An unusual celebration began when one of the sisters in the Staves excused herself to the restroom last week at a coffee shop on Lake Street in south Minneapolis.
“Congratulations, Jess, you said ‘restroom,’ ” Emily Staveley-Taylor cheekily cheered. “Now, go do your ‘resting.’ ”
A harmonious indie-folk trio from England that already had a good following in the Twin Cities, the Staves also now have homes here. All three sisters — Camilla, Jessica and Emily (ages 26-32) — moved to Minneapolis from the London area over the summer.
They’re still learning the lingo, but they knew they would like it in Minnesota thanks to their close affiliation over the past two years with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame, who produced their latest album.
“We just needed more of a city than Eau Claire,” Jessica said, referring to Vernon’s hometown.
Acclaimed for their ornate sibling harmonies and evocative songwriting, the Staves will play their first concert as a hometown act Tuesday at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, kicking off a Midwest jaunt that includes dates in Madison, Milwaukee, La Crosse and, yep, Eau Claire.
These will be their last local shows for months, since they have cross-country tour dates booked well into next year. Although, as Emily half-joked, “We might pop in and play brunch at Icehouse one day,” underlining the idea that they’re ready to act like a local band.
The Staves’ ambitious tour is one reason why moving to Minnesota made sense from a career standpoint. They were already working with a locally based drummer, Dave Power, and other Twin Cities crew members they met through Vernon.
“We’re the kind of act that mostly gains fans room-by-room,” Jessica explained, “and that’s hard to do in America if you’re having to fly back and forth from London. It’s such a big country. We can approach it more strategically from here.”
But a lot more went into their decision to relocate besides career logistics, the sisters quickly added.
“We felt an overwhelming amount of support from people here, and just a warmness that you don’t really get everywhere else,” Jessica said, pointing to 2015’s inaugural Eaux Claires Music Festival as a turning point. “We fell in love with the people.”
Among those people are the musicians in both the Twin Cities and Eau Claires scenes. “Everyone collaborates with everyone else,” Emily said, “and everyone seems to be in it for the love of music more than anything else, which is different from New York or Los Angeles.”
Also, Camilla added, “I think we were all ready for a shake-up personally.”
Moving 4,000 miles from home (or: 6,400 kilometers) certainly qualifies as a shake-up.
Tom Jones to Justin Vernon
The Staveley-Taylor siblings grew up 17 miles north of London in the commuter-train town of Watford. They played their first shows there in local pubs and open-mic nights, teenage girls often entertaining middle-aged businessmen. From early on, it was clear they harmonized well together, though they downplay the idea it’s purely a sibling connection.
“There’s obviously a familiarity that helps,” Emily said, “but most of the groups whose harmonies we love and learned from aren’t related, like Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles or Crosby, Stills & Nash.”
The trio continued performing around England on weekends and over summers as first Emily and then Jessica went off to universities. “It came time for me to decide if I was going to school or not,” recalled Camilla, “and that sort of forced us to decide” to become full-time musicians.
The decision was made easier when they were soon signed up by the U.K. branch of Atlantic Records and landed legendary producer Glyn Johns and his son, Ethan, to co-helm their first album, 2012’s “Dead & Born & Grown.” They also landed an unlikely opening gig around that time touring with Tom Jones after also singing backup on his rootsy album “Praise & Blame.” (“He was really sweet to us,” they said.)
Obviously more in their wheelhouse than Jones, Justin Vernon was reportedly a fan of their first EP and recruited them to open part of his U.S. tour. Toward the end of the tour, he urged the trio to come try his studio, April Base, outside Eau Claire.
“We got there, and [songs] just kept coming out of us,” Emily recalled. “It wasn’t the plan, but pretty soon we were like, ‘Well, I guess we’re making an album.’ ”
The resulting LP for Nonesuch Records, “If I Was,” added ornate and sometimes edgy sonic layers to the trio’s sound without sacrificing their intimate folk vibe. It earned strong support from NPR Music affiliates such as 89.3 the Current and led to opening for Florence + the Machine and playing widespread festival dates over the past year.
Between their busy tour schedule and transatlantic relocation, the Staves haven’t had much time to work toward a new album yet, although they did recently release a three-song EP, “Sleeping in a Car.” The EP’s title track reflects the disorientation and homesickness of life on the road (“I’ll call it on the phone / Tell you I’m alright / But I’m not, I’m alone”).
Except for their parents, though — “who are suddenly childless,” Emily pointed out — the siblings say they aren’t missing England too terribly.
“It’s kind of dark times over there right now,” Jessica said, referring to the upheaval around the nation’s recent Brexit vote to leave the European Union. But their relocation was more personal than political, she added.
“We had a real genuine desire to come here and really experience living somewhere else. I don’t know if it’ll be for good, but as long as we’re not married and don’t have kids, we’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.”