Shut Eye: Stealing Sheep

"...pagan, traditional folk."
Stealing Sheep profile.jpg
To paraphrase The Libertine’s ‘The Good Old Days’: if you’ve lost your faith in love and folk oh well blame Mumford & Sons. But do not fear, let us introduce Stealing Sheep, an all female collective that are bringing balls - so to speak - back to the genre with their dark pagan roots laden with ominous and haunting harmonies. Tweed trousers not included.

Whilst studying various creative forms, Becky Hawley (keys, vocals), Emily Lansley (guitar, vocals) and Lucy Mercer (drums, vocals) got together in Liverpool circa 2010. I know what you’re thinking, band from Liverpool - bet they’ve got a story about The Beatles. Well I’ll have you know it’s the 21st century and we don’t adhere to stereotypes around here. Oh, wait...they do have tales about the Fab Four. Sorry, my bad.

Becky: I’ve met Paul McCartney. I did actually play with him, but not in front of an audience or anything. Basically at university he just comes in and sees students and has little song writing one on one things. He helped with my chord progressions and how to fulfill the song, how to make it a crowd pleaser. He was saying you need to let the audience know when the song has ended. I suppose the audiences part is to clap, so you need to learn how to end in a triumphant way where everyone’s like yeeeeeeeah! So play ‘Hey Jude’.

Emily: (To Becky) Did you grow up with the Beatles in your life when you were younger?

B: I did, but the Beatles and Paul McCartney seem like two separate things somehow. The Beatles are like this romantic vision in the past where as he’s quite a current artist. It’s not just about the Beatles for him, so I sort of see him differently, even though that’s a great part of his history.

E: My Granddad was an ice cream man when he was younger and Paul McCartney and John Lennon flicked their cigarettes and he picked the cigarettes up and give them to my nan’s sister. She was mad on them.

I’ve heard that you recorded ‘I Am The Rain’ at Abbey Road studios - how did that happen?

B: We played a gig at the Lock Tavern and the guys that work in one of the studios there came to see us and said we’ve got a free space, it’s like training for once of the sound engineers. He said do you want to come in at midnight and record? We went on till 8 in the morning and then had breakfast.

You all met in Liverpool - what’s the music scene like there?

B: Think it’s really mixed. There are little scenes, but there’s so much music. I moved there six years ago and met these girls and met loads of musicians. Very inspiring place.

You studied different creative subjects there - did that contribute to your music?

B: Definitely contributed. I learned a lot about the business side of it.

Lucy: I felt like I learned minimal basics playing instruments and that kind of thing. I feel like the way I learned was by getting out there. I do think it was beneficial, but you learn so much more when you’re surrounded. When you have to learn a language, they say you have to go to that country and learn it that way.

I wouldn’t describe you as folk, but there’s folk elements there. What would you say you are?

B: I like the band First Aid Kit, they’re like Swedish folk pop country, nice harmonies. I like it when it’s not on the twee side.

E: Some of it’s kind of easy listening, I don’t like that too much. I think we’re a bit heavier.

B: There’s some folky harmonies there, there more kind of pagan, traditional folk.

E: Medieval.

B: It’s not of the new folk sort of style, really.

E: More doom folk. I think we lean to certain notes and chords that can sometimes be creepy. It comes naturally. I think we’re quite into a sort of doomy gloomy heavier sound.

You have got a spooky ominous sound. I’ve read you’ve recorded in some strange places to achieve this.

B: I reckon every space you record in you absorb it into the music a bit. I suppose it's more the atmosphere of the space. The school was quite spooky. We’ve practiced in there mainly because it was cheap. It’s a nice space and loads of our friends that are in bands practice there so it’s quite a fun place to be. Go to the playground, play on the swings. I’d like to explore more with that, like go into a random castle, go into a dungeon. I just think it’s an interesting thing to do, studios can be quite boring, really. It’s nice to get out and find other spaces. Maybe it would be nice to record by the sea, get some waves and some birds in there.

Up north the crowds can be a bit rowdy - have you ever encountered a grueling gig?

E: I like going up north for the crowds, like Glasgow and stuff, they’re all really friendly.

B: In Liverpool we never had a grueling gig.

L: I think the most grueling gigs are the ones with no reactions at all. Standing there, just looking at you...

B: Even when they’re trying to absorb it and they’re just standing there afterwards they say: “That was really good!” Sometimes it’s hard when you cant interact.

E: Grueling gigs for me is when I have a bad time not being able to hear myself sing. Sometimes it’s strange as well when the lighting is on you and you can’t see anybody so you can’t see the reactions. That can be hard.

B: There’s definitely an exciting thing about playing in London though. You get different flavours everywhere you go, like you enjoy rowdy crowd in the north. In London I suppose you feel like you’re apart of the centre of things, so that’s exciting as well.

Stealing Sheep - Shut Eye



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Is there any places you’re particularly excited to play at coming up?

B: We’re going to Italy and Slovakia to play festivals. Bat For Lashes and Warpaint are playing so we’re going to enjoy seeing them. We’re doing Secret Garden Party, Greenman, Bestival, Beat Herder.

E: I’m really looking forward to Greenman, we’re playing with Laura J Martin at that and she’s going to play some flute for us.

A lot of artists pay for things these days by using their songs for advertisements. Recently your song ‘Shut Eye’ has been used for a Hollyoaks advert - how has this changed your lives?

B: We’ve noticed different types of people coming to our gigs.

E: Young lads all clapping throughout the whole gig.

B: It’s opened doors up to different people that maybe wouldn’t have found us in the first place. I don’t now where they (Channel 4) heard it, I should ask them. They were making this enchanted forest theme thing, which isn’t their sort of style, but I suppose we were kind of appropriate for that because of our style of music and everything. Their all wearing animal masks and doing little parades and everything. Maybe our visual thing, the way we’ve been portrayed in our videos sort of reminded them of what they wanted to do and thought that would be right.

Words by Jamie Carson

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