HAPPY AF­TER ALL

AHEAD OF THEIR FIRST AUS­TRALIAN TOUR, ALL SAINTS’ SHAZNAY LEWIS TELLS WHO WHY THE GIRL GROUP HAS GOT IT RIGHT THIS TIME

WHO - - The List - By Gavin Scott

First time around, af­ter a heady four-year reign from 1997 to 2001 in which they racked up five UK No. 1 sin­gles and en­joyed ma­jor suc­cess in Aus­tralia, All Saints no­to­ri­ously im­ploded fol­low­ing a fight over who would wear a cer­tain jacket at a photo shoot. In 2006, their sec­ond com­ing fell apart as quickly as it be­gan. But third time has been the charm for the girl group, who re­united in 2013 and have re­leased two ac­claimed al­bums since, 2016’s Red Flag and Tes­ta­ment ear­lier this year. Now, they’re headed to Aus­tralia to per­form live for the first time (from Tues., Jan. 29 along­side Craig David, as well as on the RNB Vine Days tour).

For Shaznay Lewis, 43, the four-piece’s chief song­writer re­spon­si­ble for hits like “Never Ever” and “Pure Shores”, there is one no­tice­able dif­fer­ence this time. “There’s no­body to get in be­tween any­thing any­more, so it’s just the four of us left to get on with things our­selves and com­mu­ni­cate to each other prop­erly,” she says. “And growth – you can­not un­der­es­ti­mate growth. When you’re 20-some­thing, you prob­a­bly think you’re fully grown and know ev­ery­thing, but now I look back and think, ‘We were ba­bies.’ We knew noth­ing.”

Jacket dis­putes aside, one ma­jor con­tribut­ing fac­tor in All Saints’ ac­ri­mo­nious 2001 bust-up was ex­haus­tion – like so many other mas­sive pop acts, the girl group was worked in­cred­i­bly hard by their record com­pany.

“Be­ing tired and be­ing pulled in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions,” Lewis con­firms. “I was al­ways want­ing to hold on to things that were real, be­cause in those sit­u­a­tions there were a lot of things around you that weren’t real. I strug­gled with that a lot. We all did in dif­fer­ent ways, and when you have such a huge, life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and aren’t able to hold on to re­al­ity … We all say now that if only we were given the op­por­tu­nity to take a break, re­coup, get it to­gether again, take a deep breath and carry on, but that op­por­tu­nity never came.”

Tak­ing con­trol of the band has not only made the ex­pe­ri­ence more en­joy­able for Lewis and her band­mates Me­lanie Blatt and sis­ters Ni­cole and Na­talie Ap­ple­ton, it’s also re­sulted in some of their best-re­ceived mu­sic. Un­like many groups from the 1980s and ’90s, All Saints re­lease mu­sic that stands along­side their big­gest hits – and that fans want to hear per­formed live.

“Us mak­ing the de­ci­sion to put these last two al­bums out our­selves was one of the wis­est de­ci­sions we’ve prob­a­bly made, cre­atively,” Lewis says. “It’s al­lowed us to take our time and not be caught up with com­plet­ing records for the wrong rea­sons. We’ve been left alone to work and trust out own in­stincts and I think that shows.”

Ob­vi­ously, much of the band’s live show will con­sist of the songs that made them a suc­cess in the first place. “It’s a trip down mem­ory lane,” Lewis says. “These songs have been around a long time but what’s great about per­form­ing them is that we didn’t get to tour them first time around. They’ve mar­i­nated like a fine wine over the years. We prob­a­bly en­joy singing them more now than we would have at the time.”

Also more en­joy­able for Lewis now is the process of record­ing, and while she thinks All Saints “don’t sound too dif­fer­ent, in terms of what we bring to the ta­ble vo­cally,” she feels there’s a real pro­gres­sion in their mu­sic. For one thing, her song­writ­ing has ma­tured.

“When you’re that young, you lit­er­ally say any­thing,” she re­flects. “I’m more mind­ful now of putting it out there. There are a few songs – more some of our B-sides – where I go, ‘I can’t be­lieve I said that.’ But that’s what you do when you’re that young. Ev­ery­thing dur­ing that stage of your life is mag­ni­fied – first love, the first time you try any­thing, your so­cial scene – and be­ing an artist, you will air it all.”

For that rea­son, Lewis thinks it’s a good thing so­cial me­dia was not around dur­ing the ini­tial stage of their ca­reer. “It would’ve been aw­ful,” she says with a hearty laugh. “We are so lucky we es­caped that. We would’ve been 20 and post­ing ev­ery­thing.” Per­haps All Saints would only have lasted one al­bum if they’d had Twit­ter to air their griev­ances? “Just about,” Lewis agrees.

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