[Interview] Stables and going Beyond Brushes

Mathew Lowe and Daniel Trenholme are Stables, a band formed this year which debuted one of the best albums of the year. Matthew answered to our questions on a impromptu tour-van interview.

Sometimes there are no explanations for how we discover a band. Stables was the perfect example of this. An occasional follow here and there and suddenly we were listening to a beautiful folk rock track called Meet You.

Digging a little bit more, we felt in love with their debut album, Beyond Brushes, in under a day, turning a very improbable discovery into one of our favorites of the year. As the album plays every single day since we discover them, we could not help to reach out and ask about all the pretty little things that made this project possible. Mathew Lowe found out the time to answer to our questions in a Keston Cobbler’s Club tour-van on their way to Torquay.  

Getting to know Stables

[WtMM] Hi there, how are you guys?
[Matthew Lowe] Hello! Very well thanks, Matthew here.

Can we begin with asking you, who are Stables?
Stables are myself (Matthew Lowe) and Daniel Trenholme.

How did you guys meet?
We met at School – Ravenswood – in Bromley in about 2001 I suppose. Daniel was in my form and we clicked through our obscure sense of humor and pure chance of being in the same form for 5 years.

Why wasn’t Stables formed before your other band projects, Keston Cobblers’ Club and The Lost Cavalry?
We only started Stables this year (we’re both 28), but we’ve been playing together off and on for the past 12 years. We both started quite late though in terms of playing in a band to the public – we both started Keston Cobblers’ Club in 2009, I wrote songs and Daniel played Drums, we were joined by Julia Lowe (my sister) and Tom Sweet. Sadly after a year or so Daniel had to leave us to persue a 6 year Architecture education, which he’s just finishing. The pull of music or envy of seeing Cobblers touring must have had a pull on Daniel though as last year he started drumming for The Lost Cavalry and then this year we decided that we’d start something, us two, from scratch and he’d ditch the drums and come up front, sing and play with me as a duo.

Sounding like Stables

When we first discovered you, we immediately think of Tallest Man on Earth (“Meet you” and “Steam”) and a bit of Local Natives (“Be Together”). Considering the first are one of your influences, was this something intentional?
There definitely is always going to be an element of Tallest Man that I use as an influence, never so much with Cobblers, which was originally more dance based, but now with Stables – I’ve seen him 3 times live, the first two times solo as he played all the time until recently adding a band. One of the things that always grabbed me with Kristian was his ability to hold an audience all on his own for over an hour. Very few soloists can hold my attention for longer than 30 minutes live, there’s just a lack of variety. But with The Tallest Man on Earth; he showed me you don’t need a full band to keep up the energy, he’s full of movement and dynamic changes. We decided if he could do it on his own, we could definitely do it with two of us and perhaps add a little extra thickness. We want people to be able to dance at our shows if they fancy it, we want energy and to have the power of a full band.

You describe your sound as alternative Folk and your influences are not only on Tallest Man on Earth but also on big names like Simon and Garfunkel, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear and Beirut. Do you think on these bands’ sound when making your own?
I always have. I guess my writing for Stables has quite a central line of style down the whole album. For those people who know my Cobblers stuff as well, you’ll know I like to mix it up a bit here and there. With Stables I knew I had to write stuff we could do justice on stage with the two of us, so concentrate on a strong melody with strong harmony and a couple of integral instruments. I thicken up the sound on the album and in the studio I definitely experiment with slightly more orchestral sounds and even synths, but ultimately this album was great for me as I was writing for us two to be able to (hopefully) smash on stage. There’s clear sounds from the guys you mention in my writing though, from the brass of Beirut, to the harmonies of Paul Simon, to the experimental sounds of Bon Iver and Grizzly – I’m excited about getting stuck in with even more next album.

