STOOR return to the Cool Cat Club on Saturday for their third appearance in little over a year.
It’s a special occasion as, after two support slots, this will not only be the band’s first headline show but, more importantly, it’s also the launch for their debut LP ‘Chronicles 1986-2020’.
Of all the bands that Andy’s introduced me to through the Cool Cat Club, STOOR are absolutely one of my favourites. They made an immediate connection with me on their first appearance in April last year and looking back at the show at the time I suggested Wire and some Flying Nun acts as possible influences.
The thing is today listening to ‘Chronicles 1986-2020’, although they’re operating in a not dissimilar post-punk landscape, I don’t think that on record many of the songs sound a lot like Wire. What’s undeniable though is that they share Wire’s sense of ambition and scope.
At times their melodies are tightly coiled and nagging yet at others they are more expansive. So on the likes of ‘Infected’ or ‘Witchfinder’ they do agit-pop very well indeed but they can also successfully take on art-dance-punk as ‘Aye No’ demonstrates by channelling the spirit of early B-52s.
Meanwhile ‘Secret World of Cement’ (one of three instrumentals on the record) somehow manages to filter the Shadows through the Gang of Four.
Curiously, the one band that I perhaps think that (bits of) ‘Chronicles …’ do sound like is a name that’s rarely cast up in the 21st century – the Three Johns. There’s undoubtedly a distinct vibe of the Johns on songs like ‘Devil Rides Out’ and ‘Open The Box’.
But STOOR have more obvious tunes as well and ‘Frack’ is the sort of song that could have been a left field chart hit (albeit probably at around #38) in the late 70s.
In brief ‘Chronicles 1986-2020’ may well be the best record by a band you’ve never heard of this year so I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with STOOR live on Saturday.
To help preview the album launch, MPT caught up with drummer Scott McKinlay at the weekend to look back on what had brought STOOR to this point and also discuss the intricacies of 7/4 time and a trip to America that never happened. Over to Scott.
“As I mentioned before STOOR was started by our grandparents around 1914/15, so we’re the third STOOR. I don’t think the previous versions released anything but we’ve recorded a few of those old songs.
“One is from around about 1952, which was a jazz swing big band thing! We had some trouble playing and recording that!! Can anyone tell me how you change a 7/4 timing into 4/4? If I remember correctly we just missed out some notes.
“The current band did release a single a long time ago, which sold out, and we pressed another but we never released it, and now we’ve done this album. All of them have been on vinyl. I actually saw the first single on eBay recently selling for a whole £3.50!!”
Scott has fond memories of his first ever STOOR gig even if it didn’t quite lead to the sort of opportunity that he had dreamt of at the time.
“It was fantastic; we promoted and supported Man or Astroman in Dundee. If anyone hasn’t heard of them you should look them up. They are amazing! We thought the buggers would reciprocate and invite us to America, but we’re still waiting!”
Although they have a deep back catalogue to mine, STOOR continue to write new material and Scott gave me an insight into how this works.
“I was going to say very easily, we steal everything, but that wouldn’t be strictly true. Well not consciously anyway.
“Generally someone comes up with a riff or a bass or a drum thing and we work on it from there. It’s quite funny, sometimes Stef comes up with a completed song, we then play it and totally change it, and he spends the next 2 years muttering about how it doesn’t sound right.
“We’ve got a new song which we’re going to play at the launch, which was written while messing about in rehearsals 3 weeks ago, and none of us have any idea how it came about! In fact we’re not entirely sure it’s even ours!”
Having previously listed some of STOOR’s musical influences at some length, Scott is more concise in listing the non-musical influences on the record.
“Loads of films, strange nights out, and the fear of death!”
Last time Scott had suggested that STOOR were considering around 50 songs for the album. He suggests that the process of whittling these down to an album wasn’t as traumatic as might have been expected.
“It was actually quite easy. The 11 songs on the album are the only ones we could find the masters for!! We’ll have to hunt for the rest, we’ve got them on mp3 etc, but the masters could be anywhere! If anyone reading this knows where they are, please get in touch.”
Releasing the album is clearly a significant event in STOOR’s history (in fact, if you believe Scott, ‘Chronicles …’ has come out to mark their centenary!) but given their tangential career he doesn’t think it will have a huge impact on the STOOR lifestyle.
“Probably that we’ll never ever have to work again! Or more likely that we will!
“It just means we can move onto doing some more recording. We’ve got quite a lot of new songs we’d like to record.”
A recent trip to play Manchester helped put the bill together for Saturday’s show (at Beat Generator Live in Dundee) – all thanks to a method of communication that would not have been available to previous STOOR generations as Scott recounts.
“A long strange social media story cut short. One of my favourite bands was The Fall (until Steve Hanley left), and I “liked” a Fall Facebook page, ended up chatting to the guy who ran the page, he looked us up on YouTube, liked what he heard and invited us to play in Manchester.
“That’s how we met the band Kill Pretty, who are coming up from Manchester to play at the launch. They have former Fall drummer, Mike Leigh, and ex Blue Orchids bass player Chris Dutton playing for them, although they’re nothing like either band.
As ever, it seems, STOOR are living for the moment even though they have an excellent album to promote.
“We’ve no plans after the launch, we’re not very good at this marketing thing! Everything we’ve done for the past year, which was only 7 or 8 gigs, was from being invited. We’ve never been comfortable with self-promotion, it always feels forced so we don’t do it.”
The fact that STOOR are not going to be out there pushing this record is both a shame but it also makes the record even more special. Discovering STOOR may be a challenge but it’s a challenge which will reward the effort – so consider this piece your invitation to investigate.
STOOR launch ‘Chronicles 1986-2020’ at the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live in Dundee this Saturday. The album will be available on vinyl (with a download code) at the show.
More info on STOOR on Facebook.
Here’s one of the tracks from the album: