One of the many highlights of Shiiine On Weekender 2015 was the set put on by Thousand Yard Stare, which earned them a spot in Step On’s highly coveted 2015 “Best Of” lists. Well, maybe not highly coveted is pushing it a bit, but it does means we liked what we saw. A lot! One thing not in dispute is the fact that front-man Stephen Barnes won the weekend for best shirt with his “How Soon Is Slough” beauty. And as anyone who was there can attest, there were some absolute relics pulled out of cold storage and aired out especially for the weekend.
Stephen will have a chance to prepare to hold on to his well-earned shirt trophy this November when he and Thousand Yard Stare return to Minehead for the second installment of the Shiiine On Weekender. Which, we are excited to learn, will likely feature new music from the band as they prepare to release a new LP in June!
Stephen was kind also enough to take the time to tolerate our pesky questions about his music tastes, travel preferences, art obsessions, and life in general, and provided us with these pearls of wisdom.
Step On Magazine: What are you listening to right now?
Stephen Barnes: The new LNZNDRF album, Oliver Wilde, and Father John Misty. Just got the Ry X LP too, sublime. I work with a lot of up and coming bands and it still buzzes me. For psychedelic vibes, try the Vryll Society, for indie pop/rock try Kid Wave. There’s an endless supply of good music!
What was the first LP/tape/CD you remember owning?
Searching For The Young Soul Rebels by Dexys Midnight Runners. The 7 inch single of “Tom Hark” by The Piranhas.
What is your favourite band? Who is the most underrated band that you just can’t understand why they weren’t more celebrated?
Super Furry Animals basically sum up all my musical tastes in one band. No other band can span acid pop, psychedelia, kraut, pop, rock, indie, electronica and incisive lyrical content like these Welsh wizards! I think I speak for all of Thousand Yard Stare by saying the Cardiacs are probably the most under-rated band, but they seem to be growing in kudos more every day as people discover them, despite being on permanent hiatus. (God bless you Tim!)
Why do you live where you do?
I’ve lived in Bristol for the past 5 years after being in London for over 20. I love its ‘militant hippy’ vibe and it works to its own rhythm. It’s a gritty city and a high brow city, small enough to walk around but big enough to have an international standing. The music and arts scene is always buzzing. There’s a real freedom of expression and experimentation. It can be a bit sleepy at times, but maybe it’s just me that needs to slow down!
What is your favourite journey?
Life’s a journey, man! Probably through the central plateau in Vietnam. Despite its violent history, it’s lush and green and the food and people just incredible.
What is essential to take on a plane or tour bus?
Your sanity, and try not to have it stolen or leave it anywhere. I have a “find my mind” app on my phone.
What is your dream vacation/trip if money was no object?
Right now, Cuba. Been on my mind for quite a while, and it’s starting to go through a rapid change, post-Fidel. It feels like it has a unique spirit.
What do you do with 4 hours to yourself in a new city?
Find where the real folk are. People make cities, not buildings, so go where the locals go. Drink their drinks, eat their food and talk to them. Then you’ll know how a city vibes.
What advice should you have taken but didn’t?
“Sleep On It”, which is very good advice in almost all cases. However, bouts of insomnia mean I don’t take it often enough.
Who’s your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would the menu be?
Billie Holiday. I was part of the team that made a BBC Radio 2 documentary about her a few years back, and her story is both fascinating and heartbreaking. I’d ask her to sing “I’m A Fool To Love You” whilst I served her Moroccan Lamb Stew.
Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
There’s No More Heroes Anymore, didn’t you know?
What was the best live gig or music festival you attended?
Last week I got to see Brian Wilson at sound check doing “God Only Knows”. That was quite a moment. The gig was great too. Festival-wise, probably Primavera 2013. Nick Cave, The Postal Service, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Oh Sees, My Bloody Valentine, Kurt Vile; seemed every band I saw was great…and all right in the heart of Barca, which I love. Not been the last couple of years due to other commitments and I’m gutted!
What is your “must” reads?
Huffington Post, VICE, Football Italia.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.
‘Nu descendant un escalier # 2’ by Marcel Duchamp. Never looks the same twice, no matter how many times I’ve looked at it. It’s actually an oil painting and the core colours are sublime. He was a bit of an outsider and arguably the first true Modernist, so he’s alright with me.
What does the next 6 months look like for you?
A spattering of live dates with Thousand Yard Stare, some more recording (hopefully), a massive cross Europe arts project, and cycling around Sri Lanka.
Which musician rule do you agree with? Always meet your heroes, or Never meet your heroes?
No. There’s no more heroes anymore, remember?