Edinburgh’s Stanley Odd are shortly to release their second album, Reject. Here, I discuss the notion of Scottish Hip-Hop with frontman Solareye AKA Dave Hook, and how the band are challenging stereotypes and preconceptions. Along with making awesome music…
Please introduce the band
We’re Stanley Odd. We’re a Scottish hip-hop band. That phrase alone is like someone competing in a competition to juxtapose the most unlikely of phrases – ‘So you’re in a band, that plays hip-hop and you’re Scottish…’ – ‘Aye’.
You’re due to release your new album Reject on September 17. How has the album come together?
The album has been a good while in the making. We released 3 EPs last year and that whole process was pretty much about developing our sound, production skills and song writing with a view to making this album. We started rehearsing for it in January, recorded the raw materials in March, then spent the last 3-4 months ripping all the stuff apart, distorting it, running onto tape, chopping it up and generally molocating (sic) it into something else. The last month has been particularly full-on, finishing all the songs while playing festivals every weekend but as of today it is officially finished! I’m a bit close to it all right now, to be honest, but I’m hoping that in a few weeks I’ll be able to listen to it without going ‘aw, that bit should have been louder’ or ‘I’m still not sure about this backwards vocal’.
Why the title ‘Reject?’ Your album, obviously, but taken on its own that might seem a bit negative…?
That’s a good question. I feel like there has always been a common theme of outsider-dom in our songs. Everyone can emphasise with feeling uncomfortable or socially awkward, so often that’s a starting point for me writing. The ‘Reject’ title is more like trying to write a collection of stories about rejection, and rejecting things, so it can be read as the noun, ‘Reject’ i.e. someone who is not accepted in a certain group or situation; or it can be read as the verb ‘Reject’, to reject an idea, opinion or accepted norm. A call to arms if you like.
You’ve also got a busy summer ahead of you. What have you got planned, and what can people expect from the Stanley Odd live show?
Yeah, we’re right in the midst of a busy summer of festivals. It’s amazing. We really look forward to this time of year. You get to travel all round the country playing songs to people, hang about at some really great events, rap at people round campfires at dawn and generally make a spectacle of yourself on a weekly basis. Our live show has probably always been where we are at our strongest, so it’s great when you get an audience that get involved and the summer festivals kind of lend themselves to that. We’ve been working a fair amount of the new material into the live set too so that’s kept us on our toes and should mean in theory that we know how to play the tunes by the time we launch the album!
How did the band come together? Were any of you involved with the Fountainbridge Collective?
No, we weren’t directly involved with FBC. I know the guys, I used to play in a band called Disciples of Panic Earth and we gigged with FBC quite a bit. We were all from Airdrie so one memorable time we took the FBC guys through for a gig there. Imagine Phoenix Nights with break-beats.
As a band, we started out with myself and Veronika [Elektronika, fellow vocalist]. We were meant to do a live emcee/DJ type set but the DJ pulled out so we got mates of ours to play drums and guitar and it just kind of grew from there.
You’ve been around for several years now. Did you ever feel that as a Scottish Hip-Hop act you had to fight harder in a genre that many people still perceive as primarily American? (Despite that there were fine UK Hip-Hop acts stretching right back to the eighties, thinking of Derek B, The Wee Papa Girl Rappers, Cookie Crew etc..)
It’s a difficult genre to try and define. There are those who have a predetermined idea of what hip-hop should be and they don’t necessarily see how Scotland could fit into that but that type of attitude is generally more likely to be from people that don’t know much about hip-hop. Scotland has a real depth of quality hip-hop artists right now, which is totally cool to be a part of. A variety of acts are playing major festivals like T in the Park, getting national airplay and being seriously and favourably reviewed so it’s an exciting time.
Which other Scottish hip-Hop acts would you recommend? After all, as well as you, Young Fathers and Nasty P…
I think there are some really outstanding artists in Scotland. Louie and his group Hector Bizerk are amazing both lyrically and as artists trying to push boundaries. Gasp and all of the Being Emcees are ridiculous lyricists, not to mention the production skills of Scatabrainz, Konchis, Steg G. Silvertongue is a brilliant emcee and his freestyles are bananas, Bigg Taj is a phenomenal beatboxer… this is just the tip of the iceberg… it feels like some seriously good music is coming out of Scotland these days.
Speaking of which, who do you view as being your peers? And who do you see as your influences?
See the above. I hear what people like Louie, Loki, Mog etc are writing and think, ‘I’m going to have to use ma heid here’. I just like words, I like messing about with them and trying different ways to say things. Sometimes if you get a concept the song writes itself pretty much. ‘Marriage Counselling’ off our new album was one like that. I also think your influences come from way wider than the type of music you end up making. I heard a Frightened Rabbit song the other day where he was singing about a messy night out and I was thinking how well constructed it was. Aiden Moffat is always good for a listen to learn about telling stories. In terms of the musical side of things, we’ve been trying to keep our horizons broad while also working on production. Samson, our drummer, releases bass music on Abaga Records as Dunt so he always brings some nice, fresh subby (sic) stuff to the table.
What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a live show?
Last year at Insider Festival was pretty special. It was probably the best gig of the year for all of us. We played the main stage at about 10 o’clock on the Saturday night, the busy crowd were well-oiled on Thistly Cross and an assortment of other things, half the audience were decked out in Victorian attire, people were zip-sliding across the crowd in the half-light and when we went on it just went mental. That was an amazing combination of the bizarre and the legendary. Definitely one to remember.
Finally, what are your plans for the next twelve months?
Weellll… We release the album on the 17th September and embark on a UK tour to promote it. We’re playing the Liquid Room in Edinburgh, Stereo in Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness, Aberdeen as well as dates south of the border. Right now, we’ve got a couple of videos to make for the new album as well as Wickerman, Belladrum and Greenbelt Festival in London still to come. There’ll be our annual Oddvent Calendar throughout December for free stuff and random nonsense, then next year we’ll be writing, recording and playing aw o’er the place.
Reject is released on September 17.