Listen to this track by sisterly Watford, Hertfordshire trio The Staves. It’s “Black and White”, a single as taken from this year’s If I Was, their second full length record. The band is led by the voices of three sisters; Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Stavely-Taylor. Shortening their name for the stage one night on the sign-up sheet at a regular open mic night, the three sisters became The Staves.
This second album comes after the release of several EPs, and an eventual debut record in Dead & Born & Grown in 2012 (produced by two generations of famous Johns’ – Glyn and Ethan!). In the middle of all that, the band served as an opening act to The Civil Wars and Florence & The Machine, and provided back up duties on recordings by Tom Jones, and Fionn Regan. Additionally, The Staves gave performances at SXSW that exposed them to an American audience. They also supported Bon Iver, which led to Justin Vernon producing this record, capturing their harmony-centric feel that bypasses traditional British folk-rock, and instead connects with a sound that is more transatlantic instead.
There’s a sense of menace in this song, which on first listen may not be immediately apparent, just because the combination of voices is so compellingly beautiful. There is also something to be said for local music scenes that encourage young musicians to create this kind of alchemy together, which is certainly the case here, with a single venue serving as a platform for an international path to success. Read more
I’m not sure why, but lately going to gigs has left me a bit cold. I saw some great acts while living in Britain for the past six years – Gomez, Macy Gray, Orbital, Elvis Costello, Pulp, et al. But the venues in London I went to were all standing only gigs, always oversold and always (as a result) too crowded. Getting to the bar was a major undertaking, and I always got the really tall guy standing right in front of me through out. Of course, this doesn’t include the people who find it necessary to have meaningless conversations, and/or to sing along badly, right in your ear while the band is playing. There have times, despite the fact that I really love live music, when I prayed for the end of a show just so I could get the hell out of there.
Last night, the wife and I went out on the town to see one of my favourite electronica outfits, Royksopp. I really love their record “Melody AM”, and I had heard that they put on a really good show. The gig was at the Commodore Ballroom, a palace of a venue in Vancouver, which has always been a breath of fresh air when compared to some of the venues I’d been to in London. It should have been better than it was for me. It wasn’t the band’s fault I don’t think – they were very exuberant on stage and they played their song “Eple” which I love, among others. My wife and I danced a bit, after having had drinks delivered (!) to our table (!!). There were no obnoxious conversationalists within earshot (although there was when we went to see Wilco there in the summer…), and we could see the stage and the band clearly.
But there was something missing. I have had this feeling before and I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it was that my wife was not enjoying the show as much as I was, and this made for a less spectacular time for me in the end (I’m the music fan in the family). The sound was a bit muddy too, so some of the subtleties of the record were lost – I suppose this happens at every gig to some extent. But I left feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if I had come in late and missed part of the show. The frustrating part is that I do not have the reasons I might have had when going to gigs in London. The Commodore is great.
Still, despite all of this, when I am in the financial position to do so, I must resolve to go to more gigs. Being in school at the moment, money is not exactly hanging out of my pockets and I suppose money worries come to the surface when you’re out having frivolous times. Maybe that has something to do with it. I think going to more shows may be the answer in defiance of this vague dissatisfaction. It’s the rock n roll thing to do!