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Interview: The Staves

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Only hours before their first ever festival headline slot, sister trio Camilla, Jess and Emily settle down in a sunny cornfield to talk about who they are.

They are, of course, The Staves. The band, described as “youthful folk revivalists” arrived fresh from a Swiss plane to play Barn on the Farm, one of the UK’s best upcoming music festivals.

They have an Americana vibe to their music, as if the Grand Canyon itself spat them out, so when the sisters begin in middle-classed London accents, it creates a little confusion.

If you haven’t checked these girls out by now, where have you been? There’s a smart, yet natural sophistication to their discography. They tell me that they’re not really folk, not really rock and not really indie.

“We’re like a three-headed singer-songwriter,” explains Emily before adding; “I’m so shit at this. We sing songs in three part harmony with essences of singer-songwriter rules.”

The trio, armed with harmonies that could probably melt steel, formed after a friend suggested that they perform at their local Watford pub’s open-mic night.

“We grew up singing around the house and all our friends were in bands and their parents were old, kind of rockers, I suppose there were a lot of parties when we grew up when it as very much pass the guitar around. We’d have a sing with our friends and just have a good time”

Now eleven years later, the trio are signed to Atlantic Records and have since released their sophomore album, If I Was.

The album was produced by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) in his very own studio. On asking what he was like, Jess blurts out “rubbish, he’s a complete wanker. Ass. Not talented or friendly at all,” before reassuring me that she is joking.

They describe the venture as like their childhood holidays, “but without our parents and with shit loads of beer.”

“It was really really amazing,” begins Jess.

“He’s managed to create a really fantastic place. His home/studio is really secluded and surrounded by loads of lovely greenery and woods. It was like that feeling when we were little. We’d go on holiday to Ireland or Wales to somewhere similar where we could be as loud as we wanted to be and run around and not have to worry about sleeping.”

Wisely and Slow, The Staves’ debut album was recorded in the middle of London. They tell me that creating that album felt like a working day, with the commute and acknowledgement that just round the corner are a million other people getting on with their lives.

Barn on the Farm is a festival that prides itself on its independency and intimacy, consisting of only three stages at Over Barn in Gloucestershire. The festival even has its own strawberry picking field and resident Ostriches. Yeah, those Ostriches…

“As we pulled in we saw two ostriches fucking. The guy was like on her and she was like…” before the three all pull the same face. “And he was like...” before the three, again, start acting out the whole scene. It was like being there.  “And his feathers were like...”, explains Camilla.

I’m sure you can imagine. “She was not happy. I felt like such a fucking child. You don’t get that at Glastonbury. Shocking.”

Glastonbury becomes the largest town in the South West over the weekend that it’s on, so for The Staves to go from Glasto to Barn on the Farm must be a completely different experience.

“It’s so fucking nice to pull off a main road and you’re here. It takes like a day to get into Glasto. It’s really nice to come somewhere so immediately.”

From performing, to actually creating music, The Staves describe the messages behind their ethereal harmonies as “the moment when the shit hits the fan.”

“Basically we’re trying to figure shit out, like everyone else really,” says Emily.

“We use our music to explore what the hell it means to being a human being on this planet”, one of the sisters explains before another sarcastically adds “unlike other planets.”

“We are ourselves, that’s all we’ve ever been. The album at the moment is sort of when the shit hits the fan and what you do. Yes, there’s the hurt and pain but what do you do with that? We turned it into something positive and learn and grow from that.”

“Everyone’s had a time where they’ve been struck by a band that has helped them through things. I would be happy if someone used ours to help them.”

The Staves are, therefore, a three-headed-singer-songwriter-agony-aunt.

The trio were part of that famous performance at Glastonbury, alongside Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend, First Aid Kit and The Vaccines, but tell me that writing their newest album has been the highlight of their career adding how, “it’s meant the most and it’s been the most fulfilling yet.”

Before dispatching to head off to headline the Main Stage, we talk pre-gig rituals, like sacrificing a goat or watching ostriches shag.

“It’s normally us and the guys in the band queuing up for the loo and hastily putting on lipstick. We always have a huddle and swig some whisky, beer or wine or all of the above. It’s bad luck if we don’t huddle.”

After our chat, the sun set and made way for these three songstresses to win over the masses. If you haven’t checked out The Staves, what are you waiting for?




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