Not Real is the much-anticipated second album by Stealing Sheep, written, recorded and produced by band members Becky Hawley, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer at their studio in Liverpool, and due for release 13th April on Heavenly Recordings. The unifying theme of the new album is the interplay of fact and fiction; the edge of dreams and limits of reality. These visions are grounded by bright melodies and insistent beats and unified by vocal harmonies; sometimes metronomic and chant-like, sometimes choral and pop.
Stealing Sheep’s acclaimed 2012 debut, ‘Into the Diamond Sun’, morphed their individual styles to create a ‘medieval-kraut-folk’ inspired sound. They were described as an unanticipated ‘pagan pop revival’ and since its release have toured as guests of Postal Service and Alt-J, opened for St.Vincent in Paris, performed the songs of David Lynch at the Barbican and collaborated with the Radiophonic Workshop on an original soundtrack to the cult 70’s science fiction film ‘La Planete Sauvage’.
For this second album they have concentrated on developing the sonic aesthetic of their music. “We were more focused about what we are trying to do. Everything has a reason for being there.” They’ve experimented with tuned percussion, programmed beats, trigger samples and worked with effected synths, utilising the guitar and lap steel more sparingly and introducing more processed sounds. They’ve drawn inspiration from 50’s exotica, electronic music and 80’s pop and been influenced by the likes of Grace Jones, Maya Deren, Eden Ahbez, Delia Derbyshire, Moondog and John Carpenter.
Having learned new skills in the studio over the last few years, the band self-produced the album. They used the studio not only as a writing tool but also as an instrument; experimenting with post-production and varying instrumentation and layered textures. “We started off in pre-production doing all the demos ourselves” say’s Becky “the demos captured an atmosphere that we wanted to carry forward to the album. The result was a hypbrid of casual takes and more considered recordings.”
The visual representation is highly important to the band, all of whom have art backgrounds. “We like to be involved in all the aspects of the presentation because it’s symbiotic to the music.” The colourful and organic album cover, a collaboration between photographer Charlotte Rutherford and collage artist Louise Mason, shows their confident image for this record: as they tread the lines of surreal pop. Follow them on a hypnagogic journey as they sing: “listen to yourself and look within”.