When Steve Jones AKA ‘Stylusboy’ contacted me just after Christmas about his upcoming performance at the Studio Theatre, Warwick Arts centre, he mentioned that there’d probably be a few other photographers there.
‘Yep I’ll be there’ I said trying to remain enthusiastic. Whilst it’s always a privilege to be asked to photograph talented folks like Steve, the thought of jostling for photographic space only to get exactly the same images as the other ‘togs’ in attendance wasn’t getting my artistic juices flowing.
However a few days before the gig Stylusboy DM’d me on Twitter “If you’re happy to come down early I’d love some informal shots during sound check?”
‘Soundcheck’ I thought? An exclusive set of journalistic Stylusboy images? With no other camera people there? I’m in!!!!
Steve and his collaborative singer/songwriter Rachel Grisedale were preparing for their evening’s performance on a bill that included the lovely Fiona Cox and the very cool Chris Tye.
The Studio at Warwick is a classy venue, and I couldn’t help thinking that Steve and Rachel were getting a slightly more extended sound and lighting check than they’d normally be used to. After much ‘muso’ type discussion along the lines of ‘more bottom-end’, ‘sounds a bit toppy’, ‘just a bit more body’ and the classic ‘what’s it sound like out there?’….the soundcheck was done.
Later I managed to grab time for a chat with Steve and Rachel as they tucked into cheese and tomato Panini’s and (in Steve’s case) a nice cup of Green Tea….pure rock’n’roll….
redwood: Last time we met was in December, what have you been up to since then?
Stylusboy: I’ve been sorting out the tracks for this ‘Four Walls’..(pauses)..is it an album, is it an EP? I don’t know. Bon Iver put out a 9 track album so I’m going for it being an album. Yeah, sorting those tracks out, sorting the artwork out, working on the video for the ‘something worth keeping remix’ with Laura Meades. And writing, I’ve done a lot of writing.
Interview temporarily interrupted to let redwood go and collect his Tuna Panini from the counter, which came slightly burnt!!
redwood: Hmmm, not sure about this Panini..,So tell us about your new album ‘Four Walls’
Stylusboy: It was all recorded at house shows, two separate house shows, last summer. One was at Jess Morgan’s house. Jess is a singer songwriter in her own right, and I went and played at her house in Norwich last summer, and it was great - she had a few friends there, she played a set, and then I played and it was a really quiet house gig – it was really lovely, most house gigs are…apart from Mr Spoon‘s which was very loud!
So it’s got a combination of tracks on it, it’s 9 tracks and it’s just me and my guitar. It’s got all the creaks, all the coughs, a couple of mobile phone signal interruptions, but it gives you a real essence of just the songs – it’s like a bootleg recording. It was recorded on a little handheld digital recorder stuck up on a chair. When I recorded them I didn’t have the intention of releasing them, but when I listened to them I thought ‘they sound nice’
redwood: You mentioned writing?
Stylusboy: Yeah it’s good, me and Rachel are writing together.
redwood: You’ve written together before right?
Stylusboy: Yeah ‘Beyond the flags’ (from Stylusboy’s Whole Picture EP) was very much a collaboration. We’ve got seven songs so far, five or six of which are complete co-writes
redwood: How do your find your songwriting is evolving?
Rachel: Becky, Steve’s wife, says the choruses are more wordy and a bit deeper
Stylusboy: Yeah we’re dealing with quite universal issues. There’s one song about a father who has to go away to war, there’s another song about someone who leaves home because they’ve had enough and they have to make something of themselves, so there’s quite a lot of narrative story-writing happening. But then there’s also quite personal songwriting as well. ‘Love’s Tale’ I wrote with Becky my wife, for my sisters wedding. I said to my sister ‘I could write you a sing for your wedding’ and then suddenly realised what I’d said
redwood: Pressure’s on!
Stylusboy: Yeah!, I’d never written a song to a deadline like that. And I wrote one version and went ‘Argh it’s horrible I don’t like it’. So that’s a personal song because it’s for my sister.
redwood: Which artists are influencing the way you write at the moment?
Stylusboy: The narrative writing of Laura Marley is a quite an influence. Rachel was talking classic influences like Johnny Cash…not that we’re becoming really country, but ….Neil Young, Bob Dylan…folk storytellers. I don’t know – it will be interesting to see what people make of it. I’m playing a song this evening that I wrote the lyrics for last August while I was away playing bass with Atlum Schema for a few days, and it just talks about missing home. One of those songs that kind of came out of nowhere.
redwood: What about other local artists at the moment? Who do you like on the Coventry scene?
Stylusboy: Wes Finch…a good friend and very talented. Atlum Schema, another good friend that I’ve known for a long time, constantly creating very inventive sounds. Chris Tye who’s playing tonight. I think there’s a real depth of quality in Coventry that isn’t really exposed. Kristy Gallagher is out there making a living from playing folk clubs – she’s a quality musician, producing time after time, quality songs.
Rachel: It’s not just the folk aspect….you’ve got Shockparade who are creating that dancy kind of rock music..
Stylusboy:There are so many people that are great, and then you can just stumble upon people like David Sanders who I’m playing ditch the TV with next month, people like Cliff Hands who’s a stunning musician, really hidden away in Coventry but sounds like he should be supporting Tom Waites….it’s amazing.
redwood: You have a real stylusboy brand- the music, the image, the artwork – is that something you’ve consciously thought about? How that all works as a package?
Stylusboy: The artwork is really important to me, the physical manifestation of the CD is really important. I did a fine art degree so I’m a very visual person. I really like a guy called Duke Special, who’s quite theatrical in his performances, the way he dresses and his artwork. I really like bands who are consistent with artwork, so you go ‘look there’s another so and so record’ and you don’t even need to know who it is because you recognise it. I make all the CD’s by hand, that’s a labour of love, but it works, people like it. Yeah, it is a brand…
Stylusboy discusses setlists with Film maker Adam Nicholas
redwood: So what’s next ?
Stylusboy: Tonight, is next. We’re playing in the studio at Warwick Arts centre, it’s a lovely venue to play in. It’s great to have the opportunity…it’s a nationally recognised venue, and for them to take a risk on under the radar music is fantastic. Tash here who’s booked the acts is brilliant. We have two gigs in March, one at the Stratford Folk club, and then one at Ditch the TV with Paper Aeroplanes on 30th March.
Then it’s all about writing, trying to record stuff. The intention is that we’ll record the seven songs that we’ve got, and then we’ll write some more, and when we feel we’ve got enough we’ll start recording. It’ll be recorded in the same place as ‘Whole Picture’ with Chris Smith at his studio. Also working a bit from home, I’ve got a home setup. We’ve been talking quite a lot about it, it’ll have more songs without any drums on them, more stripped back songs, mix of guitar and vocals and maybe some band-esque things..
redwood: When can we expect to see the next album?
Stylusboy: Probably this time next year. I’m not going to rush it, we’ll see…
To get your very own copy of ‘Four Walls’ by Stylusboy, please step this way…
Oh…I nearly forgot. You want to know how the performance that evening went?
It was Class.
Check out this video from the gig made by Adam Nicholas.
Hey – Were you at this gig? If so, comment below…
(If you’re a band or artist interested in getting your own redwood promo or live images, as well as having an interview posted on the blog, then get in touch)