Bon­chance

When The Staves de­camped to Justin Ver­non’s stu­dio they didn’t bother to tell their la­bel. It’s just as well it worked out well,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - writes Lau­ren Mur­phy

“Justin [Ver­non, front­man of Bon Iver] had said: ‘If you ever have any free time and you’re in the States, just come by. Hang out for how­ever long you can and some­thing cool will hap­pen, what­ever it is: whether it’s a song of yours, a song of mine, what­ever.’ ”

It was last year when The Staves de­cided to take Ver­non up on his of­fer. The Wat­ford sis­ters – Emily, Jes­sica, and Camilla Staveley-Tay­lor – had struck up a friend­ship with Ver­non when they were sup­port­ing the Amer­i­can band around the US, UK and Europe.

So they took of for Eau Claire, Wis­con­sin, trav­el­ling to April Base – Ver­non’s stu­dio in the heart of “Amer­ica’s Dairy­land”, which Jes­sica Staveley-Tay­lor jokes is “like Wat­ford with snow”. The ini­tial visit was so in­for­mal that they didn’t even bother to tell their record com­pany that they were go­ing.

“We didn’t want to shout about it,” says Staveley-Tay­lor, “be­cause we didn’t re­ally know what it was that we were go­ing to do – and if you say ‘I’m go­ing into the stu­dio with Bon Iver’, then sud­denly there might be an ex­pec­ta­tion of ‘Well, you bet­ter come out with some­thing good’,” she laughs.

“So we were very cau­tious and just kind of tried to chill and en­joy it – and I think that ap­proach worked, be­cause it ended up be­ing such a fruit­ful ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing out there.”

Elec­tri­fied ap­proach

The re­sul­tant al­bum, If I Was, is a beau­ti­ful record that builds on the pas­toral folk of its pre­de­ces- sor by un­der­tak­ing some bolder mu­si­cal state­ments, as heard on the elec­tric gui­tar-led Black & White and Teeth White. Work­ing with Ver­non gave them the free­dom to step out­side the folk bound­aries.

“I think be­cause Justin is a mu­si­cian and artist him­self, he ap­proaches pro­duc­ing in a dif­fer­ent way – and I think that way of be­ing made us feel com­fort­able to bring our own ideas to the fore­front. There were so many great mu­si­cians that played on the al­bum; we had string play­ers and horn play­ers and it felt like we could re­ally try any­thing out.

“We didn’t want to make the first al­bum again. It was cer­tainly a lot of fun to strap on the elec­tric and turn the vol­ume up and go for it.”

Staveley-Tay­lor says that they “hit the ground run­ning” af­ter stock­pil­ing so many songs writ­ten and half-writ­ten on the road, and their long tour­ing cy­cles in­formed much of If I Was.

“Putting out an al­bum and tour­ing had a huge in­flu­ence,” she says. “Your sense of nor­mal­ity is to­tally up in the air – you don’t have rou­tine, you’re not at home, you don’t see your fam­ily, your friends, your boyfriends. I never like to com­plain about it be­cause it’s a priv­i­lege and a bless­ing to be able to do it, but there are sac­ri­fices that come with that sort of life­style; there’s a dis­tance that hap­pens be­tween you and your life.

Be­ing root­less

“When you’ve been on the road for longer than you’ve been at home, sud­denly you think, well, ac­tu­ally, maybe this is my re­al­ity: stay­ing in ho­tels and trav­el­ling around and be­ing root­less. That def­i­nitely characterised a big part of the al­bum.”

De­spite the the­matic na­ture of If I Was in­volv­ing be­ing adrift both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally, Staveley-Tay­lor is clearly ex­cited about get­ting back out on the road and play­ing th­ese new songs for an au­di­ence. She’s es­pe­cially look­ing for­ward to The Staves gig in Dublin’s Olympia, where she re­calls the trio sup­port­ing James Vin­cent McMor­row a few years ago. All in all, they’ve come a long way from The Horns in Wat­ford.

“It’s what we love and the most im­me­di­ate way of be­ing able to val­i­date what you do; be­ing able to sing a song and for peo­ple to im­me­di­ately re­spond to it,” she says. “It’s a very sat­is­fy­ing thing. We want peo­ple to re­late to this al­bum, to feel some­thing to it. And the best way to do that is to be in the room and play it for them.”

There were so many great mu­si­cians that played on the al­bum; we had string play­ers and horn play­ers and it felt like we could re­ally try any­thing out

If I Was is out now. The Staves play Dublin’s Olympia Theatre on May 6th

Emo­tional drift

Emily, Jes­sica and Camilla Staveley-Tay­lor of The Staves

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