March 5, 2020 Interview – Katherine Blamire & Jessica Davies of Smoke Fairies
Whoever thinks there is simply no good music being made anymore, clearly have not heard Smoke Fairies. Made up of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, the two ladies are not concerned with the ever disposable nature of the music industry, but instead concentrate on making music they believe in. Doing so for over 14 years, their approach has found them success in their home country of England, yet still, isn’t it time the rest of the world become more exposed to this talented songwriting team?
Releasing their new album Darkness Brings The Wonders Home back in January, it is a collection of songs that are naturally mesmerizing with irresistible guitars, dreamy production, and vocals that will lure you under a spell. Putting their heart and souls into the music, the ladies recently took the time to chat about their time as a band, their approach on Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, plus a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – Smoke Fairies has been established over 14 years now. Releasing six studio albums over that time, you have attained international success and highly-charted singles. First, tell us, how would you describe the journey of the band?
Katherine Blamire – Woah 14 years – well we have changed quite a lot in that time in terms of our relationship to music. Trying to make progress in the music industry is a real roller coaster experience, with a lot of highs and lows, there are times that you feel so grateful that music has enabled travel and amazing experiences, but other times you feel like an outsider.
Jessica Davies – I don’t think there is a band that would say their careers have been smooth sailing and we are no different. It’s a rocky road full of twists and turns.
Cryptic Rock – Understandable, but you have weathered the journey together and the music that has come out of it has been wonderful. Some would say the sound of Smoke Fairies is haunting or enchanting; a mix of Folk, Alternative, and Rock, you certainly have your own sound. What inspired your musical direction and what has the progression been like throughout the years?
Katherine Blamire – I guess our tastes have evolved and changed since the early days when we listened to a lot of ’70s style guitar and harmony bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash and America as well as classic Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and that sort of thing. We grew up in the middle of Brit Pop and we’ve always been drawn to that kind of ‘build to the big chorus’ kind of song-writing.
Nowadays it’s a big mixture but basically anything psychedelic, riff based, emotive or raw is good. I have been running to Endless Boogie recently. Also, the new Chelsea Wolfe record is interesting. The musical direction on the last record was inspired by trying to get back to doing what we felt we do best and keeping it simple.
Cryptic Rock – Well your style is refreshing and unique to what others are doing at this time. Perhaps some of the most distinctive qualities of the music are the beautiful harmonies and dueling vocals. What is the chemistry like between you two when writing, recording, and performing songs?
Katherine Blamire – Coming up with harmonies is one of my favorite parts of the process, we approach it like you would a main instrument- and they get scrutinized – we have to think – what are the harmonies doing and why? – Like you might approach a string section. Sometimes we want the two voices to be close and other times you want a whole wash of voices creating a shifting atmosphere behind everything. Other times it’s right for a voice to be singing alone, telling the story, perhaps sounding more isolated or direct. The song directs us.
Cryptic Rock – Very interesting to hear. You recently released a new album on January 31st entitled Darkness Brings The Wonders Home. A fantastic album start to finish, what was the writing and recording process like?
Katherine Blamire – Thank you! Well, recording was very intense. We had decided on all the parts and demoed them, then we spent a month in Seattle recording with Phil Ek and it had been a while since we’d set foot in a studio. Phil really pushed us to play each part with total clarity and he gave us a bit of a kick up the bum. It was tough at times and we had a lot of mezcal cocktails in the evenings to decompress. Because there had been a bit of a gap between records we were really able to hone the collection of songs down to what we felt were the best. It was good to be pushed.
Cryptic Rock – The end result is enchanting. The album has a very dreamy, dark atmosphere while the production is warm and vintage sounding. Did you have a clear idea of how you wanted this album to sound?
Katherine Blamire – We wanted each part to be clear and for nothing unnecessary to be added. The focus needed to come back to us as a duo, and so we played all the parts – except the drums, but we were very clear about how we wanted them to sound. We wanted the songs to be very riff led and driven.
Cryptic Rock – It shows you put a lot of time into the creative process of each track. Beyond the music, the lyrics are also very engaging. What were some of the inspirations behind the words?
Jessica Davies – All sorts of things inspired the record. The feeling of doom in the air right now, lack of human connection in the digital age and failed relationships. We tried to use nature references to tell these stories: flies trapped in florescent bulbs, insects living in stagnant ponds, weird creatures lurking just out of sight. And people, interactions good or bad, have been a huge influence.
Cryptic Rock – There really does seem to be a sense of anxiety surrounding us right now, isn’t there? The approach you used is effective because they inspire you to listen deeply. You also have a list of podcasts available for listeners to check out on your website which give a personal, introspective look into your music. What has it been like doing the podcasts and what led to the decision to put them out?
Katherine Blamire – Our music is really serious and kind of dark, but the podcast was a chance to show a totally different side. The music industry feels completely ridiculous to us, it’s always a process of being swallowed up and spat out, or struggling for some unobtainable goal. Putting this record out was a challenge in itself, so it’s fun to just completely take the piss out of it all. It was nice to let our stupid side have an airing and give our cat Stanley some airtime, he deserves a much bigger following than us.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Well people should check it out to have a good time and see another side of the band. With the album out now you are currently touring the UK. Can we expect some dates in the USA later in the year?
Jessica Davies – We’ve just done a little tour around England and it was great to be back. We’d love to tour The States so hopefully the opportunity will come up soon.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully that will happen soon! Last question. Cryptic Rock covers music as well as movies, particularly in the Horror and Sci-Fi genre. If you are a fan of these genres, do you have any favorites and why?
Jessica Davies – I’m afraid I’m too scared to watch Horror films. The other day I watched a program called the world’s biggest shipping disasters and I was too scared to leave to sofa so I can’t cope with Horror. I did watch BBC’s Dracula recently and I did enjoy it.
Katherine Blamire – I similarly shy away from Horror films, but I did enjoy Let The Right One In (2008) which is kind of arty Horror.