Saint Etienne are an English band from London, formed in 1990. The band consists of Sarah Cracknell, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. They became associated with the UK’s indie dance scene in the 1990s, beginning with the release of their debut album Foxbase Alpha in 1991. Their work has been described as a union of the club culture of the 90s with the pop of the 60s and other disparate influences.
Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs were childhood friends and former music journalists. They originally planned that Saint Etienne would use a variety of different lead singers, and their 1991 debut album, Foxbase Alpha – influenced by sources such as club culture, 1960s pop, and OMD‘s Dazzle Ships] – features several vocalists, including Moira Lambert and Donna Savage. However, after working with Sarah Cracknell on “Nothing Can Stop Us“, they decided to make her the permanent vocalist, and Cracknell has written or co-written many of the band’s songs.
Saint Etienne were associated with the “indie dance” genre in the early 1990s. Their typical approach was to combine sonic elements of the dance-pop that emerged in the wake of the so-called Second Summer of Love (e.g. samples and digitally synthesized sounds) with an emphasis on songwriting involving romantic and introspective themes more commonly associated with traditional British pop and rock music. Early work demonstrated the influence of ’60s soul, ’70s dub and rock as well as ’80s dance music, giving them a broad palette of sounds and a reputation for eclecticism. Years later, The Times wrote that they “deftly fused the grooviness of Swinging Sixties London with a post-acid house backbeat”. Their first two albums, Foxbase Alpha and So Tough feature sounds chiefly associated with house music, such as standard TR-909 drum patterns and Italo house piano riffs mixed with original sounds, notable by the use of found dialogue, sampled from 1960s British realist cinema.
In 1995, they released their most successful single, “He’s on the Phone“, a reworking of Étienne Daho‘s “Week-end à Rome” that they had created for a collaborative EP with Daho entitled Reserection. It reached No. 11 on the UK chart.
Saint Etienne’s ninth studio album, Home Counties, was released on 2 June 2017.