From The Andrew Sisters to Heart and The Bangles to Tegan & Sara, bands featuring sisters have had quite an impact on music throughout the years. Looking to make an impact of their own are the Staveley-Taylor sisters—Emily, Jessica, and Camilla—who are collectively known as The Staves.
Hailing from Watford, England, the folk rock group followed up their recent performances at this year’s SXSW with the American release of their full-length record, Dead & Born & Grown, earlier this week.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Jessica Staveley-Taylor about the group’s new record. She spoke about the trio’s songwriting process, working with acclaimed producers Glyn and Ethan Johns (The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, Kings of Leon), and her thoughts on the recent influx on folk rock music on mainstream radio.
Were each of you always interested in music growing up?
Yeah, we were. We were. We’ve always sung together and our parents would always be listening to records and singing. It’s always something that’s been very natural to all of us. We’re just having fun.
We never really had like a game plan to be a band or anything like that. It just kind of happened quite naturally over the years.
At what point did you all decide that music was something that you wanted to pursue professionally?
I think it got to a point when we were gigging quite a lot and getting a lot of shows and we couldn’t hold down a job. We were all working in restaurants and bars and stuff. We had to keep kind of taking time off from our jobs, and we just kind of thought, “We don’t really want these to be our jobs.” We’d rather do music. And yeah, it just kind of happened that way.
Growing up, what music influenced and helped shape your sound when you were first starting out?
Oh, so many. The Beatles are a massive one, because our mom and dad would listen to them all the time.They’re kind of the basis of all pop music for us. They’re a huge inspiration. There are all kinds of singer-songwriters, like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Neil Young. That kind of era definitely influenced us.
When you’re in the midst of the songwriting process, do each of you have a specific role or is it completely collaborative effort?
I think it’s different with every song for us. Sometimes, it just kind of happens and it might be one person that does the most of it. Other songs take years to write. Like, add a little bit here and there in the course of a year or so.
With each song being different, do you approach them differently as well, in starting with either the lyrics or the melody, or does your approach vary with each song?
I think the music comes first, but having said that, there’s a lot of songs that started with just a lyric idea. It usually happens at the same time, I think, the lyrics and the music.
For your album, you worked with Glyn and Ethan Johns. How was it working with them in the studio?
It was great. The two of them have made so many amazing records, but they had never made a record together until this record with us. It was really special having them both in the room. We’re huge fans of their work. I think we were probably a bit nervous at first, but then they’re really lovely guys, and we had a really good time with it.
They like to record everything live, so it was a really interesting experience for us to work in that kind of way and I think it captured the sound of us in the room at that time. It’s not in any way been altered or changed or manipulated. And that’s a really nice thing.
What is the dynamic like between you and your sisters in the studio? Is it more business or more of a comfortable and laid back kind of vibe?
In the studio, it’s just the same as anywhere else, really. I think we get along really well, the three of us. We’re very fortunate that we have a really good time together. In the studio there’s a lot of laughter, sometimes when you’re spending long, long days trapped in a studio with no daylight, you start to go slightly mad.
We get along well, and obviously we have a job to do, but it’s just an incredibly fun job to do. It’s just good.
So it’s definitely an upside that you get to collaborate and create music with your sisters.
Yeah, yeah. We get on well, we understand each other. We have a very good relationship, but there’s always downsides, because you always argue with people you love and people you spend that much time with and we spend a lot of time together, making music together and in our personal lives, we are family. We see each other there, and there’s always going to be slight personality clashes here and there, but the pluses outweigh the minuses, definitely.
The title of the album is Dead & Born & Grown, which is also a title of one the tracks on the album. Is there something specific about that song that you felt encompassed the album as a whole to use it as the overall title?
Yeah, definitely. That song was pretty much the first song we ever wrote. It holds a special place for all of us. We were just beginning then when we wrote that. We knew we wanted it on the album, that was always going to be the case. Then as we were making the record, I think we just felt that’s what the album should be called. I think it kind of catches an idear about, like an all-encompassing passing of time. It’s a special song for us.
What do you hope the listening audience takes away from Dead & Born & Grown, and is there a song that you hope they give special attention to?
I say pay attention to all of them, because they’re all good. I think we all have our favorites on the album, one in particular, which is called “Eagle Song.” It’s just a really special track for us, but I think that people can listen to the record and feel that they’re in the room with us. That’s what we wanted to create. We wanted to create an actual sound that had a way of capturing how it is when the three of us sit down together and sing. I hope that they can get that from it, and I hope that they enjoy it.
You already released the record in the UK. What are you looking forward to the most about releasing the record in America?
More people getting to hear it would be great. We’ve toured over here quite a lot now, and we’re going to be touring more this year over here. It’s just really exciting to be able to give the American people the full-length album that they can sink their teeth into. It’s very exciting.
Last question—what’s your take on the continued influx of folk rock bands like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers finding success on the radio right now and how do you think this trend will affect your crossover into the U.S.?
I’m not sure really, to be honest. I think the success of those bands is great. I think it’s good that they’ve kind of opened the door for a larger audience to listen to and appreciate music of that kind of genre. Music that sounds like that with acoustic instruments and harmonies. I think it’s a really positive thing and I hope that it means that more people will be open to appreciate our music.
At the same time, we’re very different bands from those guys, so I’m not quite sure. But I think it’s a good thing that those acoustic guitars and harmonies [are] around.
Dead & Born & Grown by The Staves is available now. Check out their latest music video for “Facing West” below.
Photo credit: Rebecca Miller