Sitting around Mum’s kitchen table in Watford, England, with nothing more than a guitar and three voices that intertwine as intricately as the DNA they happen to share: That’s what the setting is like for the Staveley-Taylor sisters—aka The Staves—when they put their heads together and write a song or few. And that’s exactly what they want you to hear when you press play on their new album.
Since taking the music from the tabletop to the open mic in pubs of their hometown, The Staves have laid their first record, Dead & Born & Grown, to tape, working with the father/son production team of Glyn and Ethan Johns, who’ve previously produced The Rolling Stones, Ryan Adams and Kings of Leon.
“I think anyone who’s heard the record won’t be super surprised when they see us live—we’re pretty faithful to the recording,” says Jessica Staveley-Taylor, the guitar-wielding middle sister of the trio. “We want to create a huge sound that’s different and far-removed yet intimate sounding, and I think we managed to do that.”
The Staves have toured extensively at home and abroad, opening up for the demure, intimate shows of The Civil Wars and the grandiose spectacle that is Bon Iver. Now headlining jaunts of their own in both the U.K. and the States are on the agenda for the spring and summer months.
After the completion of a formative year—not to mention the countless hours they’ve racked up in the studio and the band vans and the dressing rooms between them—The Staves are ready for Dead & Born & Grown to see a stateside debut, and they’re relishing in the opportunity to revisit these folk ruminations of their own making before moving on to the next pursuit.
“The collection of songs on this record is one that spans quite a few years,” says Jessica. “I mean, these include some of the first songs we ever wrote up to the most recent songs we’ve written, so I guess Dead & Born & Grown is unique thing in that way, as we’ve had our whole life to write those songs. I think moving on and making a second album is just going to be a different process. We’re never going to have the experience of the first record again, unless we wait 10 years to make another record, but I don’t think we will.”
The bulk of Dead & Born & Grown rests on the laurels of the Staveley-Taylors’ vocal cords: the seraphim-worthy strains of “Wisely & Slow,” the album’s opener, feature little more than a three-part harmony that eventually swells over a humming build before peaking with a soaring cacophony by the song’s end. This stylistic give-and-take between gauzy, precious notes, rock instrumentation, minor chords with teeth and a selection of sharp, frank lyrics keep The Staves from wafting away into the neo-folk ether.
Dead & Born & Grown catches us off-guard by calling us out for our shortcomings: “Speak with words you’ve stolen from better men” is a phrase not snarled but stated matter-of-factly in “Tongue Behind My Teeth,” and The Staves’ cool, calm and collected delivery is all the more resonant when they pair these biting words with a lilting melody so beautifully. It’s a candid confidence that permeates those first notes and the last echoes of “Eagle Song,” and one the Staveley-Taylors are still acquainting themselves with as they ready Dead & Born & Grown for those they’ve encountered on the road and the bulk of the American audience they’re dying to meet.
“I don’t know what Dead & Born & Grown has taught us yet,” says Jessica. “I think we’re still learning, and I think that’ll emerge over time. The fact that we still get on with each other, and still have a lot of fun together while making music … to do that is an achievement, definitely, and a very important one. I think that playing show after show and seeing the audience grow is such a rewarding thing and so fun. It’s fun to see the results of your hard work, and to see that you’re gaining more fans, and that more people are coming around to listen. It’s a rewarding feeling and an exciting one as well. We learned such a lot last year from all the different tours and the different bands we played with, and so that’s the great thing about what we get to do and call a job—it’s constantly inspiring and you’re constantly meeting people that you can learn so much from. It kind of showed us what’s possible to achieve, and the levels you can take your music to. It’s been a totally inspiring year.”