The Stills

Silent Uproar: Hey, Oliver how's it going?

Oliver: Good. Hey, have you ever read that book "The Stranger?

SU: Nope.

Oliver: Well do you know The Cure song "Killing an Arab," it was taken from that book.

SU: No, I didn't know that.

Oliver: Well I was reading this part and this guy is in prison and he finds a little part of a newspaper. It tells the story about this guy who lives in Czechoslovakia and he leaves his country to go make tons of money, right. So he comes back like twenty years later with his wife and his kid and he puts up his wife and his kid in this hotel. Well he goes and sees his mother and sister, who actually own this little bed and breakfast, and he comes up and they don't recognize him. So he pays for everything in the hotel with all cash and is showing off his money and stuff and at night they (his mother and sister) kill him and steal his money and throw him in the lake. The next day his wife and kid go up and explain the whole situation that he was their son. Then the mother hangs herself and the sister jumps off a cliff.

It's that just like the darkest thing ever?

SU: Yeah, that is pretty messed up.

Oliver: It's insane! You murdered your son because you don't recognize him and then you realize you murdered your son. I was just like, holly fuck that's dark! Anyway…

SU: Wow, so how do I go into asking you questions now? OK, so you have been getting a lot of attention lately. Is it more annoying than cool, or is this how you want it?

Oliver: I think it's a cool thing. I think that was the plan; to put out a record and have a lot of attention put on it and hopefully have a lot of people hear it. It seems like the only way people are going to know about it is if MTV and Rolling Stone and everyone get behind it.

SU: There was a really nice write-up in the last Fader, did you see that?

Oliver: I don't think so. I don't remember what that said, but I am sure they wrote something really cool. It's weird because we played a show with the guy on the front cover, Kanye West. We played a little show at a loft in New York for this Fader party thing and we had no idea who this guy was. So we were like backstage hanging out and there is like his private barber and they all have lots of bling and shit and we are just chatting around. Then I get the Soundscan on Wednesday and I look at the Top 200 albums in sales and he is there at like number 100. He's HUGE, and we had no idea. The hip-hop world with record sales is just crazy man, they sell so many records.

SU: Your record was just released in the UK a couple months ago, how is it doing over there?

Oliver: It's doing alright; it is doing a lot better in American than it is doing there. The whole business is so different over there, it's like you almost have to have like a kick there to get noticed. I mean the Von Bondies guy getting his face smashed in put them right in the charts you know?

SU: Do you care about success in the UK? I mean is American success enough, or is the band hoping for worldwide domination?

Oliver: Yeah I do, because if you have success in the UK then that opens to the door to Europe. I really want to go see Europe and I really want to go to France, seeing as how we are French, it is really exciting to us. You know, I have never been to the "mother land". So I would like to see that and Germany and all these beautiful places. So if we do well in England then I can go see Europe.

SU: How did you hook up with Vice?

Oliver: One of our managers was actually working for the magazine at the time he started managing us and he just kept putting like early demos on the radio in his office and people would walk by and be like, "hmm, pretty good." This was before there was a Vice Records, and everyone starting being really curious about it. So we heard the news that they were going to make Vice Records, and we were wondering if we should do that. So then they started doing really well with the Streets in the US and things were going good for them.

At the same time we had all these labels taking us out to shitty dinners and then Vice took us out and got us really drunk and said, "We want to sign you. And if you don't sign with us, we'll break your fucking legs." So we were like "we're in." They were the only label that actually physically threatened us, so we're in. That was the best fucking decision ever. It's awesome.

SU: It's interesting too because they seem kinda unorthodox. Do they run the label like any other label or do they run it like you would expect Vice to?

Oliver: Well you know, there would be people walking around naked, but essentially yeah they run it the same way. I think their approach to marketing though is really different. Their whole take on it is strange. I think they took a quote from the awful Pitchfork review they gave the record and Vice actually used it in our press. So they'll do shit like that. I think their whole approach to things is really cool.

SU: And now the band is working with Atlantic, any qualms with working with a major label?

Oliver: No, no. Vice was given its label by Atlantic from the beginning. Atlantic said we will give you a label, but we won't own it, but we will help you with it. Basically the big major labels don't have a clue about what's cool and what's not. So they look to labels like Sub Pop or Rough Trade and now Vice, to tell them what's cool. We are exactly where we want to be.

