Stylus was a popular Melbourne funk/soul band of distinguished membership that released four albums and a number of singles 1975-1979. The band was fronted by Peter Cupples who went on to form the Peter Cupples Band (see earlier post)
Stylus grew out of the ashes of Melbourne band Mason's Cure, formed by keyboardist Ian Mason (ex-Kush). Mason's Cure issued one single on Astor in early 1975, "Let Me Love You Right"/"Back to Reality", before Mason left the group. He joined The Bootleg Band, and went on to issue a solo single, "Gotta Lotta Love"/"Keep It Up" (August 1978), and album, 'Nobody Takes Me Seriously' (Oz/EMI, 1978). Singer Peter Cupples had been the focal point of Mason's Cure, so with Mason's departure, the band recruited Sam McNally on keyboards and became Stylus. The band toured as support to Focus, Ike and Tina Turner and Sherbet, scored a deal with WEA (Atlantic) and issued the single Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze"/"Feelin' Blue" (July 1975). The single reached #31 in Melbourne during August. The band's second single, "World of Make Believe"/"Just Began" (October) reached #27.
In November 1975, WEA issued the Stylus debut album 'Where in the World' (#19 in Melbourne during December). The album produced a third single, "I'm Going Home"/"Where in the World" (April 1976), but by that stage Stylus had left WEA. The band issued one single, "So Much Love"/"We All Need One Another" (#30 in August 1976), on Crystal Clear, before signing a new deal with Ross Wilson and Glenn Wheatley's Oz label (through EMI). The album For the Love of Music produced the singles "I Just Don't Wanna Fall in Love Right Now"/"Funky Fig" (October 1976) and "Kissin"/"For the Love of Music" (June 1977). By that stage, Peter Lee had been replaced by Trevor Courtney (ex-Vibrants, Skylight) initially, and then by Joe Tattersalls (ex-Ayers Rock) by the end of the year.
Courtney played on the band's third album, 'The Best Kept Secret ' (April 1978), which produced the singles "Work Out Fine"/"Natural Feeling" (March), "Look at Me"/"You Can't Get It Out of Your Head" (July) and "Got to Say Goodbye"/"Discover Your Life" (November). The prestigious American label Motown distributed the album in the USA (under the title Stylus) via the Prodigal imprint. In late 1978, Peter Roberts (ex-Ride Band) joined Stylus as co-lead vocalist. Not long after that, Mark Meyer (ex-Sailor) replaced Tattersalls on drums, and the band supported visiting American jazz guitarist George Benson on his Australian tour. The band's fourth album, 'Part of It All' (August 1979), and its single, "If You Believe in Me"/"Byron Bay" (August), were not successful and the members of Stylus parted.
A Stylus reunion tour in 2002 yielded the album 'Still Alive'.
Interview with Stylus (RAM # 44, November 5th, 1976)
'We Flunked Business College' admit Stylus
It's been a while. Sam McNally was telling me since Stylus last appeared in these hallowed pages. McNally is Stylus' keyboard player and he has a point: RAM No. 21 was, I think, the last time that the group scored themselves an article. In fact I think both he and vocalist Peter Cupples are slightly peeved by the fact. We three are gathered around the small kitchen table of Cupples' Elsternwick (Vic.) home getting down to a bit of interviewing, you see, and the question of Stylus long silence has popped up.
Maybe you'd noticed. Stylus have maintained a fairly low-key existence over the last six-or-so months Which is pretty unusual, because their brand of funky good-time music got them off onto a highly promising start. The singles Summer Breeze and Make Believe both did a fair share of chart climbing and the album 'Where In The World' didn't exactly sink without trace (it is now almost gold). The only real sign of activity lately, however, has been the single So Much Love, which inexplicably did very link-chart-wise. Why the silence?
