Birmingham Review first saw The Staves in April this year, playing at The Glee Club, and have kept them hovering on radar ever since.
With pitch perfect harmonies, the Staveley-Taylor sisters ‘have been singing for as long as any of us can remember’; and now have a firm footing in the UK’s folk revival.
Playing their first gig in 2005, the past seven years have seen Emily, Jessica and Camilla perform from Watford to Texas, and appear on albums with Fionn Regan and Tom Jones. Not bad for three sisters who started at an open mike might in their local.
But Nov ’12 saw The Staves release their own debut album, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, which they‘re now out promoting with a headline tour of the UK; playing at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham on November 28th.
Birmingham Review managed to grab Camilla for a quick Q&A from the road.
BR: Congratulations on the release of ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, released Nov 12th, are you excited?
CST: Yes, we’re very excited to have the record finally out – it feels like it’s been a long time coming.
BR: On the run up to its release, and subsequently, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ has been getting some pretty widespread attention. Some of the words I’ve seen used to describe the album are ‘charming’, ‘comforting’, and my personal favourite, ‘a woven oneness of lustre and poise’ – how would you surmise it?
CST: Well… it’s hard to describe your own stuff. I think that the record is unpretentious in that we aren’t trying to be anyone but ourselves, and I think, hopefully, that comes across when people listen to it.
BR: And the ‘F word’ halfway through ‘Pay Us No Mind’..?
CST: If anyone is surprised by that then haven’t listened to the lyrics of that song or really understood the vibe.
BR: I read somewhere that ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ was the first song you ever wrote, hence being the name of the album. Does that seem like a long time ago, and are you in a stronger place as songwriters?
CST: I doesn’t really seem like it was that long ago. I think we have improved as songwriters, but I wouldn’t change anything about that song. Sometimes it’s the simplicity in songs you write that gives them that magic.
BR: How about in the studio? You worked with Ethan and Glyn Johns, who have some pretty heavyweight acts in their portfolio; what was it like working with such established producers?
CST: They have an amazing back catalogue of records they’ve worked on. It was great seeing their techniques in the studio – they work on tape which is really dying out in studios. We recorded almost the whole record live and that was a lot of fun and really kept us on our toes.
BR: The last time Birmingham Review covered you was in April, what’s been going on since spring?
CST: We’ve managed to support Bon Iver twice – once around the US/Canada and once around Europe – which has been incredible. We played a lot of festivals this summer and the rest of the time has been spent on the record. Plus I did all the artwork, which took a while.
BR: And you were recently invited onto ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, where you performed the purely vocal/harmony track ‘Wisely & Slow’. Was that more nerve wracking than with instruments?
CST: No, weirdly enough we feel more relaxed and confident doing the a capella stuff. I guess as singers you have more control when it’s just you up there.
BR: Your next single is ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’, and in the video – a Western pastiche, you look very convincing with a rifle. Is there anything we should know about?
CST: I got into a cab the other day with my guitar and the driver made a joke about there being a machine gun in there. I felt like Antonio Banderas. I have never used a real gun – the ones in the video were fake, sorry to ruin the illusion.
BR: You’re all from Watford; is there a big folk scene in your home town?
CST: There is a folk scene in Watford but we’ve never been a part of it. Like most towns there’s music going on and that’s where we played our first gigs and sang with other bands and learned to do what we do. That all took place in pubs and bars for us, not folk clubs. I think Watford suffers by being in such close proximity to London where there is so much going on musically so a lot of people end up migrating there instead.
BR: So what encouraged and inspired you, musically?
CST: Just hearing good music is the most inspiring thing. It can be listening to a record old or new, going to a gig or just having a conversation with a musician and absorbing all the different ways that people approach music. In terms of encouragement our family and friends have always cheered us on at gigs since the beginning and told us not to be shy.
BR: Vocally you are all clearly proficient, and I know Jessica plays the guitar and you play the Uklele. Are there any other instruments in the closet?
CST: We played piano, clarinet and flute when we were kids but were just taught boring songs so we ditched them. I try and play most stringed instruments – I have a banjo and a mandolin at home and I play a bit of piano and harmonium on the record.
BR: And finally… you are granted one wish from the genie of music, what do you ask for?
CST: Neil Young’s guitar, it’s a Martin D-28 that used to belong to Hank Williams.
The Staves debut album, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, is out now – available in store and online. For more on The Staves, visit http://www.thestaves.com
The Staves play at the Hare & Hounds on November 28th, for more information visit http://birminghampromoters.com/Events/the-staves