INTERVIEW: We Catch-up w/ Stephen EvEns ahead of Balcony Festival #2 – this Saturday, April 11

Tell us about Stephen EvEns, where are you based?

In a small room in the back of the house somewhere outside of London. I’m not allowed out until my wife has finished work.  There’s a computer, some guitars, a drum and an organ in here. I’ve got work to do, but I’m skiving off and talking to you instead. Which is much more fun. Oh, the dog’s here too.

What were the ideas behind Stephen EvEns character?

He’s me. Well possibly a bit exaggerated, an alter ego perhaps. But basically it’s me showing off.  I show off a lot.  It’s not always tolerated but if you strap a guitar on, most people allow it for 30 minutes on occasion.

Tell us about Balcony Festival?
Balcony festival, is a festival based on the Italian musicians who have been singing from their Balconies throughout the Coronavirus lockdown. This Saturday it is to raise money for NHS Charities Together. It starts at 1pm and is run by a magazine collective.

Can you tell us more about the charity, ‘NHS Charities Together’?

It’s a charity that encompasses all NHS charities across the UK and they are very active in support for NHS workers during the crisis.  Everything from making sure their families are supported & getting proper advice to acquiring protective clothing that is so desperately needed.

You know, regular stuff that you would expect them to have already.

Tell us about life under lock-down? What are your top three survival tips?

Laugh. Don’t drink too much. Set yourself some goals – this might be the only chance you have to dedicate some time to those projects you talk about in the pub but always claim to be too busy to do.

I’ve started Yoga…in my mind.

Your new track Dustbin Man, is in support of key workers, tell us about the moment of inspiration for that track? How did it come about?

I don’t usually write songs that are this serious to be honest.  I got pissed-off watching overfed idiots in power telling the people who keep their country running to tighten their belts.  Always coming out with “thanks for the dedication and tireless work” not ever any talk of a few extra fivers here and there.  So it’s in celebration of those people who keep your country working, those who are there to pick you up when you fall down.

The album, ‘Employee of the Month’, is due out in August, can you tell us more about it, is it a concept album?

It’s not as much of a concept album as is obvious, I guess.  It’s mainly written about the internal crisis one has between that urge to spend all their time creating twixt with the ingrained protestant work ethic.  The attempts at trying to be normal and failing, working in a shop and all the while not noticing how hilariously ridiculous you life is at the same time.  It sees the peak of my dark despair wrapped in even darker humour song writing period.  Like an artic role, all cold and not what you’d ordered.  I’m quite proud of it. I’m looking forward to sticking it on the shelf with the rest of that period of my life. I’m quite a happy go lucky boy, really.

What do you think the most essential ingredients are that go into creating an album?

Recording is all lies…well, my approach to it is.  I’m a huge admirer of people like Brian Paulson and Steve Albini who record properly. To document the band as it sounds as truly as possible.  What I do is the sonic equivalent of gaffe-tapping an elephant to a trifle and then throw a full dressed Christmas tree at it. Unorthodox perhaps, incompetent even but the results taste good to my ears.  Plus I have a reasonable number of talented engineers on hand who are an enormous help.  

My first album I got lost down a digital rabbit hole. Endless tracks and endless hard drive space to fill up until I was so confused I didn’t know my bass part from my trumpet solo. So much so I had to give it to someone else to untangle it like it was some crazy ball of sonic twine.

So now I’ve gone back to the way I started recording when I was a student. I’ve got an 8 track tape machine and a bunch of gear I know how to get my favoured results out of and I stuff as much tune into the tape as will go.  I like the limitation of having not more than 8 tracks to balance and the commitment to not being able to undo stuff at a later date.

What were the most intriguing moments of life in the last week?

I’ve spent a lot of time indoors this week. The dog’s been quite funny. But I don’t think that’s what you’re after is it? Erm….I had to tell my Dad off for going to the supermarket when he’s supposed to be in lock down. That was a weird role reversal I didn’t enjoy.

What are your top three tracks about the NHS?

Wow, that’s habit specific isn’t it?  Other than my awesome tune?  Hmmm. (quick google search)…hmmm, I’m going to cheat.  These are about illness/accidents/conditions.

Nervous Norvus – Transfusion

Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick

P J Harvey – Happy & Bleeding

Awesome songs, I think you’ll agree.

Any recommendations for albums / films / books to catch-up on over the next few weeks. 

I’m all out of films at the moment. If I have more than half an hour to sit down we either listen to some tunes and hang out or have a bit of online poker with our friends who we miss dearly.

We still buy a lot of records in this house, new and old.  I’m a huge fan of Hurtling’s “Future from Here” and Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something’s “Oh really, what’s that then?”  The Barringtone (ex-Clor) record is spectacular. But it’s not out yet. I stole mine.

I am currently reading Miles Davis’s but biography. I’m only about a third of the way through but it’s like being sat at a bar being regaled with his life story by the great man himself. He really paints a picot in your mind…not always a pretty one neither. 

I gave Andrew O’Neil (the comedian) a drum lesson on line earlier today. He’s going to send me his book “Heavy Metal”. I’ll tell you what that’s like when I’ve read it. But he’s very funny so I’m going to go with “hilarious” all the same.

Who are your top three acts you are looking forward to at Balcony Festival this weekend?

Thomas Truax is the top of my list. A long time admirer of his mischief. I’ll be honest all those other pop groups are news to my ears so looking forward to jotting them down on my score card and having a good old enjoyment.

Catch Stephen EvEns at Balcony Festival, this Saturday @ 3:30pm

Listen to Dustbin Man here: