The Stills' debut Logic Will Break Your Heart began as a friendly four-track recording competition between drummer Dave Hamelin and singer/guitarist Tim Fletcher. "He's not competitive," says Hamelin of Fletcher. "But I'm a really competitive person. If he ever does something I really like, I have to respond. When he wrote 'Fevered,' I wrote 'Changes Are No Good' -- I was pissed at him."
From New York via Montreal, Hamelin, Fletcher, guitarist Greg Paquet and bassist Oliver Crowe expanded on their four-track sketches during a frenzied six-week session in a windowless basement in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. "We just blazed through everything," says Hamelin. "We were all frazzled and crazy towards the end of it. We were brainstorming every night to finish lyrics, artwork, arrangements. Everything was really on the fly. It's a miracle it came out how it did."
Having graduated beyond the competitive stage, Hamelin and Fletcher act as each other's foils on the album with the former writing sneering punch lines ("See me change, changes are no good") for the latter's melodramatic, melancholy tenor to deliver. "Everybody is just laughing off the situations that are the most fucked-up situations in the world," says Hamelin. "We're trying to express removed sentiment and feeling, knowing Africa is going to shit and knowing the war in Iraq is a load of garbage. You have to downplay it. If you don't, you'll crumble up inside."
On a recent tour with Ryan Adams, the Stills explored their lighter side with Adams in an impromptu heavy metal side project called Whornet, whose minimal repertoire included the Slayer parody "Seasons of the Bitch." "He creates a really good atmosphere," says Hamelin of Adams. "He's very free and open, creatively. Very impetuous. We'd talked about doing a heavy metal band and he walked into our dressing room one night with a list of song titles and said, 'I'll be back in twenty minutes. Write these songs, and we'll play them.'"
While many of the album's songs reference other artists by name, or allude to their work, Hamelin claims that for the most part, "Of Montreal," "Allison Krausse," "Yesterday Never Tomorrows" and "Let's Roll" -- which specifically mentions a plane on a runway -- are nothing more than titles. "When I wrote 'Let's Roll' I showed it to our tour manager and he was like, 'You know Neil Young wrote song about that for 9/11,'" says Hamelin. "I had no idea. That one is interpreted to mean certain things but it doesn't mean those things. As for 'Of Montreal,' we figured if anyone has right to rip that off, we do."
The Stills' tour dates:
1/23: Detroit, The Shelter
1/24: Cincinnati, Top Cats
1/26: Chicago, Empty Bottle
1/27: Cleveland, Grog Shop
1/28: Baltimore, Fletchers
1/29: New York, Bowery Ballroom
1/30: Philadelphia, North Star
1/31: New York, Bowery Ballroom
2/3 Boston, T.T. the Bears
2/4: Hartford, Webster Theater Underground
2/5: Providence, The Call
2/7: Montreal, Cabaret Du Plateau
2/26: Los Angeles, Troubadour