Renowned for their lush soundscapes and melodic acid house anthems, Saint Etienne are one of Britain’s pioneering music groups that opened the door to the indie-dance movement and the much-loved Britpop genre.
Set to finally celebrate their latest studio album and dreamy dancehall anthems in front of an adoring live crowd, Matthew Thomas caught up with frontwoman Sarah Cracknell to chat about their highly-anticipated show at The Fire Station on 10 June.
How does it feel to be out and about touring the UK once again?
It’s an incredible feeling. We can’t wait to see people again and it’ll be nice to see people enjoying themselves.
We wrote and recorded the last album during the pandemic and so it’s been a long time since we saw people’s reactions firsthand.
I think I’ll feel overwhelmed with emotion. I’m that way inclined anyway, I always end up shedding a few tears over very little.
It’ll be beautiful to see everyone and we’ve heard great things about The Fire Station, so our excitement for the show is building each day…
Tell us a little more about I’ve Been Trying To Tell You…
We actually began creating a totally different record in a new studio and things came to a grinding halt due to the pandemic.
Bob then started playing around with a few ideas and new styles. During lockdown, he had begun experimenting with new software that meant he could trial new time signatures, effects and so on.
From there, we developed a concept for the album itself. Pete would send over ideas and I would write lyrics, invent noises and create melodies for his work before sending it back to him for further development.
I’m a big fan of the Cocteau Twins and I always loved the fact that Elizabeth Fraser would make up her own noises and lush sounds that make up the Cocteau Twins’ signature sound. I suppose there are elements of their influence in this record.
What are your thoughts and feelings when you look back at that period?
It was definitely a cathartic experience for me. If it hadn’t been for my younger son who has a studio setup with fancy software and expensive equipment in his bedroom, we wouldn’t have been able to complete the album.
I recorded all the vocals in the countryside in Oxfordshire and having that ability to escape through music really helped and provided me with a creative outlet in which I could feel connected to Bob and Pete.
How are preparations going for the show?
Well, thank you. We’re performing slightly fewer songs from I’ve Been Trying To Tell You and an eclectic mix of familiar tunes, b-sides and more.
We’re playing with a previous drummer who is flying all the way from America just to join the tour, and we’ll have loads of visuals by the wonderful Alasdair McLellan who created our nostalgic film.
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Is there a set method for curating the setlist – not just for these shows but at live performances in general?
We just bat ideas between each other until something sticks.
I’ll let you in on a trade secret; we write all the songs we’ve rehearsed on a sheet of A4, tear them into strips so the song titles are visible and lay them all on the floor before placing them in a specific order.
Once we’ve narrowed down the tracks into something resembling a setlist, we’ll play it in order and one of us will pipe up with further changes.
We’ve been doing this process since 1993 and it has seemed to work out pretty well…
More recently, Bob played a pivotal role in creating and producing Asunder, an award-winning film about Wearsiders living through the First World War. There seems to be a flourishing connection between Saint Etienne and our city would you say…
Definitely. Bob worked alongside Esther Jonhson and we’ve worked with some great Northern initiatives such as Sage and the guys at Field Music. There’s a really nice collaborative cohort of like-minded people developing in the region.
Your show at The Fire Station will be your first back in the region since 2019. How are you feeling about performing at a brand new venue in a relatively new city?
We were scheduled to play at The Fire Station on the last tour and we’re so excited to finally perform there.
I personally love playing at new venues, it’s great to see new spaces created for the arts and I’ve heard that it’s a lovely venue, really well thought out with a great PA and most importantly, lovely dressing rooms.
There’s an appreciation from northern crowds that always makes for a great gig. Every time we’ve played in the North East, we’ve had a fantastic time, some memorable crowd interactions and everyone is just so friendly.
10th June can’t come quickly enough for us!