The Staves – Jessica Staveley-Taylor on Loss and Their New Album “Good Woman” | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Staves – Jessica Staveley-Taylor on Loss and Their New Album “Good Woman”

Unapologetically Themselves

Feb 11, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Since bursting onto the scene in 2012, The Staves have come to be known as one of the most intriguing and pleasant bands in folk. Composed of three sisters from Watford, U.K. (Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor), the band exceeds the familial gimmick. Instead of coasting to notoriety based on that fact, they’ve built a name for themselves by crafting lush, purposeful songs that are as romantic as they are delicate.

On Good Woman, their newly released studio album, the Staveley-Taylors are unapologetically themselves, blending heavenly harmonies with gut-wrenching lyrics that are tied together by divine arrangements. Like any good third effort, it represents a natural and organic step forward for a band that already seemed wise beyond its years.

“I want people to enjoy it and find…meaning in it for themselves,” Jessica, the middle Staveley-Taylor sister, tells Under the Radar. It may not be a “quarantine record” per se, but Good Woman does feel comfortable and warm, even with its occasional dips into pessimism.

“I think, more than ever, music [has the] power to heal and to bring people joy or expression…. So, if something that I made can do that for somebody, that would make me feel like I have a purpose again,” says Jessica.

Contextually, the record is said to be framed around the death of their mother and the birth of Emily’s—the oldest Stave—first child. Most of the album’s tracks, however, were written prior to both their mother’s death and Emily giving birth. Still, there was at least some level of urgency to address the emotional elephant in the room.

“We felt this pressure to suddenly be writing about the death of our mum,” Jessica explains. “And I don’t think any of us felt ready to do that. It felt far too soon.”

Now set free into the world, the songs have taken on multiple meanings, with the title track exemplifying the duality of these narratives. Not only can it be seen as an homage to their mother, who encouraged them to pursue a career in music, but it could also be interpreted as a mantra of sorts. While being a “good woman” isn’t explicitly defined, it remains a powerful and uplifting sentiment coming from a band that has repeatedly faced doubts about their creativity given their gender.

“I think that, in a way, it’s a kind of anthem, a kind of low-key anthem, to all the good women,” Jessica notes.

“I think it’s about anyone you want it to be about,” she says, addressing whether she thinks of her sister or her mother when singing the song.

Speaking over Zoom from her home in London, Jessica says she misses being on the road, especially since the record’s title track was imagined to be a triumphant, communal moment where the band’s fans—many of them women—would sing the lyric “I’m a good woman” in unison.

“I’m still holding out hope that we’ll get all the good women singing along at some point,” she concludes, smiling wholesomely.

Layered with nuance, almost every track appears to be striving for something more than itself, from the feedback-drenched, Zeppelin-esque raunch of “Careful, Kid” to the transferrable (and purposefully vague) confusion of “Trying.” Even though the sisters are more geographically farther apart than normal—Jessica and Camilla live in London while Emily and their father live in nearby Watford—the record boasts a sense of intimacy that can only come from the bonds forged through sisterhood.

Sonically, the band found themselves ignoring most outside noise, attempting to create a sound that was both organic and original. Though they did take influence from Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love and The War on Drugs, the piecemeal nature of the record’s conception lent itself to a diverse collection. Since there were many “different phases” of songwriting and production, each song feels distinct.

“I weirdly feel that it was almost by shutting out other things that we’ve got to where we got to with it,” Jessica admits.

Most of all, The Staves seemed committed to making an honest, vulnerable record that summed up their shaky experiences since the release of 2015’s If I Was. Between living in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the 2016 election and observing the Brexit referendum from afar, the band had felt somewhat like outsiders. Much like the time spent stateside, their expressions on the album are bold and deeply personal.

“Let’s not worry about anything,” Jessica recounts, describing the band’s mindset while making the album. “Let’s just push things as far as we want to go. The worst thing that happens is something doesn’t work and we’ll change it, it’s fine, don’t worry.”

As a result, Good Woman is more instrumentally expansive than what would have been expected. Perhaps this was as a result of their growing network of contemporaries who’ve influenced their composition, or perhaps it’s just one more stage in the group’s evolution. Either way, it’s certainly a point of pride for the sisters.

It’s almost as if the band’s entire journey to make their latest album can be summed up by a line in the song “Nothing’s Gonna Happen,” where the sisters sing, in perfect harmonious unison, “Nothing’s gonna happen with your back against the door.” Pain and discomfort are temporary, they assure us, but moving forward and taking risks is one way to break out of life’s monotonous cycles. Of course, it’s only by moving forward during difficult times that the best in all of us comes out, as Jessica recounts.

“It’s sort of the record I’m the most proud of,” Jessica says. “And also one of the most difficult things to do.”

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