The Harley, Sheffield
If you aren’t familiar with Stealing Sheep, imagine if the Brewis brothers from Field Music had three estranged nieces. Much like those Mackem mavericks, wonky time signatures run in this trio’s bloodstream. But, instead of spending their childhood exploring the eccentricities of popular culture, you instead picture them growing up in a cultish commune somewhere in the English countryside, relying on outsiders to sneak them in Neil Young, Captain Beefheart and PJ Harvey records.
Illuminated by fairy lights, frayed bits of fabric and hippy headbands, Stealing Sheep play songs like ‘The Garden’ in a way that instantly intrigues. The current created by Rebecca Hawley’s watery synth pulls you hazily along into a forest of sounds that unfold like the plot to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bony guitar figures from Emily Lansley and delicately wild drums from Lucy Mercer transport you, away from tonight’s venue in Sheffield’s student quarter, a couple of miles down the A625 to the rural heart of the Peak District.
There’s more here than folk revivalism though: there’s a pop nous that you imagine these three mangled years back, when they were probably giving the oddest performances at school talent shows. Admittedly, ‘Rearrange’’s choppy riffs are too cold to work their magic tonight, but ‘Circles’ astounds – no matter how many times we’ve heard its chorus on album ‘Into The Diamond Sun’, we’re still shocked and delighted when it clatters in, too catchy for comfort after the track’s abstract verses. The equally familiar ‘Shuteye’ is just as surprising as you spend the opening bars locked into its rhythm, learning the steps, only for the tempo to drop and catch you out again. It’s like Stealing Sheep are trying to work out if you’re really paying attention, which of course you should be, because otherwise you’ll miss something uniquely inspiring.