aint Etienne are an English indie pop band from London, formed in 1990. The band consists of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They are named after the French football team AS Saint-tienne.
Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were childhood friends and former music journalists. They originally planned that Saint Etienne would use a variety of different lead singers, and their first album, Foxbase Alpha 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.
Saint Etienne were associated with the "indie dance" genre in the early 1990s. 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 '60s soul, '70s dub and rock as well as '80s 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". 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. Some of these earlier recordings included skits by satirist Chris Morris.
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". 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.
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 album charts. 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 charts).
Tiger Bay (1994) represented a change of direction: the entire album was inspired by folk music, combined with modern electronica. Although the album reached No. 8 in the UK album charts, 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 charts. 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".
In 1995, they released their biggest hit single, "He's on the Phone", a reworking of tienne Daho's "Weekend a 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". Instead, they released a compilation album, Too Young to Die (1996), 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.
In 2000, they shifted toward a more atmospheric type of electronica in 2000 with the release of Sound of Water.
Finisterre was released in 2002. A follow-up DVD by photographer and film maker Paul Kelly was released on 4 July 2005.
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 a new single, "Tonight," the band released a new album entitled Words and Music by Saint Etienne.