Joel Stoker - Interview & Signed Test Pressing Giveaway
Joel Stoker, best known as the frontman of London indie-rockers The Rifles, today releases his debut studio album The Undertow (Cooking Vinyl), described by The Upcoming as "a mature, well-realised debut album."
The Undertow sees Joel raising his artistic bar to a whole new level. As this very personal record enters the hearts and minds of music lovers across the land, we talk to Joel about the writing of the album, his new recording studio and a support slot with none other than Liam Gallagher.
As frontman of The Rifles, Joel Stoker has released a host of acclaimed albums, the most recent two of which achieved the highest chart positions of their career, as well as playing numerous riotous sold-out tours and picking up famous fans including Paul Weller, Madness and Ian Broudie. Now Joel introduces a completely different side with his debut solo album The Undertow. Both effortlessly melodic and unflinchingly honest, its eleven tracks see him entering completely new sonic territory with touchstones ranging from Bob Marley and Fleetwood Mac to Dexys and Michael Kiwanuka. Thematically, Joel’s lyrics hold nothing back as he reveals his experiences with anxiety and mental health issues, his overwhelming struggles with OCD dating back to childhood.
TM: Reviews are already landing for your debut solo album The Undertow. The UpComing declares that the album is “a surprising turn" and IINAG remarks on the pleasant surprise of the brass and strings on the record. Was defying expectations a conscious move with the release of the album?
Joel Stoker: It wasn't really a conscious decision to make the sound of the record different from "The Rifles Sound" - I was just putting things on the songs that I felt suited them. I've always liked the sound of strings and brass and symphonic instruments and my debut solo record was a perfect opportunity to embrace these sounds without discussion.
TM: Lead single ‘My Own War’, with lyrics like “among the revelry of faces I know, I get no company anywhere that I go” documents a very intimate perspective of your internal dialogue. Do you feel that working as a solo artist allows you to go to different places lyrically than you have gone in a band setting?
JS: Absolutely. Initially, I was just writing songs, but it very soon became apparent that the songs were much more personal to me, my life and my own experiences.
"It wouldn't have felt right using these songs in a band format which ultimately led me to release a solo album" - Joel Stoker
TM: Right Hook Recordings is your new recording studio and label imprint, where parts of the album have been recorded. What are the plans and hopes for your studio going forward?
JS: The studio was spawned from recording The Undertow. I've always recorded and overdubbed in my shed at home, which works perfectly for most things; the main issue is capturing live drums. On recording my album I bought some decent drum mics, set up in our rehearsal room and tracked all the drums for the album in three days. I then took the recordings away and worked on everything else at home.
This gave me the idea to create a really good drum tracking room in which bands could come and follow the same process as I used. This way they wouldn't spend tons of money in the studio and it also allows them to do the rest of the recording at home in their own time. With the money saved from two weeks-plus in a studio, you could get yourself a great little set-up for home recording. You are able to record everything at the studio if you wish but my initial plan was meant for drum tracking.
That being said I've had some great results with bands coming down to record and it's a process that I really enjoy being part of.
TM: You recently opened for Liam Gallagher at KOKO (with a cool show of support from Joel and Deano from The Rifles in tow) and the performance has been receiving plaudits across social media. After the show you remarked: “There’s no substitute for timeless songs!” Can you expand on that?
JS: I've always maintained that a great song should be able to be stripped back to an acoustic guitar or piano and still sound great. If a song can do this I feel that it becomes timeless and it would be safe to say upon hearing Liam Gallagher's set that great songs never get old!
TM: Finally, we at Townsend Music are proud advocates for physical formats (including your own Transparent Blue Vinyl and Signed CD editions!). Here in 2023, what is your preferred medium for listening to music?
JS: 100% vinyl. I used to buy a lot of vinyl when I was younger and have a pretty good little collection. I've only recently got back into listening to music on this format after years of listening to MP3s out of one speaker and the difference is day and night; I feel that so many intricacies get lost on a single speaker and a digital format.
"Vinyl: hands down the best way to listen to music" - Joel Stoker
The Undertow is out now on Exclusive Transparent Blue Vinyl, Clear Vinyl and CD, all complete with Signed Prints while stocks last.
Enter our exclusive giveaway to win a signed test pressing of Joel Stoker's The Undertow.
The winner will be chosen on Monday 11th September 2023.
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