On the Radar - No 180: Adam Stafford
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Words: Stuart Lewis
The role of the musician is surely to rail against the system, to hold governments to account through the medium of song – Billy Bragg and Paul Weller spring to mind as iconic examples.
So it’s a little surprising to find a Scottish artist singing the praises of a government agency. But that’s precisely where we find Adam Stafford, talking about the release of his first solo album Build a Harbour Immediately and the role of the Scottish Government's culture agency in making it happen:
“Creative Scotland have been nothing but generous and supportive, not just with music but with my short film 'The Shutdown' too," Stafford says. "It’s important for them to invest in future arts projects and develop talent. Look at all the great things they’ve helped fund that have gone on to be commercial successes for the likes of Admiral Fallow, the Frightened Rabbit/Phantom Band tour they put money into and all the work they do to help bands get to SXSW.”
Fire & Theft (LP Version) by Adam Stafford
OK, so true to the musician’s role, Stafford does go on to make some choice comments about the disbandment of the UK Film Council and the current occupants of Westminster. But his point about Creative Scotland’s role at SXSW is a good one, with one of their key representatives being all over Vic Galloway’s recent BBC documentary on the Austin shindig.
But who knew they could help fund albums too? Something for budding performers to think about as they consider options for getting their music released, but it’s perhaps doubtful that everything the agency touches could be as good as Build a Harbour Immediately.
Part guitar pop and part swirling experimentation, the former Y’All Is Fantasy Island (let’s call them YiFi from here on in) frontman has moved on but isn’t taking too radical a new direction: “It seemed like we (YiFi) were grinding to a natural halt. There was another album of stuff which we were demo-ing but we were all so busy with other things at the end that it seemed natural to bow out when we did.
“In my opinion we produced four great albums that I'm really proud of, but sometimes you’ve got to kill your darlings and move out. Some of it (the new album) is slightly different. I think the structures are tighter and the songs are more melodic in places but nothing’s really changed about the way I write.”
Paul Savage was the man in the production chair and Stafford rates his contribution to the record highly, with the ex-Delgado man joining Radar at the official album launch at Glasgow’s Stereo. There, Stafford cut quite a dash – smartly dressed and with slick hair, he also calmly demonstrated his abilities as a performer, alone on stage for the first half of his set before being joined by a full band which included former YiFi man Robbie Lesiuk and Zoey Van Goey’s Kim Moore.
Shot-down You Summer Wannabes by Adam Stafford
Songs like 'Shot Down You Summer Wannabes' build almost entirely on layers of vocals, meaning that the inevitable loop pedal rears its head in a live setting. “It takes a lot of concentration and dedication to get it right” says Stafford. “And it also doesn’t help that the pedal I use currently sticks sometimes when I’m bedding the loop! I practice like mad before a gig so by the time it gets to the stage it works, but it keeps me on my toes.”
Build a Harbour Immediately (the name is inspired simply by a drunken conversation) marks the creative rebirth of a talented and much-loved musician. However it's funded and however it's played live, we think it’s a little bit special.
Adam Stafford is supporting Denis Jones at Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh on Wednesday 19 October. His album is out now and available from Bandcamp.
Adam Stafford on: Wiseblood Industries | SoundCloud | Twitter
Posted by Stuart Lewis