SU: I know you guys come from French speaking Montreal, how does the blending of languages work with both English speaking and French speaking people? Does everyone pretty much know both and just prefer one or the other?

Oliver: Well I'm French, but I briefly lived in Nova Scotia and I learned English when I was really really young. I always hung with the bi-lingual kids and we spoke both French and English all the time. Montreal is probably the most bi-lingual place in Canada. So yeah, it's cool.

SU: What are the four best things to come out of Canada in the last 10 years in general?

Oliver: Kids in the Hall, the Montreal Canadians (that's the hockey team), Mike Meyers, and uhh… probably Godspeed You Black Emperor.

SU: You all look rather serious and glum in your press shots, are you unhappy guys?

Oliver: We don't like photo shoots, and we don't think its fun. We think it is really annoying (laughs). I guess that is why we always look gloomy and miserable looking.

I think we are generally not the happiest, peppiest band around. We are just not like that. We aren't really all about sex, drugs, rock n' roll, and sodomy, we're not like that, we're geeks. We read books and watch movies and do boring stuff.

SU: Does that play into the music you write? I mean do you kind write music to fit that mood?

Oliver: Yeah I think so. We definitely write on the darker side of things because that is how we are and how we generally feel. If we were like super happy then maybe we would write songs like Sugar Ray. We don't live on a beach, we're not happy because there's snow and it's cold.

SU: I hear you're into new wave and punk, who's hot in that scene right now?

Oliver: Yeah, well I still love Rancid. I still think they are a great band and their last couple of records have fell short of what they have done in the past, but I think their first four records are unbelievable.

In terms of new-wave, well new-wave doesn't exist anymore, so I guess the best new-wave shit was Elvis Costello with the Attractions. This Year's Model is problem the best new-wave record of all time, there is no doubt about it.

SU: Who brought in the idea of starting to include keyboards on some songs?

Oliver: I don't know, I guess it just kinda happened. When Dave and Tim record all the songs that are going to be for the Stills, they use this little keyboard for the drum beat on the recording and they just sorta realized that it would be cool to have that live too and it would add a lot of texture to the music. So we called up Leon and said, "hey man, you wanna like tour the world for a couple years" and he was like, "yeah that sounds cool." He is a serious jazz hound so he doesn't have any problem playing the Stills stuff, so he will bring his sax on tour and just sorta chill out and play some jazz stuff. I studied a little bit of jazz too, so sometimes we will just hang out and play some cool stuff.

SU: So don't you think this whole "The" band thing is getting out of control?

Oliver: Really. I keep thinking that apart from the grunge revolution, every single era of music has millions of "The" bands. Maybe if I do a solo project it won't be a "The". Yeah you figured they would run out, but there is always more.

SU: I would ask about the band's name, but it has been pretty well documented.

Oliver: Yeah, it is pretty boring.

SU: Well, there is a bit of a story to it; I mean it is better than something just completely random.

Oliver: Well it was pretty random.

SU: OK, you win.

Oliver: Yeah I was on the road with this ska band filling in so I could make some money so that we could go to New York. I got a call from everybody and they were brainstorming a whole bunch of names. It got down to like two names and one of them was Die Berlin, and the other one was The Stills. So Die Berlin was a bit much and the whole Electro Clash thing was really big, so it was like no fucking way, so I thought, "yeah the Stills is cool." We are pretty lazy people, we don't move around much, and hopefully we will stick around for a long time, so we'll still be around. So, it made sense it seemed. Lazing and determined to stick around (laughs).

SU: Now that you have been in the public eye a bit, have been touring like crazy, and have run the press gamuts at least once or twice, are you still happy with the way things are going? Has the success been everything you expected?

Oliver: It's not everything I expected it to be when I was 12 years old and I wished I was signed to a major label, but it is everything that we had planned for this band. Everything we thought it was going to be, it has been almost exactly. Except that I didn't know you could send a band out on the road that much with no breaks (laughs). I didn't know you could do that, but it has happened. So yeah it's great though, it's a lot fun.

SU: If it kinda peered off from this point would you be happy with the success of the band or are you looking for more?

Oliver: No, we are looking for more definitely.