Well, after about ten minutes of talking it becomes clear Stylus think they have the answer. Bv that time the conversation had shifted to a discussion of the group s old record company - W.E.A, whom they split from in January. Although Where In The World came out as well as,if not better than they had expected they have few compliments for W.E.A records.
"There was no communication with W.E.A at all," explains McNally. "They just weren't interested in us.
Well, how did you first get signed up?
"We weren't signed up with them technically".
"It was all done through our manager", continues Cupples, ruefully munching an apple. "We didn't know much about it. We didn't know much about anything at this stage. We were sort of rookies in the business". He grins.
"lt was terribly, terribly confusing", says McNally. "because there was us, then our management, then the record company, and it was mainly between management and record company. We felt we were left in the dark".
All in all. Stylus stress, they were Not Happy.
A question about management was met with silence, then a burst of laughter, then a request from McNally to keep quiet about it. Management, they assured me, was "going to be cool, but they preferred not to talk about it.
Neither McNally nor Cupples are very specific, but they stress the musical side of the band had been disrupted over the past six months and that a lot of their time had been spent sorting out managerial and related matters.
"The most important thing we're aiming for", says McNally. "is ownership of our own music, instead of being signed up to a company that has the right to do whatever they like with what they call our Product. We want the right to say where and when we want Product X released, which is very important".
"We want to keep it together, keep it nice and honest" continues Cupples "In this business you don t need a certificate to become a manager. Any whack can become a manager, it (the business) has got to become more professional and the bands — the music — has got to be respected more. The music is the seed, everything branches out from that.
"Now we're taking a very careful look at what we are doing on a business level as well as a musical level. You've got to, otherwise (pause) you could end up really badly in the shit"
Sure enough, a week after the interview the band split their ties with the past and signed to Glenn Wheatley's Oz label
Whatever happens next, let's hope both band ,and new record company keep smiling warmly at each other. Certainly Stylus haven't done very well in the world of Big Business so far
But less of these downers and more of the happy, musical expansiveness that Stylus are renowned for Musically, things have never been better, as Peter Cupples will tell you
"Musically'.' Yeah, it feels great."
For audiences it feels great too. Stylus are a rare example of the sort of band who don't use sticks of dynamite and guitar-in-the-crotch poses as springboards for their musical prowess. They are, if you like funky, but they are definitely not the usual, banal, disco rhythm-ace hook-up that word is often applied to.
They're funky in the sweetly melodic, wordly-aware sense the best examples of Philadelphian soul music always demonstrate. A melody line is never a repetition, it's always a winding path with undulating movements that suggest the gradual unfolding of A Direction. Their choruses are a celestial blending of voices that sometimes suggest the Beach Boys singing church hymns. The music, more often than not is adventurously arranged with a subtlety and feeling fulness that demonstrates a compatibility which allows each musician to respond to his fellow members.
If there's one criticism of the group that's endured, it's that their internal harmony and unity is often mistaken for blandness. And their propensity for delving into gentle themes of Brotherly Togetherness and the Quest For Inner Peace And An Organic Gardening Plot (all members are vegetarians)" sometimes attracts the unwelcome tag of the Macrobiotic Wimps.
Still, only those who really listen can hope to know what is really going down.
The band is incredibly together as a unit," says McNally. "We feel that in the next week or so we're going to be on the verge of our-biggest breakthrough ever
This statement has more than a little to do with the fact that, by the time you are reading this, their new album For The Love Of Music will probably have been released. It's been over a year since the first album and both members become animated when talking about the newie.
"With the first album." says Cupples, "we had a lot of early stuff I'd written and it was in a Philadelphian funky vein I feel. The first one was sort of "let's have a go and see what happens" type of thing. We had no really set ideas and it came together a lot in the studio.
"Whereas the new one ... it's a lot further advanced. We're more carefully chosen the material and put the album together a hell of a lot better. This time I've gone in with a concept on about 70 % of the production things and it s been put together as more of a concept of what we're about. The playing has also improved incredibly ..
