Released in April the eponymously titled third album (review here) from Smoke Fairies finds the duo in strong voice, their atmospheric gothic-tinged folk more bewitching than ever. Surprisingly, it’s an album that very nearly didn’t happen as in the wake of 2012’s Blood Speaks old school friends Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire pondered the Fairies’ future.
“We started considering what would we do if we didn’t do music,” recalls Jessica, “and it was just a massive void.” Deciding that giving up on the band was “not an option,” Jessica wrote a musical apology to Katherine that later became the new album’s opening track: We’ve Seen Birds. “I just wanted to say sorry to her – sorry I scared you like that,” says Jessica.
Currently back out on the road for a short series of shows, we caught up with Katherine to find out more…
You’ve talked about this album as being an ‘opportunity to actually be two voices, rather than two voices as one entity’ … what affect has that had on your songs?
We just wanted to strip the songs down to more simple components, rather than crowding them with too many voices. We didn’t want the narrative to be confusing, so that each song had its own character. It’s interesting because once the harmonies do come in, they have much more impact.
Is this new approach why you called the album simply ‘Smoke Fairies’, as it’s a kind of rebirth for you?
It felt like a total rebirth. It was liberating to get back to the place where we were simply happy to be creating again. I liked the feeling of abandonment. It slowly went back to being very controlled but I think the abandonment of the song writing shines through.
You’ve also spoken about how this album came out of a period of doubt … has the process of making this record, the positive reviews and recent shows eradicated that doubt? Do you feel more confident about the band’s direction and future?
The record is a kind of dissection of two people trying to work through a bit of a crisis. It’s the record we’re most proud of artistically and personally because it represents some sort of triumph over all the negative thoughts you can spiral into. As a musician you are supposed to constantly project an air of confidence, but that feels fake and tiring to me. I’m glad we told it how it is. I’m very relieved that there was a general positive reaction to the record, as that helps, but the dialogue of doubt is always internal, the only person who can talk yourself out of your dark corners is yourself.
You have an online and tour-only 7in available – We’ve Seen Birds/Monochrome Days – can you tell us a bit about those two songs?
The two songs are very different. We’ve Seen Birds has a poppy lightness and Monochrome Days is back to the dark moody place. I like the contrast on that 7″ and it’s a sign that as songwriters we’re exploring both. I’m glad that Monochrome Days got to get out there. It wasn’t included on the record, but I hoped it would see the light of day.
What are your plans after these dates?
It’s all go. We are just about to release the album in North American and we are kicking it off with a quick trip to New York to promote it, followed by some touring in the US and Europe. We aren’t doing many festivals, we don’t like being cold. But we have a show at Glastonbury and there is a nice indoor festival in Newcastle called Summertyne, held in the Sage, which is a venue we always love visiting.
How do you see a fourth album shaping up … or is it too soon after the third?
Songs will come and then we’ll decide what to do with them.
Interview by: Dave Freak
New Video: Shadow Inversions
2014 Summer tour dates include:
May 29 East Village Arts Club, Liverpool
May 30 The Poetry Club, Glasgow
Jun 01 Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Jun 02 XOYO, London
Jun 03 Thekla, Bristol
Jun 04 Sticky Mike’s, Brighton
Jun 28 Glastonbury Festival
Jul 19 SummerTyne Festival, Gateshead
New single, Shadow Inversions, is released on 30 June 2014.