15 August 2011

Fresh Meat Monday - Stephen Flavahan

Would you care to introduce yourself?

I’m Stephen Flavahan. My voice is more of an Oboe than a Clarinet and I am a gigging musician.

How would you describe the music you make?

Songs about girls, mostly 3-4mins long. Direct pop-music, in the ‘rarely-fashionable but sometimes startling’ vein. Not too many fuzzy noises because I don’t know how to do them.

How did you start out making music?

I got put through piano lessons when I was younger (I still play like a keyboard player) but fell out of love with the whole thing because I wasn’t learning much that I enjoyed and I wasn’t listening to music too much at that stage.

Then when I was about 12 I began consuming a lot more music – Travis, Starsailor, Ben Folds Five, Dr Dre, The Avalanches, Coldplay, Belle & Sebastian – and it suddenly clicked for me; I wanted to be able to tap into this new exciting thing and be able to play what I was listening to for myself. Writing my own songs kind of went naturally from there and I took some guitar lessons about the same time (I still play like a keyboard player).

I fell into a couple of bands in Dundee including a decent wee outfit with Kieran Webster and Pete Reilly before they started in The View. We were called Kashmir before we decided people would assume we had some weird hang-up about luxury wool.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

I used to start off with a few chords I’d stumbled on playing a guitar or piano. I’d loop those until I came up with a melody line in my head and I’d find a lyric to fit and keep moulding the thing from there.

More recently, as I’ve gotten better as a singer, I’ve started writing songs pretty much in full from a melody or lyric that pops into my head. Then it’s a case of getting to the nearest instrument and finding out how to support that vocal in an interesting way.

The Johnny Cash line “Write ten songs a day, then throw away nine of them.” has had a big influence on me too, I’m not nearly that prolific but I’ve given up trying to write ‘The Perfect Song’. That takes a real burden off and lets you be more daring with your writing, if an idea doesn’t work out...write another one. Having that confidence and continuing to write and hone your skills makes it much more likely that that Perfect Song is going to crop up for you.

What can people expect from your live shows?

Whether it’s a solo show or I’m playing with my band (Guitar/Piano, Bass, Drums, Trumpet & occasional guests) you’re going to get everything I’ve got for the duration of the set. My mum came to my EP-release show and handed me a clutch of tissues after the second song, horrified that I was sweating so much. The fact that I can be comfortably described as a ‘singer-songwriter’ doesn’t mean I can skimp on the live performance; you’ve got to leave it all on the stage.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Happy Vandals – In The Sun (A Perth band with a Bahamian drummer: indie surf-pop with a Calypso rhythm. Magic)

Poor Things – Innocence/18 (A top live act and really top guys, not afraid of a big riff or sing-along chorus and the sounds they make with their guitars is something special)

Johnny Reb – The Portugal Years (The best bits of The Smiths and Oasis with some really insistent songs. I just hope they’re coming back to Scotland after going to England for the summer)

Also in my car just now: Beach House, Villagers, The View and Two Door Cinema Club

What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2011?

More gigs across Scotland with this EP and hopefully if sales keep ticking away, a second 7-track EP before the end of the year. If I’m playing near you, do come along and say hello. I’ve also started a night in Dundee at my brother-in-law’s barbershop, ‘Benjamin Barker’ on Perth Road. We’ve had five nights so far and had Frightened Rabbit and The View playing along with some great unsigned acts. There’ll be another couple of those to come.

Stephen Flavahan - The Walls


Stephen’s ‘Memories + Tragedies’ EP is out now on bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and several Scottish record shops.

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