Interview: Literature Thieves

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The “Literature Thieves” are a female trio from Manchester, UK. Angela Hazeldine, Amy Clarkson and Cassie Elwood formed the band in 2011, and have frequented the Manchester music scene for the past eighteen months. They deliver quirky folk melodies complemented by mandolins, acoustic guitar sounds and drums. They debut their first EP ‘Moon Stories From The Glass Mountain’ in Manchester this forthcoming Saturday (9 February 2013) at Takk, Manchester.

I had the chance to interview the girls recently, and here’s what they had to say:-

Hi girls! I am so looking forward to hearing your debut EP ‘Moon Stories from Glass Mountain’. Tell us where you are taking us with this EP? What’s its story?

Well, we wanted it to sound as close as possible to how we sound at our gigs. Having taken almost a year and a half to record anything, most of the people who know about us are used to seeing us at one of our live shows, so we wanted to keep the sound of the album in line with that. The name comes from a shared love for the moon and a Polish fairy tale we read about called ‘The Glass Mountain’.

Apart from your musical inspirations such as Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush and Dolly Parton – what are other influences that you use to create such a quirky style?
We have a really eclectic taste in music and I think a lot of our influences draw from some quite unlikely influences as well as more obvious ones.

Amy: I really like CocoRosie at the moment, SoKo and Joanna Newsom. They have really quirky vocals and beautiful lyrics, but I can’t not mention my favourite band The Carter Family, as I think they influence a lot of what we do.

Cassie: Well, current favourites would have to be Local Natives, Haim… I really like the staves as they sing in a 3-part harmony but their music is nothing like ours, so it’s nice to hear a different slant on that!
Kurt Vile is amazing as well, for his simple guitar and haunting vocals!

Angela: I’ve always loved Michael Jackson, but I guess at the moment I’m listening to a lot of Bastille and the Lumineers. They’re both very upbeat bands and have great vocals and I like that they’re quite percussion lead.
I also think its worth mentioning the bands we enjoy going to see and listening to, who are based in Manchester. Feed the Kid are definitely a band to watch out for as are Queer’d Science and Rachel Hillary (who will be supporting us at our EP launch. (9th of Feb at Takk)

We all have a great respect and owe a lot inspiration wise to singers such as Joni Mitchell, Melanie Safka and Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) for being original hippies, way before our time!

And not to forget the bands we have been fortunate enough to play with in the past, such as See of Bees, Dark Dark Dark and Slow Club (to name a few).

Where did you all meet? Who decided to create the band?
Cassie and Angela formed the band in its early stages, starting as a cover band to play at weddings. It was only until they started writing their own songs that they enlisted a third member, Amy, who they found on the website Gum tree.

Amy: I remember going to meet them, I’d told them I could play the mandolin and really I’d just acquired it at a party a few nights before and I could only play 3 chords! Luckily I managed to blag my way through the first rehearsal so I could go home and learn a bit more. We always can’t believe how lucky we were to find one and other in this way and get on as well as we do, let alone make music people want to listen to!

Where was your first gig? How did it go?
We played at the Las O’Gowrie just off Oxford Road, in Manchester. We remember being really nervous as we only had about 3 songs… and what’s worse, they were all about 2 minutes long! We got up and played our set so fast because we were so nervous… It must have lasted about 5 minutes! We think this probably spurred us on to carry on writing songs and fill out a full set!

You seem to have a lot of local support, how does that feel?
We’ve never played outside of Manchester, so its really nice that spending all our time gigging here has paid off in the sense that we get to know a lot of the people that regularly come to our shows. It’s always lovely to meet people after our gigs and hear what they thought, as much as it’s nice to see the same faces at our gigs again and again.

What part of the song writing process do you enjoy the most?
Cassie: We often write songs away from practice and then play them to one and other and start working from that point onwards. It always makes me feel really happy hearing a song for the first time.

Angela: Yeah, hearing it for the first time… and then watching it grow as we work out more instrumental parts for it and build up the harmonies. Right to the point that we play it for the first time… It always feels great seeing a crowd’s first reaction to one of our new songs.

Amy: It’s nice when one of us writes a song, but it seems to relate to all our lives on some level. We’re quite good at going through shit situations or happy situations all at the same time, so sometimes someone comes to practice with a song and it feels like exactly what’s been going through my mind, and they couldn’t have put it any better. Then it feels great singing it for the first time… It’s quite a cathartic process. We’re all so close and songs are very autobiographical.

Do you start writing your songs by melody, chords or lyrics?
We think we sort of start writing a song because have something to say about a certain situation or person in our lives…

Amy: I rarely sit down and decide to write a song… Often as not I’m riding my bike home after a few too many whiskeys and I start humming a tune or thinking of some words in my head. I think songs should come naturally and not be too considered or thought through, they should feel more like a stream of consciousness to some simple music. I often just record myself making stuff up as I go along and then listen back to it in a more sober state and pick out the best bits!

