Music: Bluegrass trio from deepest Hertfordshire

The Staves
The Staves
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Listen to the harmonies on The Staves’ debut album Dead & Born & Grown and a clear image springs to mind.

Surely these folky-sounding sisters must hail from the American Appalachian mountains, raised on a diet of bluegrass and hoedowns?

But sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla Staveley-Taylor are actually from Hertfordshire. Watford to be precise, not Alabama or Mississippi.

And to judge them solely on the strength of their harmonies would be to miss a much wider picture. They’re used to a few misconceptions, though.

“People see our double-barrelled surname and write things like ‘These privately educated sisters,” says the youngest Stave, 23-year-old Camilla.

“Or they make allusions to us growing up with loaded parents or being really posh. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not true. I think, ‘Yeah, nice research, mate’.”

Eldest sister Emily, 30, adds: “There’s a weird inverse snobbery about coming from the school of hard knocks.”

Jessica, 26, state school-educated like her sisters, says: “And we get called ‘prim and proper’ because our harmonies are sweet-sounding. That’s not really the case.” She’s right – it isn’t.

Shrinking violets they’re not, as becomes apparent when spending time with them. They enjoy a drink (whisky particularly, even if they’re all still nursing hangovers from attending the South By South West festival in Texas the previous week), swear like drunken sailors and excel in sarcasm. All in all, they’re brilliant company.

Their language has already landed them in a little hot water with some fans, however. Their song Pay Us No Mind contains the f-word and in context – a bitter shrugging off of a former lover with a hugely sarcastic ‘what would I know, I’m only a woman’ overtone – it makes complete sense.

But with the song sounding as pretty as it does, The Staves were asked after a show in the US why they felt the need to “drop the f-bomb”.

Emily says: “We have fans who listen to the lyrics, as I always do when I’m listening to music. And I think we take a lot and time and care over what we want to say in songs. On the other hand, I think people do mistake the prettiness for a lack of sentiment, and subsequently don’t hear what we’re singing about.

“A few people said, ‘We can’t believe you’d say that word’, and that it really jarred, but if they’d actually listened they’d hear far worse, nastier things being said, just without swearing. People take what they want from a song, and if someone thinks it’s just pretty, then fair enough.

“They’re obviously shallow, but fair enough,” she ends, half joking, before all three sisters burst into laughter.