Based out of Bristol, STANLÆY is the is the solo-project of Bethany Clare Misselbrook “Ley” Stenning an independent producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. Back in 2018, STANLÆY emerged with the ambitious audio-visual debut, The Human Project, and has gone on to release a string of EPs leading up to the December release of her second full-length offering, the_everything_inbetween.
Bethany has described the_everything_inbetween as, “the space you inhabit between tactile emotions, and an ode to our spirit in body form”, a record of movement and feeling that seems to not so much meld genres as sends them colliding into one another. Electronic crashes into jazz, freak-folk runs head-long into trip-hop, all held together by Bethany’s vocals which bring to mind the likes of Let’s Eat Grandma or Coco Rosie. Take the title track a melting pot of ideas, where fluttering rhythms meet soaring strings, otherworldly woodwinds and free, almost jazzy electronics, all very fitting for a song about interconnectedness and bringing the light and dark together. Elsewhere impressions_24 adds a certain post-rock intensity, while omnibiguous takes a Joanna Newsom-like harp moment and turns it into a warped and wonderful sound entirely STANLÆY’s own. Musically challenging it may be, yet the_everything_inbetween is a record that reaches out, like an alien life form in search of connection, an amorphous shape-shifting album, that’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
FTR: For those who don’t know, who is STANLÆY?
STANLÆY is the name of my current musical project and the live project that comes in tandem with the music I have been producing and creating. I named it in 2018 and it’s been evolving and changing shape since then.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I think it was an open mic when I was about 16, I sang and played the viola, and I was petrified. But my first proper gig as the project outfit ’STANLÆY’ was in 2016 with some friends of mine from Dublin at a tiny festival just outside of Bristol. We played as a trio and the music was super stripped back, a bit more punky and raw sounding. I remember it being really liberating and fun working with good friends bringing songs I had written to life with a band for the first time – as soon as other people were involved in that kind of way it felt like we were creating some kind of magic together, I remember feeling that.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music has been the most consistent form of creative expression throughout my life but is definitely not the only form of art for me and I feel myself cross-pollinating a lot. Music in particular felt very organic, I was drawn to the piano at a very young age and I would always be playing my Nana’s piano in our family home which slowly lead to me writing my own songs and experimenting with recorded sounds/production. It used to put me in a trance. I love how it is an invisible structure that we as musicians are building.
I also enjoy making and adapting clothes and painting. I used to do this much more when I was younger but sound has definitely taken priority. I would make dresses and jackets, or make giant paper maché models and portrait paintings. I also have always been very into writing stories, scripts and poems and I enjoy directing and producing my own videos. This year, I have started making my own 3D animations on the software blender and it has felt amazing to be making my own visuals for my music. I also have been designing masks lately and when I have a bit more time, would like to get more into creating outfits and wearable art to accompany my sounds. All the art forms feel so connected and I find it interesting what the different art flows allow you to discover. Each one allows a different lens.
At times I wish I pushed other art forms because the music industry can be a bit quite confusing to navigate & I think it would maybe be easier to put my work out, but I honestly have no idea. Music is a weird one that is so visual in the imagination of the listener but not necessarily in the most ‘marketable’ way in the current climate, so the promotion of music relies heavily on visual elements and I definitely feel excited to explore visual art more in tandem with my sounds. But I know music and sound are at the core of my sacred abstract temple.
FTR: What can people expect from a STANLÆY live show?
When I have released music under the project name STANLÆY, it’s my own production, compositions and performances melded with friends, collaborators, and occasionally other producers. For the live show, myself and a live band have then interpreted these songs in a completely fresh way – reworking everything and bringing a new angle to the songs. By this nature, it feels quite wild – it is the synergy of all of us on stage, bringing our own voice and energy that day. The sound kind of melds into a big puddle of jazz, folk, and fairytale electronics and has become its own thing in a way.
FTR: What’s next for STANLÆY?
To be honest I am feeling a pivotal self-evolution happening. I am considering embracing an adaptation of my actual name a bit more for future work, and I feel excited to develop a solo show to find a way I can perform both with my beautiful band, and as a solo act again. I’m still figuring these new directions out logistically in my mind, but I am making a lot of new, different music at the moment and I am really excited about the directions of the project, even if I am not fully sure what that may look like. I am embracing my roots as a vocalist and classical pianist, combined with my love for electric harp and organic-sounding electronic music.
Deffo keep updated via my Instagram for these big changes incoming – @stanlaey_art
They Listen To…
KÁRYYN – SEGMENT & THE LINE
Moses Sumney – Gagarin
Brad Mehldau – St Mark Is Howling In The City of Night
FKA twigs – Fallen Alien
Hanua Rani & Dobrawa Czocher – śmierć na pięć
the_everything_inbetween is out now. For more information on STANLÆY visit https://www.stanlaey.com/.