Two years after bringing us her debut, Union, Saint Saviour is back with a consistent collection of intimate songs that are wonderfully paired with Bill Ryder-Jones' faultless, stripped-back production.

I first became acquainted with Stockton-born Becky Jones, after the release of the Suukei EP in November 2011. It featured a diverse and melodic mix of songs, from intimate ballads such as 'Some Things Change' to the other-worldy beats of 'Here In Me', which highlighted Jones' ability to make her hauntingly fragile vocals suddenly swoop to powerful and celestial heights. Within days of hearing Suukei I was intrigued enough to see her perform live at Hoxton Bar and Grill, after which I became officially hooked.

You can only imagine, therefore, how excited I was in August when The 405 premiered the beautiful video for her latest siren song 'I Remember'. With soft, choral vocals and production straight out of Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left, the single suggested a return to the ethereal sounds of the early EPs. With this in mind, I asked Jones how the first single on the album came about. "'I Remember' was one of the last songs I wrote for the album and it felt really fresh, I really loved how the melody came out and jumped around, and Bill wrote a beautiful string arrangement for it, really bringing it to life," Jones recalls with obvious excitement. "I just felt it was the most representative song on the album and a good example of my new sense of style and sound, so I pushed to make it the first single, when others thought it should be 'Let it Go' and I'm really happy I did that." Having now heard the album in all its glory, it makes sense that 'I Remember' was the final product of this creative period and it does encapsulate the ideas and sounds of the album.


New Sounds

So what sparked this "new sense of style and sound", as Jones puts it, and how did the ideas that became In The Seams actually develop? "I knew after releasing and touring Union that I wanted another shot at an album, because I felt that my first one was more of a collection of songs I'd written over years and years, which I believe is a common issue with songwriters releasing their first album," Jones asserts. "I really wanted to make something more coherent so I took some time out and went to Wales to the countryside and just thought long and hard, picked a handful of muses and went for it." Jones' ability to self-assess, and even criticise, her debut offering suggests that a fair amount of soul-searching occurred during the writing process of its follow-up.

With this in mind, I'm immediately reminded of the opening lines of the first track 'Intro (Sorry)' from In The Seams, which simply declares "I've made considerable mistakes, tried to be someone else." Perhaps I'm reading too much into these lines, yet this confession ultimately suggests that Jones is now more certain of her identity as a songwriter and musician than ever before.

In The Seams certainly does have a more organic, lo-fi sound than its predecessor but also beautiful orchestral layers that soar in and around Jones' soft vocals. I wanted to know whether these stylistic changes were conscious decisions. "I really wanted to put aside the bombast and theatre and make the stories the focal point', states Jones. "I wanted to create a feeling of intimacy and storytelling, so I stripped back the arrangements, got really up close to the mic and adopted more of a gentle, whispered tone. I just wanted the words to create the true emotional pull and not manufacture the emotion with my singing voice."


Childhood Memories

A lot of the songs on In The Seams seem to be surrounded with a sense of introspection and address Jones' formative years growing up in the North-East England town of Stockton-On-Tees. I was interested to know whether this had been Jones' aim or if this retrospection had come naturally. "The first song I wrote was 'James' which I wrote on a really snowy day because when I see snow I think of an incident that happened to him. The chill of winter reminds me of home, with its biting North Sea wind, and from that point I just got stuck into the feeling of regressing and exploring memories I'd really hidden away and had never bothered thinking about for years and years." I'm glad that Jones mentions the penultimate track on the album, as it is one of the standout moments of In The Seams. 'James' recounts a childhood memory immersed in a xylophonic falling of snow that builds to crescendo like a blizzard of memory and emotion. But how did she come to write such a powerful song about an old school acquaintance? "It was just that I was sitting looking out of the window at the snow and trying to think of something to write about. He had big blue eyes and one snowy playtime a bigger boy came over and punched him and knocked off his NHS glasses. I ran over to see if he was ok and he was laid there martyred in the snow in his grey parka, looking up with these massive blue eyes, not being able to see a thing without his glasses, with a tear coming down his cheek. His nose was bleeding. It just really hit me in the heart and I've never forgotten that moment or got rid of the picture of him in my mind." After creating such a vivid image for The 405, I had to ask Jones whether she knows if the James is question has heard the song or not. She replies honestly, saying "I doubt he has! I don't know if he'd be happy or not about it!"



Working with Bill Ryder-Jones

Apart from the strong sense of narrative on the album, the simple yet sophisticated production and orchestral arrangements by Bill Ryder-Jones dovetails effortlessly with Jones' vocals. I wonder how The Coral's former frontman had come to produce the record. Jones recalls: "I bumped into his manager who I'd known for several years, Ellie Giles, and I told her what kind of songs I was writing and that I was looking for someone to help me with arrangements and a sensitive, artistic approach to production. She was adamant Bill would be the person and I never thought he would agree to it." The initial song-writing process appears to have been a solo affair for Jones, however. "I didn't actually send a demo for a long time but when I did I think I remember he replied immediately and said he loved the song (it was 'James') and we started a long conversation over weeks and weeks that resulted in me sitting him down in my living room and telling him he was going to be the producer and he just agreed!" Jones' enthusiasm for Ryder-Jones is clear from her account and when I ask her if she found the experience liberating or challenging, in light of the fact that she self-produced Union, she simply states "it was absolutely liberating and wonderful". This laconic reply reflects the positive nature of the experience but I still wanted to know whether she had any particular instructions for him, in terms of what she wanted the record to achieve. Jones elaborates slightly by saying, "I just wanted him to love the songs and treat them sensitively, which he more than did." 



Confidence

In June of this year, the time came for Jones to showcase her new material at an intimate show at The Roundhouse in Camden. I ask her if she was anxious of the audience's reaction, and she admits "It was a bit nerve-wracking because I wondered what people would make of it, but ultimately, I feel about 500% more confident in myself as a writer." Whilst the purpose of The Roundhouse gig was to preview new material, I remember the welcome appearance of older track, 'Fallen Trees', which is a particular favourite amongst fans. This made me wonder whether Jones anticipated reinterpreting any of her earlier material when taking it on the road, in light of the album's sound. "I'll probably do 'Reasons' and 'Fallen Trees' because people seem to love them but I don't think I'll bother with anything else", Jones says, clearly recognising her responsibility to please her fans but also showing her conviction in the new material and her true desire to continue moving forward in her song-writing.

Finally, I ask Jones if there is a particular song on In The Seams that is closest to her heart.
"It sounds jammy but I do really like them all" she confesses. She then tries to whittle it down, saying, "'I Remember' is a favourite, but I also really love 'Intravenous' which is actually the first love song I've ever written." Upon further listening after the interview, 'Intravenous' becomes another personal favourite of my own, for its apparent simplicity and joyful plucking of harp-strings. This continual sense of discovery highlights to me how In The Seams succeeds in being a great album of unified compositions and for that reason, Jones deserves the jammy right to like every one of these mature and considered songs.

In The Seams by Saint Saviour is out now on Surface Area.