Photo: Simon Holliday
As someone who works in hospitality, it’s considered gold-dust to get a Saturday off work. Rather than catch up on my ironing, I headed to St. George’s for an intimate set performed by the illustrious Kate Stapley, which, I can confirm is much better than doing your ironing. It was a blustery Saturday as Storm Gareth was in full swing however this didn’t stop Stapley from drawing in a sizeable crowd, with people in front of me at the ticket desk still asking if there were any spare on the door. I headed to The Listening Room, a space adjacent to the main hall, this was the first session as part of a new series which aims at getting to know the motivations behind certain songs along with a relaxed Q&A by the artist. Hosted by Harriet Robinson from BBC Introducing in the West, the entire set-up felt as though I was invited to a mates’ house. The only thing missing was a cuppa on arrival.
Stapley spoke of her debut album, Precious Cargo which is due out this Autumn. The album was played in its entirety which was an absolute treat to hear. “I once played it to a room in Stroud but no one was listening” she said, to which we all laughed. Technically this means we’re the first to hear it. ‘Laburnum’ was the opening track which oozed ‘Embryonic Journey’ vibes. Her captivating lyricism had me under her spell from the word go, the first line being ‘last night I realised you were insane’. A guttural opening track which would have easily been mistaken for a Kate Bush bootleg. In between songs Harriet prompted questions surrounding the inspiration, it was captivating to see how she would articulate her process.
Her songs were thematically rich yet comically delivered, ‘Working’ is a prime example of her wit and charm and also features the best line ever written in the English language; ‘I work for the devil dressed in M&S linen’. A handful of songs were then performed on her electric, offering a more woozy feel to her folk driven tunes. Storming through her setlist, on ‘Trembling’ Stapley added it was “the wildest I’ve ever gone with structure”. Packed with quick chord changes which run parallel to her vocal runs, this one had a dynamic feel to it which made my head spin (in a good way). Stand out track ‘Cycle Killer’ was “a song about gentrification in a way. Think Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell meets Parklife by Blur”. I couldn’t help myself but laugh along to the tongue in cheek lyrics; it had a drowsy 70’s folk feel to it yet the premise couldn’t be further away from this. Stapley told the story of a ‘middle aged, middle class, lycra clad smart ass’ who ran over a pigeon. A charmingly witty number which had everyone buckle with laughter.
After a brief break in which I checked the Six Nations live updates, Stapley then asked the crowd if there were any songs in particular from Centella which they would like to hear. It’s evident that she has a loyal fanbase as several people all at once shouted out different song titles. ‘Potted History of Mum’ and ‘These Planets’ ended off the set, followed by a Q&A which featured some questions regarding her favourite albums along with her favourite vegetable.
Kate Stapley’s new album is an arsenal of charmingly rich tunes and it was a total treat to hear them performed exclusive to an intimate crowd.