Music Interview: The Hanging Stars

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‘Three Rolling Hills’ was inspired by a trip to Marin County, in California, to hang out with friends from the band Asteroid No. 4. Can you tell me what happened?

RO: I can’t tell you anything that’s printable! It was awesome, but we ended up getting into a weird situation.

What’s influenced a lot of our records is us hanging out with other bands that are good pals of ours – like The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

There are recurring lyrical themes on the album – the idea of escaping and getting away to a better place. On the title track, you sing: “had enough of today – of the grey skies and rain – think I’ll pack all my bags and start walking away…” There’s a lyric on ‘I Was A Stone’ which says: “When the world is cruel and mean, I’ll show you the way to your dreams…”

RO: I wrote ‘I Was A Stone’ about my children – it’s about how much light they shine into my soul.

‘A New Kind Of Sky’ is about Brexit – it was one of those songs that wrote itself.

‘I Will Please You’, which was the third single from the album, has some pounding piano on it and is a bit glam and very poppy – it has some ‘bah-bah-bah’ backing vocals. It’s a different kind of song for you…

SF: Patrick came up with the piano riff during one of the interludes in our rehearsal sessions – I started singing the backing vocals and Rich started humming a melody.

RO: I think it’s quite British and a bit Small Faces – I’m a massive fan of the Small Faces, but I hate the way that the mods have hijacked that band. As far as I’m concerned, the Small Faces should be spoken about in the same breath as Love. Look at Ronnie Lane – there was so much folk and country music in the Small Faces...

The lyric for ‘I Will Please You’, is written from the point of view of someone who’s joined a cult. What inspired it?

RO: I think I was watching Wild Wild Country at the time…

What can you tell me about ‘Heavy Blue’ – which has a drinking theme – and the very personal ballad ‘Song For Fred Neil?’

RO: ‘Heavy Blue’ is about finding yourself in a place where you wouldn’t normally be – and it’s not necessarily a good thing.

I’m really fond of ‘Song For Fred Neil’ – I like self-confessional songs. It’s a love song to music – how it can genuinely touch you – but it doesn’t sound anything like Fred Neil. His music means so much to me, but it took me a long time to get into him.

SF: Rich and Patrick recorded ‘Song For Fred Neil’ in a studio in Nashville. When I heard it, it was clear that nothing needed to be added to it – it’s so beautiful.

With a new album out and some live dates coming up over the next few months, how are you feeling about 2020?

Editor's Note: This interview was made before COVID-19 and the lockdowns hit!

SF: We’re really looking forward to playing gigs around the UK – we’re doing quite a few dates. This record feels like a long time in gestation, but I’m super-proud of it. I’m really looking forward to people hearing it.

RO: When you release a record, you can feel like a lost ship on the ocean, but there are a lot of people who suddenly give a s*** about us, which is really nice. We’ve got a lovely fan base.

Would you like to get bigger and go to the next level?

SF: If McDonald’s suddenly wants psychedelic-country-space-rock…

Would you do it?

SF: Yes. We have worked so hard to put the stuff out that we have, so if someone comes along and says, ‘here’s a bit of money…’

Ninety or 95 per cent of people who get big record deals are those who’ve been to places like The BRIT School – you have to have come from quite a comfortable background, rather than a working class one. I find it depressing that they’re the only people who get a shot.

Rich and I aren’t from comfortable backgrounds. I wouldn’t classify myself as poor working class, but, when I was a kid, my parents sacrificed a lot to get me a guitar. You shouldn’t knock people who come from a poorer background who take the money when they’re offered it.

In the past, when you made a deal with a record label, even if the money was low, you got a good proportion of what you were owed – that’s now disappeared completely.

RO: Things have changed so much – it’s now a completely different game. I have friends who can sell out Shepherd’s Bush Empire but they still have to have day jobs.

Bring on the next level whenever you f***ing want, because I’ll deal with it.

A New Kind Of Sky by The Hanging Stars is out now on Crimson Crow.
thehangingstars.com

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