Saint Etienne

By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2000

Can you tell me about the EP?

Pete: “It’s called ‘Places To Visit’ and it’s on Sub Pop. The last album, although it came out last year, was recorded like a year before, that pretty much. So it’s the first new stuff we’ve done for ages. It’s a bit more experimental than our last album, we’ve been sort of playing around. A lot of it was recorded at my house.”

Compared to your past releases, “Good Humour” sounded less electronic and more cohesive as an album. Did you set out to make it sound different?

Pete: “Yeah. We just wanted to do sort of a full-on pop album where every song could possibly be an A-side and it was the first time we’d really worked with a producer, as well. It was co-production.”

What was it like working with a producer?

Pete: “There were a few moments of tension, I’d say, but generally it was pretty good. Yeah, we had a few times where he just disappeared for like 5 hours after getting into a huff.”

What made you decide to use a producer?

Pete: “Just because we really wanted a particular sound. The songs were sort of .. the main influence was 70’s soul and 70’s singer/songwriter type stuff. And the instrumentation that we wanted … we’d done demos with synth and stuff where we’d use the same sort of sounds , like vibes and organs. But we really wanted the real instruments to be doing it this time. Because we had less experience doing that, we thought it would be good to get someone who really knew how to record those.”

You describe ‘Places to Visit’ as being more experimental; is that a direction you see the band going with the next album?

Pete: “We’ve started the next album already. We’re recording in Berlin and it’s kind of a hodge podge of elements. There will be quite a lot of live instruments, strings and drums and bass. But we’re bringing back more electronic stuff. It’s got a vaguely jazzy feel to it.”

What’s the reason for the switch in US labels?

Pete: “We’re still with Sub Pop at the moment, we were originally on Warner Bros. for quite a long time and then that sort of fell apart. The MCA thing was a one off, really, with ‘He’s On The Phone’. And then we signed with Sub Pop for the last album.”

How do you feel about the gap between the UK and US release dates of ‘Good Humor’?

Pete:“It wasn’t really intentional, it’s just one of those things. That’s why we did the extra disc with the first US batch, to make it a bit different.”

Did you do any songs from the upcoming album when you toured recently?

Pete: “Not this time around, the songs aren’t finished. We only really just started. We work in weird ways; that band who’s with us live hasn’t been with us in Berlin, so they haven’t heard the songs yet!”

Will live instruments play a big role in the new album?

Pete: “Yes, in Berlin we’ve been working with a band. But in Britain we’re going to be getting various members of our live band to play as well, and we’re going to get some string players. Putting millions of people on it in the end!”

I know Sarah had a solo album come out between Saint Etienne releases; what were you up to?

Pete:“We were running a label with EMI called Emidisc for a while. About a year. We also released a compilation, which involved some touring around Europe at that time. Just sort of various things, we seemed to be busy all the time.”

What was the Emidisc experience like?

Pete: “We were in the process of trying to sign lots of people, but we only signed two. A group called Kenickie and a group Denon. It was good, I really enjoyed it, but it was like working on the wrong side of the fence. I was meeting people and I felt like I’d suddenly become a suit! I was relieved we stopped doing it after a while.”

Have you done any remixes lately?

Pete: “We’ve done one recently for a group called Fugu. In the past, we’ve done stuff for groups like Pizzicoto Five.”

There’s been quite a few remixes of Saint Etienne songs; do you have any favorites?

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