Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ The Staves

Prior to the start of the interview (which is taking place in the artists’ Green Room backstage at Barn on the Farm Festival 2015) The Staves have been asked what they would like to drink.  Jess asked for tea and Emily asked for a cold beer. Before getting to the drinks, we had a chat with the lovely sibling trio to discuss feeding ostriches, intimate performances, going on holiday, midnight swims, and being sisters.

AMBY: Hey! It’s A Music Blog, Yea? And we’re here at Barn on the Farm 2015 with The Staves.  How are you all today?

The Staves: Yea we’re good, thanks! You?

Jess: How are you?

AMBY: I’m good, thank you!  You’re headlining the Main Stage today, how are you feeling about that?

Jess: Yea we are! I think this is our first ever festival headline slot.

Emily: It is!

Jess: So it’s a pretty historic moment.

[Camilla drums the table]

Camilla: Oooh!

Emily: I think it will be really great.  I’m really excited.  It seems like a lovely festival.

Camilla: I’m glad that they got my memo about the ostriches.  I refuse to go on stage if there aren’t any ostriches.

Emily: Yea, I was really glad about that.  That’s important.

AMBY: Have you fed the ostriches?

Emily: No… are you supposed to?

AMBY: You can!  With the grass on the side.

Jess: Really?

Camilla: I saw people doing that and I was like… I think I’d be too scared.

Emily: Seems like they could really go for you.

AMBY: So in March 2015 you released ‘If I Was’, your second album.  How was the recording process for you?

Jess: Thank you for getting that right by the way because we were in Switzerland yesterday and the guy interviewing us was like [in a Swiss-American accent], “So you released your album ‘If We Had’ … last year?”

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

The Staves: We were like: No… no… no! Incorrect!

AMBY: Oh no!

Emily: It was great, it was kind of the best thing that we’ve ever done.  It was the most amazing experience to write it and record it and probably what we feel most proud of that we’ve done in the time that we’ve been singing together.  It was a very special collaboration, just kind of a labour of love to create it.

AMBY: You recorded most of it in April Base Studios in Wisconsin.  You can really hear the reflective, idyllic almost, imagery in there.  How much did Wisconsin influence your music and also working with Justin Vernon?

Jess: A lot.

Camilla: Yea, loads I think.

The interview is temporarily interrupted as cold beer has been sourced and we are all asked how many of us would like a cold beer.

Jess: The Staves are total divas asking for beer!  Ice cold beer whilst we’re doing an interview!

Camilla: Sorry, what were we…

Jess: Wisconsin.

Camilla: Yea, I think it’s hard to kind of tell and pick out parts where like “Oh yeah, this definitely influenced this”. I think being there in quite a secluded place and in a very cold place where you stay inside a lot with a certain group of people; it just intensifies the relationships that you have.  So in quite a short amount of time you become very … incredibly close and I dunno there’s a weird trust that’s built up.  And I think it definitely influenced our writing and what we were able to do. Maybe looking out on snow every day.

AMBY: How long were you in the studios?

Emily: Well we made it kind of in stages.  The first time, we went out in February and then we went out again in the summer.  And then we went out again at Christmas time and then we went back again in February.

Camilla: Three out of the four times were like freezing fucking cold.  It was so cold.  It was just like -25, oh my god.  You’d go out for a cigarette and you’d just be like.. ohh your fingers!

Emily: Justin [Vernon] was a huge part of it.  His energy and his enthusiasm for what we do.  He was a great facilitator so we were able to just say to him all the stuff that we ever wanted to mess around with in the studios.  He was just like, “Awesome.  Let’s do it now! We should just make it happen!” And he made his amazing musical playground for us all to hang out and get drunk in.

AMBY: And he also collaborated with you at Glastonbury.

The Staves: Yea!

AMBY: How was it performing with him?

Jess: Yea, it was great.  It was so nice to have him there.  I think he’s only been to Glastonbury once before so he really was so excited to come and just see Glastonbury.  We were all staying there for the whole time- the whole weekend. So it was the Sunday that we played.  We were all kind of hanging on to still being okay, but like quite exhausted for having been at Glastonbury for three days. It was a very real moment I think for everyone stepping out on stage.

AMBY: Glastonbury is quite a big festival and Barn on the Farm is a very intimate festival. What are the best things about performing to big crowds and the best things about performing to more intimate crowds?

Emily: Well you always feel like you’re getting more of a personal and intimate relationship with the audience when it’s a smaller festival.  You can really see everyone’s faces.

Camilla: Yea and you can have a bit of banter sometimes with the crowd.

Emily: If you talk too much on the massive stages, a gust of wind comes and carries that off, they can’t hear what you’ve said so no one laughs at all my hilarious jokes.

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

Emily: It can be devastating.  I come off stage thinking, am I not funny? Have I lost it? No.. no I haven’t.

Camilla: It must’ve been the sound!

Emily: It’s a really nice atmosphere here, it’s not huge/mainstream.  But on the flip-side it’s great playing big stages and to big crowds.  We do it less I think.

Camilla: There’s a freedom that you can get sometimes when there’s a big crowd.  You can’t see the whites of their eyes, you can kind of zone out a little bit.

