IT’S probably ironic that Scottish hip hop trailblazers Stanley Odd have called their new album Reject – the world can’t get enough of them at the moment.
Glowing praise has been raining down in early reviews of the line-up’s second album – out since Sunday.
And MC and wordsman Solareye aka Dave Hook has even immortalised Inverness venues Mad Hatters and Hootanannys in album track Join The Club.
Dave explained: "I wanted to try and tell a story using the names of 50 or 60 pubs and clubs in Scotland.
"An Edinburgh venue called the Belle Angele burned down in 2002 and I thought it would be a good idea to tell a story about a hedonistic evening weaving from place to place led by this character called the Belle Angele."
Dave and the rest of Stanley Odd have more than a passing knowledge of Highland venues.
In the past year among the places they’ve played are the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore, Mad Hatters, Bogbain Farm headlining Brew At The Bog – and an impromptu gig at the Newmarket, Thurso, when bad weather cancelled the ferry to the planned Stornoway gig.
North audiences can’t get enough of Stanley Odd’s mix of hard-hitting political comment, Scottish perspective, world view, great tunes, fantastic beats and unstoppable spinning coin of serious-humorous.
Alongside Dave’s words are the soulful vocals of Veronika Electronika, Samson the Snake on drums and electronica, bassist AdMac Scruff Le on guitars and T Lo on keyboards.
But that’s not quite the whole story as Dave – originally from Airdrie – revealed when asked how the line-up allows his words to float so cleanly and clearly over the top of the music.
"The secret is that with rap – because there are so many words – if you can’t hear the words, then it’s just someone shouting at you for half an hour – so we travel everywhere with our own sound engineer.
"It’s really important that the words cut through."
Having used last year’s three EPs to hone their sound to something they were happier with, Stanley Odd’s frontman explained why Reject seemed the right title for an album that is being dubbed anything but by enthusiastic reviewers.
"As a verb it can be a positive thing, and is about rejecting things.
"It was based in a nerdy way on the idea of the reject key on the computer.
"And I also think it ties in with the idea of being an outsider which Stanley Odd has always had."
Dave moved on to talk about Stanley Odd's growing numbers of fans up in the Highlands and the good response they have built on playing in the area more and more over recent years.
Q You are favourites up here?
We love it up North we have played up there a lot between the likes of Brew At The Bog lots of times at Mad Hatters and Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore. The brilliant thing is that every time there are more familiar faces and have really warmed to us and made the effort to come out. What we are a little nervous about with this one, to tell the truth, is that it’s the first time we’ve played the Ironworks on our own name sort of thing. It’s a big venue, so hopefuly that will turn out well.
Have you had feedback about the album?
We are just starting to get feedback trickling back, It’s one of those things when you have been working on something for quite a well and it’s been intense in terms of working towards something it takes a while before you can sit back and look back objectively so we’re still waiting to get everybody else’s opinin of it. It was quite exciting yesterday Lauren Laverne tweeted about it yesterday, so it’s nice to know that people are getting it and people commented on it after she commented on it, so it would be nice to hear more of that happening.
We put out the first album, Audio, in May 2010. But what we did last year was put out three EPs. We weren’t that happy with the sound on Audio in terms of the music – we felt we weren’t developed and needed more time to develop that. So last year we brought out the EPs in February, one in September and a free one in December and that meant we could work on smaller, tight projects and work on our production and our writing styles. So I think that has quite positively fed into what we are doing now.
You have a politicial, hard-hitting, fun and interesting way of putting things where it’s not just being clever with words for the sake of it, is it? It’s all full of stuff for people to think about.
I hope so. I guess for me writing words is about – first of all – having something to say rather than writing words just for the sake of them. I hope there is comment and social commentary in there. The social commentary stuff I’ve been working on for a while. There’s a theme in a lot of the stuff we’ve been writing, but we tried to be picking topicsa little bit more this time around. From one of the EPs last year, a song got quoted a lot by pro-independence groups who even took some of the words out to make it better fit their purpose. I spoke to them about it and could absolutely see where they were coming from in terms of the song seeming to be pro-indepenence. But I think I’m much more pro-debate than pro-independence or pro-union. This time I thought it would be nice to try in the political stuff and social commentary to show both sides of stories and more than one persepctive on this.
Were you invited onto political platforms?
