Stanley Blacks Interview: Disorder Magazine

Usually an unsigned Brit band’s life constitutes lugging equipment out the back of a rusty van and a cider ‘on the house’ at the end of the night.But The Stanley Blacks have bagged a LA tour, chilled with legendary stars, recorded with an award-winning producer and even had one of their tunes played on the USA version of Shameless. They tell Disorder about their crazy American highs and how they’re setting sight on winning back home in the UK.

The Stanley Blacks from Woking, Surrey, are about to play Camden’s The Dublin Castle; it’s hardly a palace compared to the places they’ve played across the Atlantic yet this intimate gig venue has launched the careers of big names from Madness to Coldplay, and a break on UK soil is exactly what this band are hungering for today.

Coolly scruffy-haired, with a couple of days’ stubble, they slump around a small candlelit table in the heaving pub. The guys seem tense, choosing not to drink before the show – hoping this is the night they are talent-spotted and signed. The band reflect on how the rain-soaked streets of London and the small, wooden pubs that whiff of ale are completely different from the sandy, sunny palm-lined roads of LA or the luxuriant interiors of bars like the Dakota Lounge in Santa Monica that they played this time last year.

The boys also went to LA’s Record Plants studio, recording their debut album with Grammy award-winning producer, Bob Cutarella who has worked with the likes of Pink Floyd to R.E.M. Some of rock’s biggest names have recorded in Record Plants; it’s famed for the production of Jimi Hendrix’s classic Electric Ladyland. Not bad for a group aged between 20-24 years old and comprised of old school mates from a small town who decided to name the band Stanley Blacks after the UK composer and band leader.

Their lucky break in the USA came from a chance cyber encounter on their MySpace page. Drummer Matt explains with a cheeky grin, “This woman from LA added our MySpace, liked our stuff and sent a demo off to the right people. Next thing we’re playing shows in America. They were fantastic, the crowds were really responsive.” Ashley, lead singer, clad in denim and towering over everyone, leans his elbows on the table, “It’s amazing we ended up in LA through the power of MySpace and Twitter.”

Finding themselves recording in the studio with Cutarella, they say, was incredible. Bassist James jokes, “He’s a nutcase, in a really good way.” Ashley adds, “He pushed me to change my approach to my vocals, which created great results.”

“The most surreal moment at the Record Plant was meeting Timbaland as he came into studios at 2am, we also bumped into Pharrell Williams too which was pretty cool,” recalls Matt.

The Stanley Black’s album, Glow, was finished at the end of 2010 and they’ve since released singles in the UK. Again, luck reached the band in the form of more exposure overseas. Their single ‘Glow ‘was picked to feature on the soundtrack to the USA version of Shameless, thanks to the same woman from MySpace, who they wish to keep anonymous. Matt chuckles, “I find it amusing to think that a song written by a couple of lads from Woking was beamed into hundreds of thousands of American houses.”

Maybe it’s the obvious youthful, British eccentricity with a likely-lad charm that has struck a chord with the Americans so far. It’s blatant from the Stanley Black’s music that they’re fans of artists like The Beatles and The Jam, plus there’s a huge Strokes and Killers influence. Singer Ashley uses soaring vocals in a Brandon Flowers style alongside the group’s heavily catchy riffs. Listening to their tunes is like a shot of indie-rock adrenalin, the music climbs and climaxes with biting guitar melodies and ace rhythmic drums.

It’s perhaps not surprising then, when playing a pub on the local Surrey scene, a legendary Brit rockstar was in the audience and liked what he heard. The Jam’s drummer, Rick Buckler, has become somewhat of a mentor since seeing them play and has taken the lads out for a pint and some ice-cold advice. Lead guitarist, John explains, “He gave us warnings about the music business, like what crookedness to look out for when it comes to record companies and agents.” Ashley continues, “He basically said how there’s a lot of bullshit in the industry and how not to fall for any of it.”

Though they’ve had a kick-start and a taste of the high life, they’re back on British soil, back down-to-earth and chasing that signing. Meanwhile they’re releasing singles independently and playing gigs, like this summer’s Guilfest. The band’s new video for the single, Everest, directed by Aziz Vora, was shot with a Red One camera used for Hollywood movies. Matt concludes with a wink and a smile, “I heard Peter Jackson requests Red Cameras for all his movies, so if it’s good enough for shooting hobbits and wizards in Lord of the Rings, it’s good enough for us.”

Words: Jameela Oberman

Pics: Saul Photography & Jennifer Gilmour

Exclusive to Disorder magazine, Everest music video:

Article orginally published in Disorder,


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