Formed by childhood friends Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs in 1990, Saint Etienne was an early Brit Pop trendsetter. A mix of 60's pop, lounge, trip-hop and electronica, Saint Etienne's influences can be measured in the 60's cool sensibilities of Spice Girl Baby Spice aka Emma Bunton, LA's Pussycat Dolls, and in the movie form of UK secret agent/swinger Austin Powers.
Saint Etienne was a trend-setter in three ways. First, they ushered in a 60's inspired pure pop sensibility. Second, they mixed it with urban sophisticate cool. Third, Saint Etienne expanded the trip-hop scene into the alternative, electronic and dance pop scenes.
In their early career, samples and trip-hop dance beats added to the leading edge styling. During the middle of their career, Saint Etienne was part of the short-lived handbag house scene and were remixed by electronic dance producers such as Chemical Brothers. Later in their career, World DJ's Tiesto and Paul van Dyk would introduce Saint Etienne songs into the mainstream club scene.
The first three singles out of the box featured three different lead singers. The Neil Young cover, 'Only Love Can Creak Your Heart' featured Moira Lambert of Faith over Reason. The Field Mice cover, 'Kiss and Make up' featured Donna Savage of New Zealand's Dead Famous People. The third single, 'Nothing Can Stop Us' set the stage of Sarah Cracknell to continue as lead singer of the group.
In the mid 90's, other dance pop singles charted: the ethereal 'I Was Born on Christmas Day,' the heavy dance beat laden 'Like a Motorway,' and the handbag house classic 'He's on the Phone.' By 1996, the band had begun to lose some focus, and mates Stanley and Wiggs soon started a label for EMI Records. From this period, look for Sarah Cracknell's guest vocals with The 6ths and Saint Etienne's remix work with Japan's alternative cool Pizzicato Five.
Just when it seemed that Saint Etienne had lost its relevance, they resurfaced with 1999's Places to Visit EP. By 2000, the band was releasing singles again such as 'Action' 'Boy Is Crying' and 'The Way We Live.' Two full-length records followed in 2000 and 2002, Sound of Water and Finisterre.
Paul Van Dyk's 2000 single 'Tell Me Why' featuring Saint Etienne ushered in their biggest continental club hit of their career. While the latter half of their career generated as many hits, by this time, the band's creative leadership had already been absorbed. Artists like Beck had adopted and moved Saint Etienne's urban chic and suave forward to the next step.