Featured Image: Alice Ashley
Right now, amid all this anxiousness and worry, there is no better time to hear the latest single from Leeds indie-folk band, Sunflower Thieves. The two frontwomen, Amy Illingworth and Lily Sturt-Bolshaw have remained dedicated friends ever since nursery school. Being from musical families, they were both encouraged to join choirs and learn instruments at a very young age; their special bond is only intensified by a love for singing. Despite both being multi-instrumentalists, they don’t overcomplicate their music. Instead, their wonderfully stripped-back style and interlacing vocal harmonies provide a soothing and intimate atmosphere.
‘Hide and Seek’ is only the third single formally released by the band, however, they have already received attention from BBC Introducing and Radio X’s X-Posure show. Why? Their storytelling ability! In their first track, ’Two Halves’, they explored what it’s like to be in a relationship which seems to be going nowhere and the fear involved in changing that. Their beautifully honest lyrics are laced with imagery (“Watch how the oceans breathe/In time with the distant beat”) sharing how everything seems to be connected but them. Their second track ’Heavyweight’, on the other hand, refers to depression and how sometimes everyone who is trying to protect you, can ultimately make you feel worse.
‘Hide and Seek’, sees the band choose a different angle. Just as the title suggests, the track is filled with child-like imagery, reflecting the nature of the friendship that is described in its lyrics. It describes a one-sided relationship where one member is overly dependant on the other. They sing about pretending to be asleep so they can be carried from the car, and even lying about being ill to escape cold weather… Two things many people definitely tried while growing up! By combining these childhood memories with an adult story, it reflects how we can often expect more from a relationship than we deserve. It is a reminder not to read your own truths into things and to remember that love is not unconditional but requires equality.
These emotions are only intensified by the sonics of the track. Whilst the almost hymn-like introduction immediately evokes feelings of longing and remorse, it is the slow strumming of guitar that provides the element of nostalgia. Right from the outset, the song feels like a campfire story: a reminiscence of summer evenings with friends and family. Even though you can’t be with them right now, let the girls’ ghostly serene voices take you back to better times.
The chorus contains a new and different element to Sunflower Thieves’ usual style. They use the tiniest bit of distortion on lead guitar to underpin the sadness of the track. However subtle, the production is also essential in creating the dreaminess of ’Hide and Seek’ with intermittent moments of buzzing and whirring piercing through the duo’s angelic tones – not to mention the breeze effect which creates the strikingly ambient atmosphere.
The last section of the song is perhaps the most beautiful – sombre yet hopeful. Steady clapping and repetitive lead vocals echo the desolation of the lyrics where the other singer can provide hope. “I’ll be home, I’ll be waiting,” she sings, drifting above the other instruments. It is when these lyrics mingle with those of the chorus that the real sorrow of the song is revealed: she is determined to wait for someone who may never return. With this sentiment still on our minds, the humming returns, with the addition of sweeping synthesisers- reaffirming the dejection that has just been revealed.
Even with the insertion of electronic sounds and a lead guitar part, Sunflower Thieves manage to maintain the effortlessness and warmth of their previous releases, whilst expressing more complex emotions. Just as before, it is almost possible to forget that this is a song entirely and view it as more of a diary entry. It is this honesty and relatability that makes each of their tracks so special and shows the band’s true potential. There is no doubt that Sunflower Thieves are a band to watch… Or at least to listen to on repeat this summer!
‘Hide and Seek’ is available on all streaming platforms.
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