Thursday 23 February 2017

Q&A: St Etienne's Sarah Cracknell

Ed Power

Ed Power

On snow, Christmas and Britpop's dark side

Good morning Sarah! Are you snowed in like the rest of us?

Actually we're supposed to be playing in Brighton tonight. Apparently there's a lot of snow on the way. It's a little worrying...

Think of it as an adventure.

Hmmm... it's an adventure I'd rather not experience. When you hear about people stranded on the M25 overnight... If that were to happen to me, I think I'd just cry.

Well, should you find yourself snowbound on the motorway you can cheer yourself up by putting on St Etienne's new Christmas album.

We've always had a bit of a tradition of being festive and enjoying the Christmas season. We thought, 'well, we've got a pool of songs we've already recorded and we've written some new ones'. It's gone down very well.

You recorded it in early November didn't you? Not necessarily the most seasonal time of year. Did you bring a Christmas tree and tinsel into the studio to make things more atmospheric?

Um no... We're all fans of Christmas anyway, so there wasn't really any need. Bob [Stanley] was born on Christmas Day. It was quite easy to conjure up. I get excited about Christmas from October onwards.

And for a little extra [£150] fan-club members could receive a personalised song delivered by you.

That was fun. Recording those is quite a laugh. We have a song called Christmas Boots. We do them to order. Luckily, I didn't get the giggles. We had lots of people from around the world, with Japanese names, Portuguese names... what have you. We asked people to write them down phonetically. I managed not to laugh too much.

St Etienne were never quite a Britpop band, but, being signed to London's Heavenly Records through the 90s, life must have been a bit of a blast?

It was a bit, yeah. We sort of got lumped in with the Britpop thing. It was a bit strange. We were different sounding to a lot of Britpop bands.

Looking on from Ireland, it seemed that everyone in the London music scene of that time was on first-name terms. You all seemed to drink in the same two or three pubs.

We did end up at a lot of the same things. Silly things, like the NME Christmas Round-Up. They'd get myself, Justine from Elastica, someone from Suede... Damon Albarn. We'd all end up in a pub somewhere talking with a journalist about what had gone on the year before. We were always at the same things by default. I got to know a lot of people.

It all seemed to go sour by the late 90s, though, didn't it? Pulp's This Is Hardcore was a pretty coruscating account of the dark side of Britpop.

We sort of swerved out of the way. We circumnavigated it. We tried to distance ourselves in the end before it imploded. It wasn't too bad for us.

Bob Stanley is also, God help us, a music journalist. Do you ever find yourselves 'over-thinking' stuff as a result?

When we are being creative, I don't think it comes into play at all. You get sucked into it and tend not to have an overview. Sometimes he probably sees pitfalls and says, 'well, we shouldn't do this'. It's more to with strategy than being creative.

A Glimpse of Stocking is out now. St Etienne play Set Theatre, Kilkenny tomorrow night

Irish Independent

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