The Staves, comprising of sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily, are a melodious folk trio from Watford who are garnishing some well deserved praise for their infectious and seductive harmonies. Their new EP, “Facing West” is an excellent introduction to the girls’ music and a real promise of treats to come.
“The Fire” sang with simple accompaniment of Emily’s finger clicking and Jessica’s tapping of the guitar for rhythm is a sweet and welcomingly old-fashioned song. There’s a taste of Appalachian gospel and old-time Americana but with a good old fashioned dose of British bittersweet flavouring climaxing in a rousing finale.
“Facing West” illustrates Camilla’s ability on the ukulele, complimented by Jessica on guitar and piano. Camilla’s voice striking the right balance of wistful fragility, the sweetness of the harmonies echoing the longing of the lyrics perfectly.
“Mexico” on the other hand is a much larger song (at least in terms of arrangement). Taking the lead on vocals Jessica also provides guitar and piano whilst the Fables’ Oliver Hardaker and Mike Halls provide percussion and mandolin respectively.
Throughout, Jessica, Camilla and Emily’s harmonies complement each other perfectly.
Folk Radio recently had the chance to interview the girls on their return from a tour of Ireland.
For listeners new to The Staves can you tell us a little about how you got started and your early influences?
Camilla: Well, we always used to sing around the house, and then, one summer, we decided to do an open mic night at our local pub. We had a laugh, so carried on doing them through the summer until we thought, let’s just do a gig and see how it goes. We did loads of Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and CSN&Y covers. They’re bands we grew up listening to (along with Simon and Garfunkel and other harmony based bands). We take a lot of inspiration from all those old classics.
As sisters, how do you find working together?
Emily: A bloody nightmare!…
Jess: I don’t think we could imagine being in a band with anyone else really. There’s just an openness you can have with siblings that must be hard to get with regular band members.
Camilla: …It’s a blessing and a curse…
Camilla: It’s been really, really fun. Knackering, at times, but a great experience. We just got back from Ireland the other day. We had so much fun. The Irish crowds are so warm and always up for a laugh after the shows.
Emily: We were supporting and singing with a singer/songwriter called Christof. He’s brilliant. Our music went so well together.
How did the Joshua Radin tour come about?
Jess: I met him when I was doing a support gig for him in London with Thomas J Speight. He asked me to tour with him in America, doing support and backing singing, and then when he was over here for his UK tour he asked us all to do the same thing.
How’s the tour going? How are the audiences responding to you?
Emily: The tour went really well. It was a fantastic opportunity to play in large venues and it was really encouraging to get a good response from a big crowd. Shepherds Bush Empire was a really special gig for us as we’d seen so many bands play there before – it’s one of our favourite venues.
There’s a definite Americana influence throughout your song writing and vocals – where does this come from? Was music a big part in your upbringing?
Camilla: Country and Americana music is really rich in harmonies, so I think our music sounds a bit Americana because it that’s how we’ve always sung together.
Emily: Our parents are both very musical souls and there was always music on in every room of our house. I remember when our parents friends would come round they’d always bring guitars or sit round the piano singing “The Times They Are A Changing” or old Grateful Dead songs, so we grew up with music playing a big part in our social lives, which is how music should be I think.
You write your own songs, how do you find that process? Is it a group effort?
Jess: Some songs we write together, and then some are individually written and we’ll all work out harmonies together and any arrangement. We’re starting to write more together which can be more fun and less introverted – it’s always great to share ideas with each other and end up with a brand new song.
Do you find yourself drawn to particular themes or subjects in your song writing?
Jess: It’s hard to say really. It’s always kind of awkward analysing your own song writing. We write about the experiences in our lives – relationships and stuff – as well as what we see going on around us, which I guess is kind of obvious. Basically anything is worthy of a song.
photos: Broken Path / Thomas J Speight