“Every time you go to a gig, there’ll be at least one person wearing Eaux Claires merch.” Camilla Stavely-Taylor, one third of English band the Staves, is sitting near the door of Muddy Waters. Her sisters, Jess and Emily — the other two thirds of the band — are enthusiastic as they look up from their menus to nod. Jess says, “We see so many people with Eaux Claires merchandise around Minneapolis, and we’re like, ‘All right!'” As fans know, the Staves hail from Watford, England, so their comments about Twin Cities venues might seem out-of-place, but there’s a twist — the Staves moved to Minneapolis this year, and they kick off their next tour (the last one to hit the Midwest for a while) at the Fitzgerald Theater on November 1.
About two years ago, Justin Vernon brought the Staves to his April Base studio to record If I Was, which came out in March 2015. The band played an early set at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival, later accompanying Bon Iver on vocals. It went so well they joined Bon Iver for tour. And that was the foundation — “It felt like we had actually made a bit of a connection with people in a particular place,” Camilla says, and Eaux Claires “was, like, a home gig. There was so much warmth, and it felt like there was a bit of community there. Just seeing people we knew in the crowd.”
Fast-forward several months: after touring with Bon Iver, releasing their Sleeping in a Car EP, and performing at the second Eaux Claires, the Staves decided to slim their commute to Wisconsin way, way down. Eau Claire itself was a bit sleepy for them, but Minneapolis seemed like a good home, so after they got off tour this summer, the housing hunt was on. Now, Emily (a card-carrying client of the Hennepin County Library) lives in Longfellow, while Camilla and Jess (a member of the Wedge Community Co-op) are in Uptown. The sisters have barely been to St. Paul, aside from seeing music at the Turf Club, but they’re Minneapolis pros, and they shared their favorite parts of the city over beer, fries and mock duck tacos.
First up: the food scene. “I f—ing love a good dive bar,” Camilla declares, and she asks, “Have you been to the CC?” Jess says, “I was missing proper pubs, but I kind of found a few. I think dive bars are the closest thing to pubs.” She loves Indian food, “because it’s massive at home,” and found Gandhi Mahal to be “so, so good.” Emily gasps: “Oh my god, the Midtown Global Market is the greatest. The Moroccan store and Hot Indian Foods. They’re really doing it so well.”
There’s a lot of food to talk about. The Staves bring up Broders’, Italian Eatery, D’Amico & Sons, Heartland Restaurant, Birchwood Cafe, Buster’s on 28th, and Pat’s Tap, talking about great experiences at all of those restaurants. They’re meaning to try Hola Arepa and Ramen Kazama. Merlin’s Rest is “a bar in Minneapolis that pours a very good pint of Guinness,” according to Emily, which made her feel triumphant. “I felt like I was at home.”
Before and after meals, Camilla and Emily stick to tea. But Jess is a fan of coffee, saying, “[Camilla and I] live right by Caffetto, and that place reminds me of Berlin inside. It’s slightly apocalyptic, like it’s been taken over by weird, artistic people. So I like that, and its rival across the street, Urban Bean, is really good, too.”
Emily surprised me by asking, “Do you go to the Riverview cinema?” The Longfellow theater is a neighborhood gem, but even locals overlook it too often. Not Emily: “That place is so cool,” she says, adding, “People clap at the end of the film!” She saw Fifth Element during a summer late-night series and couldn’t believe she missed out on Jurassic Park and The Goonies earlier on. Next year, perhaps. “Three bucks,” she exclaimed. “Take a little hip flask. It’s great.”
One huge adjustment for the Staves has been the sprawl of U.S. cities; Emily drives, but she’s the only one, and she just learned at the beginning of the year. “I’ve driven more on the right side of the road than on the left, which is bizarre,” she laughs. But she says driving is “kind of essential over here.” There are bikes, public transit, and Uber, and the girls are fans of all three. But they ask me if there’s a cluster of vintage shops in town — an area they could get to and walk around — and aside from Minnehaha Avenue, I say I think they’re all spread out.
The Staves sound wistful talking about London’s widespread public transit, so I ask what else they miss from home. All three quickly leap to tea — here, it’s just not the same — and agree that even the Midwest’s sharpest cheddar isn’t sharp enough. Other than that, it’s not been too hard. “I miss the BBC,” Camilla says, in part because there aren’t any commercials. Emily is curious whether people in the U.S. take Sunday afternoons to relax, maybe having a hot lunch with friends or family and playing a long board game “with about 18 bottles of wine.”
All three dive into Midwestern accents with fervor, especially at the mention of an “all-American” topics like the Fourth of July. “If you’re in a bar and it’s noisy,” Emily says, “it’s just easier to order in American.” She demonstrates, becoming a bit more mousy and adopting a small-town Midwesterner’s voice: “‘Hey, can I have a glass of water and two beers?’”
“[The accent] is definitely a talking point,” Jess says. English people are relatively hard to come by in the area, “so as soon as you open your mouth, people are like, ‘Oh, what are you doing? Where are you from?’” But for all the prying and trouble being understood, the girls are having fun. Camilla says, “Americans in general seem to be very complimentary of the English accent, which we love.”
The Staves have found the treasures of Minneapolis in no time at all, mentioning Forage Modern Workshop, the Midtown Greenway, and Icehouse (turns out all four of us were at the same DEM YUUT show). But as they point out, their new hometown is more than just the places. “There’s a Midwestern personality type that we’re really drawn to,” Jess says. “It seems like people are very solid and friendly, and we’ve experienced such a huge amount of generosity from people we’ve met. Just great people.”
The band are staying in town at least until next summer, when they plan to play more festivals and possibly release new music. They’re recording out in Eau Claire when they can, and they’d like to put together an album. Until then, the Staves may not feel entirely prepared for winter, but they’re willing to brave it to live here and play shows. As Camilla put it, “We feel a wild amount of affection toward the Midwest, and we want to tour it a bunch. It feels like our home away from home.”