Smoke Fairies interview
The second their soothing folk sounds swept out of The Music Fix stereo we knew that The Smoke Fairies were something very special. Adrian met up with Jessica and Katherine to find out more about them.
Hello Smoke Fairies! How is life treating you?
Great! It's spring time!
It is indeed! The sun is actually shining today! For our readers not aware of your work, how would you describe the music you make.
Katherine: Well it's a sound that is quite hard to describe. We are interested in creating a timeless feeling through interweaving guitar parts and harmonies. It's melancholy and blues, sometimes dark and unsettling, sometimes uplifting and otherworldly. Depending on how you listen to it. It's best to just listen to it.
You moved into the musical fast-lane with a meeting with Jack White. He not only had you as support for The Dead Weather but he put out ‘Gastown’ on his Third Man label and plays drums on it. How did you first meet Jack?
K: We heard that he was going to a bar that was down the road from where we had a gig and we wanted to play him our music. So we did, using the turntable the DJ was playing records on. He seemed to like it so we gave him our record to take home.
Guerilla marketing in action! He’s got quite an old-school recording method, did you find that differed from your previous studio experiences?
K: It was really exciting to get the chance to record with tape instead of computers. Hearing the tape rewind when you had to start a take gave you a feeling of an immediacy to get it right. Knowing how to get the best out of that kind of equipment seems to be just as much an art as the actual music. It was fascinating to see the pros at work. There is definitely a warmth and depth to the sound and also an atmosphere that can partially be owed to the method. It makes me think about how precise and focused musicians were before we had so many easy ways of cutting and swapping takes. When you listen to old blues records you can really just picture everyone playing in a room, because that's what happened. Autotune and corrective devices that can suck the life and soul out of recordings were just not available and it was great to feel like we were stepping back into that time when music was perfectly imperfect.
What about the two of you, how did you both meet?
Jessica: We met at school when we were eleven.
I think the name Smoke Fairies really suits your music. How did you come up with it?
K: It came to us one night when we were driving around in the misty roads where we grew up. Sometimes the mist gathers in the winding roads between the hedgerows and creates smoky figures that we called the smoke fairies. It's also an old black and white film about two mischievous fairies trying to cause trouble, which is also quite fitting.
When did you make the leap from playing for fun to actually doing this as professional musicians?
J: It's strange; as soon as we picked up guitar we though that we were going to be musicians. I think everyone entertains that idea when they start playing. The thing with us is that the idea never left us.
And when did you individually start playing music, what were your early musical memories?
J: I did a very good rendition of ‘Frosty the Snow Man’ on the mandolin when I was three. I enjoyed the TV shows with songs on them like Bag Puss and Rainbow, then I got obsessed with Judy Garland and Karen Carpenter. I thought they lived in the Chichester crematorium.
Both Kaf and I have since discovered we grew up listening to the same collection of kids' tapes. Perhaps listening to them a thousand times in the car is what gives us such a deep musical connection.
There’s been a resurgence of kids picking up instruments after playing games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. But they don’t represent folk well (the programmers might be reading this) so would you get behind a Folk Hero game?
K: I was a massive cynic about Guitar Hero, until one day, when I played it and found myself jumping around excitedly. I played it for so long that I got a Guitar Hero blister. Sadly I was rubbish at it so I went back to just playing the actual guitar. I think Folk Guitar Hero might be fun but you wouldn't be able to do so many rock shapes.
Maybe instead of throwing shapes you could weave a basket or grow a beard as a mini-game?
J: Folk music doesn't tend to have the same power chords as the Rock classics. I think that all the folk songs would have to be at the highest level of the game. I'd love to play Smoke Fairies Guitar Hero. I would definitely beat Kaf.
The singles and EP’s have been fantastic, but is there an album in the pipeline?
J: We have just finished a recording session and we are hoping to release the album soon.
How does the rest of 2010 look for the Smoke Fairies?
J: Busy. We are doing Camden Crawl then a US tour supporting Laura Marling then an appearance at the Meltdown festival and a few other summer festivals.
Note: The race down the road to the patent office to secure the Folk Hero game idea was ugly, brutal and certainly undignified. Who won? See your local Gamestation for details ...