Seven Sisters, produced with assistance from the English Folk Dance and Song Society creative bursary scheme, fuses folk backdrops with unique arrangements using everything from fiddle to prepared piano and sub-bass accordion.
They play the Tuppenny Barn at Southbourne on February 17 (www.tuppennybarn.co.uk) and then Ropetackle in Shoreham on February 21 (www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk), the latter a date in the town in which he is born for vocalist Cole Stacey – though he was quick to add that the family weren’t there long.
Essentially, the duo – Cole plus multi-instrumentalist Joseph O’Keefe – are Devon boys now living in London.
“We met through our dads really,” Cole says. “My dad ran a music shop, and Joe’s dad was in the ceilidh scene. He went into dad’s shop and they got chatting, and we ended up playing together as kids. We were about 13 or 14. We played together in blues bands and covers bands, and it was great playing together.
“Joe went to university and I went travelling, but we kept in touch and we played the odd gigs at Christmas. We then came together about six years ago. We did a couple of shows. I had a few shows where Joe accompanied me, and it just seemed to click – probably because we are so different, different people with different influences. We have both got fairly open minds, and we both bring something different to the table.
“We write everything together, and we write the melodies together and the chord structures, but I do focus a little bit more on the words and Joe is a wonderful musician. He has the ability to find melodies that are contemporary and work and which fit my voice. He knows my voice maybe better than I do in some respects. He has just got this knack of finding melodies that work for us, and we have great fun setting up lots of percussion and instruments in old barns in Devon and in old properties in London.
“Because we grew up together, there is an element that we understand each other – and because we have spent so much time together over the past five or six years. We have been working so closely together that we spend more time with each other than we do with our partners. It’s hilarious. We are like a married couple, but having the relationship helps with the writing. There is an honesty about the songs that we write. We are not just throwing them together. There is the imprint of us on our songs.”
The latest album uses traditional instruments and tunes in reimagined ways. Seven Sisters is a melting pot exploring traditional music from England and Scotland, from Northumbrian jigs to Scottish ballads through tunes and words spanning three centuries.
They recorded in the National Trust’s Sutton House in Hackney (a 16th-century merchant’s house and one of the oldest buildings in London’s East End) with vocals recorded in an empty Devonshire home
“We were wanting to explore the contrasting themes of country and city from a personal point of view, but also looking at the traditional music of England and Scotland. Within traditional music, it seems like there is a distance between the country and the city. It seems to be a big divide. But I think that can be positive. We focus on the contrasts, and it is great to see 300-year-old songs that are still relevant today and that people can connect with.”