By modern standards, Smoke Fairies’ second album Blood Speaks came along pretty soon after their 2010 debut Through Low Light And Trees.
But it wasn’t quite quick enough for Katherine Blamire, one half of the Chichester-bred duo alongside Jessica Davies.
“It doesn’t feel like a very fast process,” she admits while out walking in Clerkenwell, London. “I’m always itching to do more, there are so many songs kicking around in our heads. It feels like the way the music industry works we have to go in cycles of putting things out, which is a bit frustrating.”
Katherine and Jessica have worked together since meeting as 11-year-olds at Chichester’s Bishop Luffa School in the late 1990s. The pair moved around New Orleans and Canada in the early 2000s before writing the songs that were to catch the ear of early supporters Jack White and Richard Hawley.
“We still have contact with them,” says Blamire, revealing the pair will be touring Europe with Hawley later this year. “They are continually inspiring us. Richard always has words of advice or encouragement, which is great to receive from someone who is so successful and respected. They both believe in doing what you want.”
When it came to recording their second album, the pair decided to reconnect with PJ Harvey producer Head, who was also behind the desk on their debut. The album displays a stronger side to the band, not afraid to expand from their original folk-inflected songs to encompass a heavier sound, drawing comparisons to Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac or Kate Bush.
“We didn’t want to be afraid of doing something,” says Blamire. “If something was getting heavier we let it be, whereas before, we felt we belonged to a certain genre.
“We wanted to make sure we pushed ourselves on this album. We also had a bit more time in the studio to assess the songs and add more if we felt it was necessary. With the first album we only had a week to ten days. This time it was three or four weeks.
“Some of the songs came together in the studio which was quite exciting – we would have half-finished lyrics or different sections which would come together.”
Both write separately, before bringing their material to each other to turn into Smoke Fairies songs. That link can be heard in the harmonies which envelope each other on most songs – perhaps underlining their collaborative nature.
“We are looking forward to doing more things in the recording studio,” says Blamire. “As soon as you finish something you realise how it could be pushed more and how it could be done better.”
For this reason the pair are looking forward to going on the road and playing the songs again with a slightly changed band.
“We try to make the songs more interesting to ourselves, adapting them so they have different feels,” says Blamire.
“You can make them relate to how you feel at the time. Recording a song documents what you are feeling at the time on that day – it remains a record of that time.
“A lot of the songs on this album were written when we were doing a lot of travelling, so they reflect that kind of feeling of being out and touring the US in a car together. There are a couple of songs on the album that relate to those feelings, although there is a bit of London in there too.”
The pair now live in London, although regularly return to Chichester to see their families.
“It has that warm feeling of home,” says Blamire. “Chichester was a good place to grow up.
“We used to go to Brighton a lot when we were younger. Brighton was always a bit of a release. The last time we were there was brilliant – we got a great reception. We loved playing Resident too – we love those record store gigs. There’s a really informal feel, but it has a totally different atmosphere – it’s quite intense. Hopefully we’ll do a few more of those.”
Touring is the main thing in the diary at the moment, as well as a trip to Hong Kong, completely unconnected to music. But the third album is also looming.
“We are just trying to work out the best approach to recording it,” says Blamire.
“We don’t have to prove anything any more – we have established ourselves so there is a freedom to the third album. People expect you to go a little further and try something different. I think there’s less pressure and more freedom – I’m looking forward to it. The direction it goes in will depend on the songs – they take on their own life.
“The best approach would be to try to keep it a bit looser and more spontaneous – that’s the vague idea, although that will probably change!”
- Smoke Fairies play The Haunt, Pool Valley, Brighton, on Thursday, September 20. Starts 7pm, tickets £8. Call 01273 606312.