By Julianne Cassidy
Photo by Steve Double
Under a moonlit sky, down through the winding roads of Chichester, England, a mist seems to create figures in the distance. But wait, are those people? Spirits?
Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire are the Smoke Fairies. Like the nocturnal, mist that creeps along the path of their hometown of West Sussex, their music likewise is inspired by and reflects such mystical phantoms. “We are an intertwining of guitars, in a haunting, soulful way,” says Jessica.
Having met as classmates at age 11, Jessica and Katherine nurtured their voices early on through school concerts. “It’s always been music; we’ve always been pretty firm that that’s what we wanted to do,” says Jessica. And about eight years ago, this duet put their musical fate to the ultimate test, when they moved to New Orleans. “The scene that we found in New Orleans was way much more supportive than the London scene,” she says. “Everyone in New Orleans was just so encouraging towards our music and helping us to develop it.”
Since then, the Smoke Fairies have been back-and-forth between the UK and US, promoting their sound in numerous places for the first time. “Touring in the US is so different from the UK because there’s so much more space to cover,” says Jessica. However, “the audience interaction is pretty much the same. It depends on what kind of venue we’re playing, whether the people are more rowdy or more silent when listening, but everyone in the US has been really polite and they seem to be into it, so we’re really interested in playing out here.”
Having just finished their first US tour as openers for Laura Marling, it is hoped to only be the first of many. One of the stops included Johnny Brenda’s in Philly. “We unfortunately were just in and out really, but we got to go for a cheesesteak,” she says. “That was pretty good, and the big thing we got to see, but I think that was a good choice of things.” Maybe another visit will allow time for more sightseeing, as Jessica and Katherine are eager to visit again soon. “We’d love to do many more tours [in the US]…We’re building up our fan base, and hopefully we’ll be back this year.”
They also hope to return next year to the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX. Being their first visit, the Smoke Fairies opened this year at the “British Embassy”, a showcase of the British music industry, as well as a couple of other performances. “There is a lot of pressure to do a good SXSW show, but everyone in our band was so pleased to be there, that it would have been hard to play a show with a really bad vibe,” say Jessica and Katherine.
The Smoke Fairies are quickly on their way to proving that they have a lot to offer to new fans. In September, they recorded a single, “Gastown,” under Jack White’s label, Third Man Records. Jack White produced and played drums, while band mate, Jack Lawrence was featured on bass. “When we did our recording in Nashville, we did it using old analog tapes, which we’d never done before,” says Jessica. “It was really interesting.” A follow-up track, “River Song” was also recorded and released in December.
Likewise, while currently recording a new full length album, the Smoke Fairies have a compilation album titled “Ghosts”, featuring their British singles/ EPs for the US. There is also an additional card included for tracks readily available for iPod use. Whereas, in the UK, they offer a CD box containing all three British CD singles/EPs. Jessica says, “In the UK, crowds seem to like singles, ‘Frozen Heart’ and ‘Sunshine,’ whenever we play them.”
Drawing inspiration from traveling and “the landscapes and nature around them” the chilling, spooky aura of the Smoke Fairies is embedded in song and furthermore illustrated by black and white album artwork and promo material. “I don’t think it’s something we’ve consciously gone for,” says Jessica. “But we try and make the artwork reflect the songs in some ways and the songs generally, subconsciously, have quite a haunting sound to them.”
Unearthly in talent, Jessica and Katherine are pretty human, when it comes to breakfast foods, more specifically, an addiction to pancakes. “We’ve kind of unintentionally spiraled out of control with the pancake stories,” says Jessica. “It is our favorite breakfast… Pancake Pantry, that’s what started our obsession with pancakes, going there when we recorded in Nashville.”
Pancake-lovin’-blogs, as well as tour updates and listings can be found on the Smoke Fairies MySpace page (www.myspace.com/smokefairies). “MySpace was really important to us at the beginning [of our career], especially when it first came out,” says Jessica. “It was kind of revolutionary the way we could just record a track and put it up there, so we still really enjoy that and Facebook too.”
Through online connections and or live performances, the Smoke Fairies are looking to bridge the gap between their UK and US audiences. With a mismatch of 70s Rock, Country, and English-Folk influences, their style is mesmerizingly, deeply moody. Jessica says, “Hopefully we sound quite unique, but we’d like to kind of leave it open to go in different directions and not be specific to one genre.”
With bluesy, murky roots, the Smoke Fairies are creepily satisfying. Their undeniably potent vocals quench the sentiment of your deepest fears and the pangs of lost love. Intrigued? Become transfixed by the spell of the Smoke Fairies, as their infectious melodies will overwhelm your being and leave you with goosebumps.