How ironic is it that one of the most talked about bands sound British and has adopted New York City image, yet they’re actually a self-proclaimed “bunch of peppers from Montreal”. Pretty damn ironic, I say, since the Stills have been dubbed the “best band to ever come out of Montreal” by several industry insiders, although most Montrealers probably couldn’t pick them out of a line up.
Even though some don’t believe it, the Stills are not from New York City, and trust me, they’ll be the first to let you know. Although they got their start in New York in the summer of 2002, playing gigs on a weekly basis and recording their demo. As guitarist Tim Fletcher says, “Montreal plays a very formative role in our band,” a formative role, in more ways than one. The band got their start thanks to former Me, Mom & Morgentaler band members Adam ‘Baltimore Bix’ Berger and Gus ‘Van Go’ Coriandoli. The duo headed to New York a few years back to start Smitty’s. The band went nowhere but it gave the duo the experience needed to pave the way for their friends, drummer Dave Hamelin and guitarist Tim Fletcher. One night at Bifteck, Dave and Tim decided to take Bix and Gus up on their offer to make them huge rock stars. Along with friends, bassist Oliver Crowe and guitarist Greg Paquet, the guys quickly became New York’s next ‘It’ band (or should I say ‘The’ band), selling out shows at Bowery Ballroom and signing to Vice Records. So was it ‘salut l’gang’? Had they left Montreal for good?
Back home, every struggling artist took a break from their husking gigs to resent the newly successful band. “Montreal bands pay their dues at home and then go to the US and try to get people to listen to them, we did the reverse,” claims Fletcher. And now they’re paying for it, big time. “Now we have to live up to the somewhat undeserving hype, prove ourselves to the cynics back home. We would have much preferred an organic growth in Montreal.” It would be unfair however to say that they didn’t pay their dues. The Stills do after all, consist mainly of former members of the Undercovers, a local ska band whose instant rise and eventual fall occurred prematurely. “If you’re good in Montreal, you’re only good in Montreal,” says Hamelin, “we wanted to go international.” Hey, tink big ‘sti!
Thanks to Bix and Gus’ NY connections, the boys got to tour and hang out with bands like Interpol, Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Echo & the Bunnymen. They even scored a stint with Ryan Adams at the Leeds and Reading festivals in England, where they were widely accepted by hard-to-please crowds. Their first headlining tour started in the US in January where they were surprised to actually be selling out shows. “The vibe is different now, more people are coming out who have already heard of us, already know the album and their appreciation and enthusiasm is evident, almost overwhelming”, says Fletcher. However, they had no expectations for their homecoming, “we just hope to see new people at the Montreal show and curious people who want to see what we’re all about.” They definitely got what they wished for. Their show Saturday night at Cabaret du Plateau was packed with friends, fans and critics.
The songs may be dark and moody but the show was anything but. The crowd made themselves heard as the band ripped up the stage with all the good stuff Logic Will Break Your Heart has to offer. The show was off to a strong start with Lola Stars and Stripes and ending with Hamelin’s rendition of Yesterday Never Tomorrows, as he flailed about the stage as only a rocker could get away with. If it was a conscious effort to prove them worthy of all the hype, they did a damn good job.
Some may think they are a carbon copy of The Strokes, or sound as sophisticated as Coldplay, but their 80’s spiked tunes and romantic lyrics are clearly a unique genre of music. “The album is about defeatism, about giving up,” says Hamelin. As a band, the Stills have proven that it will take a lot for them to be defeated, and they are definitely not about to give up.
To hear the Stills or find out more about the band: www.TheStills.net
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