Tweet Tweet!

Follow SXP on Twitter
- RSS Feed
SoundsXP Presents
Next show:

Dead Coast,
Les Sueques,
Calva Louise,
Flights of Helios,
Dirty Blondes
+ SoundsXP DJs

The Windmill, Brixton
Good Friday, 14th April 2017
3pm till late

Buy tickets here

On Our iPod

Latest Forum Posts
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Smoke Fairies

Article written by Ged M - Oct 23, 2008

Smoke Fairies
The Smoke Fairies are Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire, whose folk-blues and bluegrass playing seem a world away from their birthplace in Chichester, West Sussex. They met at school there (where tales are told of their scientific pyromania) and it was where they first started playing music. They spent time in New Orleans and then travelled around the Southern states for three months and, after graduating from university, spent a year in Vancouver. In 2007, they even went on tour with Brian Ferry. It seems a strange career pattern but it all makes sense when you hear their brilliantly spooky debut single ‘Living With Ghosts’ (Music For Heroes 7”), released earlier this year. They’ll also shortly be recording an EP. We channelled some Fairy musings via the magic of the internet in October 2008 (charmingly, despite the "I" statements in the responses, they speak as one and asked that all answers be ascribed to the group rather than to an individual).

SXP: You met at school: how soon before you realised you were musical soul mates?

Smoke Fairies: It took a while. At first we were sworn enemies but after spending one afternoon singing ‘Let it be’ over and over again we realised it was quite fun.

SXP: Given that Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons was brought up in Chichester, is there anything about the town that produces unconventional musicians?

Smoke Fairies: I feel really fortunate to have come from somewhere where the sea and hills are close by. While we were growing up we spent a lot of time exploring the hills, harbours and woods. I think growing up in the countryside gives you a spirit of escapism that never really leaves you. I definitely feel that this is reflected in our music; from the themes in the lyrics, to the atmosphere we try to convey in the meandering guitar riffs. There is something interesting about being inextricably tied to a place that you sort of annoys you in its smallness. However much you try to escape, you know you are going to be back soon, because it’s home. I suppose this conflict of loving the beauty of a place, but finding its limitations stifling is a good recipe for creating unconventional musicians.

SXP: Were folk and blues always an interest for you and how did you get into it - presumably your contemporaries were into far more mainstream music?

Smoke Fairies: We were listening to bands influenced by folk and blues like old Crosby Stills and Nash records while most other kids our age were buying over large baggy black tee-shirts with grunge lyrics or stuff about death printed on it. I guess we just gravitated towards blues and folk because it seemed earthier and just connected to us more at that time. When we were younger we entered a battle of the bands. All the other bands were really heavy, which was cool, but we felt kind of out of place. When we won, we felt the need to run away very fast. My dad came to pick us up and I just got in the car and said “just drive”.

SXP: Is authenticity an issue for two girls from Sussex playing music drawing on the American South?

Smoke Fairies: I think it’s wrong to say that music loses authenticity depending on where someone was born, especially when that music has such a convoluted history. You cannot help what you are drawn to, especially now that we live in a time when every kind of music is available at the touch of a button. It is unrealistic and irrelevant to assume that everyone is going to fit neatly into little musical boxes that relate to where they have grown up. On the flip side, we have lived in New Orleans at a pivotal time in our lives and travelled extensively across America. So I feel we have drawn influences from what we have experienced. If you really love a certain kind of music I think you feel the need to go out and find it.

SXP: You've played famous venues, like Tipitina's in New Orleans - how did the audience react to you there?

Smoke Fairies: American audiences seemed to be quite intrigued by us and gave us a good reaction. We found ourselves collaborating with other musicians more and just generally experiencing as many facets of the scene there as possible. We were still developing our sound so I think it was a good time to experiment with different directions. We even got a bit funky at one point, but we had a crazy gig where there was a punch up and our amps got stolen, so went back to being an acoustic duo again.

