Explore Liverpool Music Writer, Matt Jacobson interviews St Etienne singer Sarah Cracknell.
Saint Etienne have announced their highly anticipated return with a show at the Grand Central Hall in Liverpool on Friday 26th November 2021.
The trio, comprised of Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs and Sarah Cracknell, became hugely popular throughout the early ’90s, with a string of indie hit singles driven by deep club beats — encompassing anything from house and techno to hip-hop and disco all layered with light melodies, detailed productions, smart and clever lyrics, and Cracknell’s breathy vocals.
In September, the band released their tenth studio album I’ve Been Trying To Tell You, which was accompanied by a specially-made film directed by acclaimed fashion photographer Alasdair McLellan and sleeve notes from socialist writer Owen Hatherley.
I recently interviewed Sarah Cracknell to talk all things lockdown , playing live and her love of Liverpool.
During Lockdown, I felt the music industry was collapsing in front of my eyes and I was fearful of its future. How was it as an artist to watch the industry be pushed to the edge of the cliff?
Well it certainly put the brakes on for us as we were midway through recording a new album in a studio in Finsbury Park, so yes, it was quite alarming. Not knowing if we would ever finish it – and not being able to play gigs, so Ii know exactly what you mean . Not knowing’ is very unnerving. And then we started working remotely between the band – sending ideas etc to each other and I’d add vocals and then I’d send them to Pete and he would chop them all up! (laughs) But it made us realise there are other ways to function as a band. I did wonder if we would ever play gigs again and now because of Brexit, I wonder if we will ever play Europe again.
Did lockdown halt creativity or provide time to be creative?
Well, it gave me time to be creative and also to take another approach to not being in the studio again. I sat in my son’s studio at home and he became my recording engineer – bless him!, but I could take my time as we were not paying out for studio time! It gave me mental free space as we weren’t doing anything – but I also sat there watching box sets and eating!
Problem is, I’m still doing the same and we aren’t in lockdown!. Do you feel like it’s getting back to normal or are you hesitant as such?
I’m still hesitant. I live in a sleepy village so when I travel I am quite anxious, I am alarmed as barely anyone is wearing a mask. I feel like a country bumpkin wearing a mask! City dwellers seem to be moving on more than others. So some people and some demographics are getting on with it more so than myself.
Playing live, is that where you belong as such?
Yes, but we aren’t a band that tours alot for long periods, the longest on tour was three weeks or something like that – which is why we get on so much!!
How would you describe the first ten yards of walking on stage?
It depends really, festivals for instance are not your crowd so you have more to prove. Before a tour I get bogged down with the logistics and leaving the family behind but when I am there, it’s very exciting and I love it!
How would you describe the least ten when leaving the stage?
Well, very….buzzy, grinning like Cheshire cats, then we start dissecting it all as we are heading to the dressing room to crack open a bottle of something. We are all very heightened and it takes you a while to come down from it all.
The tour, how do you select the setlist?
We like to mix it up a bit really, for instance on this tour we are playing a couple of songs that we haven’t played for a while plus songs from the new album and a new Christmas type song otherwise we would be bored , but there are a few songs that if we don’t play certain songs – we get complaints!!
Liverpool – are there any artists from Liverpool that you are a fan of, or have influenced you?
Edgar Jones, he’s lovely, bless him, send him my love! He played with us a while back. Plus Shack are great.
Your gig, on the 26th, is there a different type of energy when you play Liverpool with its rich history of music?
Yes, for sure….I love Liverpool, everyone is so helpful, incredibly helpful, warm and funny. Even when we arrived at the station, I thought you don’t get this in Euston ! but yes, i love Liverpool, it’s a wonderful city.
From myself and all at Explore Liverpool — thank you so much
Thank you, Matt!