In late February, Sarah Cracknell will release her new vinyl 12" single 'We Look at the Stars', upon which she has collaborated with Portugese electronic and production duo, Lisbon Kid.

'We Look at the Stars' is one of the the stand-out tracks on Lisbon Kid's eponymous debut album, which came out in April of last year. Also available as two separate digital releases, its appears in the vinyl version with the album track and a succession of remixes.

Ibiza-influenced, 'We Look at the Stars' combines Lisbon Kid's chiming electronica and hazy acoustic guitars with a typically sublime and thoughtful vocal from Cracknell.

Cracknell, who is best known as the vocalist in indie dance/electronic trio Saint Etienne, has had a productive two years. Her second solo album, the pastoral 'Red Kite', came out in 2015 to much critical acclaim, and she has toured widely both as a solo artist and with Saint Etienne. Last year was Cracknell's twenty-fifth year in Saint Etienne, which she had initially joined in time for their 1991 third single 'Nothing Can Stop Us' as one of a revolving series of guest lead vocalists before taking over the role permanently. Cracknell and her bandmates Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs heralded this by spending much of the year in a London studio working on their as-yet-untitled first album in five years, their tenth LP, which will come out in the summer. They also reissued their debut album 'Foxbase Alpha' in a variety of formats including a double CD edition and a limited-to-500 copies expansive vinyl box set, the latter of which was delayed because of production difficulties and only finally was released in January. 'Foxbase Alpha' provides the first blueprint for Saint Etienne's distinctive and influential sound, merging seamlessly Stanley and Wiggs' keyboards, Cracknell's smooth vocals and the band's love of 60's pop with TV and film samples and elements of rock and dance music.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to Sarah Cracknell, who Lisbon Kid's Danny de Matos has described as "the quintessential British alternative female indie pop voice", about 'We Look at the Stars', the re-release of 'Foxbase Alpha' and the forthcoming new Saint Etienne album.


PB: What was the appeal to you of working with Lisbon Kid? 'We Look at the Stars’ has a Mediterranean sound, which is a progression for you. Was that part of the attraction for you of doing this record?

SC: It was, but the inspiration both in its feel and the lyrics actually comes from this place in North Devon where I used to lie on the cliff and look at the stars on a clear night with the sea just below me. It came from that really and feeling very insignificant and small and overwhelmed by the stars and the sky. A lot of what Lisbon Kid do is that Ibiza thing, but I have never actually been to Ibiza (Laughs).

PB: You told ‘The Guardian’ a couple of years ago "you like being in a little gang. It is a much nicer thing to do, to work with people that you know and trust." Was working with Lisbon Kid like being in another little gang?

SC: Yeah,it was. I have known Danny de Matos for years. He used to live near Windsor where I grew up, so I have known him for a very long time, more socially than anything else but I have helped him out with a couple of things he has done with other people and we have always got on really, really well. He is a very funny and sweet man. He and Lisbon Kid's other member Rui da Silva came up with an idea for this album and they wanted it to have this very lush, chilled-out feel, and they knew that I can do vocals like that (Laughs).

PB: How did the songwriting with Lisbon Kid work in comparison to Saint Etienne and what you do with your solo work?

SC: It was not dissimilar really. I heard some backing music that Danny had created with Rui. It was one of those organic situations in which he said, "We have done this. Do you want to do something with it?" and I liked it a lot, so I went away and came up with a melody and some words and a theme.

Then, when I went into the studio I realised that I had over complicated things. I had written a full-on song with lots of lyrics and different melodies, and as soon as I sung it I realised that it didn't work. So, we stripped the whole thing back and came up with the lyrics and the melody as they are now. I had overegged the pudding.

PB: Much of your work with Saint Etienne and both as a solo artist has an underscore of melancholy. ‘We Look at the Stars’ on the surface has this blissed-out feel, but underneath, there is again this sense of melancholy. Would you agree?

SC: Yes.I do. It is what I do. For me personally I think that melancholy is the best atmosphere that you can get in a song, so I tend to use it a lot (Laughs). It might sound sad but have very uplifting words or it might have an uplifting tune and sad words, but whichever way round there is this bittersweetness which I find very appealing.

When you look at the stars, you might think, "Oh wow! How nice!" But it does make you question things a lot. What am I doing here? Where am I in the world? What about the other people in the world? It is about that overwhelming feeling of feeling very little on a big planet and in a big universe.

PB: Saint Etienne have just re-released ‘Foxbase Alpha’ in a 25th anniversary edition. How do you feel looking at yourself as you were then?

