What a year it has been for The Staves. From releasing their debut album – Dead & Born & Grown – on Atlantic Records to supporting Bon Iver at Wembley Stadium, 2012 is certainly going to take some beating. The trio of sisters have won fans and ciritcal acclaim for their gentle, rootsy folk songs and, of course, those sumptuous sisterly harmonies.
Having split most of their time this year between the UK and the USA, The Staves are about to embark upon their first ever headline tour of the UK and Europe beginning with a show at Revelation St Mary’s, Ashford on 18 April and finishing at Gorilla in Manchester on 3 May. The tour also sees two consecutive nights at the Scala in London on 24 and 25 April as well as a night at the O2 Academy Oxford on 19 April. They have also just announced the release of a new EP called Facing West on 29 April 2013.
We caught up with Jessica Staveley-Taylor to talk about touring the debut, taking The Staves stateside and why playing to a handful of people in someone’s living room is more daunting than entertaining 12,000 at Wembley.
2012 was a quite amazing year for The Staves, how is 2013 shaping up so far?
So far so good. We have been over in the States quite alot so far, doing various bits and pieces, lots of radio, lots of promo. We will be touring the States later on in the year and made a new video our there too which is yet to be released. Other than that, we had a little break at Christmas, but we are firmly back on the bandwagon now and taking Dead & Born & Grown out on the road for as long as people want to hear it.
Your debut record has been brilliantly received by fans and critics alike and released on a huge record label, did you ever think that your first album would shape up this way?
No, I can honestly say that we didn’t plan for this at all! We had pretty humble expectations when we started, of course we had some vague ideas about what might be cool, but it was never part of a grand plan, it has just kind of happened. It’s nice the way it has worked out naturally and we hope that comes across too. This hasn’t been forced or contrived in any way, it is simply where we are at the moment.
The first time I was introduced to your music was a video of you playing ‘Winter Trees’ for SoFAR in 2011. Since that video you have moved from playing in living rooms to playing in stadiums. Does that feel strange and which setting do you prefer?
I don’t think any of us have become used to playing in Stadiums and actually most of the shows we play now are still quite small, the massive shows are kind of anomalies. Those living room gigs are fun, but they are really nerve-racking too, with loads of people sitting really close and listening very intensely, you cant make a mistake, whereas you can hide the sound in those bigger rooms. But it has been really good this year to do lots of different shows in no particular order, it keeps us on our toes.
Has it made you more fearless as live performers?
I wouldn’t say we’re fearless just yet. We still have a healthy amount of nerves when we step onstage as you never quite know how a show will go until you’re up there. All you can do is rehearse and try your best, but there is always a different energy each night which can determine how the show feels.
Hypothetically, if someone asked you to choose strictly between being a recording band or a live band, which would you go for?
Well, I wouldn’t be able to choose, so thankfully we’ll never have to make that decision! I think we’re generally more conformable doing the whole live thing rather than recording. Recording is such a big commitment. Whatever you do on the day is there forever. Whatever your mood was that morning, what you had for lunch, it’s all there on record. With a live show, things change from night to night and from city to city, that’s the real beauty of it.
You’re heading out on a headline tour of the UK soon, are there any particular dates you are looking forward to?
Naturally we’re excited about the two dates at Scala. We have been there so many times across the years as gig-goers, so it will certainly feel pretty special to be playing a landmark show there. It’s pretty exciting. We are also playing in a few cities we haven’t played before. We came to Oxford not long ago, but this will be a our first headline show there, so we’re really looking forward to that one, it should be good fun. There are actually quite a few dates on the tour in cities we haven’t played before, so it’s always nice to experience something new and have a change from the norm.
Do you find going on tour quite energy sapping, or is it the perfect chance to knuckle down and write new songs and become a bit of a tourist?
It certainly is such a great way to travel. We have visited so many different places all across the world that I’ve never been to before. But touring is quite an odd experience too. You’re never anywhere long enough for it to be boring, although on the downside there are certain towns you visit where you would like to stay much longer and it’s all over before you know it. In terms of energy, it can be quite strange because even though you are mainly just sitting on your arse in the back of a van, it can be quite draining too. It is a weird way of living for a few weeks, being part of a sort of traveling circus in very enclosed spaces, and then suddenly it is over and you go back to reality and normality itself can be quite disorientating.
So with touring taking you to places you never been before, you must feel quite blessed?
Definitely. We are very lucky to visit all these different places and even nicer to doing something you love there. It is quite gratifying when you roll up to some place you’ve never set foot in before, and you stand onstage and think wow, this is great, people in Kansas have actually heard of us!
How well have you been received in the States?
In general, it has been a very welcoming vibe, it has always been great every time we’ve been there. We will be embarking on first headline tour of the US in May, so that will be a real case of testing the waters. But we haven’t put the record out there yet, it will be released later this month. We enjoy the feeling of being at different stages of our career in all these different countries, it certainly does keep you on your toes.
Is is quite tempting to bask in the reflected light of mainstream acts like Mumford and Sons who are currently selling shitloads in America, or is that something you want to shy away from?
With bands like Mumford who are doing so well, I suppose it can only serve a good purpose for other bands in a similar vein, I don’t actually know if Mumford fans would necessarily like us, but it certainly opens possibilities for others. There weren’t many guys on the radio with banjos before, so I guess it makes people more open to that style.
So is the ultimate aim to be US based? Where you see yourself during the course of this year?
Not sure really, there is no ultimate aim with any of this really, we are simply focusing on writing as much new material as we can all of the time. Most of this year will be spent out on the road, but we will also spend a lot of our time off back home. We really enjoy splitting our time between lots of different locations as all these settings only serve to influence our songwriting in a more fruitful way.