Sarah Cracknell. Saint Etienne. 15.5.17

Pop, electontric greats Sain Etienne return with new album ‘Home Counties’ on 2nd June.  Described by the band as having been inspired by the eponymous shires they grew up in, Home Counties is shaping up already to be another Saint Etienne classic.

Damian Robinson caught up with lead singer Sarah Cracknell to talk about the album and their future show at the Sage.

Damian: The new album ‘Home Counties’ has been previewed by the track ‘Heather’ which has the classic, pop, sound of Saint Etienne.  Is the sound of Heather a good indication of what to expect from the album?

Sarah: I think the albums quite mixed in styles and eclectic.  Our last album was quiet dance-focused and this one reminds me of our first couple of albums which were more mixed.  We’ve also got interludes between songs which is something we used to do and reminds me of our early sound.


Damian: That’s interesting. Do the interludes relate to the concept of the album?

Sarah:  I think this album is more themed than a full concept album.  We did an album a few years ago called Tales from Turnpike house which had a strong concept across the album.  Home Counties is perhaps more thematic and based on the area of the Home Counties, which is where we are all from.

Damian: Is part of the theme to be reflective and actively looking back to your childhoods?


Sarah: Mostly the album is reflective and looking back fondly on the places where we grew up.  In other areas, the music is quite relevant as it was hard to ignore what was going on around us when we were writing new material.

Damian: There’s a great Jonny Marr track ‘New Town Velocity’ which has similar themes about the past and parts of the UK that are perhaps not looked favourably on in present history.


Sarah:  The Home Counties are often now seen, in some media, as right wing and boring.  But we don’t feel like that. We almost wanted to reclaim the Home Counties a little.  Certainly, my memories are all mostly fond. It could be a little bit dull at times but this was pre-internet.  Even our local cinema shut down when I was 12.  But I think that out of boredom comes creativity and the Home Counties made me go out and explore. There’s something good to be said about boredom.


Damian: Often the Seattle and Manchester bands credit their conditions as the reason they got into bands; it got dark early, it rained, there may nothing to do apart from stay indoors and play music

Sarah: There’s a lot to be said for that. So many people I grew up with ended up in bands, or became clothes designers or dj’s or artists. It’s a part of the Home Countries we don’t talk about enough.
Damian: Is the album deliberately optimistic as a backlash against some of the reputations the Home Counties might have?

Sarah: I think we’ve always have optimism in our songs.  In particular we like melancholy; things may not be great now but they should get better.  We often have slightly sad lyrics with an upbeat sound. Abba were great at that style.


Damian: The band have always used strong visuals.  What prompted you to work with Scott King for this album cover?


Sarah: We all know Scott and love his work and well-observed humour. I love the Home Counties artwork, it’s the most colourful artwork we’ve ever had.


Damian: Finally, you’ll be playing the sage on the 8th June. What can we expect?


Sarah: We’ll play maybe 5 or 6 songs from the new album and some tracks that are better known.  We’ve also got new visuals and a bigger band. In fact, our guitarist is standing for election on the 8th as the Green Party candidate for Henley. But instead of attending the results he’ll be playing with us.  What a guy.

Saint Etienne will release ‘Home Counties’ on the 2nd June.  They will be playing the Sage, Gateshead, on the 8th June.  Tickets from £25.