Saint Etienne are an English band from Greater London, formed in 1990. The band consists of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They became associated with the UK's indie dance scene in the 1990s, beginning with the release of their debut album Foxbase Alpha in 1991. Their work has been described as uniting 1990s club culture with 1960s pop and other disparate influences.[1][2] The name of the band comes from the French football club of AS Saint-Étienne.[3]

Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne performing at Fanclub festival in Sweden, 1998
Saint Etienne performing at Fanclub festival in Sweden, 1998
Background information
OriginCroydon, Greater London, England
Years active1990–present

History edit

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were childhood friends and former music journalists, who once had a fanzine called Caff which had developed into a record label by 1989.[4][5] They originally planned that Saint Etienne would use a variety of different lead singers, and their 1991 debut album, Foxbase Alpha – influenced by sources such as club culture, 1960s pop,[6] and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's Dazzle Ships[7] – features several vocalists, including Moira Lambert and Donna Savage. However, after working with Sarah Cracknell on "Nothing Can Stop Us", they decided to make her the permanent vocalist, and Cracknell has written or co-written many of the band's songs.[3]

Saint Etienne were associated with the "indie dance" genre in the early 1990s.[3] Their typical approach was to combine sonic elements (such as samples and digitally synthesized sounds) of the dance-pop that emerged in the wake of the so-called Second Summer of Love with an emphasis on songwriting involving romantic and introspective themes more commonly associated with traditional British pop and rock music. Early work demonstrated the influence of 1960s soul, 1970s dub and rock as well as 1980s dance music, giving them a broad palette of sounds and a reputation for eclecticism. Years later, The Times wrote that they "deftly fused the grooviness of Swinging Sixties London with a post-acid house backbeat".[8] Their first two albums, Foxbase Alpha and So Tough, feature sounds chiefly associated with house music, such as standard TR-909 drum patterns and Italo house piano riffs mixed with original sounds, notable by the use of found dialogue, sampled from 1960s British realist cinema.[9]

In 1991, the band also released two singles, "7 Ways to Love" and "He Is Cola", under the name Cola Boy with different singers (one of them being future radio personality Janey Lee Grace, who recorded and appeared in the video for the former); their explanation for publishing under a pen name is that the tracks were "too cheesy for Saint Etienne. We'd have been finished overnight".[10][11] The band would later produce an updated electro-house version of "7 Ways to Love" for Japanese singer Nokko for her 1993 album "I Will Catch U" (also known as "Call Me Nightlife" for the United States, Canada and Europe), in which she added lyrics to the song in both Japanese and English.[12]

During the early 1990s the group enjoyed extensive coverage in UK music weekly papers NME and Melody Maker and gained a reputation as purveyors of "pure pop" in the period immediately prior to the Brit-Pop explosion. So Tough reached No. 7 in the UK Albums Chart. Their most popular singles of this period were "You're in a Bad Way" and "Join Our Club" (which reached No. 12 and No. 21 in the UK Singles Chart).[13]

Tiger Bay (1994) represented a change of direction: the entire album was inspired by folk music, combined with modern electronica.[3] Although the album reached No. 8 in the UK Albums Chart, the singles performed disappointingly, with "Pale Movie", "Like a Motorway" and "Hug My Soul" reaching No. 28, No. 47 and No. 32 in the UK Singles Chart. In a 2009 interview, Bob Stanley said that in retrospect the band "got ahead of ourselves a bit" by releasing such an uncommercial album, which "definitely could have done with a couple more obvious songs".[14]

In 1995, they released their most successful single, "He's on the Phone", a reworking of Étienne Daho's "Week-end à Rome" that they had created for a collaborative EP with Daho entitled Reserection. It reached No. 11 on the UK chart.

Stanley has said that with hindsight it was "a bit stupid" that the band "didn't release another single for two and a half years".[14] Instead, they released a compilation album, Too Young to Die (1996),[3] contributed a song to the Gary Numan tribute album Random the following year, and then returned in 1998 with Good Humor, which de-emphasized the contemporary dance music influence on their previous work, replacing it with a more traditional sound. Also in 1998 they covered "La, la, la" on A Song for Eurotrash, a compilation of re-imagined past hits from the Eurovision Song Contest.[15] (The song can be found on Fairfax High.)

