Six Questions For ... Tindersticks


Stuart Staples, singer/songwriter/guitarist for chamber rock mainstays Tindersticks, has a truly singular croon -- a seductive baritone that serves as the perfect complement to the band's lush, cinematic arrangements. While chatting, though, he sounds just like a regular British dude. Still, he's as thoughtful and insightful as you would expect from someone who has penned many albums worth of intricately arranged songs, serving as a sort of precursor to the Sufjans and Grizzly Bears of the world. It seemed as if Tindersticks had run their course after more than a decade, but a reshuffling of the lineup, a new American label (Constellation Records) and an upcoming album, "The Hungry Saw," finds the band re-energized. Tindersticks will be at the 9:30 club tonight.

At one point it seemed like the future was up in the air. How did this next chapter of the band's history get going?
Five years ago, when we kind of came to a halt, it was all about relationships and people. And that's what made the music exciting, was those people and their ideas coming together. And I think after 12 years of working solidly together -- like five years ago, we made ("Waiting for the Moon") and took it on tour and there was something missing from that. It was really hard to understand what that actually was, and I think we just decided to take a break from it and get away from it and have a different kind of perspective on it.

I think coming back together -- we played this show at Bobbington in 2006. The most important thing about it was to just be in the same room together, rehearse, spend a few days together and just figure out where we're all at. And I think from that, for myself, David (Boulter) and Neil (Fraser), there was a real desire to move forward and see where it took us. And we did give it a point to move on from. I never thought it was over but at the same time I couldn't really see how it was going to happen again. But I think that concert in 2006 just gave us a kind of point to step away from.

Was that a weird realization to come to, that the band as you knew it for so long was something of the past?
It just didn't feel as though there was something vital between us that had always been there. And I think that has to do with people. And I think now I got through a lot of my grieving five years ago. So now it feels like just a natural coming to an end. That we had done what we could together, really. And I think now it's like having a different kind of perspective, different people involved, a different kind of desire and excitement are in play. It started off in a very small way, we didn't say, "We're going to make this album." It was more, let's get a few days together and see what happens. And that kind of grew into getting together again and then getting different people involved and then it became really convincing to us, that this was the right thing to do, that this had a life and is valid. And I think since then, since making the album, taking it on the road and treating it in a progressive kind of way, it's just been growing and growing. And now we're coming to the end of the touring of it and everyone's got a real kind of desire for what we're going to make next.

(Read the rest of the interview after the jump.)

So how has this current tour been?
We haven't been out to play concerts in five years or so. Some of the places we've been playing we haven't played for seven years. So it was with some trepidation. You don't know if your music is still going to be relevant to people. And just actually doing it. In a lot of places we played to more people than we played to five years ago. The music has surprised me in that it's stayed with people, found new people and it's kind of growing in its own way, which is all kind of reassuring.

You have one of the most distinctive voices around. Do you feel that lets you take more chances musically since it'll always sound like Tindersticks if you're singing?
I always used to think it was kind of like a blessing and a curse. It was great to have this voice that was distinctive and that certain people would really get a lot out of. But I also knew that it would send other people screaming out of the room. (Laughs.) There was no kind of middle ground for how people reacted to it. And I think that's generally a good thing but I suppose if I look back and hear old records that we made I realize that I suppose there's some kind of extremity about it. We've been doing this so long that every time you make something you learn. I suppose this is the first time where I felt like a singer. In the past singing was just something else that I did. It was just something I did along with the writing, the production, the arrangements. It was part of this bigger thing. Whereas now it's more about -- I understand that it's an essence of what I do. And I think it's given more space and time for that. And I'm getting better because of that, I think.

Your songs have a very cinematic quality. Is that just a natural quality of the music?
I think in general since we first got this group of people together there was just this natural tendency to leave space in the music. And to leave space in the ideas and the lyrics, for people to find their own thing within it. It's just something we do naturally and I think that's why people think it's cinematic, because they have to put something of themselves into it to get something out of it.

Is there a favorite period of the band that you're most proud of?
I think -- hope -- it's yet to come. But I do think for those original six members of the band, our second album was a pretty special time for us. I think that album was made from a real mixture of all these things that added up to be something special. Special for us and something lasting as well, I think. I like to think that will be surpassed in the future but I think that was a real milestone.

By David Malitz |  March 5, 2009; 7:19 AM ET Interviews
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