Harmony. It’s a crucial aspect of popular music and not just in the way you might expect. While STEALING SHEEP are one of the greatest proponents of this musical element, they are also similarly congruous as a group of artists. Becky, Lucy and Emily – yes their names even have a rhythmic similarity – are that rare and great, unconscious occurrence of a brilliantly packaged group, which works in every aspect. In a time where ‘bands’ are being thrown together by record executives in a paint-by-numbers imitation of real music, it’s a refreshing throw back to a simpler time which peculiarly points to the future of Liverpool music.
As I meet the girls for the first time at Make Art Studios they are enthusiastically throwing themselves into various poses with quirky make-up on faces and dressed like they’d just dropped in from Woodstock 1969. Needless to say, I’m eager to start the interview. We begin to talk about the origins of the band, something I am particularly interested in, as, such is their natural synergy, it’s hard to imagine a time prior to their existence in this form. I find that the girls floated in to the group from other projects with quite different influences to their current incarnation. Becky confesses that, “it was all a bit blind at first” as they had come from groups they described as varying between “acoustic freak folk” and “60s pop psychedelic rock.” While at first it’s hard to understand how such wildly mismatched traits could come together to make something as co-ordinated as their final product, one listen to Stealing Sheep is enough to see how these wider-ranging influences have coalesced to become something new, something greater.
This something is beautiful, often haunting, reverb-laden, alternative-folk (and that might be the most adjectives I’ve ever used in one of those descriptions) and, whilst they don’t cite them as an influence, fans of Fleet Foxes looking for something a touch edgier might just fall captive of their eerie harmony. Their recent EP The Mountain Dogs is a four-track introduction to the Sheep and their harpy-like enchanting melodies, which gained much attention and is to be swiftly followed by “double A and double B side single,” I Am The Rain. Partially recorded at Abbey Road studios, this release is set to propel Stealing Sheep into the wider consciousness after several very kind words from those in the know at the BBC, XFM and, of course, Bido Lito!.
I am keen to hear their thoughts on using the world-famous Abbey Road, and after Lucy laconically sums it up as, “We worked all night, then we finished at eight in the morning, then we all got breakfast,” I eventually get them to elaborate. They tell me they were based in Studio One, the large building where orchestral pieces are often recorded. Whilst this may seem a touch spacious for a group consisting of just three people, it actually transpired to be the perfect environment for the group’s resonant harmonies. Becky explains to me that they were in the midst of a long tour at the point of recording and, after several whiskies, her voice wasn’t in the best condition that night. However, video evidence exists (you can find it on their website) of a live performance of Your Saddest Song at the studios which contradicts her opinion. It’s an incredibly moving performance which I can only implore you to search out as an introduction to Stealing Sheep.
Halfway through our interview, Becky becomes distracted by a butterfly which has snuck into the studios through a crack in the window. As she deftly catches it before gently releasing it back to freedom with all the wonder of a child, I sit there unable to help but feel that somehow it beautifully communicates the wide-eyed innocence of the Stealing Sheep ethos. Alluring. The group are set to display this magnetism to a wider audience as, following the release of the single on the 16th May, they are embarking on a European tour taking in Paris, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, followed by several festival dates including The Secret Garden Party. After this, thoughts will turn to recording the group’s debut album and if their progression continues at its current rate then I’m ready to tempt fate and predict its appearance on a lot of end of year lists already. They tell me they are set to record with first time producer Richard O’Flynn in the south of France and joke about whether or not this will make the album “sound a bit French.” What’s without doubt is that if this is the case, then the Sheep will faultlessly absorb this alongside their already bumper list of influences.
After wrapping up the interview I walk with Lucy towards a local cafe as she is tasked with acquiring food for the group (from a vegetarian cafe, naturally). We share a joke and as she leaves, I realise it’s happened. Stealing Sheep have done to me what they’ve managed to do to every critic they’ve met thus far; beguile me with their boundless charm. It appears that for these three girls capturing hearts is as simple as capturing butterflies and, most probably, you’re next.
You can see an exclusive Stealing Sheep short film here, featuring footage from this interview with David Lynch and an intimate live performance!