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Welcome to the 'sticks

Mention the name Tindersticks to most people, and chances are they'll shrug and move on to the next musical debate of the evening.

Aside from a decent sized cult-following, and the thousands of kind words that critics have forever bestowed upon their work, Tindersticks have never quite squeezed their way into the hearts and minds of the general listening public.

I ask vocalist Stuart A Staples if he ever wonders about what mainstream success could do for the band he's fronted for over two decades. After all, Falling Down a Mountain might just be the most accessible collection of songs the group have recorded.

Hungry

"I take whatever comes, but I don't think we had any thoughts about those kinds of things," says Stuart, taken aback by my use of the word 'accessible'. "It was all to do with the ideas of the songs. I don't know if I think it's, like, a more accessible record, I've never really thought about it, but I take whatever it deserves," he laughs.

Sitting inside his beautiful home studio in west-central France, the 44-year-old musician and songwriter discusses the more important rewards of being in a band that, at one stage, appeared to have reached a "natural conclusion".

In 2007, four years after the release of their sixth album, Tindersticks re-grouped and reformed as a trio (there used to be six of them). Since then, Staples and Co have recorded two albums, the first of which -- The Hungry Saw -- opened up a whole new world to the band and how they worked together.

"When we finished touring The Hungry Saw, it was the first time in the band's history that we've wanted to get straight back into the studio and make something," he enthuses, adding that such a prolific work rate has helped to create a new sense of fun within the group.

The album features an impressive line-up of guests, including our own David Kitt. "We were big fans of David's first record," he explains, "and we asked him to come on tour with us.

"He's been kind of playing gigs with us on and off since then, but when we were coming to the end of the last tour -- David supported us on the last stretch of it -- the ideas were knocking around, and he was on the bus with us, and it just kind of felt like a natural thing, really.

"It brought a really different kind of colour to the songs he got involved in."



solo

I ask Stuart if he misses the buzz of London. "I'm not missing London," he says. "I've kind of done my time in London, I think, but I have been thinking more and more about living in a city again. The ideal thing would be to have the best of both worlds."

Wherever he ends up, it's very clear as to where his priorities lie -- something he reiterates when I ask about any possible plans to record another solo album. "I think if I want to do something that's totally to do with me, I won't be afraid of it, but at the moment, I'm not thinking in that way.

"I think there's too much energy going on around me, and, as I say, it's the best place to be at the moment."

Falling Down a Mountain is out now on 4AD