Saint Etienne frontwoman Sarah Cracknell talks to The Big Issue in the North about her new solo album. Red Kite finds the 48 year old making a conscious move away from the electronic and heavily programmed sound of the band and exploring a more natural, organic and summery sound.
How different is the experience of going solo to being in a band?
It depends. The first time it was a bit of a lonely experience because of how it was recorded and promoted. This one is a different group of people that I’m working with quite closely so I don’t feel quite so alone. It’s been really good fun so far. We start rehearsing next week for the live shows, which should be a laugh.
Are there things you could do creatively on this album that you couldn’t do when you were in Saint Etienne?
It’s just a different kind of production style, not something I couldn’t do with Saint Etienne. I fell into doing it because of where I live, the people I’ve met recently and my surroundings. I decided to do a record that’s recorded in one big chunk, close to home with real instruments and no programming.
What do your Saint Etienne bandmates think of the album and of you going solo?
They are obviously very excited about hearing it. It’s not out until 15 June so they have only heard two songs – a little taster track called On The Swings and then a single which has been played on the radio quite a bit which I did with Nicky Wire (Manic Street Preachers). They seem excited from the feedback that I’ve got online. They’re aware it is less programmed and electronic than normal – they’re prepared.
Do you feel a pressure of expectation given the previous success of Saint Etienne?
No, I can’t rely on the fact that the fan base is going to buy it. I think you often find that with bands where the singer does a solo project. You’re not guaranteed that the Saint Etienne fans will rush out and buy it. But hopefully they will!
You have been described as a pin-up girl of indie music. How was it dealing with that kind of fame and success?
It was really exciting. When I first started with Saint Etienne in the early 1990s it was a bit tricky because people imagined that I was just a slutty frontperson with no real musical ability, it took a while to chip away at people’s first impressions. But it was good fun. It was quite weird thinking that people saw me as a pin-up indie girl, but I never really took it to heart. Especially because people fancy you more just because you’re in a band. I think some men in some bands need to work that out!
There are more and more females fronting predominantly male bands – is it a good thing or is it tokenism?
I think it’s brilliant. The more the better!
How would you describe the sound and lyrical content of the album?
It’s very pastoral and summery. Its all real instruments and was recorded quite quickly. The lyrical content is the usual – quite cinematic, written about made-up characters. I very rarely do anything that’s obviously autobiographical although there are probably some things in there that are a bit autobiographical, but they’re hidden.