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hurrengoa
tindersticks elkarrizketa/interview by: aritz branton   I  argazkia/shots by: steve gullick “The centre of things from where everything stems is not where I belong” sang Stuart Staples, Tindersticks' singer, in 1993's “City Sickness”. And this English group has kept on the same route ever since, keeping off the tracks laid by almost all other groups. The group came together in 1991 in Nottingham and has since brought out eight albums, the latest being this year's “Falling Down a Mountain”. “Tindersticks” are small, thin pieces of wood taken from trees and bushes. Great fires are started using these little branches. The group's name may come from the idea that simple melodies can be used to compose beautiful songs. The group has its own, particular style. Their songs are elegant, full of feeling and, sometimes, ironic and humorous too. Tindersticks' special sound is defined by their instrumentation, Stuart Staples' deep, fine voice and the group's sophisticated taste. We spoke with David Boulter, the group's keyboard player and one of the composers. Aritz Branton: You’ve just brought out your eighth studio album, you’ve played hundreds of concerts, and now there are three new members in the band. But Tindersticks has still got its own, particular style.

David Boulter: A lot of it has to do with Stuart’s voice, along with that the overall approach of everyone involved. It’s not about wanting people to look at you on stage or success, it’s something inside that you feel has to come out. It’s not easy to find a group of people who have that same kind of drive. Music brought Stuart, Neil and me together in our teens and it keeps us together.

AB: The new album feels more like a group album than “The Hungry Saw” did.

DB: There’s more openness and letting things happen. A lot of the songs were written while we were on tour for “The Hungry Saw”, so it was in dressing-rooms or whatever, we messed around with different ideas. It’s still very much Tindersticks, and there’s space to move in the future as well.

AB: Was it easy to make “Falling Down a Mountain”?

DB: It was to begin with. Each song felt very good to us, but then making it all fit together was difficult because we always try to look for a story. We had 16, 17 songs and we had to lose a few to make it all work. It feels like there’s something happening with our music that’s a bit different, the next step’s somewhere exciting and somewhere to go. It’s similar to our first record, it goes where it wants to go, there are a lot of sounds on it.

AB: Is there a conscious decision to have variety on each record?

DB: I think it’s instinctive. When we began, people used to say our records were like soundtracks. It wasn’t a conscious effort, but we felt each album told a story. That’s why there are instrumental breaks and duets, different people’s voices. For us an album’s a whole story.

AB: On “Waiting for the Moon” you have “My Oblivion”, a melancholy sounding song, followed by “Just a Dog”, something that sounds very happy but doesn’t have particularly happy lyrics.

DB: Stuart felt that “My Oblivion” is a very special, beautiful song, and then you need something that makes you change the way you feel straight away. It makes those songs little islands on the record. On the last album we had a song called “The Other Side of the World” between two instrumentals which gave it space to breathe.

AB: How do you work on your songs, or ideas for songs, before recording them?

DB: Some of the best ideas are vague and then people respond to them and they becomes something you didn’t expect, for example the first track on the new album, “Falling Down a Mountain”. Stuart had this idea for some lyrics, a rhythm, a melody, and a bass-line, but it just exploded from that in two hours, and that was the recording finished. It got edited a bit, vocals got added, the trumpet got added, but the basic track was done very quickly.

AB: I reckon making a happy sounding song, without it being banal or trite, is very difficult, but it’s something Tindersticks does brilliantly on things like “Harmony around my Table”.

DB: It’s a very doubtful song, almost written in a negative way, but it’s got a very positive outlook in the way it sounds, you want things to work even though you’re not sure they can any more. A lot of soul music you dance to is the saddest music, it’s about relationships breaking down but it’s got this beat and this great vibe about it that makes you feel really good. That’s one of the reasons we’ve always been fascinated by soul music, it’s very uplifting, but at the same time it comes from black people being treated very badly for a few hundred years.

AB: “I’m just a dog, training to be a man, I’m just a dog, learning stuff I don’t understand”. Is playing music still a learning experience for you?

DB: Definitely. Over the years we’ve played with various musicians, some of them are classically trained, but sometimes those people don’t have very much soul about them. They can play every note, it’s so easy for them, but one of the things that keeps us going is that we struggle all the time to achieve the things we want to achieve, whether that’s a piano part or writing a great song, it’s something that doesn’t come easily and that’s what keeps us going.