Saint Sister is the musical duo consisting of Gemma Doherty & Megan MacIntyre. Both are Catholic and of Irish descent, yet were born in the UK. The pair met when they had moved to Dublin to study, coincidentally at the same time, from then onward, Saint Sister was born.
Combining electronica and folk music in a beautifully subtle, minimalist, and ever-evolving way; Saint Sister are now on the cusp of releasing their debut studio album Shape Of Silence. To celebrate, LOCK chatted with the pair to find out how they’re getting on.
How would you describe your sound to a new listener?
Gemma: Minimal and atmospheric with a heart of folk.
Your first EP Madrid earned you 2 million streams on Spotify in its first year on the platform along with daytime playlisting on BBC Radio 1. Congratulations! What was your reaction to the song’s success?
Megan: We had no idea what to expect. It was our first release as a band so we would have been over the moon with any kind of positive reaction. It all felt a bit surreal but very soon we became aware of the need to keep working and to play as many shows as we could in order to build on that kind of early good luck.
When you first started making music together you described yourselves as “effectively strangers”, how would you say your friendship has grown since the success of your first EP?
Gemma: We barely knew each other at all before, but when we started the band we pretty much jumped in head-first and have spent most days together since. At this stage, I think we’re only a few steps away from telepathy. It’s quite an intense working dynamic, being only two of us.
We tried to make everything as equal as possible from the get-go, which is really important. It’s a very open and honest relationship, and I don’t think it could work any other way.
Are you excited to be touring together? Do you think you will get to know each other even better on the road?
Megan: I’m not sure that’s possible. We spend all of our time together and have developed a very open and honest relationship over the last four years. We care so much about the songs we make together and the gigs we play together and each other, we’ve kind of developed this shared consciousness – I don’t think there’s a part of me Gemma hasn’t seen.
Who in the music industry would be Saint Sister’s dream collaboration?
Gemma: Actually, James Vincent McMorrow has remixed a track off our record and it was just released this week. He’d be pretty high up on the dream list so that’s really exciting.
How would describe your debut album, Shape of Silence, in five words?
Megan: Ooh, that’s a hard one. Conspiratorial, Hopeful, Light, Heavy, Lonely.
What was it like working with your co-producer, Hozier’s Alex Ryan? Where did you first meet him? What were your first impressions of him?
Gemma: I’ve known Alex for a long time, we met 6 or 7 years ago studying music in Dublin. He’s brought so much to the record and we’re so grateful to have worked with him over the last couple of years. We’re all really close and have developed a great bond musically too, he’s amazingly talented and has been so influential in the creation of our sound.
Gemma, you learnt to play the harp from a young age, and Saint Sister’sfirst few singles have heavily featured the instrument. What impact does the use of the harp have upon the overall tone of the songs you have released? Do you think they would impact the listener differently if another instrument had been used?
Gemma: I think it would change the soundscape for sure. It’s been integral to the creation of the music, especially at the beginning, so I think the essence of what we are doing would be different had we decided against the harp. It’s not always the first instrument that’s laid down or the one that the ideas are written on, but it often ties a song together and makes it feel like one of ours.
Later this September you begin your 40 date headline tour covering three continents. Where are you most excited to visit and why?
Megan: We’re excited for everywhere but I’m especially looking forward to visiting some of the places we’ve never been before. I think it’ll be coming into summer in Australia when we’re there in November. Looking forward to escaping the Irish weather for a while and getting a little sun!
What do your friends and family make of your success? Are you taking any of them on tour with you?
Megan: Our family are big supporters of the band and have been since day one. Both families get on really well and come to as many gigs as they can. We love having them with us and I often relax a little more into a gig if I catch their eyes from the stage.
You met at The University of Dublin and you’re both very stylish ladies. Where are your favourite places to look for new outfits on a student budget?
Gemma: Monki is a great spot, we’ve found some gems on there.
What advice would you give to other young female musicians looking to break into the industry? Is there anything you would have done differently on your journey to where you are now?
Megan: I don’t think we would have done anything differently. I would say try to build a good team, people you trust and who respect you. Take your time and trust your instincts. No one knows what’s right for you better than you.
Where do you see Saint Sister heading in the future? Are there any new sounds you are interested in experimenting with?
Gemma: We had a small bit of time between finishing the album and getting ready for the tour, so we tried to get back into the mind frame of writing new songs and start filling up the well again. It’s an interesting time to think about the second album because the first hasn’t come out yet, so it’s not based upon any sort of reaction, it’s just writing for the sake of writing. At the moment it’s a bit “anything goes” which I’m really enjoying; some strange things are coming out but we’re going with the flow for now!
Listen to ‘You Never Call’, taken from their forthcoming debut album – Shape Of Silence, below.
For tour dates, click here.
Keep up-to-date with Saint Sister:
Interview by Samantha Humphrey
Featured images by Rich Gilligan & Kathrin Baumbach