In 2000, they shifted toward a more atmospheric type of electronica with the release of Sound of Water.[16]

Finisterre was released in 2002. A follow-up DVD by photographer and film maker Paul Kelly was released in 4 July 2005 (2005-07-04). In November 2004, they released their first US compilation of greatest hits, called Travel Edition 1990-2005. 13 June 2005 saw the release of the band's album Tales from Turnpike House. It was preceded by a single for the track "Side Streets". A second single, "A Good Thing", was released in the United Kingdom on 31 October 2005. Early editions of the album were accompanied by a six-track sampler CD for a planned album of children's songs entitled Up the Wooden Hills.

After years floating around various record labels, the band returned to its original label Heavenly for their 2009 career retrospective, London Conversations: The Best of Saint Etienne. The album contained two singles, a reworked "Burnt Out Car" and a new track, the Richard X-produced "Method of Modern Love". The album also contained as a third "new" track, a remix by Richard X of the previously vinyl-only "This is Tomorrow".

In May 2012, following the January release of the single "Tonight", the band released their eighth studio album, Words and Music by Saint Etienne.[17] Saint Etienne's ninth studio album, Home Counties, was released on 2 June 2017.[18]

Their tenth album, I've Been Trying to Tell You, was released on 10 September 2021.[19] According to Pete Wiggs, the album was a lockdown project for the trio during the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to which they were working on a different set of tracks. In September 2021, he confirmed the group planned to revisit the material for a possible 2022 release.[20]

Collaborations edit

1993's non-album single "Who Do You Think You Are" is a cover of a song by Candlewick Green. Saint Etienne recorded it as a duet with Debsey Wykes, former singer of Dolly Mixture. The song was also remixed by Aphex Twin.

In 1993, the band collaborated with Kylie Minogue for two songs: a cover of "Nothing Can Stop Us" (intended at the time to be her first single release for her new label) and "When Are You Coming Home" (unreleased).

The band also wrote and produced the 1993 single "One Goodbye in Ten" for Shara Nelson. The same year, the Xmas 93 EP featured Tim Burgess from The Charlatans on the lead track "I Was Born on Christmas Day".

In 1995, the band co-recorded the Reserection EP with French pop singer Étienne Daho; later, they also worked on his album Eden and single "Le Premier Jour".

For the band's first greatest hits compilation, Too Young to Die – The Singles (1995), Eurodance producer Steve Rodway reworked the track "Accident" from the Reserection EP, producing the renamed single "He's on the Phone." The single, co-credited to Daho, gained the singer additional exposure to English-speaking audiences.

In 2000, the band crossed genres by working with trance producer and DJ Paul van Dyk, resulting in the single "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)", with vocals by Cracknell.

The 2005 album Tales from Turnpike House features David Essex as a guest vocalist. Several tracks on the album were co-written and co-produced by Brian Higgins' songwriting production team, Xenomania.

Sarah Cracknell has collaborated with Marc Almond on his single "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" for his album Stardom Road.

In addition to the Richard X collaboration on the "This is Tomorrow"/"Method of Modern Love" single, 2009 also saw the limited release of Foxbase Beta, the producer's reworking of the band's debut album Foxbase Alpha.[21]

Home Counties, released in June 2017, features collaborations with London band Kero Kero Bonito.

Film and television work edit

The 1998 album The Misadventures of Saint Etienne is the soundtrack to the independent film The Misadventures of Margaret, starring Parker Posey. After the soundtrack was completed, the film's producers opted to replace it with a more "conventional" soundtrack, but a number of tracks can still be heard in the background of the film's final version, and Saint Etienne received top "original music" credit on the film. The band also recorded a duet by Cracknell and Posey titled "Secret Love" for the soundtrack, but due to legal entanglements it has never been released.[citation needed]

The band recorded the theme song and incidental music for Maryoku Yummy, a 2010 children's television show that aired on Tiny Pop and The Hub.

The band has also been involved directly in film production, notably collaborating with filmmaker Paul Kelly on several short films documenting the landscape and history of London. The first of these was Finisterre (2002), set to songs from the album of the same name, inspired by the 1967 film The London Nobody Knows and Patrick Keiller's 1994 film London.[22] A series of three-minute films entitled "Today's Special" (2004) documented "London's disappearing cafés",[22] while What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (2005) looked at the landscape of the Lower Lea Valley, which was about to be transformed by the 2012 London Olympics. The band then revisited the area in 2012 for a short entitled Seven Summers.

In 2007, the band produced This Is Tomorrow in their capacity as artists-in-residence at the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall, telling the story of the Hall's first 50 years. This Is Tomorrow premiered on 29 June 2007 as part of the Hall's opening season with the band performing the film soundtrack live. Most recently, in 2014, Saint Etienne and Kelly collaborated on How We Used To Live, a view of London from 1945 to 1980, making extensive use of archive film.

