The “atmosfolk” duo Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre who make music as Saint Sister have been busy of late working on their debut album which is to be released this October. The album will come as a follow on from four-track EP Madrid which came out in November 2015 via Trout Records, which itself was followed up by some one-off singles.
Now, almost three years on, their music is forming its own progressive sound yet not removing itself from the roots of Irish folk music. We caught up with them to discuss their journey as musicians, the development of their sound for the album and gigs past and future.
The girls met in what may seem a likely setting for this duo, through their college orchestra prior to graduating.
“We were in that post-college funk and kind of floundering,” Morgan explains. “We both knew we wanted to make music but weren’t sure what form it would take. I think we found each other at the right time, we had nothing else to do so we just started making music every day.”
Their latest single release titled ‘Twin Peaks’ is true to its name and takes inspiration from the surreal tones of the David Lynch TV series alongside their own, more personal influences.
“The song was born out of a very instinctive reaction towards a friend who was going through a difficult time,” Morgan notes. “There’s an air of desperation about the whole thing, I was just trying to throw as many things in front of the problem as I could as means of distraction. I wanted to say ‘Let’s close the curtains, block out everything for the next little while, let’s watch Twin Peaks, let’s listen to Judee Sill, and Joni Mitchell and let’s dance and dress up and don’t go into the sitting room, because it’s no use reminding yourself of her or him or them’.”
Since forming four years ago in 2014 Gemma and Morgan have been progressively developing their unique sound as Saint Sister through their life experiences and time spent together as a duo.
“We’re always trying to push ourselves sonically, so hopefully, the record feels like a progression,” Gemma says. “To me, it feels like an extension of ‘Madrid’ in some way. Everything up until now has been with this first album in mind, and some of these songs were written alongside or conceived of in the same way as the songs from the Madrid EP. They’re all part of one big chapter.”
They describe the new album as developing a slightly more poppy tone which incorporates minimalist influences and a more experimental sound to what has come before.
“Being our first album, the songs as a collection are the sum of our experience up to this point,” Morgan shares. “Listening back now that it’s all finished, I can see the conversation we were trying to have over the last few years. The beginning of the record is much lighter in tone than the end. The first few songs are a little more whimsical, optimistic and inquisitive. It’s a person on the right side of a new relationship, just on the edge, testing boundaries, figuring out what it’s okay to say or what should be left implied, getting to know not only themselves but a whole other person. It’s conspiratorial and feels very much like us against the world. But then the songs become a little darker, a little more self-aware, discerning and a little lonelier.”
Saint Sister have already played a range of international dates this year including performances at SXSW, The Barbican Centre in London and their first Swedish dates and also their very first show in New York. “We would have been delighted to see anyone at all at the gig but it ended up selling out,” Morgan enthuses. I don’t think we could have asked for a better introduction to one of our favourite cities.”
More recently they played an intimate gig and accompanied by Lisa Hannigan at Drop Everything in Inis Oirr, on the Aran Islands, Co Galway. They also used their time there to write new material, an experience they note as one of their highlights of the year so far. “It was such a pleasure to work on new songs while soaking in the gorgeous views,” Morgan says.
Starting this September they will be embarking on an ambitious tour consisting of 35 dates across the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. “We can’t wait to get back to the States and to see Canada for the first time, ” says Morgan. We’ll be travelling to a lot of places we’ve never been before which is always exciting.”
Irish dates for the tour in October are as follows:
Olympia Theatre, Dublin – 11th October
De Barra’s, Clonakilty – 12th October
St. Luke’s, Cork – 13th October
Dolans, Limerick – 14th October
Roisin Dubh, Galway – 19th October
The Black Box, Belfast – 20th October
The Glassworks, Derry – 21st October
You can also catch them at Body and Soul on the Saturday of next weekend and at All Together Now Festival on Friday, August 3rd.
Tickets for all of their Irish dates are available via saintsisterband.com.