Smoke Fairies

Smoke Fairies

 London, England, GBR
BandAlternativeBlues

Smoke Fairies have been described by Mojo magazine as "dark, lustful blues-folk”. Following a number of highly-acclaimed singles, including the Jack White-produced “Gastown”/“River Song”, the band release their much-anticipated debut album - “Through Low Light And Trees” in September.

Biography

Whatever happened to the teenage dream?

At school in rural, restrained England during the mid-‘90s, best mates Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies prayed they’d one day escape their home town of Chicester, Sussex and dive headlong into the landscape and myth of America, the promised land of their dreams. And more crucially, they’d be making music rather than some conformist career choice.

Little did they know that by 2010, they’d have lived in New Orleans and Vancouver, recorded with 21st century Yankee icon Jack White and toured across continents. And now they’re releasing a debut album that fulfils the promise of their earlier singles. Smoke Fairies are an exquisitely shivery blend of English alternative folk-rock and a more humid, bluesy brand of Americana. In other words, equal parts home and away, reflecting who they are and what they’ve seen, and sounding both eerily ancient and thrillingly modern. It’s a perfectly balanced record; two friends who specialise in interlocking harmonies and guitar parts that shape their spectral melodies. “Instead of learning how to sing or play individually in a conventional way, we’ve learnt by bouncing off each other, and working out how to fit in with each other,” says Katherine. “It’s a connection we wouldn’t have found anywhere else.”

That connection began in the school choir, and after discovering guitars stashed in cupboards at their respective family homes. Jessica’s mum owned a ton of vinyl albums, dominated by American ‘70s classics, which energised two 13-year olds seeking alternatives to Sussex and Britpop on the radio. “The first time I heard ‘Teach Your Children’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, when those harmonies kicked in, there was nothing else like it,” Katherine grins. “Those old records sounded so otherworldly. Playing our own music seemed to be the way to become part of it all.”

Their first songs were “pretty mad, with really shouty choruses,” says Jessica. “They were all about escaping, and being frustrated,” adds Katherine. Prayers were answered by circumstance taking them to New Orleans for a year, studying American history. “That’s when we started filling out the sound a bit more,” Katherine continues. “But it was more the atmosphere of the place than any direct musical influence.”

After returning to England the pair went straight to the Sidmouth Folk Festival and discovered, “all this amazing English folk, people sticking their finger in their ear and singing these ancient songs,” Jessica recalls. “That was another turning point. Sometimes the way you find out who you are is by first leaving it behind.”

Not that Smoke Fairies are trad folk types, far from it; they’re simply adapting folk to their own unique ends. “It makes us feel good that we’re drawing on common ground, a foundation that all folk music seems to draw on, in that we might share the same influences as Sandy Denny for example rather than being influenced by her directly,” says Katherine.

With their band name in place - Smoke Fairies alludes to the summer mist that collects in the hedgerows of Sussex’s narrow country lanes - the duo started gigging. But restless and adventurous, the pair moved again, this time to Vancouver. “We’d seen pictures in a brochure, with mountain and sea, and just went there,” says Katherine. Flitting between jobs, unable to get gigs and short on money, their year in Canada was, “an intense experience,” says Katherine. “We weren’t even sure why we’d gone. But a lot of our songs came from that time. You have to let the mayhem out somehow.”

Back in England, separated from new friends (and lovers) again, it’s no surprise the album’s mood is usually mournful, haunted by memory. “A lot of our songs are drawn from the experience of travelling around and leaving, or feeling distant and out of place, and the heartache that comes from looking back and longing,” says Katherine. The pair agrees they most love “the most soul-searching, heart-wrenching, truthful songs, where you feel someone is telling you something they haven’t told anyone else.”

From the start, Smoke Fairies had ‘heart-wrenching’ down pat; how else to explain Jack White’s immediate conversion? He produced a single for his Third Man label at his Nashville studio. ‘Gastown’ (the morning-after response to a particularly bacchanalian night in Vancouver) and ‘River Song’ became their fourth 7” released in December 2009. In typical White fashion, the session only lasted 36 hours; he also drummed and played, “a mad guitar solo” on ‘River Song’ with his Raconteurs/ Dead Weather pal Jack Lawrence on bass.

Jessica; “We knew; how else would we ever get the chance to record with Jack? So we let whatever ideas he had seep into the record rather than be precious about it being our own thing. We got the essence of live recording from Jack, and took it into the album sessions.”

The Smoke Fairies debut 7” ‘Living With Ghosts’ / ‘Troubles’ was released in 2008, followed by 2009’

Discography

Living With Ghosts (single) '08
Frozen Heart EP (single) '09
Sunshine (single) '09
Gastown (single) '09
Through Low Light & Trees (album) forthcoming.

Set List

Set consists of our own material mixing both released and unreleased songs - ranging in length from 30-60 minutes