Smoke Fairies should win the World’s Best Interface Award in the category of “band names.” It’s hard to think of a phrase more evocative of their hazy, erotically haunting blending of American blues and British folk. Listening to their music, I imagine staring into the wooded wilderness and considering all of the magic and horror that could be just beyond my view, feeling only partially protected seated on a dirty porch, but with enough of a whiskey buzz that I don’t really care.
The British duo, comprised of Jessica Davies and Katherine Balmire, released their debut U.S. LP this June, entitled Through Low Light and Trees (also quite an impressive interface). They’re spending the summer touring the states’ hills and valleys. They’re about to begin a tour with Rasputina (featuring Philthy’s own Daniel DeJesus) before going out on their own. On August 19th they’ll find themselves at the ineffably intimate chapel of the First Unitarian Church for a show that you shouldn’t miss.
I recently spoke to Jessica Davies about Bryan Ferry, buses, and the changing of the seasons (among other things), forcing me to ponder whether I just might be inside a Belle & Sebastian song. Let me know what you think.
Izzy Cihak: For your first, full-scale US tour you were fortunate enough to play to a packed house nearly every night with Laura Marling. How was that experience of playing to large audiences who were largely unfamiliar with your work?
Jessica Davies: We have done many support tours and shows in the UK for Bryan Ferry, Richard Hawley, The Handsome Family, and the Dead Weather so I guess it’s not something we considered until we started to do our own headline tours. We have now found that doing our own shows have given us so much more confidence, which is harder to feel stepping out on the stage if no one has heard of you. The very first support show we did was for Bryan Ferry in front of 3000 people and it was the most scary, exhilarating show but it felt like a great achievement. This summer we are going to be supporting Rasputina and are really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can win over some new fans.
IC: How does playing and touring the states compare to Europe?
JD: I think in general the experience of touring is the same in whatever country. Touring presents great moments as well as challenges that are universal. Equipment breaks, you can get lost but also meet great people and play great shows wherever you are. We both like food, so I guess the main difference would be what you eat. In mainland Europe we only ate ham and cheese, in the States it is too many pancakes.
IC: How would you characterize your sound for people who may be yet to hear it for themselves?
JD: Through Low Light and Trees is autumnal, atmospheric, mossy, and damp, with hints of melancholy but also light.
IC: Do you notice any patterns in the kinds of people who are most drawn to your work?
JD: I have noticed that people who were around in the 60s and 70s are the ones who connect the most to what we are doing.
IC: You have an upcoming US tour with Rasputina, which seems like a perfect pairing for you. Were you previously fans of Melora and her cello rock?
JD: I think it is going to be really great. Her sound is so unique and she sounds like a really interesting person from what I have read (Izzy: I have spent some time with Melora and can certainly confirm that she is “A really interesting person,” in just about every sense of the phrase.). I think we are going to learn a lot from Rasputina and the tour experience in general – we are going to be driving and tour managing ourselves.
IC: On your latest release you seem to be a bit preoccupied with the weather and the seasons. Is there anything to that?
JD: Every one gets affected by the weather and the changing of the seasons. I love that first day of a season when you notice a different scent in the air.
IC: Anything else that you find to be terribly inspiring, musical or otherwise?
JD: Sitting on the bus, novels.