The Stillsons are singers Justin Bernasconi on guitar and Cat Canteri on drums, along with pedal shell guitars Ben Franz (the Waifs).
Joining them on Never Go Your Way is special guest Edmondo Ammendola from Augie March on bass guitar. Seven spoke with Justin about the upcoming tour for their third album.
Tell me a little about Never Go Your Way. Did you have a concept for how you wanted this album to feel or sound? NGYW is our third album, and we really wanted to capture the energy of our live performances in a recording studio. We had a string of shows booked to get us from Melbourne to Applewood Studios (Fernvale, Queensland) and spent a week in the studio, trying to achieve our best possible performances as a band. The idea of touring immediately before we hit the studio was to get us all into the same headspace we’re in while on the road… There is a deep focus and cohesiveness in the music when you’re playing together every night, spending all day and eating all your meals together… for extended periods. We wanted to capture this on record.
What were the major influences? Definitely bands from the 70s, and you can hear that. We’re talking The Band, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, JJ Cale.
What are the pivotal tracks on the album? I think it would have to be the opening track Feel So Young, which was also the first song to be recorded. Once we had tried a few takes, and we went up into the listening booth to check it out, and thought WOW, THAT’S US! The energy the song has live had finally been captured, which is something that is tricky to do in a studio. Also, for the first time, there are two duets: Everything and Dish It Out.
Following up from the critical success of Earnest, how did you ensure that this album was going to have the same clout? Well, it was difficult. We didn’t expect Earnest to be so well received at home, and overseas, putting together Never Go Your Way suddenly we thought… Errr what if no-one likes this?! Ha-ha. Cat had been busy writing songs, so there are more of her tunes on this record; that’s definitely brought a different edge to the overall sound. But I think you just have to focus on the music, and forget all the other stuff, or it kind of sabotages the integrity of what you’re doing.
Why did you chose to record components live? Which were they and how did they help create the foundation for the album? All the songs were recorded live, sans the vocals. We chose to record live with minimal overdubs, because we’d been touring a lot over the two years prior, and many of the new songs had been road-tested over that period. Songs sound different when the instruments are individually recorded. We wanted to seize upon the way the songs sound and feel live.
We re-recorded the guitar and pedal steel on a few songs, but apart from two exceptions (piano on Smile Smile Smile and a second guitar part on the solo of Another Lover). It has meant each instrument has more space within the mix, and so the sound of the record is deeper and fatter, and you can hear us working as band like never before.
You used crowdfunding to get this album out. What do you think of that as a process? How does it help independent artists? Well, we felt kind of funny about it at first, as it can feel like you’re asking for help or charity, but the way we did it was that it’s basically about pre-sales of the new album. We were absolutely stoked that we achieved our target; it showed that there are people out there who really like what we do!
What’s your favourite Stillsons track? Tell me the story behind it. I think my personal favourite is Go Home. It’s an old song of mine that I wrote about the small-town racism in my home town of Warboys, UK – which was famous for hanging witches five hundred years ago. Funny enough, the racism was directed at my family, which is half-Antipodean (my father was a Kiwi, and my older brother’s Australian). The locals didn’t like brash ‘Aussies’ moving in the village!
What should we expect for your show at The Beach Hotel? We’ve always had a great time at The Beachy, so expect wide variety of great songs, male-female harmonies, high energy, and heaps of guitar and pedal steel solos.
The Stillsons play the Beach Hotel on Thursday.