Interview: stanlæy | LOUD Bristol Issue Four

Interview: stanlæy | LOUD Bristol Issue Four

Posted on: 13 Apr 2022

This article was first published in the fourth issue of LOUD Bristol, 365Bristol's dedicated music magazine. Read LOUD Bristol Issue Four and browse our first three editions here.

LOUD Bristol Issue Four

Interview: stanlæy


Multi-faceted artist Bethany Stenning guides LOUD through the unique, other-worldly output of her project stanlæy, and discusses her eagerly-anticipated upcoming album, The Everything In Between 


“When you come at creating from your most curious, you end up finding magical things,” Bethany Stenning says when we meet at the Arnolfini Cafe?, summing up her basic philosophy: “It’s good to allow yourself to experiment with new things and not get locked into an echo chamber of yourself.”


Dipped in an ethereal gloss, Bethany’s distinct musical universe is heavily informed by these vividly explorative and inquisitive sensibilities. Ever since writing her first songs aged 16, she’s been capturing imaginations through her continually evolving, idiosyncratic and other-worldly output, and is now preparing for the release her band stanlæy’s second full-length record, The Everything In Between.


“I conceived it three years ago and it has been on a big, long journey. It’s very gelatinous; lots of strings, synths and electronics combining
to make textures.” It’s Bethany’s quintessential combination, present throughout her varied catalogue. Embodied by agile, contrasting, and ephemeral textures that get under the skin, there are echoes of Bjork’s choral-like vocals, Arca’s unearthly sound design, and Joanna Newsom’s 
textural richness in her music that linger long after consumption.


“stanlæy is just a name I gave to put art out, but simultaneously it feels like part of my own identity, which is an interesting thing to happen. It’s me and the world, basically”

- Bethany Stenning


“I’ve got a really visual mind, it’s quite hard to explain. When I hear or play something, it’s like a feeling of an environment, place, scene, or a motif. Without really meaning to I’m trying to capture that in sound. I like thinking of songs as an environment or a texture that’s separate to the outside world – something you can enter.” It’s an arcane concept to her bandmates Ben Holyoake (electronics, bass, synth), Naomi Hill (violin) and Joe Wilkinson (drums), but one that broadly typifies all stanlæy releases to date.


“stanlæy is just a name I gave to put art out,” Bethany says. “But simultaneously it feels like part of my own identity, which is an interesting thing to happen. It’s me and the world, basically.” As composer, arranger, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and the project’s spearhead, she specialises in bringing seemingly distant things together, constantly walking the line between order and chaos.


“I’m balancing the two dichotomies musically and conceptually,” she says. “I love cross-pollinating things like strings and harp and combining those sounds with more electronic, processed ones, blending them into this weird Frankenstein or mutation. Just the texture of something really synthesised, or just chopping things up and making it disjointed and fragmented mixed with something like the harp - it’s complimentary, I think.”


Still without a specific release date, The Everything In Between - stanlæy’s upcoming album - has been three years in the making. “I’m very obsessive, but letting things gestate naturally is very important to me. If the lens is there, then you’re already looking out for things that will make it all fall into place.” Sticking to her DIY guns, the new record will - like the rest of her material - be self-released. “I have reached out to labels, but I haven’t found anywhere that fits. I quite like the freedom to let something be what it needs to be.”



The pandemic period is also partly responsible for the lengthy production time, Bethany tells me, during which she enrolled to study a master’s in sound art – a dual life she now balances with making music. Considering her musical education to date, the nature of her output comes as no surprise.


Bethany grew up in Bath, learning classical piano and viola at an early age, also joining orchestras and choirs. Eventually, she moved away to study classical viola at Southampton University, with a focus on composition, theory, and performance. “I very quickly realised that I didn’t fit in with that world and a lot of the people who were doing the classical performance side of things. I just didn’t fully resonate with it,” she recalls.


As the course developed, Bethany gravitated towards modules focussed on sound production and engineering, where she began writing songs prolifically. However, it wasn’t until her third year and a brief globetrotting period that these formative experiences began to lay the foundations of stanlæy, she tells me:


“I went to Paris and bought an acoustic guitar. I taught myself to play and started performing at open mics on my own. I had a fresh slate and was writing songs and collaborating with people out there. That was quite a formative thing.” After leaving the French capital, Bethany moved to Dublin, Ireland, where she fell in with a collective of musicians that left her wanting to form a band after further falling in love with collaboration.



This formative period has left an indelible mark on Bethany and led her to form stanlæy upon returning to the UK. So influential was this time, reverberations from it can still be felt on The Everything In Between, which Bethany says is stanlæy’s most collaborative release yet: “This one has got a lot of collaborators and people that helped me bring the ideas to life. Joe [Wilkinson] had a particular input, too. I really loved working with him on many of them.”


In fact, the record is a veritable bazaar of Bristol musicians. Throughout the album, Dave Sanders (sax, Snazzback), Myke Vince (percussion, Snazzback), Alun Elliot-Williams (electric guitar, Waldo’s), Will Scott-Hartley (bass, Snazzback), Tamsin Solanum (flute, Solana), and Elma Houghton (clarinet, Ember and Sentient Sound) all feature.


“The more you surround yourself with new ideas and outlooks, the more potential you can see in your sound,” Bethany says, adding that future material and live shows will incorporate multiple sensory elements to blow the boundary between the space the audience is holding and the performance space - to “add to the world.”


It’s another captivating permeation of her desire to collaborate, one that adds to the intrigue surrounding this already exciting project. “That’s why I love collaboration,” Bethany says on a final note. “I look outwards and allow things in, not just sounds but all art, because it’s going to inform and mutate and let the sound develop.” 


Head to Issuu to read LOUD Bristol Issue Four in full, featuring a selection of interviews with some of the city's best-loved artists, venues, labels and more.


Main Image: Matteo Amadio & Rob Ellis

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Article by:

George Boyle



George is a journalism graduate and writer passionate about music and culture. Get in touch via email at