INTERVIEW: Saint Etienne | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Saint Etienne are the rarest of bands; a credible and cool pop collective who have spent several decades delivering an enviable and frankly spectacular catalogue of singles, high art concept albums, films, soundtracks, books and well, anything else they damn well please. Following the release of 2021’s I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, the band are about to head back out on the road, and will pull up to Sunderland’s Fire Station on Friday 10th June.

I’ve Been Trying To Tell You is a woozy, transportive record, sitting perfectly alongside what I’d call their ‘London’ albums – Finisterre, How We Used To Live, Words & Music, Home Counties. I spoke to Sarah Cracknell about the band’s decision to release such a leftfield experimental record at this point of their career. “The idea behind it was the optimistic years: 1997 – 2001, it’s the feeling that things are going to be great and then they don’t pan out as you’d imagined.

Pop bands with a career of 30 years are extremely rare, but by the very nature of being around for decades, a lifelong bond is formed between artist and listener, the music becoming a soundtrack to a life; Sarah comments on how it feels to be completely emotionally entwined with other peoples lives. “It’s quite overwhelming sometimes. You speak to people who have been listening to your music for a long time and you feel quite honoured about stuff like that, we always feel very respectful.”

You speak to people who have been listening to your music for a long time and you feel quite honoured

As one of those fans, that connection is very clear, the live shows are always celebratory events, but with so many tracks to choose from, how do they put the set together? “Basically, it’s a conversation between Bob, Pete and myself, and then we’ll go and rehearse a certain amount of songs, probably more than we need with the band, and then we’ll work it out from there.” I enquired if we can expect a few surprises with the latest tour. “There might be a couple of surprises, songs that haven’t been in the set for a few years, we’re also doing a few tracks from the last album.” With I’ve Been Trying To Tell You so heavily constructed around samples, I was interested to find out how these tracks are developed for a live band. “Well basically, I need to concentrate very hard, but as well as that, we have the brilliant films that Alasdair McLellan did, so you’ve got the visual and the music, so if I make a mistake, I hope no one will notice,” she laughs.

The Saint Etienne rumour mill is on high alert with talk of a new record, and Sarah’s pleased to confirm the details.We’ve got these shows coming up and then we’re going to start concentrating on that. We’ve got songs, and whether it comes out as an album – it probably will, hopefully will – but we’re going to just get down to writing a lot, that’s the best starting point, and then we’ll see. Because of Brexit, the lead times on vinyl pressing – we always put everything out in vinyl – are really long, it’s nine months to a year, which is ridiculous, but hopefully it will come out next year. That’s the plan. We’ll see if the songs are any bloody good first!”

Saint Etienne play The Fire Station, Sunderland on Friday 10th June.


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