SU: I'm sure you have other projects you turn to in downtime with the Stills, anything you want to mention?

Oliver: Well I am kinda putting together my own personal stuff and it is really weird because I am starting by finding the song titles and the name of the band, then the names of the record, and the lyrics, and then I'll write the music. So I have 3 titles and I have the name of the band. So it would be called "Kill Dave", which is funny because Dave wanted to call his solo thing "Kill Me". Then I came up with…you remember that video game Shinobi?

SU: Yeah.

Oliver: One of the songs will be called, "Whatever happened to Shinobi" and we played this place in Leeds called the Cockpit, and we were like come on, this has to be a gay bar. But it wasn't, so I thought it would be fun to have a song called "Welcome to the Cockpit". Then, when you fly over the Atlantic in Greenland the only city that appears, and you see it for like four hours, is Godthab. I was like, "what the fuck is Godthab?" So I googled it and there is nothing on this city other than the weather or something. So I decided I would have a song called "Godthab Where Art Thou". Because I thought for anyone who has taken a plane over the Atlantic, they would be like, yeah, what the fuck is up with that? So that's all I got. No music, no text.

SU: So you have a good album name and some song titles and that's it?

Oliver: Also, don't forget there is also Whorenet. It is Ryan Adams on drums, Tim on vocals, and Dave on guitar. There should be some music coming out this summer. It is heavy metal, but it is really quite good. I am kinda working the management end of Whorenet, so we are thinking of sending the boys down to New York and having them work with Ryan and hopefully putting out some great stupid metal music (laughs).

SU: I know lot of Logic… originated as solo demos on 4-track - what do the new songs you've all been writing sound like?

Oliver: Well it's all Tim and Dave right, so Tim's new songs sound kinda like his old ones, but just a step up…more orchestral and crazier ideas. Then Dave's new songs are completely different from his old ones. So it is going to be like Tim making that gap between Logic… and the new one and Dave turning it around and making lots of new stuff. I think it is going to be a really cool record. It is so far away, but we're already really excited about it.

SU: I actually have a quote where Dave had described the new songs as "Bob Dylan meets the Flaming Lips."

Oliver: Yeah, definitely a lot more American sounding I think, where Dave's old songs sound more British.

SU: When do you think we might see some of the music surfacing?

Oliver: We are going to work on a lot of new stuff in July and August. We are going to get a new jam space and paint it and get some couches and waste a lot of money and then just sit down and write and get into it.

SU: I noticed that you have started a thread on the band's message board in which you are answering fans questions. What made you decide to reach out and interact more with the fans?

Oliver: Well I remember writing bands or trying to talk to bands and communicate with people that I liked what they were doing and A. I was either to shy to talk to them, or B. they never wrote back. I always thought that was kinda shitty and it asks so little of me to do that. To me it is really important. I am the one that does all the fan mail and sees the message board, and it just makes people happy man.

SU: It is such a great thing for fans to have that connection and that interaction.

Oliver: Yeah exactly, and we aren't anything special. We are just normal dudes and we put out a good record and it got a lot of press. But the thing with the media and everything is that a lot of times they blow up people's personalities. I mean you could blow up a record and say that it is amazing at that it is one of the best records of the year and that's great. But sometimes people blow up musicians to like a myth kind of status and I don't know, but to me that doesn't make much sense. Personally I just feel like everybody else and I just want to make sure that's understood.

SU: What is the meaning behind the feathers on the album cover? What was it like working with design collective Surface2Air?

Oliver: Well we wanted the art to be kinda dark and kinda artsy, and they (Surface2Air ) had all these different designs, but then they came up with these feather things which we really thought it was beautiful. I don't know if we ever put a meaning to it, but it can be interpreted in a lot of different ways and it is up to people to interpret it whichever way they want.

SU: Those guys are kinda well know in the design community, what made you decide to go with them, or was that a label decision?

Oliver: Well Vice Records knew the guy from Surface2Air and we ended up meeting him, and we were like, fuck this guy is so cool. So we hung out with him a lot and he would show up at shows and we would drink and he is just a really bizarre and interesting dude. So we were like, wow let's hook up and do some art for us. So yeah, Gordon from Surface2Air is one serious cat, and we decided we had to work with him.

SU: I think it turned out great.

May 7 2004