After a critically acclaimed debut album Smoke Fairies seemed on the fast track to success but a more a muted response to their second record Blood Speaks sparked a crisis of confidence.
It promoted Jessica Davies to turn to band mate Katherine Blamire, and pose the difficult question – was it time for them to call it a day?
“It was trying to find a reason to carry on when after you put so much into an album, and I was left feeling quite underrated I guess the word might be, and it didn’t really matter if you put another one out,” recalls Jessica. “You could write the best song, and it would never get heard, so we were just wondering what the point was.
“We’ve been doing it since we were 12 so it was trying to work out if it was something we still wanted to do and it really is as we haven’t stopped. It’s kind of unconventional to have been in a band this long, and it is fighting every normal thing everyone else is doing in life so you have to reassess.”
Luckily their shared history meant disaster was averted, and now they are preparing for a headline gig at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge on Sunday 26 April to promote their self-titled third album.
“The idea of splitting up only lasted for a few days and then I thought how the hell would I spend my time as it is everything that defines me. All our lives are worked around being in a band, and I don’t think life would be that much fun if I didn’t write music.
“There was a lot of soul searching and turmoil going on which naturally led to writing songs which is what Catherine and I do when we are a bit uneasy about something. These songs just kept coming out, and we needed to record them.”
Armed with those songs the duo decided to decamp away from the music industry to a mate’s studio deep in the heart of the Kent countryside to work with producer Kristopher Harris.
“We’d done bits and bobs down there like a Neil Young cover version for Mojo magazine, but we needed a place we could go to be among friends without the pressure of anyone coming down and asking what we were doing.
“It’s a weird place with different businesses where people are carving marble, there’s a tattoo studio and guys fixing up bubble cars, so there were loads of bubble car enthusiasts coming down and Catherine met one. We were like ‘where she’s gone’ after half an hour she came back saying I’ve just been on a really scary ride in a bubble car, so it was a good place to unwind and not feel the stresses of recording.”
The result was an album a world away from their more folky debut Through Low Light and Trees as they shifted from a focus on their harmonies to finding their own voices where they talk to each other in the songs.
“We’re proud we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone and our lyrics are way more personal as we were reaffirming our partnership as a band so it is kind of therapy in a way.
“There’s always this nerve wracking time when you release something slightly different. Our first album was acoustic and earthy and on this album we were trying new things with electronics and synths. You think are the fans going to like it, but we are really lucky that they have really eclectic tastes.”
Earlier in their career they were the first UK act to release a single, Gastown, on Jack White’s Third Man Record, and they caught up with the White Stripes workaholic for a very special gig.
“In February we went to LA and Jack was playing as part of a Bob Dylan tribute where they were playing his songs, and at the end Dylan came out to give the best speech I have ever heard,” recalls Jessica. “Hearing him talk about his career it made me admire him even more as he definitely has never played the game.”
Smoke Fairies play Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Sunday 26 April and are supporting Public Service Broadcasting on their UK tour.