GEN F: Stay+

Photographer Jackie Dewe Mathews
December 23, 2011

Stay+, the UK-based, self-proclaimed “fictional dance” collective, has an exceptionally spotty history of giving straightforward interviews. Actually, the only one in existence is a string of YouTube videos-as-answers to very direct questions. But beyond the extreme shadowiness is the band’s very real, albeit limited, musical output: a deeply humanist brand of house music built on full-bodied, enveloping soundscapes; and its creators aren’t just some internet-bred halfwits. Matt Farthing, along with his principle visual collaborator Christopher Poole, began Stay+ back in February of 2010, under the provocative name Christian AIDS, which the group had to abandon after being served a cease and desist from the UK-based organization Christian Aid. Moving forward with a punny play off the original, Stay+ (read: Stay Positive), the duo and their occasional tertiary collaborator, Phil Daker, have built a buzz around their music and live shows. With their “Fever” 12-inch on RAMP, they’re bound to get more.

Farthing, a classically trained violinist, is the musical backbone of Stay+, but he says that the band could not exist without his collaborators. “Personally, I am still reeling from last October when I wrote ‘Fever’ and ‘Stay+’ drunk in my room in Manchester as a joke,” he explains about the unexpected popularity of their early singles, which Daker encouraged him to put out into the world. “I mean, if I wanted to be just a producer, just a guy who makes music, and occasionally just turns up with my decks to perform it, I would, but I don’t want that.” Instead, Stay+ creates elaborately orchestrated shows that are as much about the visual performance as they are about the music. “Everybody is tied together by this kind of invisible conceptual string and everyone has enough faith and trust in each other that when they reach out to do something that excites them personally, they stay attached by this string, to core ideas of the band, and it just works.”

Recently, they’ve even teamed up with the famed design firm M/M Paris, who helped create Stay+’s current logo and the blown out pixilated screen displays, as well as Daniel Mason, who helped design the single’s packaging and rubberized PVC sleeve. “With our music, we push the digital distortion so much that it becomes almost like a soft analog thing again even though there’s nothing analog in it. We try and do the same thing with the visuals—take the digital idea to an extreme and push it so much that it becomes something that’s actually got a kind of a warmth or humanity to it.” For a collection of remixes, Farthing used only vocals from the given songs, inserting them into his own lush compositions.

All this orchestration, of course, relates directly to Farthing’s classical training. “With me and Chris being in charge of music and visuals, it’s almost like being in an orchestra pit. I always found it fascinating watching the emcee who conducted the orchestra but also was tying it all in with what’s going on onstage. Like, we love when Phil goes out into the crowd, and Chris came up with the idea of some of the visuals being live footage of what he’s doing being projected back onto the screen.” It’s hard to say whether or not all this effort is lost on a faded crowd at 4AM, the time when Stay+ most commonly plays. “I wouldn’t say that people do or really need to appreciate the layers,” Farthing wagers, “but we try to make the product of those layers something that you can’t ignore.”

GEN F: Stay+