INTERVIEW

Greg Hughes, founding member and principal songwriter behind Still Corners, is an American living in London, finding his way over from Texas in 2002 due to “a girl”.

Photography by Lee Goldup

Photography by Lee Goldup

THE MOVIE-SCREEN MEETING AND UNDERSTATED ATMOSPHERICS OF GREG HUGHES AND TESSA MURRAY

Greg Hughes, founding member and principal songwriter behind Still Corners, is an American living in London, finding his way over from Texas in 2002 due to “a girl”.

“I came over here to see if it would work, but it didn’t,” he laughs, adding, “but I ended up staying because I’d built up a life and some friends and I love it, it’s a great place.”

Fast forward some years down the line, and the results behind one of the most quietly gripping debut records of the year is really down to nothing more than a serendipitous meeting.

“It was really weird,” Greg tells me. “I was going to London Bridge to see a friend and for some reason the train went to Kidbrooke, which is like another twenty minutes out or something. So I got off and this person came up to me and said did you get on the wrong train too?” The person in question was the now lead singer of Still Corners, Tessa Murray. “We got to talking and she said she would be late for choir practice and as soon as she said that light bulbs started going off in my head,” enthuses Greg.

That chance encounter was the foundations to the band’s birth, one that lies even more heavily on luck than just that fortuitous meeting. “Actually,” continues Greg, “Tessa told me recently that she was going to go and sit down on a bench that day but the bench was so wet she didn’t.” Had she done so, her encounter with Greg would have never happened. “So it’s really weird that this whole band has hinged on the fact that that bench was wet.” After exchanging words and ideas, the two started to work on demo’s until Greg finally said: “Why don’t you be in my band?” to which Tessa accepted and “everything has just really fitted into place from then on in.”

After working on more complete versions of songs, and becoming a full band by taking on Luke Jarvis on bass and Leon Dufficy on drums, Greg and Tessa soon garnered attention. Sub-Pop expressed an interest.

“They bought a song from our band camp,” says Greg. “Then I got an email a week later, they came to some shows and we had some drinks and they were just really cool peeps. The whole thing just happened organically. So we signed with them and the rest is rock’n’roll!” he laughs.

The album, ‘Creatures of an Hour’, has a nighttime darkness to it; an almost nocturnal stillness; elegiac yet somehow elevating.

“Yeah, that was intentional,” ponders Greg. “I mean, we worked on the album at night a lot, as we all had day jobs and I guess the title reflects that. I have my own studio and the album was recorded there and we all rehearse there, so there was a lot of nighttime activity when creating this record, definitely. I think how you described it in your review [‘music for 3am breakdowns’] sums it up perfectly – that’s spot on.”

Likewise, the album has a cinematic scope and tension to it. Ensconced within the layers is a brooding sense of atmosphere of which the cinematic quality is no coincidence.

“I’m a big movie nerd,” says Greg. “I’m a big Alfred Hitchcock fan and I wanted to try and capture some of those eerie qualities, so I think some of his vibe found its way onto the record. Some of the emotions he was evoking interested me. Also some horror guys like Dario Argento, there is some of that on there as well.

“I mean there’s also some real music influences on there too, like CAN and stuff.”

This musical exploration transforms into a record rooted deep in texture and tonality, so I want to know, was this exploration as much a focal point as song writing?

“Oh yeah, absolutely” says Greg. “Whenever me and Tessa would click on something, it was always around an eerie atmosphere or something.”

All this may lead to a presumption that ‘Creature…’ is a calculated and outright spooky album, full of faux horror for dramatic effect, but there is an overwhelming gravitation towards human emotions on it, which leads to a delicate and affecting balance between song craft, atmospherics and emotional investment.

Next the band are to head out on a headline, coast-to-coast American tour, “which we’re all really excited about,” enthuses Greg. “It’s going to be great. We’ve never played the West Coast before” he bubbles.

Free from the shackles of employment, Greg has been able to work tirelessly on more material for Still Corners too, which means that while the debut has barely had time to find its way onto your turntable, there could already be a follow up on its way.

“Yeah, I’ve been working on a lot of stuff for the second one and hopefully that will be out fairly soon,” Greg nods, before giving further insight into his creative restlessness.

“I handed in the debut record on April 25th and the next day I was in the studio working on new stuff,” he laughs.

If you can keep up with Still Corners, their gorgeous debut album is out on Sub Pop now.

By Daniel Dylan Wray

Still Corners – Cuckoo by subpop

Originally published in issue 32 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. October 2011.

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