Hi, we’re Stealing Sheep and we’re really happy to be chatting to Big Issue North about our past year and letting the readers know who we are and what we get up to. We’re a Liverpool-based group consisting of three women, Becky Hawley, Lucy Mercer and Emily Lansley.
We’ve been playing together for five years and this year we released our second album, which is called Not Real. When we first started out we made music that felt very fluid, dreamy and hypnotic. We were often described as having a nostalgic 1960s psychedelic atmosphere, with some medieval and pagan-sounding chords and vocal harmonies, and we were reminiscent of The Velvet Underground with our stand-up tom-tom percussion and jammy sound.
We signed to one of our favourite labels – Heavenly Recordings, headed up by Jeff Barret and Danny Mitchel. They came to visit us in Liverpool and we knew we were all on the same wavelength and wanted to make things happen. When we came to recording our second album we decided to record it ourselves and started producing the style we wanted, with guidance, advice and help from a few outside ears. Our friends Joe Wills and Sam Crombie helped us shape the new sonic vision we wanted to achieve for Not Real.
We wanted to shape our songs in a more direct way and create a more angular plastic style, with more space for all of our instrument parts to have impact. We ended up moving towards a more synth-led album because they sounded more shiny and bold. We also added more drum programming and sampled lots of Casio and Yamaha beats from old keyboards because we love the sound of their fake bongos and hi-hats. This mixed really well with the organic percussive sounds that Lucy likes and the audio picture felt right.
When we started getting the visual stuff together, we started working with a girl called Louise Mason who had worked a lot with collage. We had been doing a shoot with Charlotte Rutherford and this all fell naturally together, suiting the music really well. Our colours and costumes all worked nicely, and our two-tone tights became a kind of visual latch for the rest of our work around the album.
We were extremely lucky to work with four of our favourite video directors for the singles and album teaser. Abbie Stephens, a new director on the video scene, helped us create the surreal pop aesthetic that threads through the Not Real visuals. She made us a studio-based video that features strange and beautiful surrealism. We worked with an old friend called James Slater on the lead single and he filmed it on old film – the video has so much character and is very playful. It also won best video at the Raindance film festival this year. We then worked with a brilliant animation-based director who filmed us against green screen and then created a sci-fi style universe for us to exist in. We also had the opportunity to work with a well-established director called Dougal Wilson, who is known mainly for his John Lewis adverts. He flipped all our ideas on to their head and got us morris dancing with two groups of morris men. It was really fun and weird.
While we’ve been on the road we’ve also tinkered with some new ideas for songs and we’re really excited to start tracking them with a new producer called Ash Workman. We’re going to start in January. Seriously, we can’t wait! Straight after Christmas we’ll be working on a live score for some Maya Deren films to be performed on 13 January at the BFI film awards. Then we’re heading to Texas to play at SXSW festival. We’re really busy and we’re loving every minute.