Saint Sister are a bewitching folk-pop duo from Ireland, who draw on early Celtic harp traditions, modern electronic music and sixties folk music to create a potent mixture of ambient sound they like to call, ‘atmosfolk’. The pair’s ethereal offerings have so far seen them gain support slots with the likes of Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and San Fermin – and we are lucky enough to be treated to an exclusive premiere of their new single, ahead of the release of the girls’ debut EP ‘Madrid’.
The timely ‘Blood Moon’ – one of which we witnessed very recently – opens with delicate vocal harmonies, before introducing a stomping percussive beat; an ominous sound that seems to evoke a bygone era of folkore, night-time enchantment and spectres in the woods. The song then delves into the glittering sound of Gemma’s electric harp, lending a Celtic spin to the spooky ditty before abruptly ending, leaving us eager to hear more from the duo.
We sat down with the songstresses to learn a bit more about them, and to discover what’s next on their agenda.
For new listeners, tell us a bit about yourselves?
We’re both from the North of Ireland, (Gemma from Derry and Morgan from Belfast) but moved to Dublin for University a few years ago. We only properly met during our last year of college, despite having lived next to each other for a long time. We met for coffee around this time last year when we were both amidst the post-college blues. Something just clicked, and we decided to start writing together. We’ve spent nearly every day together since!
We read you both used to perform as solo artists. Tell us about your previous work and why you chose to work together?
Morgan: I had been working for a few years as a singer-songwriter with no inclination to form a band. But sometime last year I became aware of a shift in terms of the type of sound I wanted to create. I soon became frustrated with the limitations of a solo career and knew I needed a partner to push any ideas I had further. When I met up with Gemma, I thought she seemed to be thinking the same thing. It made sense to join forces, but I don’t think we knew then how close we’d become or how much fun we’d have making music together.
Gemma: I’d been singing and playing with a few different groups, some folk/contemporary harp, and lots of choral singing. I had been writing a lot and experimenting with solo stuff but had yet to put anything out there. I was dying to get stuck into something and was really delighted when Morgan got in touch about working together. Writing music and practising can be quite solitary at times, so the collaboration is really great.
Congratulations on ‘Madrid’ Did you expect that this track would be picked up so far and wide?
Ah, thank you! Not at all, we’re really delighted and a bit overwhelmed by the response to Madrid. We’ve had some great radio play especially here in Ireland and even as far off as the Australia airwaves, which is incredible!
The lyrics for ‘Blood Moon’ read similar to a story tale – what were you influenced by when writing this?
‘Blood Moon’ was inspired by a painting of a young woman with fallen fruit surrounding her. We were trying to encapsulate that dark time of year when an abundant summer gives into a damp autumn; when the fruit begins to rot and wood decays. We imagine the protagonist to be singing from a dark cabin in the woods, hinting at a fairy tale gone wrong.
You have supported huge acts – what did you learn from working with these acts?
We supported Will Butler from Arcade Fire in April. It was one of our first gigs together so there was a bit of pressure but it was an amazing experience. It’s incredible to share the stage with such brilliant musicians, and every time we do we learn something new.
Saint Sister has a load of dates lined up in Ireland – when and where can we see you elsewhere this year?
Yes, we’re really excited about our gigs in Ireland this year, supporting two great bands, O Emperor and Wyvern Lingo on their regional tours. We’re also heading to London town on November 30th to play a show with O Emperor and Paddy Hanna in The Shacklewell Arms!
Words by Jasmine Cowler, follow her on Twitter.