Still House Plants

Still House Plants consists of three players: Finlay, Jess and David. One day they met at the art school of Glasgow, where they studied at the Fine Arts department. They started playing in flats that where used as galleries and somehow ended up at 20 years Ultra Eczema a couple of months ago. I was confused at first, hearing them. I wondered if they where really good, or really bad. And when that happens you always have to stay and listen. But the show in Antwerp left an instant mark.
19 February 2018 | AG 11
Lizzy Vandierendonck

What are your backgrounds? Which elements does each of you bring to the music?

David Kennedy

I started playing drums at a young age and when I was set to go to music school, I decided against it and stopped playing drums for years. Then to only start again when I met Fin and Jess.

Finlay Clark

I can’t remember how I find out that you actually studied Jazz drumming… That kind of blew my mind, I had no idea. I actually also wanted to go to music school but it really seemed too much textbook. So I ended up at art school with the aim to write music as well to make art.

DK

I think a lot of the way I have been playing recently is in trying to remember how I used to play.

FC

Yeah, when you play, you suddenly can go: “Oh! I remember! I used to play this sort of stuff”. I started more from a classical background primarily, playing the violin in quartets and orchestras in school.

Jessica Hickie-Kallenbach

I don’t have like a musical background, I’m not trained. But I’ve always sung. It’s kind of hard to describe in what ends to be a casual relationship…

FC

I do think you have a very good ear when I heard you singing. I remember approaching you in the kitchen and trying to hold back how excited I was. Because you are extremely talented but I didn’t know if you knew that and I really wanted to make music with you.

JHK

And I guess I kind taught myself guitar a year or two prior of meeting you (Finlay). I’m not very good but I can do some things and I have been writing stuff. Composing really simply.

FC

Like thirty seconds…

JHK

Yeah, and I also try to be playful with YouTube and not to be a secret activity. It allows me to open up.

FC

I remember urging you to do singing lessons so you kind of knew what you where doing. But as time has gone on, it has been amazing to see how you found your own way of singing. It is a very unique path you found because you didn’t have a teacher explaining it to you. I also find it interesting in how we learn through recording.

JHK

Yes, which always have been our approach. Out of necessity, but it also seems to work for us. Working out of improvisation and reaction.

LV

What inspires you, besides music?

FC

I find just doing a really healthy mind-set. I think we are lucky to have a visual background as a group because doing things next to writing music really helps you to free up your mind. Our music has been a part of our studio art practice pretty heavily from the first day. Especially when you talk about improvisation.

We once did a residency where we made these kind of improvised music videos with a dancer from our class. That music got the inspiration from practicing well-being and self-development in a positive way.

LV

How does the band operate?

JHK

In general we write every thing together.

FC

It really, really varies… Most of the time we have one small part that is tightly written and work with that. For example: I play these two chords, then David plays something on the drums and then Jess starts her line. As long we have that tightly written bit, then the rest can be free.

DK

When Fin would play the guitar, in my head I think “I’m gonna play along with him as if he’s playing really straight”, even though it’s not, I’m just pretending that he is. And that is like the basis of our songs, me trying to play in tone.

FC

Yeah, there are restrictions we set ourselves and we would work within them. It sounds like it’s in tempo and in time, but then we would move out of time straight away and we kind of break it again.

JHK

like creating structures…

FC

… and then taking them apart…

JHK

… while actually, building them up is kind of constant.

FC

Another thing is this idea of pretending that we are sampling something. We find a couple of chords and a few words and then repeat them, and then repeat just a fragment of that. And then go stopping and starting all at the same time. That is a definitely something we play with and will continue to explore.

LV

One of your songs is called The House Band of Chicago, is there a great Chicago-related memory or story behind it?

FC

Yes, there is!

JHK

Many interpretations of the song move amongst the three of us as well, which is cool. I mean, Fin and I studied in Chicago for six months. And this song was written when we came back.

FC

We lived with a Midwest punk-kind of band in Chicago and we went on a two day tour in two college towns. I don’t know if you know this but there is a distinct Midwest Chicago sound that we love. It was kind of expressing our love for it at that time.

Also my dad used to make record sleeves for different albums, he was in a company called the Underground. He designed for The House Sound of Chicago, which was I think a record label, so the song is partly a reference to that.

JHK

It was quite funny because the song itself is little bit of a deconstruction of that distinctive sound in someway. It’s very sample heavy and guitar.

FC

There is even saxophone in there, which is often used in brass jamming.

We also made a video for it and a lot of the footage is from Chicago.

LV

Any musical tips regarding bands that are from your area?

JHK

Glasgow is a great city for seeing smaller bands.

DK

I think Cucina Povera

FC

There is not really a Glasgow sound. But having said that, a lot of bands record at Green Door Studios, where we record as well. There is kind of a sound. A lot of these people are related to Optimo (a weekly Sunday-night club in Glasgow.)

DK

It sort of sounds like New York club music but with a weird dub on it.

JHK

It’s funny to be amongst the list of people who record there. We generally recorded things straightforwardly, live so to speak… just the action of playing, using almost no overdubs.

FC

We once went on a tour where we drove through a place where the musicians that played where Glasgow based (Horsewisper, Cucina Povera and Maria). The music there was like a dubby-free form of dance music.