Music » Music Feature

Stills life

Canadian quartet the Stills freeze-frame heartache


Fame is a double-edged sword. Now that Canadian quartet the Stills has made a name for itself, drummer Dave Hamelin would like to correct one misconception: George Bush isn't his president and his country is notably gun-free. The Stills -- vocalist/guitarist Tim Fletcher, drummer/ vocalist Dave Hamelin, guitarist Greg Paquet and bass player Oliver Crowe -- do sound a bit like Interpol, and have toured with several New York bands reviving a post-punk sound, including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Strokes. And the Montreal rockers did trek to NYC to record their first album, Logic Will Break Your Heart (Vice/Atlantic, 2003). But don't mistake the Stills for a New York band.

"We'll say we're not from New York, but then they'll put us as a New York band anyway," says Hamelin, with a faint glimmer of irritation. Beyond the telltale Canadian vowel-stretching, his voice betrays pride as he rattles off a list of his country's bands that are starting to make it: Broken Social Scene, US, the Hidden Cameras, the Dears, the Unicorns, the Constantines, Death from Above and Metric.

Though fresh off several U.K. dates with the Shins and the Walkmen, and a spot at Coachella (where Hamelin was "ecstatic" about the Pixies' appearance), these particular North American indie-throwback-hipster rockers started innocently enough. "We set out to conquer the world," says Hamelin, quickly qualifying that the band doesn't want to be as big as U2, despite the recent, ambitious mainstream appearances on MTV and MTV2.

A series of explosions -- from small-label darlings into the full-fledged spotlight -- has already been set in motion, owing to Logic's taste for youth, quiet desperation, undulating guitar riffs and melodic driving bass. The music echoes the Church's luxuriant guitar layering; it recalls the gloomy churning sounds of Echo and the Bunnymen (with whom the Stills have toured); but it also heavily reflects today's indie-rock scene, including nigh-plucky keyboard sounds that pop up on several tracks.

Fletcher's rich, earnest voice blends artfully over the bass and guitar -- almost always layered in full, affected walls of sound -- and drives the record across a confused landscape of identity, images and broken hearts. The musical mood of Logic doesn't really lift until after the opening strain of the notably brighter last song, "Yesterday Never Tomorrows," but there's an impression that the band is trying on different approaches to sadness to see how they fit.

And nothing brings more sadness than a girl breaking a boy's heart: Both "Love and Death" and "Still in Love Song" are supported by a repetitive, driving, "sit in the corner and let the tears fall" aesthetic that conjures up images of intense and confused boy-love, all of which encourages the lonely and sympathetic to put the tracks on repeat, especially "Still in Love Song." The words hypnotically ooze and meld over each other:

"We were make-believers/Just losing time/And you said you'd rather live in T.V. Land/Than say that you care/But you don't/That's heartless/And I/Will not cry/But I'm still in love/Still in love. ..."

Logic's last guitar strains strike a chord with sensitive boys and the girls who love them, their dreams like feathers drifting in the breeze.

At present, however, Hamelin likes to keep a studied distance from the whole album. Not that he's rejecting Logic. The album's not a reflection of any harrowingly melancholy memories for the group -- it's as much a part of the band as its Canadian heritage. But Hamelin feels dwelling on songs from what seems like the now distant past won't push the group forward to its next, as yet unrevealed, incarnation.

"I don't listen to it," says Hamelin. "I don't walk down the street going, 'Lola, Lola' [from the first track, "Lola Stars and Stripes," one of several politically charged songs on the album]. I'm humming Stevie Nicks songs and Fleetwood Mac and Aphex Twin. We definitely are not listening to the same kinds of stuff that we were four or five years ago. Four or five years ago, I was listening to Radiohead every single second of every day. Obviously, on our new record, we're not hoping it'll be a departure from our last record -- it will be. By the time we get to Atlanta, we might be playing new stuff."

Add a comment