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The Stills – Riding The Tumultuous Tide

With all the doom and gloom that surrounds us these days, I have to say there are many forms of inspiration that have come to the rescue, other than the bottle, although a glass or two of a nice Malbec makes the “Joe the Plumber” political commercials and up-n-down financial news reports (with the remote handy) a little more tolerable.

It’s The Stills, and these musicians are back to present us with the next chapter, Oceans Will Rise (Arts & Crafts), in their sparkling musical novel.

The guys – Tim Fletcher (lead vocals, guitarist), Dave Hamelin (vocals/guitar), Liam O’Neil (keyboards), Olivier Corbeil (bass) and Julien Blais (drums) – still retain the signature pulse and fingerprint artistry of their creative evolution, which has been carried through their eight year span. But contrary to one of The Stills’ previous tracks “Changes Are No Good,” from the group’s break out debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart, this is not a repeat of that proven formula.

Oceans Will Rise, a possible nod to the melting icecaps, portrays a band that’s been on the move since its inception, while capturing the member’s experiences and observations along the way. “Snakecharming The Masses” is reflective of the potential coma the powers that be have cast upon society. “Don’t Talk Down To Me” is the nicest aggression you could find, veiled in floating harmonies and pulsating with a midnight drive blood flow.

Tim Fletcher’s glorious vocals can make even a worldwide crisis sound beautiful, as in the eco-analytic number, “Snow In California.” Fit for a James Bond flick, “Roobios/Palm Wine Drunkard” collides particles, and then gasps for air with poetic and after-the-storm tranquility. And the true volume knob cranker, “Eastern Europe,” begs to be played on repeat.

Sharing our mutual caffeine high and unending cold bug, Tim and I delved into the deeper aspects of weather and how it affects the mind and the body…among other things.

Kaffeine Buzz: Sorry to hear you’re under the weather. This thing I have won’t go away either.

Tim Fletcher: It’s the change of season. Are you in L.A.?

KB: No, I’m in Denver. I’m originally from California and moved here seven years ago. But this time of year, my body still goes through a freak out of sorts. So it rebels and this cold thing hangs on.

TF: I think [the changing seasons are] mentally healthy. You go through different phases and you have to adjust to them. It makes you a more flexible person intellectually and psychologically.

KB: I agree. I love the seasons here and fall in particular. The colors and shift in weather enables you to close the door on things and start fresh.

TF: Exactly. Sometimes it’s a little depressing at the beginning, but then you adjust. We were just talking about it. In Montreal we just look forward to the next season and never just enjoy the season that you’re in. You’re always dreading the coming of winter or anticipating summer. You know?

KB: Yes. I’ve traveled all around Canada, but unfortunately never made it Montreal. I was just talking to some friends that spent some time there this summer and they loved it. But I’ve heard the winters are pretty brutal.

TF: Yeah, the winter is pretty intense and it lasts a long time, but people still maintain an active, cultural life, to a certain degree.

KB: Where people spend more time indoors being creative.

TF: I think it might help the art scene, ‘cause people have to congregate together to do something that will prevent them from considering darker options.

KB: Well, speaking of thought provoking, I’m really enjoying the new album.

TF: Oh! Thank you.

KB: It feels like you’ve done somewhat of a shift and are observant of where we are. It feels like such a surreal time right now for everyone I talk to. This financial crisis that’s affecting everyone; global warming, and the potential nightmare if a certain person gets into office…*

TF: I think your solution is rallying around Barack Obama. Your problems stem out of the Republican Party having been in power for the past eight years. The financial crisis has been 10 years coming and George Bush really exacerbated the problem to a very intense degree. He’s no friend of any environmental policies. He’s actually an outright enemy. So getting him out of there and getting in someone more reasonable, and I don’t think John McCain is that person, is the first step towards getting some positive changes happening and averting crises.

KB: Absolutely. I think that’s why more people are getting a clue. I kind of take polls with a grain of salt, but there’s been a definite rise in Obama’s popularity in this country in just the last week…

TF: Since the financial crisis.

KB: Yes. I think it’s because those who may have been apathetic about the election are being directly affected by all of this.

TF: It’s a wake up call. And now people are checking it out a bit more.

KB: Exactly. People are reevaluating and contemplating a lot of things right now. This leads me back to the album, and in particular, the song “Snow In California” and how David described his experience of being in the water in Japan…there seems to be a water theme going, even in relation to the album title. It’s kind of like when dreams are analyzed, water is typically a symbol of contemplation and change coming about.

TF: Yeah, yeah. We’re all bed wetters, so it’s all about water. (laughs) I guess we just put our subconscious into our songs, you know? The song “Snow In California” came about when I was watching the T.V. show “Carnival,” and then adopted it into my own life and my own experiences; put myself into a fantasy realm. It still says a lot about our environment and current state of affairs. “Dinosaurs” is also like that. I guess it was just on our minds. It was what was in the frying pan.

