The lineup: Rebecca Hawley (vocals, keyboards), Emily Lansley (vocals, guitar) and Lucy Mercer (vocals, drums).
The background: Stealing Sheep are a three-piece girl group from Liverpool but they're not exactly Atomic Kitten. In fact, they have more in common with Watford's finest girl-folk trio the Staves or with Warpaint, the all-female LA band who merge country, electronica, post-punk and post-rock. Stealing Sheep offer a similarly curious musical mix-up, only with one of their members hailing from the rural idyll that is Abbotts Bromley in deepest East Staffordshire, they have found elements of medieval folkiness seeping into their music (the village is the scene of the oldest folk dance in the UK, held every September if you fancy heading over there). "Weirdly to start with I didn't even realise our music was pagan-y or folky, it didn't cross my mind," says keyboardist Rebecca Hawley. "Then suddenly I started listening to it and thought: 'Ah, I sort of get it now, there's the medieval drones and the bells and harmonies.'"
They even made a promo for one of their singles, I Am the Rain, which features the girls in pagan regalia walking on a beach as an unnamed deity appears before them in the sky. Well, before you could shout "Watch out!" at Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man, someone at Hollyoaks HQ obviously saw the video or at least was a fan of the Liverpudlian three-piece because they came up with a trailer for the soap, based in a fictional suburb of Chester, and it not only echoes Stealing Sheep's pagan vibe, it uses their dark madrigal Shut Eye as the soundtrack. The first single from Stealing Sheep's debut album Into the Diamond Sun, their own video for Shut Eye has just notched up its 130,000th hit on YouTube.
It's a good album, too, even – especially – given the mash-up of polar opposite sounds and styles, while the girls' voices coalesce beautifully, achieving an atmosphere that is never less than wistfully strange. "Like Broadcast closing the main stage of the Green Man festival," said one early review of one of the tracks while elsewhere you can hear songs that could belong, variously, on albums by groups as far apart as the Go-Go's, the Monkees, the Doors and Talking Heads. Such is the breadth of their influences, the music ranges from pop and psychedelia to folk and funk, or at least funk if it had been accidentally stumbled on centuries ahead of schedule in rural England. The album features, the girls explain, "samples of dulcimers going backwards, timpani and orchestral drums" and in its DIY mesh of the organic and electronic Into the Diamond Sun merits contention alongside recent eccentric but accessible albums by those highly regarded boy bands Alt-J and Django Django, both of which are favourites, we hear, of Kerry Katona.
The buzz: "Magnificent" – beardedmagazine.com.
The truth: They're more Cat Power than Atomic Kitten.
Most likely to: Be praised.
Least likely to: Be crucified.
What to buy: Into the Diamond Sun is released by Heavenly in August.
File next to: Staves, Warpaint, Fairport Convention, the Go-Go's.
Monday's new band: Wiki.
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