Stephen EvEns illuminates with ‘Here Come The Lights’

"I think we underestimate the human ear’s delight in hearing different noises intertwining"
30 April 2024
Photo by Ashley Jones

A journey into kaleidoscopic soundscapes and endearing narratives

Stephen EvEns, also known as Stephen Gilchrist, brings a kaleidoscopic fusion of psych rock and storytelling to his latest album​ Here Come The Lights. The album sees EvEns draw from his drumming experiences with megastars like Blur’s Graham Coxon and The Damned, infusing diverse influences and captivating narratives into his new release.

Following the success of Employee of the Month, EvEns embarks on a new journey with Here Come The Lights. Lead track, A Tree,’offers a glimpse into the album’s kaleidoscopic sound.

Collaborating with esteemed musicians like Debbie Smith (Echobelly/Curve) and Cardiacs alumni Bob Leith and William D. Drake, the album is released via Onomatopoeia Records, known for fostering unique talents.

In an exclusive interview, Stephen EvEns reflects on his musical journey, collaborations, and aspirations, offering insights into his artistry and outlook on music. Join us as we explore the enigmatic world of Stephen EvEns and his captivating new album.

I do not operate within what I believe to be the music industry. In my creative work I deal with like minded musical types and at my studio I work to support those creative people’s goals the best I can.

Could you share with us how your experiences as a seasoned drummer, collaborating with renowned artists such as Graham Coxon and The Damned, influenced the creation of your new album, Here Come The Lights?

I don’t think it contributes as much as you would think. Well, no more than any other artist I have worked with. Graham as a writer and a player is unique, the way he creates that tone and his ability to make the pedals part of the composition is something that has always fascinated me. I expect a little of that has rubbed off on me. I have not worked with either of those artists in a long time but admire very much what they do so I would not be surprised if elements of their approach did not rub off in some way.

What inspired the kaleidoscopic, psych rock sound and storytelling elements that are prominent throughout Here Come The Lights?

I’ve always looked at Stephen Evens as being in the tradition of folk music in that you are putting a story into song form or presenting some kind of message you have within the context of music. I like your use of the word “Kaleidoscopic” – I think that’s a beautiful description, and it makes me happy you see it that way.

I’ve always liked psych sounding music and I think with these songs I have probably been a bit more daring at points. I think we underestimate the human ear’s delight in hearing different noises intertwining. Perhaps it appeals to the people like me who like to sit and listen to all the noises popping off in the city, or even in the countryside. I guess it can be quite meditative. The first record, Bonjour Poulet had more of this going on and Employee of The Month was much more of a straight forward pop/rock/whatever you want to call it kind of affair. However I didn’t really realise this until I had finished it, but it was probably the right thing to do as everyone ignored the first record. Which was a shame.

I really like this new record. Feels the most like what’s going on in my head and the way you are describing it fits in with how I feel about it too. Thank you.

Collaborating with musicians like Debbie Smith and Jen Macro, how did these partnerships shape the sonic landscape and thematic direction of the album?

When you are lucky enough to have those kinds of people available to contribute or as part of your friendship circle there is a certain amount of trust that is embedded. It’s just a case of just pointing them in the right direction and letting them get on with it, and it’s always magic.

Following the positive reception of your previous album, Employee of the Month, how do you feel Here Come The Lights represents a progression in your musical journey and storytelling approach?

Both records were pretty much written at the same time and a vast majority of them were recorded side by side. But once I started gathering the songs together they divided themselves into two little piles. I’m not sure there was a progression there, it’s just that they found their own place to live. I think the main progression was technical. My attitude to mixing changed and Here Come the Lights benefitted from a more measured and less chaotic approach.

How do you manage the balancing act of being an artist while juggling other daily responsibilities, and what strategies do you employ to maintain creativity amidst it all?

Oh. Oh no, I don’t do this very well at all. I faff, I waste time, I procrastinate. It is pointed out to me on a regular basis that I do not only organise my time incredibly badly but also that I seem to fill up any spare bit of time I have. In an ideal world all I would do would be to write, record and perform. Sadly there are bills to pay and that requires some focus on financially beneficial activities. I am lucky enough that I get to do that within the area of music. I run a rehearsal and recording studio and do bits of recording and production for other people. I also am involved in a bit of musical education too which keeps the wolf from the door.

All in all I cannot complain. I have a very rewarding life and I am surrounded by amazing people who I love dearly. I often say that I am the luckiest twit in the world and I stand by that.

Looking ahead, how do you anticipate the music industry evolving in the coming years, and what transformations or advancements would you like to witness within it?

I do not operate within what I believe to be the music industry. In my creative work I deal with like minded musical types and at my studio I work to support those creative people’s goals the best I can. The industry has never taken much of an interest in what I have to offer creatively and in many ways that probably benefits me more than you would think. Nobody pressures me to do anything I do not want to do. Nobody is relying on me to put food on the table. I am signed to Onomatopoeia and they support me with love and respect. I deliver them a record and all they ask is how I want to put it out and what I want to do with it.

I would like to see more revenue streams working in the artists favour. Because on every level, be you a new artist or a heritage act, a lot of investment is made in terms of finance and time and it is not reflected in the fee (if there even is one on offer). Just to be clear I am not pointing the finger at anyone for why this is. I’ve been a record label and promoter as well as an artist so I know what it is like.

There are a lot of platforms out there where people can give money to bands and musicians, but I know that a lot of my peers are very uncomfortable about going cap in hand. So I had an idea about a website that each artist had a profile page for. There would be a graphic showing a pair of scales. On one side you had an estimate of everything you have invested into your career from your first violin lesson aged 5 to the most recent pack of bass strings. On the other side you would have an estimate of how much money you have made from music and you could leave a payment link there for people to contribute to redressing the balance if they so wished. Don’t ask, don’t please, just leave it there and if they want, pop a fiver in.

From your perspective, what are the benefits and drawbacks of following an independent artistic path compared to being signed to a record label?

I think I have covered most of this already but the main difference is the amount of money a large label is able to throw at a project resulting in the types of opportunities you are afforded to promote yourself. Whether you are DIY, signed to an indie or to a major the chances of making a living are slim unless the stars are aligned and your luck matches your levels of ability and talent equally.

But it depends on what you want from this. I’m not sure anyone really knows what they want from it. Deep down, I expect the same as me, the chance to be able to do what they do uninterrupted with complete creative control. Which sadly is unlikely unless you can live off the air that you breathe and are able to sleep in the woods.

You have to be happy with your art on whatever level you are afforded to express it. If you have a voice to sing your heart out with and limbs to operate your chosen instrument and if there is occasion that a microphone might fall in front of it to capture that moment or amplify it to the rest of the room then you are rich beyond measure. Because not everybody has that opportunity. It’s taken me a long, LONG time to appreciate that.

Could you sum up your musical style in just three words?

No, I cannot.

How would you describe your perfect day?

Everyday should have a little bit of perfection in it, don’t you think? Anyone who has had a truly abominable 24 hours would agree, or a day that has been dull or not just got off on the right foot. If those days had that segment of joy then they would not have been for nothing.

If it’s ok with you I shall spread this perfection throughout the rest of my days and dedicate a little piece each day to it. So that’s maybe cooking up an amazing feast for my nearest and dearest one day. An extended dog walk on one, writing a new song on another or a 20 minute rejuvenating nap that conjures up a vivid dream the next.  

I think if I had just one perfect 24 hours the rest of life would pale in comparison.

If you could change one or two things in the music industry, what would it be?

Let’s remove the word ‘industry’ and change our phone numbers so it can’t find us.