KB: Well, what we’re all going through now…when things are shifting like this, I think we go through a period of adjustment and experiences that may not be so great, but hopefully we come out better in the end. We can heed some lessons, so to speak.

TF: Funny you say that, because a lot of the album, and again, “Snow In California,” when I was writing that song I was thinking a lot about the cusp, the Mayan calendar ending. Hopefully, what that means, is that people will come to some kind of realization; an age of some kind of enlightenment will come to human civilization. More reason and awareness will come out of it. A new sort of sensitive consciousness where people are a lot more caring towards each other and the environment. I hope that this change that we’re both talking about here is a positive one. We make music with that hope in mind.

KB: Absolutely, and there are definitely inspiring moments within the album, in particular, “Being Here,” which to me is reminiscent of the type of energy I felt after an Obama rally as U2’s “Beautiful Day” was playing. I see that you’ve done a video for that as well, and the artistry behind it was pretty impressive and captured the concept of the song in a visual way.

TF: Thank you. We didn’t come up with the idea but I think it’s a really cool, simple concept. And it goes well with the music.

KB: The song gives you that feeling that you can accomplish anything.

TF: Well, I think music should give you that inspiration. I tend to think that we’re pro-life, not in the abortion sense, but in just being alive. It’s not a cheesy or corny thing. A lot of people are living their lives – like you said – they’re not awake or aware of things. Sometimes we are too. We live in sort of a bubble, so it’s important to channel all your inspirations into music and into living well. So we’ve chosen music to do that.

KB: And that’s why music has been so cathartic to so many people for so long; the people making the music and the people enjoying the music. I personally don’t know what I’d do without it, especially during times like these.

TF: Oh, God, no kidding. We’re into all the arts, but I think it’s one of the most direct and fundamental communications there is in the human lexicon. We all feel like we’re a part of a really intense, sacred tradition. It’s humbling. You can’t help but feel humble with that knowledge.

KB: Right. And I know you guys have traveled the world. I picked up some international influences, some Irish type of rhythms in “Snakecharming The Masses.”

TF: Oh wow. Irish. That’s cool, ‘cause no one ever says that.

KB: Well, maybe it’s just me…

TF: Everyone hears more African or Asian, but then, Asia is a big continent. We really wanted to get more experimental, so we had to look outside of our own comfort zone, our geographical zone. We’ve been a lot of places and met a lot of people. Whenever you really pick up on the energy, mood and spirit of the place, it gets stuck in your head and you gotta let it out somehow. Being songwriters and musicians is really amazing for that.

We spent some time in Istanbul, and they have some really crazy rhythms and time signatures that we picked up on. They invented symbols, you know? And then we were down in Mexico and picked up some things from them. It’s important for you to search out things that are strange and different; outside of your simple geographical zone.

KB: And it’s not just bits and pieces that you can pick up from one country to a next, but from one type of music to the next from different decades.

TF: There’s so much music that’s been lost. So many sounds that we’ll never hear because they’re gone and no one documented them.

KB: You’re traveling again with a pretty aggressive tour starting this month.

TF: Yeah, we’re hitting the dusty trail on the 10th of October and we’ll keep going until around the 10th of December, doing the southwest here and some days in Canada, a limited tour of Europe. We’ve toured with Kings of Leon three times but never with We Are Scientists. But we’ve met them and they’re good guys.

KB: Yeah, they’re pretty cool. They have a good sense of humor, which is always entertaining for one in the audience. I got to see them at the Hi-Dive a few years back and am always grateful for being able to see bands before they fill a large venue.

TF: Most of them keep their roots as they get bigger. It’s only a small number that get out of hand and get a bloated head.

KB: Well, it sure isn’t the rock ‘n’ roll days of the ‘70s…

TF: And thank God. I don’t care about pompous assholes who want to rip guitar solos and indulge in their own psycho, sexual musical fantasy. (laughs) They can go fuck themselves.

KB: (laughs) Yeah, I think we’re past the days when you show up to a show and it’s cancelled because the lead singer is passed out in the back, or in the bus.

TF: If you’re a musician…we’re a band and we’re entertainers and we work hard all the time. If we care about what we’re doing, then we have to honor our hard work by giving our best to our audience. We owe ourselves and our audience a lot if we hope to make our music and our art important. There’s no time for indulging in arrogant wants and needs. We all understand that there’s a level to uphold. And there’s a lot of forces that are trying to bring down the good vibe, but we fight through for ourselves and for the people that like us.


And there will be plenty of those folks showing up for this full bill coming to Denver this Thursday, October 23 at The Fillmore.

Check out the video for “Being Here,” which is drenched in a dark, vintage palate, using modern affects to find their heads, so to speak. They’re even eco-friendly at the end, using a horse and buggy as a mode of transpo to take them into the baking sunset. I’m guessing they won’t be arriving to Denver for their tour stop (sponsored by Depends) in the Quaker-styled tour bus, but I could be wrong.

*This interview took place three weeks ago, and since then, things have definitely shifted even more in the right direction. Thank God.


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