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It’s rare to encounter the problem of there not being enough synonyms in the thesaurus for “lovely” to accurately describe someone, but this surely will be an issue for anyone who meets the ladies of The Staves. Made up of the Stavely-Tyler sisters (Emily, Jessica, and Camilla), this folksy-acoustic trio hailing from Watford, England stopped in at the WERS studio with only a ukulele, guitar, and their voices. It could be easy for some to assume that, based off of their charming demeanors, their music is going to fall into the cutesy-quirky-silly-girly genre that has grown popular recently, but The Staves’ sound is anything but that. It’s refreshing to hear such a real sound from the Stavely-Tyler sisters, musicians who are talented and just happen to be darling, too, rather than musicians relying on being darling to charm their listeners.
From the opening song on this set, it’s apparent that The Staves could probably have awful personalities and still entrance audiences based off their music chops alone (although it certainly is a plus that they’re so sweet). “Mexico,” from both the Mexico EP and their upcoming debut release, Dead & Born & Grown, began with Jessica on guitar and some honest lyrics, “Take it back or let me go/It’s better if I tell you so/I’ve hurt you once before and I will do it again,” a quiet and melancholy opening to the song. Jessica was soon joined by Emily and Camilla, the three voices intertwining to form a full, almost eerie harmony. It’s a raw song, both in the lyrics and the sound; the sisters are able to intelligently articulate heartbreak., Combined with the otherworldly-sounding harmonies and the single guitar, a beautiful story is formed.
Still, it’s hard to nail down exactly what genre The Staves’s unique sound falls into; they’re sort of new-folk, sort of acoustic, sort of just general indie. When asked, it doesn’t seem like the Stavely-Tylers are too sure of what to call themselves, either.
“We should figure that out at some point,” Emily (vocals) said, looking to her sisters and laughing.
Jessica (vocals, guitar) explained how their raw sound has developed, saying, “I don’t think we deliberately aimed for anything. It’s just come about sort of naturally. Being sisters, we spent a lot of time singing together. A lot of our sound, I think, was just shaped by singing harmonies and listening to records at home.”
Citing Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beatles as influences, Camilla (vocals, ukulele) said that their sound had developed more out of music that was harmony-based, adding “I definitely think we take more from that sort of music rather than folk-folk. We’re kind of discovering more proper sort of folk music now that we’re getting older, rather than having grown up with it.”
The second song The Staves performed opened with Camilla on her ukulele, the traditionally cheerful sounding instrument juxtaposed with the sweet melancholy of her vocals already creating a unique sound on “Facing West,” also off of the upcoming debut full-length, Dead & Born & Grown. Like “Mexico,” the sisters sang killer harmonies, but this track had a different sound from the previous song they performed, as“Facing West” had a dreamier vibe, while still maintaining the intelligent and pretty lyricism, and also the ethereal, eerie sound from the harmonies.
Overall, The Staves’ sound can be described as unfalteringly raw and honest. It is clear from listening that it truly has come about organically; the sound emerged in the most natural way, which is undoubtedly why there is something so unique and refreshing about their music—and people are starting to take notice, too, as they have toured with The Civil Wars, the SXSW Austin to Boston 2012 tour with various other musicians, and Bon Iver’s North American 2012 tour.
Still, they aren’t letting the success get to their heads—they are intent on preserving their natural sound. Of Dead & Born & Grown, Emily said, “It’s basically the three of us with the voices and the guitar at the focus point; there are some drums and other guitars and things like that on some tracks, but it’s basically if you had been to see us live or heard a particular song from one of the EPs, you’ll like the album because it’s not a huge departure from any of that stuff; it’s a continuation of our sound and trying to capture it as truthfully as possible.”