After four years, Bristol punk rock band The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are back with new album Caprice Enchanté – and it goes in hard. Opening up with a wall of sound as though the song is already in motion, we’re forced into aural submission with the frantic The Safety Word is Oklahoma. Halfway through the track, the guitars fall back and make way for a rhythmic, breathy bridge from frontman Damien, setting us up for what is to be a more vocally diverse record than their previous, A Hundred Years and a Day. Though fans needn’t worry that this is at cost to their inherent heaviness, with sore throats and mosh pits guaranteed when they play it live for the first time at The Fleece this June.
sore throats and mosh pits guaranteed when they play it live for the first time at The Fleece this June
‘We wanted it to feel like you turn it on and it’s immediate. You don’t have to be brought or dragged into it. As soon as you listen, you’re in’ Damien explains.
‘The first album was supposed to be an EP. We had three days in the studio and we did three songs in the first three hours. We had another two and a half days left to do one song, so our producer said, we’ll do an album. We didn’t really have much time to think about sequence in the songs or how the album would flow – it was just a case of whatever we’ve got, we’ll record.
because we’ve had four years, there’s a lot more consideration of how it starts or how it rolls into the next song
‘With this one, because we’ve had four years, there’s a lot more consideration of how it starts or how it rolls into the next song. We just thought the best way to open is have that immediacy there. Like when you watch films, if it starts with a gun shot or something you’re immediately drawn into it.’
their current iteration is their best set up yet
Formed in 2011, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion is Damien Sayell on vocals, Szack Notaro and Patrick Daly both on guitar and back up vocals, and Sam James on drums. Dave Larkin played bass on Caprice Enchanté, but left in late 2017 to join Black Peaks. However new bassist Sanjay Patel is ready to take it live, and Damien assures us that their current iteration is their best set up yet.
Though they’ve seen a few lineup changes over the years, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion fan base hasn’t wavered, despite going off grid for four years; and you can expect their album launch at The Fleece to be a sweaty one.
Caprice Enchanté is a record about contrasts and a reflection upon ego, although this is a theme that developed as Damien was writing it, he tells us: ‘Initially it was about romanticism. I was thinking about when I first started playing guitar when I was 13 or 14. I assumed that by the time I was 30, I’d have my own record label and I’d be touring the world – and that didn’t happen, obviously.
the album became about getting older, letting go of that kind of bullshit and recognising unattractive parts of myself
‘But slowly it morphed into my entitlement and thinking I deserve all of these things. And it became more about getting older, letting go of that kind of bullshit and recognising unattractive parts of myself.
‘I realised that all I was doing was thinking about myself and how I hadn’t achieved the things that I wanted. Watching IDLES – some of my best friends – get bigger, there was a lot of “why them and not me?”
‘What I realised was that this sense of entitlement was representative of why we’re in the situation we are now with politics. The onus I put my identity and the importance of being a songwriter led me to be envious and make poor choices and not fully celebrate someone else’s success as much as I should have, because I felt as though I deserved that as well.
Watching IDLES – some of my best friends – get bigger, there was a lot of “why them and not me?”
I think with England and the UK, it’s the same thing. This loss of identity and the importance of being British has led us to this place where we’ve made a crazy decision and we’re steadfast in it, and that’s kind of where I was a couple of years ago when we were writing this.’
Caprice Enchanté is not only a more introspective record in terms of lyrical content, but also in its vocal and instrumental range, with some more classic rock or even grungy sounds coming through the heaviness.
there is two ways you can make an album, you can either take a photograph or you can build a house
‘The first album was all done live, so whatever I was doing while we were playing is what came out. It was just one mic in a room, without even headphones – it was just a monitor. They say there is two ways you can make an album, you can either take a photograph or you can build a house. The first one was not necessarily a photo, but more like we were doing 50 miles an hour in a 20 zone and got papped. Whereas this one, we wanted to build a house. I wanted to be able to make sure that my takes were there, which allowed for more room to be more diverse in how I use my voice.’