The band's most recent film is I've Been Trying to Tell You (2021), directed by Alasdair McLellan and set to the music of the album of the same name. Unlike their previous films, it was filmed all around England; its premise was memories of teenage years and the late 1990s.[23]

Songs in other films and television edit

"Like a Motorway" appears on the soundtrack of the 1994 film Speed, although the single is never heard in the actual film itself.[24]

Their song "Hobart Paving", with slightly altered lyrics (replacing the title lyric with the line "Hold on princess...") and an altered title ("Catch Me"), was covered for the soundtrack of the 1997 film Bandits, and was an integral part of the soundtrack album (one of two promotional videos released for the soundtrack was for the song), which became the best-selling soundtrack album to a European film soon after release. Actor/musician Jasmin Tabatabai still performs that version in concert.[citation needed]

"We're in the City" from the Places to Visit EP is featured in Jamie Babbit's 1999 film But I'm a Cheerleader. Also in 1999, "Wood Cabin" from the Good Humor album appeared in "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano", the first season finale of The Sopranos.[25]

"A Good Thing", co-written by Cracknell, Mark Waterfield and Lawrence Oakley, is featured in Pedro Almodóvar's 2006 film Volver and in the Grey's Anatomy season 2 episode "Tell Me Sweet Little Lies".

Awards and nominations edit

Award Year Nominee(s) Category Result Ref.
Mercury Prize 1992 Foxbase Alpha Album of the Year Nominated [26]
Popjustice £20 Music Prize 2009 "Method of Modern Love" Best British Pop Single Nominated [27]
2012 "Tonight" Nominated

Discography edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Saint Etienne - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  2. ^ "A Pint in the Afternoon with St. Etienne (Part One)". Chart Attack. Interviewed by Scott Wilyman. 5 July 1999. Archived from the original on 8 September 1999.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e Larkin, Colin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1053. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. ^ "'The 90s seem like yesterday': Saint Etienne on 30 years as pop auteurs". The Guardian. 5 September 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Saint Etienne". Pitchfork. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  6. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Foxbase Alpha – Saint Etienne". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  7. ^ Ware, Gareth (4 March 2013). "OMD: Of All The Thing We've Made: 'Dazzle Ships' At 30". DIY. Archived from the original on 26 January 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ The Times Play, 12 October 2002
  9. ^ "Saint Etienne: So Tough / Sound of Water". Pitchfork. 17 September 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "[ETIENNE HEAVEN] Saint Etienne songs: 7 Ways To Love". 29 June 2002. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  12. ^ "Nokko - Call Me Nightlife (CD, Album)". discogs. 10 October 1993. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  13. ^ British Hit Singles and Albums. Guinness. 1 January 2005. ISBN 9781904994008.
  14. ^ a b Plagenhoef, Scott (5 February 2009). "Interviews: Saint Etienne". Pitchfork.
  15. ^ Saint Etienne at IMDb  
  16. ^ Lechner, Ernesto (21 July 2000). "*** 1/2 Saint Etienne, "Sound of Water," Sub Pop". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Saint Etienne reveal new album tracklisting". NME. 21 February 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  18. ^ Brandle, Lars (23 March 2017). "Saint Etienne Returns with 'Home Counties'". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Saint Etienne announce 10th album 'I've Been Trying To Tell You'". om. 27 July 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  20. ^ "Saint Etienne tease 2021 Christmas single, new album for 2022". Retro Pop. 10 September 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  21. ^ Richard X (3 August 2009). "Interview With Richard X". HitQuarters. Interviewed by Barry Wheels. Retrieved 3 August 2020.
  22. ^ a b A London Trilogy: The Films of Saint Etienne, 2003–2007 (DVD booklet). British Film Institute.
  23. ^ I've Been Trying to Tell You (Blu-ray bonus features). British Film Institute.
  24. ^ "Like a Motorway - Saint Etienne | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  25. ^ Aurthur, Kate (15 June 2023). "BFFs Natasha Lyonne and Melanie Lynskey Reunite to Discuss the '90s, 'Biggest Beefs' With the World and Queer Rights". Variety. Retrieved 21 June 2023.
  26. ^ "Mercury Music Prize : Short Listed Albums - photographic image" (JPG). Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  27. ^ "The Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize". Retrieved 10 September 2021.

External links edit