I have had to politely decline a couple recently! But it’s quite nice to know people are listening to what you’re saying. And I think also on this record, as a first time for me, I have tried to put some personal content into the songs rather than just social commentary which I certainly find a lot harder to do.
You have bared your soul?
Yes, it’s a lot easier to point out the flaws in society than be honest about your own stuff. But I think if you want to try and push yourself a bit you have to try and find different topics to talk about.
With Stanley Odd live, everyone in the band plays their part, but if you don’t come up with new things to sing and talk about do you feel pressure on you?
No, everyone contributes to the musical side of things and to be honest I’m a habitual word writer anyway. I’ve got a half-hour walk to and from work and I’ve got my headphones in and I write notes on my phone, so I’m kind of writing words all the time. So everybody in the band contributes to the musical side of things and what we tend to do is draft a song and go in and record it in a kind of conventional band context, then chalk that up, sample it and rebuild it into more of a conventional hip hop format. The song structure - and musically- isdone in two different stages. I guess hip hop producers sample old records, but we sample ourselves – record ourselves then sample it. It means the songs take a wee bit longer to develop, but hopefully they go down some original route.
The song Carry Me Home – I didn’t know how tongue-in-cheek it was – but it seems to be all about "the drink"! Was that one of the tracks you were talking about as being from a more personal perspective? There’s a a line in it when you say something like "they’re calling me Davy Winehouse".
That was one where I was trying to write something more personally than socially reflective. Basically it’s a story of the last year or so. It’s very easy when you’ve been away touring to end up after the show partying with a different group of people every night after the gig. But it ends up taking its toll and you end up feeling that you’re letting the band down a bit because you’re not in any fit state to do anything the next day! It is good to make fun of yourself as well cos the "carry me home" line is related specifically to an incident when the band had to carry me unconscious from a bar. It’s certainly a bit of a group therapy session to have that track - and a bit cathartic.
What happened when you rolled that one out in front of the rest of them for the first time?!
I recorded a demo version of it. Writing stuff down is a good way to stop feeling sorry for yourself, so I did that and sent it out. Everybody tweaked it and just put their own parts on it. It’s actually quite a popular song live which is good to see because of the folk we play to. The set is very upbeat – especially at festival periods to continue the tempo. This one is almost a lull in the middle of the set, but seems to capture people’s attetion which is good.
After gigs I suppose does everybody wants to be your best friend and party into the wee small hours and not let you go home?
It’s easy to get caught up in that. The thing is we usually go off to do it all again the next day and everybody else there gets to have a lie-in! So it tends to get compounded after a wee while. After the Carry Me Home period I think I’m managing to rein it in a bit more than I was then!
You’ve got a great Stanley Odd van!
We have a old post office van – called Dorothy. People love the van so much for some reason that our new T-shirts have a picture of the van. They have been really popular. It’s bizarre we find people randomly blogging about it, who have never seen the band yet write stories about the van.
You have been playing a lot of festivals this summer ...
We’ve had a really good summer of festivals and it’s been really rewarding because over the past couple of years we have been lucky enough to be getting where we want to be in terms of playing. I think Belladrum was a perfect example. We were on last at a really great time – but at the same time as Travis. It was on a stage where you had to want to come to it, you wouldn’t just wander past and hear it. So it was amazing to realise it was virtually full.
What is the next stage for Stanley Odd?
Everybody is working full time, but we all seem to have very understanding bosses. Loads of great things are happening and it's good to go back to places and see more peopl. But I think we also need to get ourselves south of the border more, to expand our fanbase and to make it viable to sustain things.
Your latest video for single Killergram is quite dramatic?
It was a fixed one shot piece made by the Detour guys and the story of it is that I have been murdered, lying on the cobbled street, having been stabbed in the back and I’m looking straight up at this camera which is coming out of a first storey window. I’m rapping the story to the camera with police, forensics experts round about and detectives appear - and a crying girlfriend. The whole thing they had to choreograph to take place in the time-frame of the video. I had to lie on the ground for about two hours on a cold evening. I was feeling very sorry for myself by the end of it! I was supposed to be dead, but I was worried because my legs and arms were shaking.
Stanley Odd play Inverness Ironworks on Saturday, supported by Team Kapowski and Inverness Underground. For a longer version of this article, go to www.highland-news.co.uk/whats-on/music