Jess: I feel like we play a bit more of a rock show when it’s bigger outdoor stages.  You also go for it with more … [to Camilla and Emily] choose someone that you feel like… I don’t know, Pete Townshend or somebody like that.

AMBY: You have done a European tour and you’re on the festival circuit with a UK tour soon.  When are you going to get a break? A holiday?

The Staves: Noo, no break!

Jess: A very good question.  Let me give you our manager’s e-mail address and find out when we are on holiday.

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

Camilla: We’re trying to fit something in soon aren’t we?

Emily: We have a week or something coming up and at some point we’re going to try to do something.

AMBY: If you don’t get a holiday, what do you do in your downtime?

Camilla: Washing?

Emily: It’s weird because we get little days off here and there and they can be amazing because often you’re on tour and we have a day off in Amsterdam or a day off in … amazing places.  And maybe places where you never actually choose to go to like weird places in America but it’s like oh my god, I would never have gone to Montreux!  Yesterday, we had some time where we ended up-

Camilla [in a French accent]: Montreux.  Montreux.

Emily: And you end up swimming in a lake a midnight and it’s all those little things.  It’s like trying to find downtime within the day.  Sometimes when you actually do have a week or two off, you just don’t know what to do with yourself.  You get really bored.  There’s no tour manager telling you the itinerary for the day so you’re just like, “I don’t know what to do!”

Jess: When should I eat?

Emily: Just don’t eat, just watch “Murder She Wrote” all day long in your pyjamas.

Camilla: Which is great.

AMBY: What was that about swimming in the lake at midnight?

Jess: Yea, we played Montreux Jazz Festival yesterday and finished at… I pronounced it right?

Camilla: Yea!

Jess: Less than 24 hours ago we were swimming in the cool crisp waters of Lake Geneva with a bunch of 17-year-old dudes. We were like, “Hey boys!”

Camilla: It was so weird.

Emily: They were so young.

Jess: Yea, it was really fun.

The cold beer arrives!

Jess: It’s an amazing festival, it’s been going for like 50 years over in Switzerland.  Nina Simone played there, James Brown, Van Morrison and Bowie and everyone… and obviously The Staves.

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

Jess: It was like 33 degrees so everyone was just chilling.

Emily: It’s moments like that when you think that we’ve been lucky to do what we do.

AMBY: You’ve mentioned some big classic names.  What were some of your memorable early musical experiences?

Emily: Well we all grew up listening to the Beatles ‘cos our parents were huge Beatles fans so we’re all just massive fans.

Jess: For me, it always just comes back to The Beatles basically.

Emily: The tapes that we had in the car when you were kids.  They have such a special place in your memory.  You picture the front cover and the little lyrics inside.

AMBY: The little guitar chords as well.

Emily: Yea! It was like Elton John, Roy Orbison, and Travelling Wilburys, Eric Clapton, and Eagles.  Then there was that “Sound of the ’60s” tape.  We had Motown and we had Monty Python.

Jess: But as we got older, obviously we bought our own music, we didn’t just listen to our parents’.  And obviously Alanis Morissette.  Big time. Back in the day.

Camilla: Ohh yeah.

Jess: [Whistles] My girl. Yea, I was so into Ryan Adams when I was a teenager, well I still am, I love him.  Bands like that, Feist, Fleet Foxes.

Camilla: Fionn Regan as well.

Jess: Mainly people beginning with ‘F’.

AMBY: I was going to ask you if you could curate a music festival but I think you’ve just answered that!

Jess: Yea we’ve probably named them all.

Emily: It would be called ‘The F Word’!

Camilla: See now we’re just getting into people that begin with F not who we’d want at the festival.

AMBY: I’m part of a three children family, that’s my older sister.

The Staves: Oh! Nice!

AMBY: I’m the middle child and we have a younger brother.

Jess: Yea, middle!

AMBY: Yea, you know.

Jess: Oh yea.

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

AMBY: Do you adopt the stereotypical middle child, younger, eldest roles?  Or are you all really close and more like friends?

Jess: Kind of both really.  I think that yeah we do definitely fit into the stereotype to a certain extent, but we also are just very close.  We’ve always been really good friends and we’ve been trying to be professional together [laughs].  We try to shake those roles off a little bit.  It’s probably unnatural to stay in your family dynamic for as long as we have.

AMBY: How was it in the recording studios because you were confined?

Emily: It’s kind of the best preparation for it because we’ve lived together, we’ve shared rooms all our lives.  We definitely know how to spend a very long amount of time together.  But that’s not to say that sometimes you want to kill each other!

AMBY: So for our last question, what is the best thing about being The Staves?

Emily: A cold beer.

Jess: Being like, “Get me a beer!”

AMBY: And you get it!

Jess: Literally singing together.  I know that’s really… but in any [place]: cars, at home, writing songs in the studio, on stage, just singing with those two.

Camilla: Sounds so cheesy doesn’t it?

AMBY and The Staves: [laughs]

The Staves [in American accents]:  I love being sisters.  I love you! I treasure your friendship!  I treasure you! You’re so special.  You have a beautiful spirit.

AMBY: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us today.

The Staves: You’re welcome! Cheers!

***

Thank you The Staves, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Jane Jimenez | @bporthos

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