Saint Agnes: 'There’s quite a lot of cowboy influence in what we do'
30 May 2019
UK garage rock band Saint Agnes are a self-proclaimed band of “shy” surfers from East London, but that isn’t what you’d guess if you saw them on stage. Front woman Kitty Austen and guitarist and vocalist Jon Tufnell sat down with Red Stripe Presents: This Feeling TV presenter Laura Whitmore to talk about being outsiders, the influence Marty McFly and Back To the Future left on Jon’s urge to be inappropriate, and why they record all of their singles live.
But first, Laura wanted to know if the name Saint Agnes derived from the actual saint. Do ‘innocence’ and ‘purity’ describe the band well?
Jon quickly put it right: “Probably not, no. In the band, we’re all surfers, and down in the West Country there’s a little town called St Agnes. The beach there is known as the ‘bad lands’ as there’s quite a hostile atmosphere from the local service about people coming in and surfing on their beach.”
John further explains: “With our music, there’s quite a lot of cowboy influence in what we do. The whole idea of the bad lands and the outside and people being hostile to the outsider – it’s what we are doing musically.”
On the subject of inspiration, Jon had a particularly odd influence that led him into music: none other that Marty McFly from Back to the Future, specifically in a scene where he plays guitar on stage.
Jon says: “It’s been an influence on my whole life, that film. It made a big impact. I’ll tear up if I talk too much about it! It was the fact that they were backstage, and you could see them… doing something that was totally inappropriate for the situation and kicking over the amp. I thought, ‘that is what I want to do’. I want to be inappropriate.”
Moving onto the band itself, when asked who influenced her, Kitty reinforced that the reason for them being together as a band isn’t because she’s been influenced, but because they wanted a way to express themselves and wanted to have a group of people that were all like them.
She says: “I think we’re quite similar, the four of us, in that we’re quite shy people. We’ve formed a band because we want to have a gang of people that are like us. I think that’s why we like performing live so much, as well. Because we’re quite shy, it’s an opportunity to express ourselves in a way that we’re not very good at doing in this situation.”
Jon adds: “If you’re totally well adjusted – you don’t form a band. You form a band to create a gang that is going to be your travelling family circus around the country. That’s who we are.”
Onto the new album, Welcome To Silvertown, which was released on 3rd of May and met with huge excitement and anticipation from the music world. A real place in East London – the former industrial hub lies in Newham and is often described as a ‘ghost town’ – and where the band are all from, Jon explains what the album is all about.
He says: “We wanted to tell these real human narratives, taking mundane ideas about these people that you meet around Silvertown, and turning them into heroes and villains. A bus driver can become larger than life, or the person you talk to in the shop – that little altercation you have can become life or death stand-off. [We wanted to] escape the reality to shine a light on it, and to create an alternative Silvertown that exists alongside of it.”
That’s not the only special thing about the album, though. The band strive to record a majority of their songs live to keep things exciting and unpredictable.
Jon explains: “It’s an old-fashioned way of doing things, going into the studio and just accepting that what you record that day is what you’re going to release.”
Kitty adds: “It’s more exciting as a musician than to go into a studio and have a thousand options of a guitar sound or a thousand vocal takes. It’s much more exciting to us, going to do what we do on stage and then live with it. To me, that is much more exciting.”
Jon finishes: “You reign yourself in to go, ‘what is it about those original 50’s and 60’s recordings that make it so magical?’ You’re hearing some people going, ‘you’ve got one hour to make a record’, and you just had to go and do it. There’s something about that performance. That’s why live gigs are so exciting. Yeah, it’s the same song, but its that version of the song on that day, with those mistakes, those imperfections, that decision to play a bit faster… whatever it’s going to be. It’s much more exciting.”
Saint Agnes are currently on tour across the UK, at festivals and venues such as Camden Rocks, Isle of Wight, Liverpool Arts Club and Record Junkee in Sheffield. Tickets are available from wearesaintagnes.com. See tour dates below.
2nd June - Camden Rocks festival, UK 8th June - Festival Papillons de Nuit, France 9th June - Supersonic, Paris 14th June - Glass House, Ashford 15th June - Isle Of Wight Festival
6th July - Rock For People, CZ 20th July - Welcome To The Village Fest, Netherlands 25th July - Truck festival, UK 26th July - Stand Calling festival, UK 27th July - Trebur Open Air festival, DE 28th July - Y Not festival, UK
17th August - Hardwick Live, UK 23rd August - Clanx festival, Switzerland 24th August - Musig i de Alstadt, Switzerland 30th August - Bingley Festival, UK
11th September - Beta Club, Copenhagen, Denmark 12th September - Revolver, Oslo, Norway 13th September - Bar Brooklyn, Stockholm, Sweden
5th October - Dials Festival, UK 12th October - Twisterella Festival, UK
16th October - Jimmy's, Manchester 17th October - Broadcast, Glasgow 18th October - Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh 19th October - Arts Club, Liverpool 20th October - SWN Fest, Cardiff 24th October - Dingwalls, Camden 25th October - Cookie, Leicester 26th October - Record Junkee, Sheffield.