- 14 Mar 22
The Staves are finally getting to tour their 2021 album Good Woman, playing a string of Irish tour dates at the end of the month. Here, Camilla Stavely-Taylor sat down with Hot Press to talk about releasing an album during a pandemic, working with family, being a woman in folk and more... read all about it below.
To trace the evolution of The Staves is to draw a winding path — from the soft, folk driven origins of Dead & Born & Grown to their stint in the more experimental world of The Way is Read. The outfit have since returned with the powerful, raw and distinctly original Good Woman.
Sonically, it's a journey for the listener. The Staves — a trio of sisters from Watford, Hertfordshire, adapted their surname Staveley-Taylor into the emblematic name of their band and the rest is history. It's been a voyage through life; one that has navigated them through trials of all sizes. This comes to a head on Good Woman, which stands as a sum of experience and a tribute to the contours of womanhood.
"We felt that the album and how we were feeling at the time was encapsulated in the song 'Good Woman'. It sums up the notion of taking ownership and being proud of our thoughts and feelings," said Camilla Staveley-Taylor.
"It's also about feeling enough, despite incessant chatter from those saying the opposite," the musician adds. "Be it society or just someone you're in a relationship with, people are constantly telling you what makes a good woman. Sometimes our own view on the matter can be the last one we go to for guidance, when it should be the first. Good Woman felt very timely for us as a strengthening, rallying call."
In a way, the release of the album was almost thematic — shared at a time when the people's internal hardships were compounded by the chaos going on outside.
"I mean, it's such a weird fucking time to put out an album. Because usually, when we've done anything, EPs, albums, whatever — there's always a thing surrounding it. We do promo, namely, and go on tour. You get to see firsthand how the album's going down, because we play it live and get a reaction back from a roomful of people."
"When we did put out the album, it was really, really strange. Everything just felt theoretical. One day it's not out in the world, and the next day it is. The only way to show that it had happened at all was a thing on our computer. Now, getting to go out and play again, is really just what we want to carry on doing all the time."
The trio's upcoming run of Irish dates, which will bring them to Cork, Belfast, Galway, Dublin and Limerick at the end of the month, will be their first chance to showcase a project that has been in the works since 2017.
The Staves are no strangers to touring. In addition to playing their own shows, throughout their career they've supported the likes of Bon Iver, Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and Florence and The Machine. Since the groups official debut, they've played across continents, appeared at festivals and garnered a wide-reaching fan base.
"We've been lucky enough to do our fair share of both headlining and being able to tour with other people. Both have been fun in lots of different ways. Especially after how much of a shit-show the last couple of years have been, to actually get out and play in front of people who have connected with your music feels really, really great. They just want to have an experience with you."
Listening to Good Woman feels like witnessing, and internalising, a spectrum of emotion. With woven, layered harmonies, crescendoing vocals and gentle backing instrumentation, the tracks are unbelievably evocative.
On 'Nothing's Gonna Happen,' rich vocals and stripped down instrumentals feel like slowly sinking into a warm embrace, while the powerful, fuzzed out drums in the chorus of 'Careful, Kid,' evoke a cyclone of sound.
"We didn't have too many intentions, sonically, moving forward. There were definitely things things that we were interested in that we really wanted to play with, like different sonic spaces. There's a lot of field recordings and different vocals recorded and layered up, that have been recorded in multiple different places. You can hear the space and the sound of it — that was something we were really interested in. We took lots of different bits and weaved them together to make a tapestry."
"[Careful, Kid] in particular, there's a sound at the beginning that carries on through the whole thing," Camilla offers. "That's the main chord, or information — that very crunchy, kind of distorted sound. It's a voice memo that I made ages ago, through some pedals. I was singing and I sort of looped it. Listening to that, having one stimulus — that is really good for just giving you a melodic idea, or a mood to follow. And that one did feel like, in the beginning, that was quite direct and ballsy, for want of a better word. I hate that word, I'll just say boobsy instead," she laughs.
It's this particular track that feels like the farthest departure from the If I Was era of The Staves. It's heavy and resonate, a bitter contrast to the sweetness that imbued their earlier works.
"I feel like I really enjoyed 'Careful, Kid' because it feels very different to the stuff we've done before. It feels very satisfying to play live, and it was really satisfying to record — to just emote a little bit. It's a bit of a patronising, karmic 'fuck you' to a person. That's always quite cathartic."
In describing the album, Stavely-Taylor said it was the first time they said what they truly wanted to say. They've come to the realisation that directness can be just as impactful, or more so, than cloaked metaphors. Shedding the layers that inhibit the ability to be direct is a lesson learned gracefully by the three artists. For a trio of female folk musicians, the conception of using language to evade confrontation is one they're all too familiar with.
"There's definitely stereotypical perceptions of women in folk or singer-songwriter genres," the singer posits. "Then throw on top of that a sister trio? God, everyone just thinks that you're braiding each others hair, sitting in a field of corn and whittling things out of sticks. That was how it was like when we started out."
"There's always going to be people who dismiss something as merely pretty. Especially if there's a pleasant sound — such as harmonising. It's a pleasing, nice type of music to listen to. It can belie some very feisty messaging in the lyrics. Something can sound really gorgeous, until you focus on what the song is about. It can focus on incredible anger. We've had a lot of that. As we've gone on and brought out more projects, we've moved slightly away from the cornfield."
The creation of Good Woman was both weighed and bolstered by life. Over the course of it's four-year inception, the sisters experienced breakups, the pandemic and the passing of their beloved mother. Where there were hardships, there was also the positives — like the birth of Emily Stavely-Taylor's first child, a baby girl. The project as a whole is imbued with this sense of life and loss, a testament to the strength of sisterhood and womanhood.
"It was personal, you know? More than ever, it was about needing to let go and really purge," said Camilla.
In 'Nothing's Gonna Happen,' soft vocals wrap around the listener, acting as a comforting ballad from someone who has shared the same insecurities or been in the same place emotionally.
Nothing's gonna happen with your back against the door / could I be the only one still waiting, I can wait some more...
"It's not like we only wanted to appeal to women or anything," Camilla notes. "It's more along the lines of targeting those who have been made to feel as though you're not enough. Or people who always have to carry other people's shit. It's you who has to hold up the weight of the world because other people are being wankers."
"It's for people who ever feel like they've been robbed of their own agency to decide who they want to be. I think when we were recording, it really felt like we wanted it to resonate in a positive way."
"Anyone who feels like they've finally reached a time where they say, 'No - fuck all of you. I've decided that I'm a good person. And that's what matters."
The Staves will be touring Ireland later this March, tickets can be found here.
Listen to Good Woman, below.