Cassie: Usually I think of lyrics and a melody and then I’ll sit playing around on my ukulele or guitar until I find the basics and then we take it to practice and work on it together. I tend to write quite a lot of lyrics on the train home, when I’m a little bit drunk too, (I don’t quite know what that says about us as a band).

Amy: Yeah, I don’t think any of our songs are finished until we have all sat down at practice and worked on them together.

You’re hosting your own EP release on 9 February at Takk, Manchester – are you nervous/excited about this? How does it feel? Has there been a lot of preparation?
We’re quite nervous… There’s been a big build up to it, as we wrote these songs last year and recorded them in July. It’s just nice that it’s finally out.

You have recently signed with Red Deer Club – who approached who?
It was pretty simple really! We were asked to play a show with one of their signings, Jess Bryant, for her EP launch. They liked what they heard and the rest is history really.

Any plans for a longer tour? Maybe branching outside of Manchester? Any festivals planned this Summer?
We have had a few pretty exciting offers for festivals, but as of yet we can’t really announce which ones we’re playing! There are still a few festivals we have always dreamed of playing as well, that we are going to send some copies of our EP over to. Fingers Crossed!! We’re going to start planning a little tour soon around the UK as well.

There was a recent spat with someone over Twitter recently, and Cassie, you thanked him for the publicity. Apart from this, has Twitter provided you with more positive feedback? Do you find it helps to get your music out there?

CASSIES VIEWS ARE HER OWN VIEWS AND NOT THAT OF THE BBC … haha. But yeah we think twitter is a nice way to tell people about upcoming shows, communicate with people before and after our gigs and especially with the EP release at the moment, to know whether people are enjoying the record they bought off us!

Your album artwork is just as quirky and lovely as your sound? How did the collaboration with Rheannon Ormond come about? Did you give her a brief for the artwork, or was she inspired by your music?
Both really… we told her we’d like a moon and a mountain involved in it and we’d seen the way she drew waves before so we asked her to include them. A lot of if was her own ideas though and we wanted her to be as creative as possible with what she did. We all love the back cover of the album the most and that’s where she was most free to do what she wanted.

Angela: I remember her telling us that she was doing fox gloves on it because she had heard the lyric “A mountain top, a little moon, a fox glove tale out at sea.”

Your video for ‘Waves that Weave’ is beautiful. Was there a theme behind the video? Was there a certain look or atmosphere that you wanted to achieve?

Again we wanted Layla Sailor to be pretty free with her ideas around the video.

Amy: I remember us all meeting Layla for the first time and she had a hair band with big gems all over it… it was amazing, and I had glitter all over my face (which I sometimes wear), we all had about 5 minutes of conversation about glitter, and sparkly things and magical things and by the time we next met her, that was the theme for the video. We’d seen her work and loved it, so we just told her to run with the idea, as we trusted she would do a great job!

Where was the video shot? Did Layla Sailor fulfill your expectations for a first video? Did she suggest anything different to what you were thinking?
Layla is absolutely crazy! We all love her!

Angela: Her mind works in a very magical way… we remember at one point she kept going on about wanting tap-dancing houses in the music video, (maybe next time??). We loved all her weird and wonderful ideas and she totally lived up to the work of hers we’d seen before.

Amy: I studied photography at university and I remember looking at Layla’s work in the past and being really inspired by it, so I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to have her doing our video. She totally exceeded expectation.

Cassie: I like that she works with local artists and designers to achieve her final work. We were lucky enough to have make-up done by Charlie Murray and wear clothes with prints by Lisa Stannard and jewelry by Clara Clark and Wonderhaus.

You all seem very excited with the vinyl version of your EP -it seems vinyl is making a comeback! Do you prefer that sound to digital music?
We don’t think vinyl ever really went away. It’s a much richer sound than digital music and its nice to have something concrete and tactile like a vinyl… Plus the album art looks amazing on the 10” sleeve!

After the EP release? What’s the next chapter for The Literature Thieves?
Well, we have just recruited a new drummer called Harriet, so Angela can focus on playing the glockenspiel and a little fan organ (that was kindly donated to us by Amy’s Dad). We hope this will give us a bit of a fuller sound! There are talks of doing some more recording, perhaps releasing another single and then looking to record a proper album!

Where would you see yourselves in five years?
Angela: Seeing the world through music… Ideally this would be our job.
Cassie and Amy: Hopefully not dead.

Sum Literature Thieves up in five words!
THREE LITTLE MOONS THAT SING.

Facebook: Literature Thieves
Twitter: @lit_thieves

 

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