Ahead of their gigantic show at the Hackney Empire last night, The 405's Mathew Parri Thomas spent some time with The Staves. He also managed to catch the show (obviously), which fellow 405'er William Moss rather handily reviewed for us.

Check out our special review/photo feature below, which features a guest appearance from none other than Justin Vernon (Bon Iver).

Disclaimer: The images found in this article have been licensed to The 405, but remain the property of the respective photographer. Use of these images without prior arrangement with the photographer is forbidden. For more information, please email the respective photographer or tim@thefourohfive.com.

BTS: The Staves

While the Staveley-Taylor sisters may hail from the mystical land that is Zone 7 on the Metropolitan line, for the Watford trio tonight's gig in Hackney is as close as they get on their current tour to a homecoming show. Although they've now reached the half-way mark on their jaunt around the UK, 'the mid-way hump' as one of them jokingly calls it, you'd be hard pressed to find a trace of fatigue in the band's stage presence. They feel fresh out of the rehearsal studio, with plenty of fresh material to boot.

Opening with the first two tracks from new record If I Was, the response to material from an album that many haven't heard yet bodes well. 'Blood I Bled' is the perfect transition between The Staves of old and The Staves of new. It opens with an intimate, twinkling ukulele line and Camilla's voice, before expanding to include the new full-band set up. This bigger sound, and indeed stage presence, is the most notable shift in the trio's new music. Whereas previous tours had no more than the three of them, a drummer, and a bassist, the nature of If I Was requires an extra hand on guitar and, most importantly for this shift in sound, synths. Emily too, has a smorgasbord of instruments that she uses through the course of the show, while Jessica and Camilla make more use of electric guitars.

BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves

This all equates to a seemingly new-found confidence in The Staves, best demonstrated in 'Black and White'. Like when Dylan went electric, it sees the band prove that they can sound, in the words of Emily, "Pretty fucking cheesed off." The heavier sound may have startled some initially, but the band look and evidently feel so comfortable doing it, that they manage to win over even the most ardent Staves purist. Most importantly though, the sentimental beauty behind those three voices is never lost, no matter how far the guitars are turned up.

This new instrumental experimentation is product of recording the new album with Justin Vernon, who they met after supporting Bon Iver on their 2012 US and European tours. To the gasps, excited whispering and applause of the audience, The Staves welcome the icon of independent music on stage tonight for 'Make it Holy', a minimalist number from the new record that features Vernon on vocals. Taking a guitar, he respectfully takes a few steps back; this is still The Staves' moment, yet the combination of all four voices has the effect of an emotional tidal wave.

BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves

However, as to be expected, it is the older material peppered through the set that brings the biggest applause. In the moments when the lights drop, guitars and backing musicians disappear, the four-tier theatre seems to shrink down to the size of a living room. The three sisters huddle close around one mic, sheltering from the storm of the outside world in each other's voices. It feels like you are taking sanctuary right there with them, oblivious to the 1200 other people in the room doing exactly the same thing. It's times like these when the beauty of these sister's voices really hits home, the extent of their emotional power on full display.

Discover: The 405 catches up with The Staves

BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves
BTS: The Staves