An interview with The Stagger Rats

According to their website, the Stagger Rats are “the love children of a mystical creature long lost to science”. They’re also Edinburgh-based purveyors of occasionally raunchy, occasionally wistful, occasionally tongue-in-cheek, always 100% bang-on indie pop who’ve recently released their debut album Scorpio Leisure (pleasingly named after a “sauna” in Leith that they claim not to have frequented), recorded by Owen Morris (producer of Oasis, The Verve, and The View amongst others).

We caught up with singer Daniel Paylor to pinpoint exactly where his head is currently at:

Describe your music in three words.

Loin in-flamingly catchy

How do you go about writing a song? Do you start with the lyrics or the melody?

We write each individual song as it comes really, no specific formula. Sometimes it starts with a lyric, sometimes a guitar riff, we just take it as it comes.

What do you want your music to achieve?

I think the first thing we’re looking for is to feel a sense of accomplishment for ourselves, a sense that we’re doing something that’s good. If other people like it and it goes anywhere, then that’s bonus town.

Which bit of music gear could you not live without and why?

Probably the Hammond organ. We got a little midi keyboard on the go so we didn’t have to carry the hammond about, but we’ve just ended up using both and having twice as much to carry. The love for the Hammond goes deep deep deep.

What’s your personal favourite Stagger Rats song, and why?

I think my favourite Stagger Rats song tends to be the last one we’ve done, because we’ve been playing some of them for years and years, so when you’ve got a fresh new one, it’s very exciting. Our latest song, Chubby Little Baby, is my current favourite.

Tell us a bit about how you recorded your album, Scorpio Leisure.

We recorded Scorpio Leisure with Owen Morris almost two years ago in Budapest, in an old KGB phone tapping building. The majority of the album was recorded live in a huge room with only vocals and minimal guitar being overdubbed. We all had our own corner in the room with Kai the drummer set up behind plexi-glass sheets that would stop a bullet. It really helped keep the live feeling that always strive for. It was a good working atmosphere, and everyone involved really pulled together, which obviously helps. We had the songs pretty much picked from day one, and let Owen do his thing as we pretty much trusted anything he had to say. All in all, we’re very proud of how the album has turned out, and, now it’s been released, we’ll see how it goes.

What was your first gig like?

Our first gig was in Whistlebinkies many moons ago. It was actually our old band named ‘Sober Tongues’ for obvious reasons. A bunch of friends turned up steaming drunk and before we were even halfway through our set it all kicked off resulting in a full blown wrestling match including the bouncers. We carried on to the end of our set but were advised on our way out to never come back to Whistlebinkies.

In the early days, how did you get yourselves gigs?

In the early days we got ourselves gigs by networking, emailing, annoying promoters, and sometimes just going to venues and asking for a slot. The very start is hard, it’s a thankless slog, but the upside is that you’ve got a massive positivity and belief about your music, and you tend not to have been bogged down by the business side of things at that point. But it’s all necessary.

What advice would you give to a new band wanting to get heard?

My advice to a new band would be: don’t start a band, we don’t need you, music is full, no more piranhas in the tank please. Nah, I’d say just to play music you love, and at the start just plod on with the hope that things will improve. There’s nothing else you can do really.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would you pick?

If I could listen to one artist for the rest of my life it would probably be The Ronettes. That never gets old, and it always seems to appropriate, like for any and all occasions  happy, sad, summer, winter, going out, staying in, everything.

Which of you would win in a fight? How? Well that would depend on what kind of fight really. We all have unique powers so it would be a close call.

What’s your favourite instrument? Them all.

Have you shopped in Red Dog Music? Yeah we visit quite often for strings, spares and to stare at the George Harrison Gretsch hovering high up on the wall. The last few pedals we’ve enlisted have come from Red Dog, bought a Holy Grail Reverb last week and a top notch second hand Metal Zone a while back.

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Guitar-plucker, piano-tinkler, sonic-mangler, Red Dog Music-owner, lion-tamer, and Weetabix-devourer. One (or more) of these is a lie.

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