So a politician in Norway decides music downloads should be free. A death metal band disagree. They steal one of his sheep, to make a point. Somewhere far, far away in Liverpool, news of this strikes a chord with Becky Hawley, founder of the band now understandably-named Stealing Sheep.
Put it like this: if nuclear physicists happened to send Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom and the Velvet Underground hurtling around the Large Hadron Collider at the speed of sound (as cruel and unusual as that might be), chances are they’ll end up with a rough idea of Stealing Sheep.
Even then, that doesn’t even begin to describe the effect this sound has on the human body. Their mad, mystic hammerings send shivers down the backbone; three part harmonies melt like gold in the ear; cheeky tom tom rhythms set the feet shuffling in crazy patterns.
As of 2010, the band members shaking up the insides and turning heads are Becky (lead vocals, organ/synths), Emily (vocals, drums and percussion) and Lucy (vocals and guitars). They’re no floundering unknowns either, championed by BBC 6Music and the Walrus himself, Paul McCartney, no less.
Clad in impish prairie smocks and flowery frocks, there’s a certain innocent charm to their stage presence, with a dash of joyous camaraderie apparent in their musical chemistry. That joy and charm is present as ever at Trof café, Fallowfield’s premier alternative hang-out. Headlining the evening’s 2 Dollar Show event, the girls showcase their talents to a spellbound audience, most hearing their mysterious nursery-rhyme material for the first time.
Amidst Emily’s shamanistic rumblings of drums and cowbells, Lucy weaves serpentine guitar lines, snaking and swaying in the low light; Becky sings of eerie romances and the dreamtime between parties, and nobody can take their eyes off them.
There’s a sense of a real bond between them, their harmonies instinctive as they are enchanting. The songwriting is watertight, full of eccentric vitality and exciting surprises; tracks like ‘Pass Through You‘ and ‘Noah’s Days‘ are punctuated by swoops and dives and a-capella sections that echo around the head for hours afterward.
Undisputed highlight of the set (and their repertoire) is upcoming Valentine’s Day single, ‘The Mountain Dogs‘, a bold, quirky foot tapper that curves the air on willowy wavelengths. Those harmonies are put to work with panache, and the reaction is overwhelming. Hawley’s words roll off the tongue with ease – “Tele-tele-telephone, won’t you talk talk talk to me?”
The night winds down, as couples slow dance to the soothing, mesmeric ‘Shoot The Ducks To Win‘, swept away in shimmering cymbals and dancing arpeggios. Voices smoother than Tupelo honey fade to silence, and the room erupts into applause, hooping and hollering for more. Stealing Sheep have worked their magic; they exit the stage with a brief “thank you”, leaving the rest to time, and to imagination.
(Simon Moore)Just Published: