One of the great lost bands of the early 90s for me was Thousand Yard Stare. This Slough five-piece released a number of EPs and a couple of albums on their own Stifled Aardvark label, with major label backing from Polydor, and gigged relentlessly in the few years they were active. After their 1993 split all has been quiet until this year, when they announced a one-off gig (already sold out) at the Borderline in London on 6 June.
I was lucky enough to catch some of the live performances first time round and also have a box full of vinyl and cassettes bearing their logo too! Music history has lumped them in with the shoegaze set of the early 90s but there was much more to their music than that, ranging from rock to folk to pop. I spoke to lead singer Stephen Barnes about the early days, the split and the reunion, and you can hear it all below:
When we finished the “official” part of the interview we had a long chat about the good old days of music and Stephen told me a great story about the making of the Buttermouth video back in 1991.
Stephen’s mum got a phone call from the makers of the Chart Show at ITV – the band had put Stephen’s phone number on their first EP, long before the days of internet and mobile phones, and someone from ITV had found the demo and given them a call.
They asked to feature Buttermouth on the Chart Show, as it was the lead track on the Keepsake EP which was the second highest new entry on that week’s indie chart. Stephen grabbed the phone, said yes, no problem, we’ll send it over by Friday, three days’ time. And of course, being a small indie band on their own label, they didn’t have a video.
The only person Stephen knew who could possibly make a video was Tim Smith from the Cardiacs – Stephen said that the band were obsessed with the Cardiacs, even though this never really came out in their music. The video was knocked out in two hours, which featured the band in Windsor Great Park with Stephen in a shopping trolley being whizzed around while Tim filmed it all on a handheld Super 8 camera.
The video was knocked out at a cost of £30 and delivered to ITV on time. The Chart Show tended to show ten second clips so Stephen said that as long there was ten seconds which looked half-decent he was happy!
That’s how a rare Thousand Yard Stare EP track ended up on national television … it’s hard to imagine bands having that kind of opportunity today!