the heat of Texas. Those long hot days and summer nights, trying to read a book outside in the sweltering heat but then night comes and it ebbs away, it cools down, the cicadas come out and are deafening. These experiences we put in the music, it all has a languorous sort of quality to it.
And how did the process differ from previous albums?
We became tired of our process, bored to tears by it so we just avoided it. Instead of overthinking it all we just wrote the songs and got out of there way. Same with the mixing, we worked hard on it but didn’t go back and do lots of takes or anything, just worked hard and tried to have a good time with it.
How would you describe your process of creating?
I think at this point it’s fairly telepathic, you often hear about this when people have worked together for a while. I’ll often write a guitar part or record some bit of music and Tessa will come over and sing on it, we hammer it into shape after that.
Has your process as a partnership changed at all with this latest record?
If anything just solidified how we do things, who we are and what we want to say.
Are you happy with how the songs are translating to live performances?
Yes very much so. We’ve got an amazing drummer with us. Live vs the studio are totally different animals and we treat them as such. We speed the songs up, rock them out, more abandon, try to capture that edge.
Do you have a favourite song on the new record? And why?
I really like ‘The Message’ and ‘Welcome to Slow Air’; they capture the essence of us in Texas sweating in a house with lousy air conditioning.
Which musicians would you say have inspired you most over the years?
Chet Baker and Roxy Music.
How do you feel producing your own tracks affects how you feel about them?
We’ve always recorded and mixed all our own music and that came more or less from the DIY aesthetic but also because when I called around studios I realised very quickly there was no way we could afford to do that so we embraced it and started accumulating studio gear. Now we have a pretty rocking setup, some very choice pieces and of course know a lot more about how to do it. Learning how to record and mix has been endlessly fascinating.
What outside of music do you find inspirational?
We like Harold Budd and Vangelis quite a bit, Chet Baker is always on.
How is it being British and living in the US at the moment?
The US is very polarised at the moment, it’s a brilliant place but there’s the worry it’s going to slip totally into a corporate-led oligarch. We miss the NHS too. The nature in the US is jaw-dropping, deep and endless, the people are incredibly warm and friendly.
How important to you is the idea of place – in terms of how where you are affects your psychology and your creativity?
The environment has a direct effect on my songwriting, Slow Air could only have been written in Texas. But also during that songwriting phase you’re looking about for clues, for inspiration, you’re trying to fill up that well again so it’s a bit like a diet you have to be careful of what you take in, so not too much news of your going to write some depressing shit, which is fine if that’s what you’re going for. Depends on what you want to say. On Slow Air we wanted to translate the nature we were experiencing into music.
Once you’re done touring, what’s next for you?
There’s going to be a bit of relaxing, enjoying Christmas, writing music and we’re currently in discussion with doing a tour of Asia in 2019.
Image: Bernard Bur via Pomona UK