Interview: Stephen Langstaff
Published on February 10th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Having seen him support Space at Liverpool’s O2 Academy in December, and then been utterly charmed by the gorgeous, breezily melodic recordings on his website, Rocksucker caught up with blossoming singer-songwriter Stephen Langstaff for a chat that was initially interrupted by a delivery to his home of a parcel from Amazon. “I ordered about twenty CDs,” he explained in his bashful Scouse lilt, clearly a man after Rocksucker’s own heart…
Do you know what’s in the package?
Yeah, I wanted to get The Maccabees’ latest one, because I haven’t heard that. I’ve been listening to Foster the People on Spotify a bit as well, they’re really good so I thought I’d get that. I still like getting CDs, holding them, having the artwork and everything.
I sometimes get nostalgic for record store browsing. Different times. Anyway, how was the Space show for you? That must have been quite an exciting night.
Yeah, it was great. Because it had been a while since they’d been together, I wasn’t quite aware of what the audience was going to be like; it was packed, and they were really up for it so the atmosphere was great. Walking out in front of an audience with an acoustic can sometimes go really badly if people ignore you and don’t connect with it, but I think I managed to do it as the gig wore on and I really enjoyed it. There was a warm atmosphere in there.
I recall your set going down well, and there being lots of people already there, which doesn’t always happen with support acts. Which have been your other most exciting gigs so far? I know you played Chester Rocks last summer…
Yeah I did, I opened the main stage. That was a moment in time for me because it was the first major festival that I’ve done, and alongside some hugely established names. It was electric, and the introduction that the girl gave me just before I went on was great. It was the first ever Chester Rocks and there were ten thousand people there, and I was the first act, the first bit of music everyone heard; my manager backstage was like, “No pressure!” (Laughs)
It was great and there were a few things I wasn’t prepared for, one being the panoramic view from the stage; when you’re in a venue, you’re in a room, so it’s generally shaped rectangularly, it’s all right in front of you, but at Chester Rocks all my peripheral vision from left to right was just people, a real sea of faces and colour, and the weather was amazing. I played in a trio with a double bass player and a drummer, Alex and Jake, and it just felt great, like I was the right man to be on the stage at that time, what with the kind of songs that I do. So that was a really special one for me.
How did you come to the attention of your manager Mark Cowley (who also looks after Space and Shack)?
I did a show at the Summer Pops festival they have in Liverpool, opening for The Lightning Seeds. I think Mark was involved with the show, and I met him and we got on. He’s very relaxed, and he’s an ex-musician himself so that really helps. Then we kind of lost contact for a few months, until I bumped into him at a Coral gig, and I’d parted company with the guy who was my manager when I did the Lightning Seeds show. I was just in the right place at the right time; we had a drink and he said, “Send me some stuff and let’s see,” and he gave me a call the week after and said, “Let’s meet.” I’d written a set of songs since the Lightning Seeds gig, stuff like “Smile”, “Curious” and “Spires” that I think were a step up from what I’d played at that gig, so I think he sort of saw the green light.
Is there an album in the works?
Yeah, we’re going to get an album made to sell at shows, maybe do it ourselves, DIY. This year is mainly about touring for me, playing as much as possible, getting people to be aware of who I am. Most of the album is already recorded, and I think as the year progresses we’re going to do a couple of EPs as well.
Are there any other up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
There’s a girl from Blackpool called Rae Morris, who I actually haven’t met but I know people who know her, and somebody told me to check out her stuff. She’s brilliant, only 18 or 19, really sweet and unpretentious songwriting. That really appeals to me.
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your life in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists with you to tide you over, whose would you pick?
Neil Young, Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Jeff Buckley…and then it’s got to be The Beatles! It’s funny, I’m a big Beatles fan, but when I was younger I kind of drifted away from them until my brother bought me all the albums, because I’d lost them all on the way. It really hits you when you look at the period of time when all these albums came out. It’s amazing.
Favourite Beatles album?
Sgt. Pepper’s. It might not be the coolest, but song for song I think it just doesn’t let up; it’s so vibrant, and I think they were at the peak of their confidence creatively. They’d stopped touring, so all their energy was thrown into the studio. Some of the other albums are a bit patchier – Abbey Road and Let It Be have some songs that aren’t that great – but Sgt. Pepper’s is relentless. I love albums that kind of sweep you in one go.
Stephen Langstaff, thank you.
For more information and a list of live dates, please visit stephenlangstaff.co.uk