Still Corners calls jolly old England home, but the first thing you notice about keyboardist and founder Greg Hughes is that he doesn’t exactly sound born and bred in the land of double-decker buses and high tea. There’s a good reason for that. Hughes is quite happy living in the London borough of Greenwich, but his soul remains deep in the heart of Austin, Texas, where he had roots before hauling up stakes and heading overseas.
“I met a girl who was English, and then her visa ran out,” the friendly transplanted American explains on the line from a New York tour stop. “I was finishing up university, so I was like, ‘I’ll move to London with her.’ I followed her over there and it didn’t work out, but by the time we broke up, I’d been there six years and had kind of built up a whole life for myself. So I was like, ‘Well, I’ll just stay,’ and that was that.”
When Hughes relocated to England, one of his goals was to start playing music, something he’d never done seriously stateside. That led to Still Corners, which began as a bedroom endeavour and has since blossomed into a quartet. The band’s debut album, Creatures of an Hour, finds the group inked to Seattle’s fabled Sub Pop, which continues to add acts to its stable that have nothing to do with the label’s grungy beginnings. Cinematic is a term that tends to get attached to the band’s dreamily gauzy songs, so it’s no accident that tracks like “Cuckoo” sound like something you’d hear Julee Cruise cuing up on the jukebox at the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. Despite whisper-quiet, soft-piano lullabies like “The White Season”, Hughes obviously wants Still Corners to be more than a U.K. counterpart to chillwave acts like Best Coast. Check out the way that “Submarine” adds desert-fire spaghetti-western guitars and doom-and-gloom percussion to the mix.
Still Corners officially became a band in the spring of last year, when, after running through a series of vocalists, Hughes realized he wasn’t going to find a more perfect voice than that of Tessa Murray. As he’s recounted so many times he can now do it on autopilot, the keyboardist ran into his future frontwoman when the two of them found themselves at a subway crossing after they’d both missed their trains. A conversation ensued, with Murray noting that she was missing a choir practice. Contact information was exchanged, and eventually the two found themselves collaborating.
“It wasn’t like ‘Let’s put a band together’—it was more that she started helping me on demos,” Hughes explains. “It was really nice because it happened really organically. We worked on demos for a year, and then it was like ‘Gosh, maybe you should just be in the band.’ Everyone thought that what we were doing was really cool.”
On the subject of cool, one of the best things about Creatures of an Hour is that the production job is as great as the echo-drenched songs. Befitting the project’s DIY origins, Hughes did everything himself. And giving one a good sense that he’s now got more in common with the self-deprecating Brits of his adopted country than with the brash Americans of Texas, he’s decidedly less than gushing when he comes to assessing his talents.
“I feel like, because I haven’t had any training and I just sort of just use my ears, that I was a little unsure about the production,” he says. “I guess there was some trepidation that it would come out sounding like a bedroom thing.”
And if it does, it’s in the most beautiful of ways.
Still Corners plays the Media Club on Monday (October 31).
You can follow Mike Usinger on Twitter at twitter.com/MikeUsinger.