The last gang in town ...

The Tindersticks considered splitting for a while. But after much band-analysis, the six decided that sticking together made perfect sense. Nick Hasted asked lead singer Stuart Staples to explain

The Tindersticks' first, self-titled album showed the direction the band were heading. Steeped in the squalor and dislocation of a Nottingham group's first months in London, a Derek Raymond novel confined to the bedroom and bar, it had a sweep of styles so giddy its lyrics were almost irrelevant, a collage of Lee Hazlewood and Spanish strings, Nick Cave and Sixties pop, a 77-minute statement of intent from a band who didn't expect it to be bought, who knew they could be gone tomorrow. Their second album, self-titled again, added orchestral depth to more varied songs, none more adventurous than "My Sister", an eight-minute biography of a cursed, crippled woman, bursting, like the album, in a dozen directions at once, to show still more furiously what the Tindersticks could do.

In the two years since, the band have released a soundtrack album, Nenette et Boni, almost broken up and played every song they've ever recorded in a week at the ICA. And they've made a third album, Curtains. It no longer shakes with ambition. It's no longer filled to the seams. It's a record that drags you in, that can't quite be pinned down. It's as if the Tindersticks now know who they are. "It feels like the end of what was in our head when we started making records," Stuart Staples, singer and main lyricist, says simply.

Sitting in a London coffee bar, Staples is friendly and convivial, if a little nervous, not at all like the bedsit miserablist of music press myth. It's Curtains, it seems, that has brought his happy face to the surface. "It's the first record that I've been comfortable talking about in a confident way," he admits. "I don't think anyone in the band thinks that they're very good. We all believe in what we're capable of as the six of us. But individually, I don't think anyone's got any confidence in what they're doing."

It's the Tindersticks as a band that fills Staples' conversation, a six- headed creature that in his head seems less a band than a mystery, a musical essence that, if he ever gets to the bottom of it, would dissolve on the spot. It's this essence that he thinks is at their new record's heart; this essence that he's eager to explore in the fourth album. Listen to Staples and the Tindersticks are less sensitive grumps, more the last gang in town. "There's something indefinable that comes about when six people come together. I'm glad we toured with a string orchestra for a while, but having 35 people on stage takes away from the chemistry between us. I'm more interested in becoming ourselves in the next record. It's going to be stripped down more, to six parts that fit together, or don't. We're always one step ahead of ourselves, what we're trying to do is one step beyond what we're capable of. If we relied on things we could do, it would be too easy."

Curtains' lyrics are certainly a step beyond anything Staples has attempted before. On songs like "Buried Bones" and "Bearsuit", there are hints, from a man noted for songs of squalid sexual obsession, of the sort of long relationship he's actually in (he's been married with children for years). Staples denies he's ready to write about the pleasures of a quiet night in. "I think those everyday moments run through everything. But the only way you get near something is to go around it. I've never been attracted to prosaic words. It's only recently that I've even realised that I write about extremes. Even when extremes are dark, they make you know you're alive."

The nearest Staples will probably ever get to the mundane realities of his life is Curtains' "Ballad of Tindersticks", a seven-and-a-half-minute journey into the numb heart of the band on tour. By turns exhausted and exasperated, funny and scary, it shows a band comforted and cosseted till their brains could hardly breathe. "Everyone knows what goes on in the music business," says Staples, "it's no big thing. The song for me is about us being sucked into it and starting to believe it. You go away on tour and you're in a really false environment. You hang out at the most expensive restaurants, and in the end all you want is a bag of chips. I could slip into playing myself, or playing other people's idea of me. It's easy. It's not unpleasant at the time. The song's to do with the six of us losing something for a while. Being something we're not."

That tour was a symptom of wider problems, tensions that the band refused to face. Last November, as they struggled to complete Curtains, they almost shivered apart. Staples, at least, considered calling it a day, until they talked their problems through. Could he really have given it all up? "We wouldn't fight to hold it together if we weren't excited about what we are capable of doing. Having come so close to actually walking away from it, I had to find out what I wanted to do, and why. It made me think of people I've known who've been bricklayers and they've wanted to stop, but they end up going back to it because it's what they do. That's not what I want to do with my life."

It's hard to imagine Staples not fighting to keep the Tindersticks together, to keep their unique, shifting art in motion. Near the interview's close, he's talking about the place of music in his life. "There's just something so open to music that I don't get from movies and literature, and that becomes harder to find. I have problems at the moment trying to listen to music. It's like Pulp Fiction: you don't walk away with anything, it's a distraction, and that's supposed to be enough. I find myself putting Al Green on again because I believe in it, it lets me think what I want to think, it lets me feel a certain way." He could be talking about the Tindersticks, and the essence of their music he must hope they'll never reach.

The Tindersticks play the London Palladium on Sunday. `Curtains' is out on This Way Up/ Island

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz