Saint Etienne (band)

Saint Etienne are an English band from London, formed in 1990. The band consists of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They became associated with the UK's indie dance scene in the 1990s, beginning with the release of their debut album Foxbase Alpha in 1991. Their work has been described as uniting 1990s club culture with 1960s pop and other disparate influences.[1][2] The name of the band come from the French football club of AS Saint-Étienne.[3]

Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne performing at Fanclub festival in Sweden, 1998
Background information
OriginCroydon, London, England
Years active1990–present


Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were childhood friends and former music journalists.[4] They originally planned that Saint Etienne would use a variety of different lead singers, and their 1991 debut album, Foxbase Alpha – influenced by sources such as club culture, 1960s pop,[5] and OMD's Dazzle Ships[6] – features several vocalists, including Moira Lambert and Donna Savage. However, after working with Sarah Cracknell on "Nothing Can Stop Us", they decided to make her the permanent vocalist, and Cracknell has written or co-written many of the band's songs.[3]

Saint Etienne were associated with the "indie dance" genre in the early 1990s.[3] Their typical approach was to combine sonic elements of the dance-pop that emerged in the wake of the so-called Second Summer of Love (e.g. samples and digitally synthesized sounds) with an emphasis on songwriting involving romantic and introspective themes more commonly associated with traditional British pop and rock music. Early work demonstrated the influence of 1960s soul, 1970s dub and rock as well as 1980s dance music, giving them a broad palette of sounds and a reputation for eclecticism. Years later, The Times wrote that they "deftly fused the grooviness of Swinging Sixties London with a post-acid house backbeat".[7] Their first two albums, Foxbase Alpha and So Tough feature sounds chiefly associated with house music, such as standard TR-909 drum patterns and Italo house piano riffs mixed with original sounds, notable by the use of found dialogue, sampled from 1960s British realist cinema.[8]

In 1991, the band also released two singles, "7 Ways to Love" and "He Is Cola", under the name "Cola Boy" with different singers (one of them being future radio personality Janey Lee Grace, who recorded and appeared in the video for the former); their explanation for publishing under a nom de plume is that the tracks were "too cheesy for Saint Etienne. We'd have been finished overnight".[9][10] The band would later produce an updated electro-house version of "7 Ways to Love" for Japanese singer Nokko for her 1993 album "I Will Catch U" (also known as "Call Me Nightlife" for the United States, Canada and Europe), in which she added lyrics to the song in both Japanese and English.[11]

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. So Tough reached No. 7 in the UK Albums Chart. Their most popular singles of this period were "You're in a Bad Way" and "Join Our Club" (which reached No. 12 and No. 21 in the UK Singles Chart).[12]

Tiger Bay (1994) represented a change of direction: the entire album was inspired by folk music, combined with modern electronica.[3] Although the album reached No. 8 in the UK Albums Chart, the singles performed disappointingly, with "Pale Movie", "Like a Motorway" and "Hug My Soul" reaching No. 28, No. 47 and No. 32 in the UK Singles Chart. In a 2009 interview, Bob Stanley said that in retrospect the band "got ahead of ourselves a bit" by releasing such an uncommercial album, which "definitely could have done with a couple more obvious songs".[13]

In 1995, they released their most successful single, "He's on the Phone", a reworking of Étienne Daho's "Week-end à Rome" that they had created for a collaborative EP with Daho entitled Reserection. It reached No. 11 on the UK chart.

Stanley has said that with hindsight it was "a bit stupid" that the band "didn't release another single for two and a half years".[13] Instead, they released a compilation album, Too Young to Die (1996),[3] contributed a song to the Gary Numan tribute album Random the following year, and then returned in 1998 with Good Humor, which de-emphasized the contemporary dance music influence on their previous work, replacing it with a more traditional sound. Also in 1998 they covered "La, la, la" on A Song for Eurotrash, a compilation of re-imagined past hits from the Eurovision Song Contest.[14] (the song can be found on Fairfax High)

In 2000, they shifted toward a more atmospheric type of electronica with the release of Sound of Water.[15]

Finisterre was released in 2002. A follow-up DVD by photographer and film maker Paul Kelly was released in 4 July 2005 (2005-07-04).

