Saint Etienne Biography
Last updated: 01/15/2008 11:00:00 AM
Saint Etienne are an English indie dance act, fronted by Sarah Cracknell (born 12 April 1967, Chelmsford, Essex). Former music journalists Bob Stanley (born 25 December 1964) and Pete Wiggs (born 15 May 1966) are the other regular members of the band. They are named after the famous French football team AS Saint-Étienne, European Cup runners-up in the 1970s.
Saint Etienne were one of the bands that helped define the indie dance genre in the early 1990s, fusing the production values of the dance-pop that emerged in the wake of the Second Summer of Love with the clever lyrics and self-aware production of indie music. A decade after the band's formation, The Times observed that Saint Etienne "deftly fused the grooviness of Swinging Sixties London with a post-acid house backbeat". During the 1990s the band also recorded two tracks - "7 Ways to Love" and "He Is Cola" - under the name "Cola Boy" with different singers; their explanation is that the tracks were "too cheesy for Saint Etienne. We'd have been finished overnight".
Their early recordings were packed with generic house music clichés, such as standard TR-909 drum patterns and Italo house piano riffs, but they soon found a more original sound notable by the use of found dialogue, mainly from classic '60s British realist cinema as featured on their albums Foxbase Alpha and So Tough. Some of these earlier recordings included skits by satirist Chris Morris. 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. They began to shift towards a more atmospheric type of electronica in 2000 with the release of Sound of Water, dividing their fanbase.
Their best-known songs are the cover of Neil Young's classic "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" (on which Moira Lambert provided vocals), "Nothing Can Stop Us" (which was Sarah Cracknell's first contribution as lead singer), "You're in a Bad Way", and the anthemic "He's on the Phone". The album Finisterre was released in 2002. A follow-up DVD by photographer and film maker Paul Kelly was released on 4 July 2005.
In November 2004, they released their first U.S. compilation of greatest hits, called Travel Edition 1990-2005.
13 June 2005 saw the release of the band's new album, entitled 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 came back to 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 new track, the Richard X-produced "Method of Modern Love". The album also contained as a third "new" track, the previously vinyl only "This is Tomorrow".
1993's non-album single "Who Do You Think You Are" is a cover of a song by Jigsaw. The song was also covered by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods and by Candlewick Green, a winning act on the UK talent show Opportunity Knocks. Saint Etienne recorded it as a duet with Debsey Wykes, former singer of Dolly Mixture.
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).
Also in 1993, 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 star 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 (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.
Rodway's co-producer Brian Higgins produced the band's following single, "Burnt Out Car," released in 1996.
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 Fall 2009, Saint Etienne will release Foxbase Beta, a remix of the Etienne classic Foxbase Alpha in collaboration with the deft Richard X
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, although 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.
The band has also stepped out from behind their instruments and microphone stands to produce films, including two documenting the landscape of the city of London: Finisterre (2002) inspired by the 1967 short film The London Nobody Knows, and What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (2005), which has a more specific focus on the dilapidation of the Lower Lea Valley. The band have produced a new film, This Is Tomorrow, in their new capacity as artists-in-residence at the newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall in London, telling the story of the Hall's first 50 years. This Is Tomorrow premiered June 29, 2007 as part of the RFH's opening season with the band performing the film's soundtrack live. All three films were directed by filmaker and long-time collaborator Paul Kelly who, over the years, has directed a number of the band's music videos and provided artwork for many of their releases.
"A Good Thing" is featured both in Pedro Almodóvar's award-winning 2006 Spanish film Volver and in the Grey's Anatomy episode titled "Tell Me Sweet Little Lies," the fourteenth episode of season 2 in 2006.
Thanks to eRuanga for submitting the biography.