It is rare these days to encounter a band whose music is immediately enrapturing in its inventive arrangements and eclectic influences, however one such band is STATS. This London six-piece troupe are set for great heights in 2017, as they prove throughout their stellar debut album Temping – which was independently released via their Bandcamp late last year. Their music combines the classic theatricality of David Bowie taken on a modern detour akin to alt-songstress St. Vincent, but those kind of descriptions don’t really do their varied and delectable tales of modern life justice. Take a listen to ‘Own It’ below, as we attempt to lift the curtain on STATS’ world via a brief chat with vocalist Ed Seed…
We recently featured your latest track ‘Own It’ on the site! Tell us a little about what went into creating it.
I wrote the song in five minutes, in the kitchen – the words and basic guitar chords, anyway. I’d been thinking about buildings and money. Living in a city like London, you’re often implicitly told that the goal of life – the way to win – is to get hold of a building, pile up money in your building, hold on to your building for dear life, and turn your building into a living for yourself by renting it to other people. This seemed like such a dismal way to look at the world, so I wanted to poke fun at it. I think it’s terrible for London that it’s been eaten by this idea of buildings as financial instruments: not only does it attract all the world’s worst people, but it also makes everyone else increasingly conservative in their choices, and the risks they’re willing to take to do anything they dream of, anything out of the ordinary. This is not an environment that is likely to foster bold, imaginative and daring people, or happy people.
We recorded ‘Own It’ at Real World Studios, with our producers Ali Staton and Ant Whiting. STATS in the studio is either total improvisation – we choose a tempo, John (Barrett, drummer) starts, and we just play until something good happens, then later I make those best bits into a song – or structured improvisation, where we play sections of already-written songs over and over until they have the right feel, and they are then compiled back into songs. ‘Own It’ was the second sort of recording. Originally it was just supposed to be the first half of what you hear, the straight-up three-and-half-minute pop song. When I started putting it all together at home though, I loved listening to the drums and machines on their own, it was so exciting. It stretched out more and more until it became the seven-minute monster you hear now.
Your sound is pretty eclectic! We hear echoes of David Bowie, Talking Heads, Mini Mansions and even Friendly Fires. Are there any artists or bands that have particularly influenced your musical direction for STATS?
We all love Bowie, Talking Heads, Ezra Furman, St Vincent, Phillip Glass, James Brown, so many to choose of course. I’m strongly influenced by singers who have very direct, declamatory styles, who bring you into their world by being conversational – the Staple Singers, Pulp, Curtis Mayfield, Paul Simon. There are so many bands and artists I love right now, too – ANOHNI, Chance, the Rhythm Method, Factory Floor, Gazelle Twin, Peluché…
You’ve previously described yourself as a “minimal-maximal” band. Is that something that you consciously try to keep your music in line with? Do you find it restricting?
It’s not restrictive, those are just the two poles between which the band operates: the desire to be simple and direct and repetitive meets the impulse to throw idea after idea at the wall.
Your album Temping was released in November; congratulations! It’s a great listen and crammed with funky rock and hook-ridden choruses.
You’ve released EPs in the past, how did creating your album differ? Did you encounter any unprecedented difficulties?
Thank you! The only difficulties were practical: I make my living as a touring musician, playing with Dua Lipa, so I had to organise the manufacture of cassette tapes and our launch show at the Lexington from other parts of the world and different time zones.
How did you come to decide on naming your album Temping?
The world feels increasingly precarious and unstable: old certainties relating to society, work and politics are dissolving and failing. I was trying to write songs about life as it is now (if you’re young or youngish anyway), and the “temp” seemed like a good figure to represent this. Like most people I’ve temped all over the place, and the feelings it inspires – contingency, insecurity, precariousness – they creep up on you, and seep into every part of your life. The “temp” at work becomes the “temp” in love, renting a “temp” home, always waiting for something to happen, the temp with no sense of time. I think many people will know these feelings. If you look at it in a positive way, I suppose it teaches you some sort of wabi-sabi lesson, that everything is temporary and nothing is infinite: but enlightenment doesn’t pay the rent.
What inspires you when writing? Are there any particular themes that you draw upon?
Modern work, modern love, modern cities, modern class, modern technology, modern money, modern manners. Everything is interesting, nothing is boring.
What led you to collaborate on STATS? Were you all active in previous projects before working together?
STATS started because I kept writing songs about work, like white collar ballads, very office-y in this absurd way, and needed a band who were sharp and imaginative to play them. Our drummer John and I had played together before with our friend Eugene McGuinness, who also introduced me to our producer Ant. Duncan (Brown, guitar) and I had played together in The Mules, which is where we met Stu (Barter, bass) whose band Left With Pictures played at a club night we ran. Nicole (Robson, keyboards) played in a band called The Monroe Transfer who were our label mates. Isobel (Waller-Bridge, also keyboards) was introduced to us by a friend.
Everyone has projects of their own, and it’s amazing to have all that experience and energy flowing into STATS on stage. Our friend Lilias Buchanan, who is a great artist, came up with the name. Around the same time I started playing guitar for La Roux, and I learned so much from Elly, her band and crew about how to put things together on stage, looking at a show and an identity from all directions. Elly was even kind enough to sing on a couple of our songs.
Your songs are crammed full of energy; what can listeners expect from your live show? Do you have any live dates lined up?
There are five or six people. There is a minimal drum kit, a bass guitar, two regular guitars and their amps, a whole load of synths and keyboards, and three or four singers. The people are well-dressed. It’s very high-energy, it’s loud, it’s bright, it’s clear, it’s heavy, it’s joyful, it’s angry, it’s emotional, it’s fun, it will always be different, every night. We will be playing plenty more in 2017 – our next show is supporting our friends Park Hotel at their single launch, which is February 16th at the Lexington in London.
What can we expect from STATS in 2017?
Another album. Almost immediately. Then another. And as many shows as we can fit in. More words. More action. If you like STATS, please tell your friends.
STATS’ debut album Temping is available to buy now via Bandcamp. They play The Lexington in London on 16th February in support of Park Hotel.