Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer” blasts from the Sinclair’s pulsing speakers—a noticable climb in volume from the shuffling of Jenny Lewis songs that were playing before. Out walk The Staves, the sister trio Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor from Watford, England. The Boston show was the last of their U.S. stops on their North American tour that started in mid-February. They have been touring with singer and harpist Mikaela Davis, who gave a mystifying opening set—prepping the crowd for clear notes and twinkling music.
The Staves’s most recent album “If I Was”, which was produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, came out two years ago in February 2015. Since then, The Staves have toured with Bon Iver and Florence & The Machine, and appeared at Glastonbury. Last fall, they collaborated with over 80 artists in a two-day music event in Berlin on October 1 and 2. Before the shows, all of the artists spent a week together in Berlin, rehearsing and working at Funkhaus studios. Beautiful, enchanting work came out of these collaborations, like a stripped down version of Bon Iver’s “Flume” and the discovery of a corridor with “magical acoustics” which set the stage for a recording of “Cloudbusting”.
Vernon’s production instincts have led the group into an interesting combination of singer-songwriter, experimental music. The harmonies between the Staveley-Taylor sisters can hardly be rivaled, but they don’t shy away from adding in new-age technological sounds and jumps to make the music more exploratory. At the Sinclair, the beginning of the instrumental “Steady” was remade with a synthesizer. No doubt, influence from Vernon has encouraged the sisters to step outside the comfort zone of folk-rock. Their most recent releases, “Tired as Fuck” and “Train Tracks” have stronger basslines and utilize more vocal looping than pure harmony. That being said, at a more intimate show like the Sinclair, going back to basics is their strong suit. “Make It Holy” with Davis on the harp, and acoustic versions of “Don’t Let Me Down,” “Damn It All,” “Black & White,” and “Mexico” stole the show.
The sisters have a staggering hold over the audience they sing to, entrancing each member into ethereal layers of sound. Singing is what they do, and they do it well. Every now and then , one would try to engage the audience in banter—with mixed results. Camilla made fun of Jessica for chattering on about Gilmore Girls’s Rory Gilmore, but Emily had the winning line of the night: “The ‘Tired As Fuck’ eyemasks make me feel slightly better about not having ‘Blood I Bled’ tampons,” she joked. “Damn the suits!” quipped Camilla in response.
This trio is only getting stronger with time and access to producers like Vernon. Their incredible voices allow for a lot of experimentation in the future, though some fans might protest the loss of a folky revival sound. I for one, am excited to see where they go.