This album, as with the first, has been produced by Cupples and Trevor Courtenay and all the tracks were written by Cupples, except two which were co-written with Courtenay. The tracks are For The Love Of Music. We All Need One Another, Gettin' In The Groove, Nature Is Giving So Much Love, Sweetness, What's Right For You, Love Is All We Have, Musical Man and Moving on Home. The latter two Cupples describes as External Road songs, ones that he wrote while the group were on an interstate Sherbet tour last year. So Much Love was also written on that tour, as he explains.
"That was one of the things that inspired me to write the song for Ashley, because I sat down, took a look at the band in concert format and started thinking how we could utilise what we had within the band to make the show look better. And I thought "well it would be nice if Ashley were to come out the front". because he's got a really beautiful voice but he hadn't really sat down and sung anything. Anyway, he dug the idea and it really blew a hell of a lot of people out when he began to do it.
Indeed. I'm yet to find a person with an unkind thing to say about So Much Love and yet . . and yet . it's somehow failed to do really big business. Cupples says that he, too, thought it would do more than it did and maybe business problems are again mainly to blame: the song was recorded in December but not released until June because of the many hassles the band were experiencing.
Still, the milk is spilt and the band are now looking towards a new song. At the time of interviewing the songs were still in need of mixing. Once that's completed, a single will he selected. There is also a mystery song not yet recorded. (The following sentence, from Cupples, constitutes my only scoop of the afternoon ! (Ah- gee Rich —only one measly scoop in a whole afternoon !! — ed.)
'Yes, we have a big surprise. We have this single in the can at the moment which I'll tell you about. It's a song written by Ashley and it's really incredible.
"It's a very simple, fairly slow ballad" continues McNally and they proceed to give me an exclusive (exclusive mind you) listen to a rough mix. The song not only sounded as sweet 'n' funky as anything they've done before, it was also given a visual aspect by Cupples young son, who performed a series of guitar hero poses roughly to the beat, on a four string ukelele. The song could succeed where 'So Much Love' failed. It is also the first time another member of the band has had one of their songs recorded. The writing of McNally and guitarist Ron Peers is also developing. Cuppies informs me and hopefully this will further broaden the band's scope.
Ultimately, however, they are looking to America and possibly Europe and Japan, as their next step forward. Even though they are based in Melbourne, McNally says they rarely play here at the moment. Other states, particularly Adelaide, seem to give them a better reception but overall "it's very hard to sell this type of music in this country. Whether we have a better chance over there is hard to say — we'll just have to go over and find out"
"There s nothing definite yet" says Cupples. "Just some good things up in the air that need bringing down to the ground and sorting out. We have a few contacts in L A. and on the East Coast, so we wanna get over there and get a few things tied up. Most definitely it will be hard. But if you're in the environment where you're playing to an audience that really get off on the music, well, you really want to work for them - go home, get new things down, better things. But here you get no reaction at all from the crowds, y'know. You just wanna go home and sleep for six months. [reported by Richard Guilliair in RAM #55 Nov 5th 1976. p19].
|A-World Of Make Believe / B-Just Begun|
Although funky R&B is not my favourite genre of music, I still enjoy Stylus's early material - in particular this, their debut album.
Note: Because the tracks "Will This Continue" and "Just Begun" run into one another without any distinguishing break (sounds like one song to me!), I have ripped them as a single track 03.
01 - World Of Make Believe
02 - All In The Game
03 - Will This Continue/Just Begun
04 - Summer Breeze
05 - Paradise
06 - I'm So In Love With You
07 - Where In The World
08 - I'm Going Home
09 - Summer Breeze (Bonus Live 1992)
Peter Cupples (Guitar, Vocals, Congas & Percussion)
Ashley Henderson (Bass, Vocals)
Ron Peer's (Lead Guitar, Vocals)
Sam McNally (Keyboards)
Peter Lee (Drums & Percussion)
Stylus Link (104Mb) REPOST