(The following article was writtenfor ARTROCKER MAGAZINE, issue #104, October 2010)
“Stanley Odd was an alternative a.k.a. that I had – a kind of character I created,” explains rapper and founder member Solareye, referring to the days when he and singer Veronika Electronika performed in an MC / DJ arrangement.
At the time, it didn’t really bear any great relevance, but like being given an older sibling’s hand-me-downs, the band gradually ‘grew into’ their name.
“The ‘brand’ seems to have followed” says Veronika, “and it now seems quite fitting, with people homing in to the concept that there’s quite a bit ‘odd’ about us, from the composition of the members to the things that we rap about.”
The band comprises a German and a Norwegian along with two members from the West Coast (of Scotland, that is!) and two from the East. And with the exception of Solareye himself, none had previous experience of playing this genre of music. Veronika, for example (whose warm, smooth and soft vocal style is the perfect foil for Solareye’s bouncy and animated delivery) came from a singer / songwriter / R’n’B background. Drummer Samson confesses to mainly a rock and punk background, though his modesty is exposed by Solareye’s interjection:
‘….he has a vastly diverse taste in music. He’s just released his own Dubstep EP and does all his own programming and writes his own material,” he says, almost with a sense of pride. German born keyboard player T Lo was even classically trained as a youngster; until he rebelled in his late teens and decided he wanted to ‘rawk!’
This eclectic mix of nationalities and influences certainly differentiates STANLEY ODD from not only other hip-hop bands, but also much of what else is out there at the moment. For instance, tonight at King Tuts is the first time since their formation some eighteen months ago that they have performed on a bill with another hip-hop act who play with a full, live band. And during their set it is very apparent that, unlike other acts within the genre, the focus is not singularly on Solareye and Veronika as the ‘front’ of the band.
“You’re right,” Solareye agrees, “very often if there is a band, it is more of a backing band, whereas I think we’re more of a ‘collective’ where everyone’s got their integral part to play.’
“More of a fight for attention!” laughs Veronika.
This sense of humour and ability to not take themselves too seriously is also reflected in some of their songs and lyrics that can sometimes give the band a kind of comic book, ‘Irvine Welsh / Trainspotting’ feel. Equally, they are capable of delivering songs of intense social comment, with ‘Sun Dance’ in particular overdosing in pathos.
“It’s a true story about a girl I knew at school whom I met a few years later in a bar and discovered she was now a prostitute. It’s not exactly a verbatim account, but more my interpretation of how she arrived in that situation,” explains Solareye. “Really, we try to walk that fine line between not taking ourselves too seriously, but still sing about things we care about, without sounding like we’re preaching in any way.”
“It’s also, I think, that we try to steer away from the stereotypical view of hip-hop being associated with guns and violence and all that stuff,” Veronika continues. “We want to stay true to the music, but capture a wider audience. So many people have come to us after shows and said how they normally hate hip-hop, but that they loved us. I mean there’s no rulebook, so we just do what we enjoy and really just explore all different aspects of the sound. Our new EP that will be out in the autumn will see us experimenting with our approach to rhyming, for example.”
“Everyone writes little bits and pieces, so there’s lots of stuff floating around right now” says T Lo, “and I think it will sound different to the album. That was recorded within about four months of us forming and we’ve come so far since then. We still feel like we have a lot more to say”
“Yeah – we’re still trying to nail down exactly where we want to go musically I think, which is quite exciting, so I think the new material will sound different to our present stuff, although obviously elements will remain,” says Solareye.
On stage, STANLEY ODD really come to life and an integral component of their sound is the fusion of Funk to the hip-hop. Norwegian guitarist Rune Dawg contributes with some big, heavy and chunky guitar riffs – “…as much as I’m allowed to..!” he jokes.
“But it’s kind of dangerous to take that too far because if you play it too heavy and make it more of a ‘rap / rock’ thing, then people are just going to say that you’re a poor man’s RATM. Or if you have it too ‘funky’ then you’ll be accused of trying to copy early Red Hot Chilli Peppers, so getting the balance is important.”
And although tonight’s show at King Tuts is the last gig of the summer for the band, the plan is to hit the road again in the autumn, after completing the EP. Having previously played in Liverpool, Sheffield and London, the plan is to head South again for a string of dates before the year-end.
“In fact, we’ve just had a few enquiries this very week asking when we’re playing the capital again,” says Solareye. “ I guess in a way it’s like when London bands started rapping in Cockney accents, the Americans perhaps took some time to be convinced. So now the English hip-hop artists and fans will maybe treat the likes of is with some initial scepticism, but so far the feedback has been really positive. The hip-hop scene in Scotland is pretty healthy although perhaps a little introverted and more content to look inward on itself. There’s a whole raft of young talent ready to burst through, but right now it tends to favour being ‘underground’”
“A bit like the Scottish people” suggests Veronika “ – reserved.”
2010 started with STANLEY ODD playing at the Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party in front of fifteen thousand people, and with a summer appearance at T In The Park now also under their belt, they could just prove the inspiration to others from within their genre to step forward. _______________________________________