Hope Stew doesn’t get mad if I call him an indiepop legend! But he is! And so, I’m very thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with him about his most known band, Boyracer. He has been in many, you know, right? He also runs the great 555 Recordings label if you didn’t know. Check more of their stuff on myspace and on their own website. But that’s it for introductions, please enjoy our little interview!
++ Thanks Stew for making this interview. It’s hard to cover on a single short questionnaire everything you’ve done but let’s try it! So 2 feet of snow this past week? So it snows in the desert?
Oh yes. We are in the high desert here, 7000 ft above sea level. We get pretty extreme seasons, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.
++ Boyracer is mostly you, Stew, and lots of friends that have stepped in to play with you. What was the line-up that lasted the longest? And if you had the chance to do a sort of an all-star lineup, who would you choose?
Erm… I’m not sure what the longest line up was. I think myself, Jen and Ara supplemented by whoever else was available and wanted to help out. I think the most exciting line is always the current line up, which for the Slumberland reunion shows will myself, Jen, Ara, Chuck (Bright Lights) and Mario (From Bubblegum To Sky/Ciao Bella etc). I’m not sure if that is “All Star” but it is as competent as it gets in terms of playing live.
++ Have you been involved in other bands before Boyracer? Or was this your first adventure? Where did the inspiration to start came from?
Oh lots of bands, you should check out “The Wetherbeat Scene 1988-91″ CD we put out. Its a 35 CD comp of bands I was in during highschool.
++ Why did you call the band Boyracer?
A Boyracer is an expression from the North of England that describes a young boy who spends lots of money souping up a crap car and then driving it recklessly to impress girls. Sort of showing off with something that isn’t really worthy of showing off with.
++ You’ve covered many songs. But I’m wondering which is the one you are more satisfied with? or at least your favourite?
Well, I love to play music and its always fun to put your own twist on someone elses song and try and make it your own. I like all 15 of the songs on our Boyracer Jukebox Vol 1 very much. I think our version of Bonnie Tylers “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” is pretty remarkable.
++ How did you end up on Sarah records? Was it easy to be the noisy band in the label?
We used to put shows on in Leeds for a bunch of bands, not just Sarah bands, and usually we would book ourselves as the opening band. We where asked by Matt and Claire out of the blue to do a 7inch. It wasn’t easy at all being on Sarah as not many people who came to the Sarah shows or bought Sarah records liked us. Likewise, people who did sort of like us hated all the “twee crap” surrounding the label. There where, let us not forget, some truly dreadful and gutless bands on Sarah at the same time we where involved. Its funny how Sarah is viewed nowadays as an amazing label because at the time, in the UK at least, it was really uncool to be on Sarah. But I always thought Matt and Claire where fantastic people who I still have huge respect for.
++ But your first releases were on Fluff Records, a way noisier label, with bands such as Liechtenstein Girl and Aspidistra. And they were from Leeds too! Were you good friends? How did you meet the Fluff
The mysterious “DMCL” who ran Fluff just wrote to us after we had been on a few compilation tapes. We sent him a few songs and he put them out. At the time he lived in Loughborough, and I had a job driving Artwork to and from Leicester from Leeds, so used to call in on him and play records in his bedroom. He was a pretty crazy guy who I suspect took too many drugs and burnt out. (His band was Leichtenstein Girl). He disappeared after a while, and no-one knows where or what he is upto.
++ You said once that you felt more comfortable with being Slumberland Records than in any other labels. Why didn’t you continue releasing there?
Not sure. Mike stopped asking us, not through any falling out, Im still in touch with him all the time. He has lots of new bands and I guess The Pains keep him busy. Although having said that, I did just record a 7inch with Matt Hartman as The How that will coupled with 2 new Boyracer songs, that be coming out on 555/Slumberland just in time for the Slumberland 20th anniversary shows.
++ What about starting 555 Records, what was the main reason behind that? It would be nice to do a whole interview about the whole label sometime…
The main reason was to release a record by our friends Hood. At the time I was sharing a house with Richard, and they had a bunch of great songs that remarkably no-one wanted to release. So we did. It wasn’t really meant to be an ongoing thing, in fact none of the first 10 records even had catalogue numbers on them.
++ I find it funny that you once wrote a song called “Bring me the Hair of Phil Oakey”. Have you seen photos of him today? He goes with no hair at all! But what’s the story behind this song?!
Always loved the league. Fine baritone voice, lovely mane of hair. Always liked men in mascara.
++ I do have to ask you about one of my favourite songs of yours “My New Shoes”, I just want to know what is it about, and how did you come up with it? Easy question!
Gosh. Erm… that’s as song I wrote 16 years ago so I don’t really remember specifics. But the gist of it is putting new shoes on a table is meant to bring bad luck. The lyrics I suppose are about deliberately bring bad luck upon yourself. I usually don’t think about writing songs much at all and certainly don’t enjoy dissecting my own output. I strive for a less conscious way of writing and recording. Pretty much everything I have ever done has been done very quickly. Initially because we couldn’t afford studios back in the day, but nowadays because I think any kind of “art” should be spontaneous and from within, you think about it too much you will destroy it. I hate pretension in any kind of “art”. Most of the recordings I have ever made have always been 1st,2nd or 3rd takes. (Apart from the drums. You have to get the drums right or the songs never work).
++ What about gigs, you’ve played tons! But is there any in particular you are more proud of?
I guess the Emmaboda festival in Sweden. Our biggest gig, and outside too. It was broadcast on Swedish radio. One of my favourite live moments looking out into a few thousand people. Of course it was a festival so they weren’t there to us specifically…
++ Why did you decide to move and stay in Flagstaff, Arizona, of all places. You don’t ever miss the city life?
I run a cattle ranch with Jen out here in the desert. Actually where we live isn’t technically Flagstaff as we live in the middle of nowhere completely off the grid with no roads, solar power, and we pump our own well water. Surrounded by cows, pigs, chickens, horses etc… It would break my heart to ever go back to living in a city. I’ve lived in cities most of my adult life. Once you get in tune with the seasons, which you have to do quite quickly when you have 400 cows, city life seems so ugly.
++ You spend quite some time in New Zealand and pressed records in Australia as well. What is that that you miss the most from the antipodes?
They’re always up for a beer and good time… no, really, an amazing amount of remarkable music has always come out of Australia and New Zealand and continues to do so.
++ Can we expect anything from Boyracer in the future or was the last record really the last one?
I thought we where done as Boyracer, but when we where asked to play the Slumberland anniversary shows although I had reservations I finally said yes. But I wanted to do something new for it, and not just have a nostalgia trip. I certainly feel with Boyracer the last 5 years of records we made where the best. Sadly not many people have heard the last 5 years of records we made, as we have no distro and none of those records even sold 100 copies. So I wrote and recorded 2 new songs which will be the aforementioned split single with The How. So, even when I want to stop I guess I can’t…
++ What was the biggest highlight so far for you as Boyracer?
Having John Peel tell me “Excellent punk rock” after he witnessed us playing 16 songs in 22 minutes.
Boyracer – Passionflower