In November 2004, they released their first US 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, a remix by Richard X of the previously vinyl-only "This is Tomorrow".

In May 2012, following the January release of the single "Tonight", the band released their eighth studio album, Words and Music by Saint Etienne.[16] Saint Etienne's ninth studio album, Home Counties, was released on 2 June 2017.[17]


1993's non-album single "Who Do You Think You Are" is a cover of a song by Candlewick Green. 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).

The band also wrote and produced the 1993 single "One Goodbye in Ten" for Shara Nelson.

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 singer 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 – The Singles (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 addition to the Richard X collaboration on the "This is Tomorrow"/"Method of Modern Love" single, 2009 also saw the limited release of Foxbase Beta, the producer's reworking of the band's debut album Foxbase Alpha.[18]

Home Counties, released in June 2017, features collaborations with London band Kero Kero Bonito.

Films and television

Their 1994 single Like a Motorway appears on the original soundtrack for the 1994 film, Speed, although the single is never heard in the actual film itself.[19]

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.

"We're in the City" from the Places to Visit EP is featured in Jamie Babbit's 1999 film But I'm a Cheerleader.

The band has also been involved in film production, including four films documenting the landscape and history of London. Finisterre (2002) was inspired by the 1967 short film The London Nobody Knows. What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? (2005), looked at the landscape of the Lower Lea Valley, which was about to be transformed by the 2012 London Olympics.

In 2007, the band produced This Is Tomorrow, in their 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 on 29 June 2007—as part of the RFH's opening season with the band performing the film soundtrack live. In 2014, St Etienne again collaborated with film maker Paul Kelly to produce How We Used To Live, a view of London from 1945 to 1980, making extensive use of archive film.[20][21] All four films were directed by filmmaker 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. This track was co-written by Cracknell, Mark Waterfield and Lawrence Oakley.

Their song "Hobart Paving," with slightly altered lyrics (replacing the title reference with the line "Hold on princess...") and an altered title ("Catch Me"), was covered for the soundtrack of the film Bandits (1997), and was an integral part of the soundtrack album (one of two promotional videos released for the soundtrack was for the song) which became the best-selling soundtrack album to a European film soon after release; actor-singer-guitarist Jasmin Tabatabai still performs that version in concert.

They have recently recorded the theme song and incidental music for Maryoku Yummy, a children's television show currently showing on The Hub.


See also


  1. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Saint Etienne - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
  2. "A PINT IN THE AFTERNOON WITH ST. ETIENNE (Part One)". Chart Attack, July 5, 1999, interview By Scott Wilyman
  3. Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1053. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. "Saint Etienne | Pitchfork". Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  5. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Foxbase Alpha – Saint Etienne". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  6. Ware, Gareth (4 March 2013). "OMD: Of All The Thing We've Made: Dazzle Ships At 30". This Is Fake DIY. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  7. The Times Play, 12 October 2002
  8. "Saint Etienne: So Tough / Sound of Water". Pitchfork. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "[ETIENNE HEAVEN] Saint Etienne songs: 7 Ways To Love". 29 June 2002. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  11. "Nokko - Call Me Nightlife (CD, Album)". Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  12. British Hit Singles and Albums. Guinness. 1 January 2005.
  13. Scott Plagenhoef, Interviews: Saint Etienne, Pitchfork, 5 February 2009.
  14. Saint Etienne on IMDb
  15. LECHNER, ERNESTO (21 July 2000). "*** 1/2 Saint Etienne, "Sound of Water," Sub Pop". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  16. "Saint Etienne reveal new album tracklisting". 21 February 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  17. Brandle, Lars (23 March 2017). "Saint Etienne Returns with 'Home Counties'". Billboard. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  18. "Interview With Richard X", HitQuarters, 3 August 2009.
  19. "Like a Motorway - Saint Etienne | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  20. McCahill, Mike (5 June 2014). "How We Used to Live review – pleasurable collage-history of London". Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  21. Jenkins, Tom (10 June 2014). "Paul Kelly: How We Used To Live". Retrieved 8 September 2014.
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