SXP: The Times Online 'track of the day' feature for 'Living with Ghosts' was well-written but it focused a lot on you as "sultry sirens". Is it harder to be taken seriously when you're young women playing something that is stereotypically the province of tubercular old men?

Smoke Fairies: I like it when people are confused and surprised by us. At least we are provoking a reaction and making people think. Perhaps it is in some way refreshing to see some girls from some small English town playing bluesy riffs, rather than the stereotype of an old guy with a beard. Music is always going to be more accessible when it has some imagery attached to it I guess, but we never really understand the ‘sultry sirens’ descriptions we get because we are never trying to be that.

SXP: You spent time travelling around the US South and then settled in Vancouver. Has that helped you musically?

Smoke Fairies: We have met a lot of characters and got into a few strange situations whilst travelling around which has provided us with quite a lot of inspiration for songs.

SXP: You seem to have packed in a lot of travelling into the last few years, which seems to be reflected in the sense of restless longing in some of your songs. Have you laid down roots now or are you still yearning to travel?

Smoke Fairies: I think we both find it hard to stay in one place for a long time but the music is going pretty well in England at the moment so we will stick around and hopefully the opportunity of doing more travelling is just around the corner.

SXP: What do you listen to for entertainment? Is it all old music or are there any contemporary artists that you enjoy?

Smoke Fairies: It would be a bit weird to just listen to old folk and blues all the time when there is so much great music around. The folk and blues scene at the moment is very vibrant and there are so many great artists to draw influence from. For example, our friends are in a band called Congregation who play dark, driving blues. Folk artists seem to be coming into the mainstream more with Rachel Unthank and the Winterset’s amazing album getting a lot of attention. Folk and blues is all about development and how new generations take it in their own direction. We listen to a lot of different kinds of music, the style we play is just something that has developed over time.

SXP: You toured with Brian Ferry in 2007. Is he a fan of yours or are you fans of his, how did that come about and did you enjoy it?

Smoke Fairies: A friend of ours gave our CD to Bryan Ferry in an airport. He is such an amazing musician and we were really honoured that he asked us to be his support. I like to think that he is a fan of ours, he has certainly been very supportive of what we are doing.

SXP: Your recent single was 'Living With Ghosts', and both the American and English folk traditions have a fascination with the supernatural. Are either of you superstitious? How much would it take for you to play 'Living with Ghosts' in a haunted house at midnight on Halloween?

Smoke Fairies: I am not really superstitious, but when I lived in this castle-like building I used to be really scared of this ghost cat that everyone said would kill you if you didn’t let it in if it knocked at your door. I spent the whole time opening and closing my door. We love Halloween so it probably wouldn’t take very much to get us into a haunted house. Probably just the promise of a good meal.


Remembering the Radio Trent Rock Show
Wedding Present headline Refugee Rock benefit
Blitzen Trappen visualise sound of new album
Extended Katsenjamming
Yuck Spit Out New Album Update, Share First Track
Need Replacements For Your Old Vinyl? Alt-Rock Pioneers' Reissues Coming Soon
Music & Booze At Old Spitafields Independent Music Market This Saturday
Micachu and The Shapes New Album Could Be Good... Or Bad
Public Image Ltd.'s New Album Can Only Mean Trouble (And Rants About Plumbers...)
Alive & On Fire: The Dead Weather Announce First Album In Five Years
A Spectre From The Past With Veruca Salt's New LP? Listen In Full!
Foxtails Brigade "Far Away and Long Ago"
North By North "Pistoletta"
Die Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen "Nach dem Spiel"
Theatre Royal "The Days Grow Hotter"
Oliver Gottwald "Freunde fürs Leben"
Heart/Dancer "Outro"
Clowwns "Idiot Bouncing"
Double Denim "Wide Open"
Flout "Rainchecks"
The Scenes "City Of White Blankets"


© Sounds XP Design by Darren O'Connor and Adam Walker