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Music Interview: The Stills

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t’s
impossible to talk about the Stills without using the words
gorgeous, nostalgic
and, for the more thesaurus-oriented, resplendent.
To this array, I’d like to add two more: Molly
Ringwald
, who I like to imagine sitting in her peach bedroom on the wrong side of
the tracks while fashioning an ugly shirt out of curtains, or whatever
the hell she did in Pretty
in Pink
, while the Stills blare from her tinny boombox. They are that
’80s.

Drummer and main songwriter Dave Hamelin has a different word for it: romantic. “I
wear the smile, I wear the laugh, I’m in the backstage changing hats,” singer
Tim Fletcher sings on the Hamelin-penned tune “Changes Are No Good.” It’s a glimpse
into the conflict they must feel as a French-and-English-speaking Canadian band
assumed to be pretenders to the whole New York scene. This sense of alienation informs much
of their stunning debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart. We caught up with
Hamelin as he was trying to make his way home to Montreal. — Alison
M. Rosen

promotion

Is it strange writing songs and not being the singer?

Sometimes it’s kind of weird, but sometimes it helps. I wrote “Still in Love Song” and “Allison Krauss” a long time ago, about somebody I really don’t feel that way about anymore.

Who is Allison Krauss?

The song was originally called “Allison.” It was about this girl I went out with called Allison. Then we wanted to make it about some Marlene Dietrich, Lola Lola-type character, and we wanted a German name. So we added Krauss and made it about a German whore.

There’s a bluegrass performer named Alison Krauss.

Yeah, we found that out after. We’d also been thinking of Allison Horowitz. We should have gone with Horowitz.

Has your sex life improved since you’ve been in this band?

I have a girlfriend, so it’s gotten worse!

Where are you right now?

In a ditch in Burlington, Vermont.

Is it full of hippies?

A lot of hippies, and a lot of gay married couples walking down the street.

Well, you must feel quite at home then.

I know. It’s a fag homecoming for us.

Uh . . .

What
I
meant
by
that
is
I
think a lot of people think we’re gay-looking and call us gay. People scream
"fag" at
me
and
Tim.
Once he and I were walking down the street together, and we almost got beaten
up by a bunch of Americans who thought we were a gay couple. Men in Montreal and my friends don’t adhere
to gender stereotypes. When I call us fags, I mean that we’re not men in the
traditional sense of the word. None of us are homophobic. We freaked out our
British roadie the other day because we told him that we’d all made out with
each other. He lost his mind.

Did you actually all make out?

Yeah. It wasn’t like a sexual thing. It was just a fun thing. Our homosexuality was only a pose. It was before we were in a band together.

How did this happen?

It’s happened a couple times. We played Truth or Dare, and I ended up making
out with a lot of dudes. Another time it was New Year’s, about three years ago.
There
was a decree that at midnight everybody had to make out with everybody. I don’t
think it’s a bad or wrong thing. I think it’s just being a human being.

Do you consider yourself heterosexual?

Yeah.

After the first group makeout, was there any weirdness?

Oliver has a lot of facial hair, so it was kind of itchy. But aside from
that, no.
I completely forgot about it until we brought it up to our English roadie dude to freak him out. Talking about it here is giving it way too much credit. There’s nothing weird about same-sex affection in any way. I don’t necessarily
think everyone’s completely hetero. I’m not sure if sexual orientation
is a result of socialization or not.

So is Vermont a hippie homecoming for you also?

I don’t think any of us were hippies. [Thinks about it.] No, we weren’t hippies.

Were you anything?

I think we were punk. Some of us were rude boys for a bit. Both Tim and I were
metalheads, then rude boys. It’s pretty weird. Now we’re sad
and sensitive.

When you were a rude boy, what did that involve?

Wearing Specials T-shirts, listening to the Specials, loving the Specials, and
being
into Madness and the two-tone ska-dance craze. That was during our mid-to-late
teen
years.

And before that you were metalheads. Did you have to cut off a lot of hair to become a rude boy?

Yeah, we shaved our heads. Tim and I had really long hair
when we were in our metal band, Amentum.

What does that mean?

I have no idea. Some other guy found it. It’s some Latin word that’s supposed
to sound gothic.