The 47-second intermission I Gave a Lovely Light is a good example of this range, particularly when held up to its much ferocious counterpart Like a Rag to a Red Bull on their first album, ‘which is also about getting drunk!’ Damien says.
‘I Gave a Lovely Light is adapted from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I read it in Christopher Hitchen’s autobiography Hitch–22, where he talks about being a borderline alcoholic – not that I’m a borderline alcoholic – but it’s about staying up to the early hours of the morning and it’s about going for that second bottle of whisky. In the poem she says ‘My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – It gives a lovely light!
I Gave a Lovely Light is adapted from a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay
‘While we were writing this I was doing a lot of drinking and had a lot of really drunken chats at seven in the morning at lock ins and stuff. I just thought it was a nice way to pay tribute to that. Again, trying to come to terms with getting older and fighting against it – that contrast.
‘There are a few parts of songs in Caprice Enchanté that nod towards the first album, and there are song ideas I have for the third album that will nod to this album as well. They’re not that obvious, I won’t talk about them, but with the writing I do try and tie things in.’
The full album is set to drop this month – with a limited run of 300 vinyl, as well as digitally and on CD – and though the reaction to Casanovacaine, their last single release, has been overwhelmingly positive, the weight of four years behind them adds an inevitable pressure for Caprice Enchanté to be well received. Though having previewed the full album, we don’t think they’ve got anything to be worried about.
I don’t want to be too reserved that I don’t enjoy what happens
‘It’s such a weird one. I’m at the point now where I’m just trying remain calm – not be too cynical about it and not be overexcited. I don’t want to get too excited that I’m disappointed, but then I don’t want to be too reserved that I don’t enjoy what happens.
‘In an ideal world, we’ll sell out The Fleece, we’ll sell 300 vinyl, go on tour, get picked up by a label and have lots of opportunity. Or it’ll fall flat on its face. The reality is that it will be somewhere in between there and I’m trying to just make sure I enjoy whatever that is.’
Although the album has been years in the making, with some songs having been written even before the first album was released, it seems like there couldn’t be a better time for The St. Pierre Snake Invasion to return to Bristol’s live scene. Over the last few years, after what’s felt like a long time of electronic dominance, we’ve seen the rise of heavier Bristol bands like IDLES, No Violet and Heavy Lungs.
It’s a motion that’s taken hold nationally. In 2019, we’ve seen IDLES at the Brit Awards and rock bands back at the top of Reading and Leeds where they belong.
after what’s felt like a long time of electronic dominance, we’ve seen the rise of heavier Bristol bands like IDLES, No Violet and Heavy Lungs
‘I think it is because of what’s happening in the world. Particularly online, there seems to be a lot of vitriol. There’s a lot frustration, there’s a lot of anger. And anger is a very immediate emotion, you don’t necessarily feel anger for long periods of time – it’s very acute, it’s very short lived bursts of really intense emotion – and I think heavier music has that kind of immediacy.
‘I think angrier bands are resonating more now, because more people are angry. Or maybe people have always been angry, but they’re more aware there are things that they should be angry about and that it’s okay to be angry about them, so they they gravitate towards those heavier bands.’
I think angrier bands are resonating more now, because more people are angry
One of the things that has won The St. Pierre Snake Invasion fans is their reputation for putting on an excellent live show. But when they make a return to the stage at The Fleece this month, it might also might be your only opportunity to hear the album played live in full from start to finish.
this will probably be the only time we’ll play the album start to finish
‘I like the idea of just doing the album start to finish – it’s an album launch! And it makes sense to open with the first song. But this will probably be the only time we’ll ever do it. There are a few songs we’ve never done before. In rehearsal, we played the album’s closing song Lonely Tourist – and we realised why we never play it! But we’re going to get some people in to do additional instrumentation and we’ll play some other golden oldies too.’
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger