Photo credit: Simon Webb
Today Liverpool band Stealing Sheep are pleased to announce details of their new album Big Wows that is due for release April, 19th, 2019 via Heavenly Recordings. In addition to this announcement the band have debuted the first track “Joking Me” along with its colorful video on FADER. Watch and listen HERE.
Commenting on both, the band say: “Both the song and the video speak a lot about today’s modern culture and how things seem throwaway: love, communication, revealing the disappointments and let downs but also the ephemeral of the delete, trash, emoji digital world. The way you can put up a front on social media, cultivate an imagined life, your best life. We teamed up with 8bit video artist Pastel Castle (Emily Garner) from Leeds, who created Stealing Sheep avatars, we became pixelated superheroes in an over saturated and glitchy platform. It sets the scene for a full series of karaoke videos to be released alongside the album exploring Stealing Sheep in a digital dimension, shifting identities amidst changing cultural moods and millennial paraphernalia. The ‘Do you think about me’ HTML malfunction noting the obsessive nature of social media. It’s a crazy time and it’s challenging navigating through it.”
Big Wows is heavier, harder and weirder than Stealing Sheep’s previous work. Bold neon pop songs with rave percussion, steelpans, dreamy segues and breathy experiments. The *fsszzt* sound of lemonade opens the album with a hyper-real sense of optimism that progressively reveals the cracks of dystopian irony amidst sugar–coated pop; held together by Emily Lansley’s bass guitar, Luciana Mercer’s drum kit, Rebecca Hawley’s synths, and the trio’s swooning vocal harmonies.
Stealing Sheep describe Big Wows as “a slow rush”, taking shape over a period of nearly three years spent working out exactly what they wanted it to be and creating an album that levitated their identities as individuals as well as merging them into one unit. “We’re each finding our own creative intuition,” says Bex “…and then we come together…and we back each other up” adds Lucy.
Just as the title suggests, Big Wows is both cynical and optimistic; dreaminess and pop dance rhythms are cut with eye rolling vocal styles inflected by heartfelt lyrical messages. “We hit upon this conversational-style between the vocals and have alternating lead melodies. There’s a sarcastic tone to some of the music but there is always a strong willfulness to incorporate honest integrity, which is hard to do but refreshing when it finally comes out.”
Running through the whole record is a response to living in a tech era. “We wanted sounds to represent TVs, computers and everyday glitches,” says Bex. “We started to have this feeling that life is like a game and how you can malfunction when you’re blasted with too much information…”
For this album many songs were started solely on the computer: sequencing, building sounds, drum machines and responding to that non-emotional binary world. “The big challenge,” continues Bex “is making machines sound organic, emotional, finding their flaws. That’s why Delia Derbyshire is so important to us. All the effects that she uses serve to humanize the machines.”
Since the release of their last album, 2015’s surreal and fantastical Not Real, they’ve been in demand as multidisciplinary public artists as well as musicians – on projects including Wow Machine, which brings to life another more conceptual strand of Big Wows manifestedin a mechanical light up stage with dancers and live music. This summer they also performed at UK festivals with a 15 strong all-female procession to celebrate the centenary of Suffrage. “Being female has become more of a theme in our work,” the band say. “It’s obviously always been there but now we’re playing with it more conceptually and thinking about empowerment.”
This greater confidence and rock-solid aesthetic mean that Stealing Sheep can take greater risks and reap more wonderful rewards. They have a broad range of influences – St Vincent, Michael Jackson, The Knife, Kraftwerk, Drake, Little Dragon- but they remain so resolutely and richly themselves. “We try new things out and we get more confident about what we like.” says Bex. “There’s a really good thing Grayson Perry says about developing your creative intuition. You get to a level as an artist where you know on a gut level what you like and what you don’t like. It takes a long time to feel comfortable in that place, to know your palette, to know you like these drum sounds or whatever it is.”
The songs began at home or in their studio at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory, laying down the main body of the tracks. Then, the band worked with various producers including Marta Salogni (Bjork, MIA, Factory Floor), Andy Smith (Years & Years), Ash Workman (Christine & The Queens, Metronomy) and Joe Wills (video artist for Little Dragon) as they tried out different mixes and ideas to convey their messages.
They also teamed up with 8–bit video artist Pastel Castle (Emily Garner) who created a Karaoke video series for the album; exploring Stealing Sheep’s digital dimension and their shifting identities amidst changing cultural moods and millennial paraphernalia. “It’s a crazy time and it’s challenging navigating through it, but it’s like ‘whatever’, bring on the BIG WOWS.”
The band have also confirmed a 2019 UK tour, including a performance at EartH in London on 30 April. Tickets for the UK tour are available here: http://www.stealingsheep.net/tour/