Interview and photos by Gav Squires.
It’s been quite a year for Stacey McMullen, his debut EP came out in May and he’s just back from a tour. We caught up with him as he played the Wolf Down Street Food pop-up event in Sneinton.
You’re just back from a mini-tour, where did that take you and how did it go?
Ooh, it’s taken me far and wide, from the depths of Mordor to The Shire! No, it’s taken me not that far really because the whole idea was to try and make it cost neutral so I didn’t want to go too far, just money-wise. It was all kind of midlands and Yorkshire really, so I’ve been to Leicester, Scunthorpe, Northampton, Sheffield and back to The Maze in Nottingham.
Surprisingly Scunthorpe was the highlight, there’s a great little venue called Café INDIEpendent, it’s run by a lovely pair and it’s lottery funded – the idea is that it’s a work experience for people with autism. It’s an amazing venue that really cares about music, they haven’t got a lot of money but they put me up for the night and fed me and gave me drinks and all that sort of stuff.
They got me on the bill supporting a guy called Scott Matthews, who is apparently quite famous but I didn’t know who he was until the day before the gig when I checked him out and he’s got like 100 million views on YouTube! “Hi there! How can I use you to get myself further” That was the highlight really, I’d played there before and I slept in their house but this time it was the owner’s wedding anniversary the next day. So, I asked if I could stay at theirs again and they were like, “not really because we’ve got our wedding anniversary tomorrow” but they let me sleep in the venue and help myself to things from the kitchen. Going in that kitchen and opening the doors – there are about 50 million bagels in here! I’m going to eat 20,000 of them!
Rock ‘n’ roll debauchery! Did you pick up many Scott Matthews fans?
I think I did! I sold a few CDs afterwards and the man himself said that he really enjoyed it. You never know how much of that is lip service or whether he really enjoyed it but I think he did because he was investigating my guitar, trying to find out what year it was made when I’ve not even looked at the inside of my guitar once! I was just like, “I like that one, I’ll have that.” I played there before, supporting a girl called Martha Hill, which was how I got introduced to the venue and a few people came up telling me that I should have headlined, which was nice.
And before the tour, you got some airplay on BBC Introducing, that must have been pretty exciting?
Yes, it was really exciting – BBC Introducing is a great vehicle for getting out there to people who would otherwise not listen to you. I don’t want to sound ungrateful but I wished they’d picked a different song, one of my more political ones. I know that the DJs there are under pressure to play tracks with more mass appeal though so I understand it and it’s still good exposure.
Your debut EP, I Wait, came out earlier in the year, how did it feel when that all came together?
Like an orgasm – shame and guilt as soon as it’s done! No, it was great, it was amazing. It was a massive learning curve, I wasn’t really on the scene in that way, I was more of a bedroom player and I’m Not From London really pushed me into the foray. I’d never really set foot in a studio before so stepping into that place with the big glass window and all that sort of stuff was a massive learning curve.
There are things that if I could go back, I’d do again – be more prepared basically because you’re on the clock while you’re there. Going into a studio now and trying to do another EP, I kinda know what I’m doing as I go in – just preparing little things like click tracks, just things that keep the tempo and work for you. I hadn’t even considered that before.
It was amazing and I think it was received quite well and I’ve sold quite a few copies of the CD but I still have a few left for sale on my website.
So, is that the plan for 2018, a new EP?
Yeah, a new EP, which I’ve kind of started but I’m taking my time with it this time round. I’m trying to put in a few more band sounds – I actually started out as a drummer and I was hoping to get a drummer in on it but just telling people exactly what you want can actually take longer than re-learning the drums yourself.
I’ve been really lucky this time that the engineer has got this room, this space, and he’s recording Unknown Era’s EP but they’re not always available so he’s said that when they’re not around I can go in there and do whatever I like. So, there’s no sort of pressure or clock really so I’ve just been driving him crazy for the past six or seven days just playing the drums over and over again and him not even getting to press the record button.
I think he was having enough of it on the last day because we did a take of the drums and he was like, “that’s it! That’s good enough, you’re having those drums.” So, yeah, new EP, don’t know when it will be out but it’s in the pipeline, maybe a couple of singles off the EP being released beforehand.
The first song is about homelessness in Nottingham and there’s that Beat The Streets festival coming up in January and I wanted the song to be ready for that really, to tie in with that. I thought it would be a great time to release it but I don’t think it’s going to be that way so we’ve just been doing a live acoustic version of it, to give a little taster before the festival comes up.
Nice one. I also see that you’ve just released a video of you playing a System Of A Down cover, where did the idea for that come from?
I love System Of A Down! Every millennial, I think I’m a millennial although I’m never quite sure if I’m a generation X or a millennial, loved System Of A Down as a kid. I remember pirating those CDs and it’s just that great mix of Armenian folk and heavy metal and I liked that and I guess I kind of go for that in my own music – a mixture of genres.
As for the idea, I was just playing away on my guitar and I thought, “this is Ariels that I’m playing here” so I figured out an arrangement that I’ve since forgot, and I was round my engineer’s house and we just did it. I’ve been sitting on it for ages and I thought I’d lost it but I just thought I’d put that out now and pretend that it’s something to do with the tour, which it isn’t! It was just on a USB drive not being used so I thought I’d use it.
So, people shouldn’t be expecting any SOAD covers when they come and see you live?
I’d need to learn that one again to be honest because it was recorded a few months ago. Still got the Rage Against The Machine song in the set but not System Of A Down. I’d need to do a bit of revision on that but you can see it on my Facebook page.