Stealing Sheep – Into the Diamond Sun – album review and interview
Stealing Sheep – Into the Diamond Sun (Heavenly Recordings)
CD / DL / LP
The highly anticipated debut from Stealing Sheep,who we reviewed earlier this year, was released yesterday and we had a chat with Lucy, Emily and Rebecca about the record, their sound and their plans for the future.
The debut offering from the Liverpool trio is undoubtedly one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of 2012. Since coming together in 2010, Stealing Sheep have earned a growing reputation for producing a highly original and genre defying sound that has seen their following increase with each release.
Lucy Mercer and Emily Lansley met Rebecca Hawley in the summer of 2010 when Rebecca worked in a shop below the Lark Lane cafÃÂ© in which they worked. All three had been active on the vibrant Liverpool music scene for a while and Stealing Sheep grew from their meetings. The release of a couple of EP’s, one recorded at Abbey Road, another in an abandoned school has led to huge interest in the band and this magnificent debut will certainly increase their reputation even further.
The day after their hugely successful album launch at Rough Trade, Lucy took time out to answer some questions for LTW about the groups’ development so far and the release of ”ËInto the Diamond Sun’. The defining element of the album is a highly distinctive and original sound, and Lucy explained what each member brings to the mix.
“Emily has an interest in krautrock so she tends to bring in a sort of psychedelic sound whereas Becky is more into electronica and atmospheric type of stuff which seems to complement the sound quite well. My drums bring a folky, almost tribal feel and the whole thing seems to come together well.”
One of the issues that inevitably accompany a new sound are attempts to define and categorise it. Stealing Sheep have been labelled variously as psych-folk, voodoo-folk and even patronisingly as ”ËMedieval Babes’. Given the opportunity to define the sound Lucy is clear: “We’re not sure at all about that ”ËMedieval Babes’ phrase to be honest. We don’t think it describes us or what we’re trying to do so really we’d be happy to let that one die. I think it’s just alternative pop really, albeit with a darker twist at times.”
Stealing Sheep are full of praise for their producers. Joe Wills was at the controls for the recording of ”ËMountain Dogs’ and encouraged experimentation with techniques and unusual recording locations.
“Joe was fantastic to work with and really creative. He’s got so many projects on at the moment but he was just an amazing influence.
“We recorded in the gymnasium of this disused school in Liverpool and the acoustics for vocals and drums were fantastic. It did feel a bit weird in this big, empty old building but we find that different environments enhance your performance and your sound so it’s worth the effort.
“We also recorded some acapella songs in the attic of Islington Mill were the vocal sound was great, but the whole experience was a bit spooky.”
Into the Diamond Sun was produced by Sam Crombie at Mello Studios and again Lucy is happy to explain his role in the finished product.
“Sam’s one of our friends and we like what he’s done in the past. We’re part of a creative community really and Sam is very much part of that vibe.
“He boosted the electronic side to the sound and suggested little ideas and synth sounds and he’s definitely shaped how the albums turned out.
“The creative community we’re involved with in Liverpool has had a big influence on us. We’ve got a strong group of friends who are all involved in their own projects but they all influence us and support us.”
So, with all the expectancy surrounding the release of Into the Diamond Sun it’s a pleasure to report that if anything, the album exceeds it.
The Garden, which opens is a beautiful mix of melodic harmonies alongside the beguiling mix of synths, guitar and tribal rhythm of Lucy’s drums.
The pattern of clever metaphorical lyrics is added to this sound and continues into the already familiar single of Shut Eye, Rearrange and White Lies proving that Stealing Sheep possess the melodies and hooks that most bands will only ever dream about.
Next up is the bouncy Genevieve which seems destined to become one of their live favourites. Circles is built on a solid drum base and faint air of menace as it grows from gentle vocals through soaring harmonies before the sudden end which leads into the bewitching twists of Gold.
Maybe this is the song the BBC were waiting for to bring some originality to their Olympic coverage as it displays much more craft than the dirge they’ve been pedalling for the past two weeks.
Innovation is the key theme of Into the Diamond Sun and this flows through the irresistible hooks of Shark Song and into Liven Up which is both darker yet refreshing and dream-like.
Tangled Up in Stars is a lively precursor to the epic finale of Bear Tracks, a haunting track that mixes the harmonies and sonic adventures we are now familiar with to deliver a brooding but compelling fade out. It is a perfect ending to a stunning debut that defies categorisation and is all the stronger for it.
Recent live appearances have demonstrated the rapidly growing enthusiasm for Stealing Sheep and the sense of expectation that accompanies the release of Into the Diamond Sun. The band feel there is also the ‘Hollyoaks factor’ to consider
“Well, since ”ËHollyoaks’ used one of our songs in a trailer for their new series, there seems to have been an increased interest. We’re certainly noticing gigs are better attended and the audience reaction seems to be really positive.
“Also, we played an album launch at Rough Trade last night which was a bit intimidating to be honest as it was really dark with just the lights on us so you couldn’t see the crowd and they were very quiet through the show but they gave us a great reception at the end though so that was pleasing.”
The next few weeks see some key live appearances so the advice would be to catch the band live if you can.
“We’ve got the Green Man Festival coming up which we’re really looking forward to, then we’ve got dates in Edinburgh and London, and then we’ve got the Number 6 Festival at Portmeirion in North Wales.
“Apart from that we’ll be putting some videos together so the message is to keep an eye on our websites for information about what we’re up to.”
Stealing Sheep have described Into the Diamond Sun as being like a journey and that is certainly the impression you get on first listen albeit one where the destination is unknown and the route is totally unpredictable. But what an amazing journey it is and the first instinct on completion is to go and do the whole thing again.
The band have produced an outstanding debut that is rich in melody, musicianship and originality and is an album that deserves the support of everyone who values creativity in music.
All words and interview by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.