In less fertile grounds, the chasm between noise-drenched experimental trip-hop and ephemeral folktronica would be an unwise one to jump. It would, quite possibly, be like signing Daniel O’Donnell up with Timbaland and asking him to lay down a few rhymes.

Interesting. But probably not pleasant.

Liverpool, however, is a city that thrives on ripping up the recipe book and creating its own musical flavours. And it’s partly why electronic agit-pop trio Happytap has evolved into one of the city’s most engaging new threesomes – the achingly gorgeous Stealing Sheep. Think the rustic new country of Neko Case, múm’s scratchy textures and the lo-fi hooks of Micachu’s DIY pop, and you’re getting warm.

Soft and fluffy? They may be. But don’t get too close. There’s a wolf lurking beneath Stealing Sheep’s dazzling spring/summer ‘11 collection.

“I love to mix things up,” Stealing Sheep’s Becky Hawley (vocalist on Happytap’s trip hop outings, pic r) tells SevenStreets, surrounded by boxes and bags: her as yet unpacked belongings, following her move into the heart of what our tourist office calls Georgian Liverpool.

“I love folk music, but lately, we’ve been adding lots more electronic elements to our songs, ambient stuff and upbeat mixes…”

It’s a stew that’s getting the girls plenty of attention – from the two-thumbs aloft praise of Macca himself, to the playlists of 6 Music. Not to mention tours with Mice Parade, and Iceland’s classical musician turned indie troubadour, Ólöf Arnalds.

WIth their glitchy percussion, gossamer-light harmonies, analogue synths and eclectic, hurdy-gurdy textures, Stealing Sheep may well have found the soundtrack we were all searching for, and a set of songs destined to prick up the ears of industry creatives (we’re guessing it’s not long before an advertising company is begging to use them to pimp a small family saloon. Or new mobile phone talk plan.) But this was no science-lab formula, concocted to create a stir.

“We had no structure, we never have. I met the girls when we worked together in Lark Lane, and I’d seen them play in other bands, liked what they did, and thought we’d sound good together…”

(Hawley’s band-mates, Emily Lansley and Lucy Mercer are culled from local bands Emily & the Faves and The Long Finger Bandits)

The three arranged a meet up in Mello Mello, discussed their influences (“not just musicians, but authors, artists…we matched each others’ tastes so well”) and hatched a plan then and there. Sort of.

“We didn’t really know what was going to come out of it, but we knew that once you’ve got the chemistry, musically, everything else falls into place,” Hawley says.

Citing the band’s mix-and-match attitude as part of the reason they love the city so much, Hawley sees Stealing Sheep as part of Liverpool’s burgeoning, ahem, broken social scene.

“That’s why we love Liverpool so much,” says Hawley, who came to LIPA from the wilds of Staffordshire. “The creative community is so open to collaboration, and there’s so many great underground places to play. We’re committed to the band, but it’s great to be able to help out in our mates’ bands, do different projects, explore different collaborations,” she says.

Maybe. But for now – with a hotly anticipated gig this Saturday – the girls are going to have to focus on the task in hand for a little while, at least.

“Playing live is the best thing,” Hawley says, “I just love the energy of it all.”

With a European tour looming, to promote Kazimier’s new record label (“. ..we love working with them!”), new single to promote (on the excellent Red Deer records), and the weight of Manchester’s Sonic PR machine behind them, let’s hope Stealing Sheep have got energy to spare.

Stealing Sheep, tour dates here

Stealing Sheep’s new EP, Mountain Dogs, on Soundcloud

Lone Wolf, Stealing Sheep, Owls*, 5 Feb
Kazimier, Parr Street
( a Harvest Sun promotion)

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