Words by Ed King
Photos by Bianca Barrett / www.flickr.com/photos/beezeebeebee
“This is the band I’m going to review,” the title track from The Staves’ penultimate EP plays softly through the tannoy; barely audible over the revelation rain outside. “They’re a three piece vocal harmony group; very Folky, all sisters”
My friend looks up and uninterested. “Yeah, yeah, I think I know them. A friend of mine saw them in Moseley once; had a big crush on the one with dark hair.” I stay silent. Outside of the Folk Festival, The Staves have never played in Moseley. Plus they’ve all got either black or brown hair, and it’s too wet to argue.
The Staves; aka Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley Taylor – are on their first headline tour of the UK, playing The Glee Club on a dystopian Sunday.
A close harmony trio rooted in traditional Folk, they’ve already featured on albums with Tom Jones and Fionn Regan. Now with four EPs in circulation, the latest – ‘The Motherlode’, released in April 2012, The Staves are touring material from their debut album prior to its release later this year.
I swim out of Harborne into town, with about two minutes to spare before The Glee Club battens down its hatches. By the time I get to the venue I am half man half sponge.
After an excellent support from Christof, a Dutch Fionn Regan with an obsession for sausage sandwiches (www.twitter.com/christofmusic), the Staveley Taylors took to the stage; complete with backline, scarves on the microphones and a picture of Frank Spencer.
Opening with ‘Motherlode’, the title track from their latest EP, the three sisters settle into a well rehearsed harmony. It’s practiced, near perfect and justly described as “sublime”.
The next song, ‘Icarus’, gives each Stave a lead as the backline disappears into a complicit slumber. ‘Gone tomorrow’ opens with another harmony, before allowing Camila spearhead the vocals on ‘Facing West’; starting strong but tailing off at the end.
Emily’s up next; bringing a deeper, sultry tone to ‘Pay Us No Mind – before Jessica regains her default position as lead vocalist and rhythm guitar on ‘Mexico’. A simply addictive song; one that’s been in my head since the bus journey from Harborne.
Stepping up the tempo for ‘Tongue Behind’; the Sleepy & Dopey backline (thank you James Brown) drown out Emily and Camilla, leaving Jessica both prominent and commanding. With a brief crane of the neck, we see a place on stage that’s just right for one.
‘Wise & Slow’ strips right back to vocals, with some reverb support about halfway through – just before the melody goes dangerously Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
‘Winter Trees’ then closes the set, in what feels like The Staves’ most confident ensemble.
I enjoyed The Staves more than expected; with their on stage sister quips bringing a welcomed personal depth. But more a sound than a song, I would question how much the trio can continue to offer. ‘Mexico’ is still the only memory I could confidently hum.
Although, the more I read the more I see them. The Staves’ public profile is being well managed (PR isn’t always a dirty word) and received; dragging a room full of people across a very wet city.
Special mention at this point to The Cankles, who despite turning up (in part) after the support slot; were in full entry price approval from the far reaches of Brum.
And whilst I’m pretty certain my friend’s friend had fallen for the singer of a different band, I too was most impressed by the one with dark(er) hair.