It sounds misunderstood and menacing.

It sounds stupid and young. Adolescence is a horrible time for boys. Boys get
really angry at nothing, because they’re a lot stupider than girls. I think girls
are more focused in their anger. That’s why they get into cooler bands.

Have you outgrown your anger?

Well, right now I’m angry that there’s a snowstorm. I can’t get home, and
I was trying to make it home before my girlfriend went to work, and that’s what’s making me angry now. In general, I think the state of the world is very anger-inducing.

You live in Montreal, but a lot of people think you’re part of the New
York scene. Do you feel a part of it?


I think we’re more a part of the Montreal scene. I don’t think
we
occupy
the New York sphere musically
or visually. Most Montreal bands are really
on the romantic tip of things. The Dears are a fantastic band that aren’t big
in America. And there’s Rufus
Wainwright, Leonard Cohen. Montreal
has a romantic tone because of its subverted Europeanness.

What is “Love and Death” about?

It’s about the first summer I came to New York. I missed my girlfriend and felt
like I was becoming this person that she couldn’t count on anymore,
a useless human being to her. I was overcome by this feeling of helplessness
toward my own love life.

What about “Changes Are No Good?”

It’s also about that first summer in New York. We were meeting all these industry
types and you feel this necessity to befriend everybody and to schmooze and perform
fellatio on lots of people. I felt I was becoming this different person, this
cocksucker individual who was really far from anything honest.

Have you ever had sex to your own record?

Never! My girlfriend can’t even listen to our record.

Why?

Because a lot of the tunes are about her.

Have you had sex by yourself to the record?

Never! I think it’s a good record, but I wouldn’t jerk off to our album. That
would be the ultimate form of narcissism, like megalomania in the flesh. I don’t
like myself that much.

Imagine jerking off to your album while looking in the mirror.

I could never do that! I don’t really jerk off to music anyway. I never put on music like I’m going to have myself a night and put on Barry White or Toots and the Maytals. I don’t know if you do that.

I like to take myself out to a nice dinner.

(laughs) I don’t want to dine myself and bring myself flowers.

So how does it happen on the road?

Well it doesn’t really happen often. Usually just wherever I can squeeze fifteen
minutes in. It’s almost not fun, like blowing your nose. Like I’m stuffed and
I just
need
to clear out. I want to remember how to get a boner when I get home, so you want
to keep it going somewhat.

On a scale of one to ten, with one being terrible and ten being amazing,
what kind of lover are you?


I can be anything from one through ten. I think everybody can.

What would your girlfriend say you are?

She’d say the same thing. When you’ve been with someone for two years, it’s not
always a ten.

How did you know your girlfriend was The One?

I don’t know if I know she’s the one now, but I like her. I don’t have an easy
time digesting the concept of The One. It’s like asking what kind of lover you
are. To
answer
that
would
imply a certain objectivity, and I think objectivity is sort of like infinity:
you can get really close to it, but you can never really
get to that one-hundred-percent-objective level. I love her and think she’s
great. We’ve been having a great time so far. So far she’s the one. I don’t see
a time where she wouldn’t be. But just based on principle, I don’t
know if she’s the one forever. Philosophically, I’d say that.

You met in film class, right? Then what happened?

I tried to talk to her a couple times after exams. I’d be like, “Hey, what’d
you
get?” Stupid shit like that. I think once after class, I asked her what she
was doing and it turned out we were going to the same show. The band played every
week in January in Montreal for a month, so I had four consecutive
easy dates with her. She had a boyfriend at the time, so it was kind of weird.
I was persistent.

She had a boyfriend? Suddenly it gets much more dramatic!

It was really dramatic. I had to get with her, and I didn’t know any other way.
I guess that makes me sort of an asshole.
I think the guy didn’t like me for a while, but now we’re good buddies. We go out drinking.

How did he stop hating you?

I think he met somebody else, and he realized my intentions were good. He’s a
really good guy, and I’m not an evil person either, so we talked things out.

How long did you know her before you got together?

Eight months. I hooked up with a couple other people casually during that time.

You hung in there for eight months?

It was a yearlong class. I had no choice.

 


To buy Logic Will Break Your Heart (Vice), click here.

Visit the Stills’ official website here.


   

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