How does your creative process to write and compose songs goes about?
I think generally I’ve found a good flow these days. I used to be slow and over think it. I now surround myself with instruments. I have an instrument room. I sit in it and pick up an instrument, I guess often a guitar for this album and then I just mess about till something clicks, it feels right. I might try and sing on top, or I may record on my phone and come back to it in a week and see if it still grabs me. I’m lucky enough to have my own studio and self-produce so then, if the concept works for me and the idea feels strong, I can then experiment with instrumentation and structure in the studio and really play around, during this process I keep Dan in the loop and send him all my ideas and get him over to help track the songs. I’ve taught my self to produce from just having to get on with it for Cobblers. It has it’s disadvantages as I sometimes struggle to get a sound I want and have to work at it, but the advantage is I can experiment with my brand new tracks there and then and bring them to life on the same day I write them if I want. This is incredibly useful as the track is still so new to me, I can just enjoy it.

The Debut with Beyond Brushes

beyond brushes stables

Beyond Brushes is your musical debut as Stables, was this an album both of you ever wanted to make?
Yes we both talked about the direction we wanted to take our first album, we didn’t want to go too experimental, we wanted something we could do justice live as I said. Some big dancy tracks and some much slower, serious tracks. We like the variety. I wrote the tracks pretty quickly for this album and in January I messaged Dan and said I’ve got 11 tracks that I think would fit perfectly for our debut, shall we just cut out the first two years of EPs and just start Stables with an Album – he said lets do it and we did!

In your opinion what is the Spotlight of this album?
It’s a tricky one – I love playing Meet You live. I can really let loose on it. Be Together was my favorite to record, it just came together so nicely and quickly, I used a load of chains for percussion and just did the singing in one take (There’s a bit I’m a tad out of tune) but it just kind of flowed and it’s really nice taking a track like that to stage and working out how we’re going to do it with just the two of us. The answer seems to be – go mental at the end!

We discovered you on Twitter and were blown away by the way this album grows on us every time we listen to it. Is that the spirit behind it? To somehow make it something very close to ones’ heart? Somewhat of a secret treasure?
Thanks, yes hopefully – It’s a lovers album I suppose, with lots of different views on loss, love and a relationship between two people. I hope people can relate to it and take something beautiful from it, that’d be nice.

Do you think the intimal spirit of the album can somewhat make it difficult to reach a broader audience? Are you concern about that?
Not really – this is our first album and we’re not going to pigeon hole ourselves too much, the next album will be an evolution of this sound. As I say, in all our albums, I always want to include easy listening tracks, there’s stuff like Shelter and Safehouse that is meant to be fun and easy to just have on in the background at a BBQ in the Summer without giving too much thought. I then try and write darker, more serious, experimental tracks, but I don’t like to have too much of either, just like with life, I like the variety of all different moods and I think if we embrace that, there’ll always be scope for us to branch out to other ideas as we move forward.

Touring, Wishes and Next Steps

How do you see Stables in three to five years?
Hopefully touring – lots of touring. We like touring. Some studio time in the gaps and some festivals in the Summer. I’ll take that for the next 20 years.

Stables live at Lexington

Stables live at Lexington

You are playing some concerts in France in the next month. Are you considering to play in other European countries soon? Is Portugal on your plans?
Yes definitely. With The Cobblers I do a lot of Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg and we definitely want to get out there next year if possible. Portugal would be amazing, obviously the further away from little old Keston means a much longer drive/tour but hopefully we can slowly move across Europe and maybe one day – the world!

If you could invite anyone to make a song with, who would it be?
I’d love to co-produce with Justin Vernon

What are the next steps for Stables?
This year Daniel finishes his Masters at uni, so I’m going to get in the Studio this winter and work on new material. We’ll be doing little gigs here and there inc. France and then after next years Summer, we plan to get on the road properly and spend a year touring… hopefully with a second album on the way.

We at Where the Music Meets would like to thank you very much for this interview, and congratulate you guys for the beautiful album you made. Stables have a very special place in our hearts and we only expect the band to have much success in the next times to come. Cheers guys!!

Matthew Lowe outside the van

Matthew Lowe outside the van

You can listen to the full album here:

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