SC: Some things have changed but not everything. I was quite nervous when it all started and a bit shy and I haven’t completely got rid of that feeling, but now I am nervous and shy for completely different reasons. I am still fairly optimistic and fun-loving. I am quite an up sort of person. I was then and I am now.

PB: What do you think of the 23 year old girl who made that record? Are you proud of her?

SS: Yeah, I am quite proud of her. Saint Etienne was a big thing that happened very quickly for me and a lot of people in that situation get swept away and start to believe their own press, but I never did that. I was very aware, firstly, not to believe what people say about you and think, "Oh God. I am marvelous. Everyone says that I am fantastic," and secondly not to go too mad and crazy and to do that self-promotion thing where you go to all you the parties and get photographed everywhere. I didn’t like that at all. I used to hide (Laughs).

PB: Bob Sinclair says an interview in the sleeve notes of this new edition that he would be "disappointed" if 'Foxbase Alpha' was any Saint Etienne’s fan's favourite album as, good as it was, he feels that you have done better. Would you agree with that sentiment?

SC: I know and I understand what he is saying. If you were to make a record and then twenty five-years later you haven’t progressed creatively, artistically, talent-wise or whatever, then it would all be a bit sad, but at the same time I know that he has the fondest feelings for ‘Foxbase Alpha’ as do I. I love it. I love it because it is a melting pot for all those ideas that you have when you are in your teens – "If I had a band, this is what I would do."

PB: You didn't first start singing with Saint Etienne until ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ their third single. When did Bob and Pete Wiggs offer you the role of permanent vocalist? Was it before, during or after the recording of ‘Foxbase Alpha’?

SC: It was never said out loud really. I recorded ‘Nothing Can Stop Us’ and then I did another song and another song. I knew they were looking for a permanent singer and they came round to my flat for dinner and we chatted about it, so I knew it was sort on the cards but it was never properly confirmed. It just happened really .

PB: How did you first meet Bob and Pete ?

SC: I first met them because Bob’s then girlfriend was someone that I knew from Windsor. Bob had told her that he and Pete were looking for a singer, and she told him about me. It went from there really. She played for him some of the things that I had done with another guy that I had worked with and they liked it. It was very much a chance thing.

PB: Bob describes early Channel 4 and fanzine and indie culture as being his prime influences on 'Foxtrot Alpha'. What were yours?

SC: As far as singing was concerned, I had been in bands since I was fifteen and I had had my own band (Prime Time -Ed)for years. My biggest influences vocally were people like Debbie Harry because of their constant pop delivery. I was into French pop and Francoise Hardy as well. I didn’t do any of the writing on the first album. That all came later. My input was the vocals. I liked that thing which Elizabeth Fraser from the Cocteau Twins does where she uses her voice like an instrument and she just makes up words, not that I did that (Laughs) but I did try to use it as an instrument.

PB: You had all just moved into London from outside it as well. How much of an effect did that have on ‘Foxbase Alpha’?

SC: I had moved to London quite a long time before that. I moved first of all when I was sixteen and then properly when I was seventeen, so I had been there for a long time but Bob and Pete had moved in more recently. I think that because all three of us had grown up not far from London we just couldn’t wait to get into it, to move there properly. It was like a magnet, but I am sure that if you live on the outskirts of Manchester or Glasgow or Liverpool you can’t wait to be in the city centre. London still holds a massive appeal to us. It is a fantastic city. It has always been a big draw to us.

PB: Are you surprised that Saint Etienne has proved so long-lasting?

SC: I am not surprised like in a "Oh no, I can’t believe it. We don’t deserve it" kind of surprised. I am just really pleased. We just seemed to drift into being what we are. It happened very organically.

PB:You have just finished recording a new album with Saint Etienne. When will that come out?

SC: It is going to come out in June. I think it is quite a mixture of styles. I was listening to it with a friend today, and they were saying, "That sounds like it could come from ‘Good Humor’ and that sounds like it could come from ‘Finisterre’ and that sounds like it could come from ‘So Tough’." It is a real patchwork quilt to my mind.

PB: Do you have any other plans for your solo career beyond 'We Look at the Stars' at the moment?

SC: Not at the moment. No. This new album and Saint Etienne are my main focus right now. It is quite hard to think about other things. We are very focused on it at the moment. We are working hard to have it ready for June and then our plan is to play lots of gigs and festivals around the world to promote it.

PB: Thank you.


'We Look at the Stars' will be released on 12" vinyl on Wall of Sound Records on the 24th February 2017.

















Related Links:

http://www.lisbonkid.com/
http://www.saintetienne.com/
https://twitter.com/bobpetesarah
https://www.facebook.com/lisbonkid
https://www.facebook.com/SaintEtienneOfficial


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