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Stealing Sheep

When they first started out as a band, Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep (guitarist Emily Lansley, keyboardist Rebecca Hawley, and drummer Lucy Mercer) drew from a wide range of sources as diverse as medieval folk, Broadcast, Kraftwerk, and psychedelia. Their earliest releases featured the group sorting out their eclectic sound while always relying on their bewitching vocal harmonies. By the time of their second album, 2015's Not Real, Stealing Sheep had begun to focus on a more direct approach that involved synthesizers and the contrast between warm vocals and cold instruments. As their sound evolved, the band looked toward modern pop sounds and reshaped them in ways that reflected their personalities. 2019's bright and shiny Big Wows was their first big pop statement. The trio met in 2010 and formed the band in the city over a cup of tea at the Mello Mello café. The group set about writing and rehearsing that summer and began to produce their haunting psych-folk sound, drenched with otherworldly harmonies, jaunty guitars, and almost tribal, hypnotic beats. With a handful of songs written, Stealing Sheep launched into recording what would become their debut EP, What If the Lights Went Out. They found help in first-time producer Joe Wills, who set up a makeshift studio in a school in Toxteth, Liverpool, to record the band's early compositions. Wills' valuable input encouraged some experimental techniques and ultimately helped mold their diverse sound. Following the release of their second EP, Noah and the Paper Moon, Stealing Sheep began to receive radio play from some of BBC 6 Music's influential DJs such as Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker. The trio's innovative vocal interplay took on a bewitching nursery rhyme quality at times, while their three-part harmonies could be equally haunting and beautiful. The single from the EP "I Am the Rain" was recorded during one fleeting midnight visit to Abbey Road Studios. The reception for the record was positive and they ended up being signed by Heavenly Records. The band recorded their first album proper at a significant spot, the Mello Mello café, with help from producer Sam Crombie. The eclectic, bursting-with-ideas Into the Diamond Sun was released in 2012 and the band toured the U.K. and Europe afterward. While working on their next record, the trio were a part of the 2014 show In Dreams: David Lynch Revisited at the Barbican in London, reinterpreting music from the director's films. When Stealing Sheep reappeared with new music, the sound was much more focused and direct, with most of the psych-folk removed and a more electronic, upbeat feel added. One of the new reference points for the band was the Pointer Sisters' classic song "Automatic," which was a marked change from their first record. Not Real was released in early 2015. The group kept refining their sound and began working on a new record as soon as they stopping touring. The sessions started at their homes, where basic tracks and ideas were laid down, then expanded to Liverpool's Invisible Wind Factory. The trio by now were playing a wider range of instruments: Mercer used a full drum kit instead of only toms, Lansley took up bass guitar, and Hawley designed her own synth patches. They took a break from recording in early 2018 to set up a Liverpool concert in tribute to the centenary of women's suffrage, then went back to work. Once the songs were finished, they called in a number of producers to mix the songs. Marta Salogni, who had worked with Björk, and Ash Workman, who had credits with both Christine and the Queens and Metronomy, were among those who answered the call and helped shape the band's newly bright and poppy sound. The finished album was Stealing Sheep's take on modern pop and featured songs that had elements of disco, synth pop, and R&B, along with their unmistakable vocal harmonies. Big Wows was issued by Heavenly in April of 2019.
© Tim Sendra & Scott Kerr /TiVo
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