First formed in the emerging UK punk scene of the late 1970’s, The Stingrays quickly assumed the roles of scene leaders in their hometown of Bristol. Playing a brisk and buoyant punk-pop, they released a handful of songs, including the Countdown EP, garnering critical acclaim and the stamp of approval from John Peel himself.
With punk taking the musical world by storm, The Stingrays seemed poised to ride that momentum to stardom. However, instead, they vanished.
Thirty years later, after discovering their early releases had been enough of a phenomenon in Japan to be re-issued, the band resurfaced there, touring and recording again, even having their first Tokyo performance captured by manga artist Zawa Freakbeat in Private World Volume 2.
What happened? I caught up with founding Stingrays member Russ Wainmaring to discuss The Stingrays’ journey and upcoming show in Busan.
SC: The Stingrays’ original releases in the late 70’s and early 80’s seem to have been well received. What made the band stop playing? Why start again now? And what does it feel like, after all these years, to stand in front of a cheering crowd?
RW: The reason the band stopped playing…I simply ran out of band members! In the early 80’s there was a big upheaval in the Bristol music scene and many people who had been involved the previous five years or so left. I went to try my luck in Paris. Sean and Chris from the Countdown line-up joined Subway Sect and went on to form Joboxers. Paul Johnson from the Never Do line-up remained in Bristol and played bass on the first Massive Attack album. Why did it all start again? Well it didn’t really stop for me. After Paris I went to live in West Wales where my family home is in the early 90’s. I had a music shop Siop yn Llawn o Stwr (Shop Full of Noise) but I had always felt there was unfinished business with The Stingrays. This line up with myself, Rich, and Paul has been going since 2008 but very much under the radar.
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SC: The Stingrays’ songs are timeless: driving and insistent, while effortlessly catchy and accessible. Musical tastes and technologies have evolved since the 70’s, of course, but, at its core, what’s changed about the definition of “good music,” whether it’s for you personally or for audiences?
RW: Good question. I guess I come from the age before computer-made music (my first band was in 1975). The seamless inter-meshing of live and computer driven music, which is natural for today’s music audience, wasn’t even technically possible at that point. It does not feel natural for me in performance to use a computer although I use Cubase when making demos. In recent times I have been heading even further away from technology and focusing much less on guitar and making the vocal central to what I do.
SC: Though The Stingrays might identify as a new wave band, to my American ears much of the music sounds like early Ramones-style NY punk. How much should these musical distinctions matter?
RW: Well I’d take that Ramones comparison as a big compliment, and we have been planning to play in New York for a while, but these days I do not think the distinctions matter unless you are a musical historian. They never were very accurate either and the older I get they seem to become more irrelevant. And this band has been going so long everything is getting lost in the mists of time!
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SC: What do The Stingrays hope to see or do or accomplish in Korea?
RW: Coming to Korea: as always it’s to meet new people, have some new musical experiences that will influence me, and maybe return the favour for some bands we meet. But I am also looking forward to seeing how new audiences react to songs and take some of that reaction away with me and learn from it.
SC: What’s next for the band?
RW: We will be touring Germany in July and also finish the recording of the new album Use No Hooks.
SC: Thanks, Russ.
10 p.m. start. No cover.