INTERVIEW

One quick listen to Stealing Sheep would be more than enough to convince you that they probably have no ties to Norwegian black metal.

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One quick listen to (or even a glance at) Stealing Sheep would be more than enough to convince you that they probably have no ties to Norwegian black metal. However, their name comes directly from it, or really a rather hilarious tale around it. As Rebecca Hawley – the band’s founding member – tells me, “There was this Norwegian band, I can’t remember their name [it was Enslaved], and to protest against a governor’s legalisation for free downloading they stole his sheep from his garden and there was a headline that read ‘Stealing Sheep’.”

There is a video of this on Youtube, by the way folks, of two very hairy and very tattooed grown men running through the woods and rugby tackling a sheep.

Anyway, Stealing Sheep sound nothing like black metal. They are in many senses the polar opposite. They embody a warm yet whimsical style of folk that evokes a certain sense of 60’s psychedelia merged with an undeniably sweet and modern twist that brings to mind some of Slow Club’s work. They are three girls (Rebecca, Emily and Lucy) from Liverpool who have recently been championed by the likes of BBC 6 Music (like everyone) through to Sir Paul McCartney (not like everyone), even if Rebecca is an attendee of Macca’s school, LIPA (Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts).

So, the beginning, then.

“Well,” starts Rebecca, “I started writing and performing under this name by myself when I graduated in 2008 and then I adopted Lucy and Emily about three months ago, who were also both in bands [Emily & The Faves and The Long Finger Bandits]. We wrote a set in about two weeks and then started touring and we’ve played about thirty shows.”

That’s an average of three gigs a week, which is a boastful feat for any band, made all the more impressive by the fact that Stealing Sheep MK II only had two weeks of practicing behind them. And they’re a trio that often rely on tricky three part harmonies.

“Well, I did pick them because I liked their voices,” reasons Rebecca, “but we had no idea until we started practicing whether all our styles would match and we’re still finding out really. We are all into massively different things musically too.”

When discussing the different aspects of the band, it seems the industry and press have – as always – been making lazy and inaccurate comparisons based on the bands gender. “We keep getting comparisons to Warpaint and loads of other bands, but we sound nothing like them,” sighs Rebecca. “It’s just because we’re girls.

“I wouldn’t say that kind of sexism has directly affected the band. I think for now it’s benefiting us because we get a lot of coverage because we’re different. But I think for getting a label it will be a different matter. For example, we’re really big fans of the label Bella Union, but we’d never get signed to them because Mountain Man are on there and they are a three piece girl group. That simply would never happen with a male band, because their sex wouldn’t even be considered.”

This is of course scarily true and endlessly sad when you put it into context that originality and idiosyncrasies can only get you so far, whereas a leather jacket, derivative guitar chords and a penis seems to be able to get you a lot further on occasion. Liverpool itself is an example of such a problem; home to a form of lad-rock that is bafflingly labelled Merseybeat.

“It’s getting better, though,” says Rebecca. “There are a lot more venues and promoters putting stuff on which is good. Like the Kazimer. But all the Merseybeat stuff I just ignore.”

Liverpool does have a tendency (from personal experiences, at least) to be somewhat musically regressive, always clinging onto something gone by and draining the life from every last pore – an average night out will still see people screaming the words to ‘Dreaming of You’ by The Coral, as though it came out last week and still held some degree of relevance. Of course I am making huge, sweeping and perhaps ignorant generalizations here, but the point being, it’s refreshing and endearing to encounter somebody going against the grain and Stealing Sheep are doing just that, in an enchanting and enthralling manner.

There’s a juxtaposition in play here; the band’s sound harbouring a hazy and often mystical element that conjures up lazy afternoons and a velvety antidote to cure a raging Sunday hangover, yet their relentless and ferocious touring means Stealing Sheep are consistently active and progressive as well as clearly being a band to encounter live as well as on record. It seems that breaking convention, constraints and perceptions is something Stealing Sheep are intent on doing. A little like kidnapping livestock.dot

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