Saint Sister

by Jessikah Hope Stenson

Let’s start with the most obvious question: where does the name Saint Sister come from? M: The name is something we struggled with for a long time. Any time I fell in love with a name, Gemma would hate it. We knew we wanted something feminine but strong. Gemma suggested Saint Sister late one night and we’ve never looked back. G: We actually went under a different name at the very beginning, but we decided to make a change early on as there was a bit of confusion with similarly named bands.

Did you have to convince your parents that pursuing a career in music was for you? M: Not at all. They are very supportive and always have been. Neither are musical but both are creative and that was something that was always encouraged in the house. G: My folks are incredibly encouraging when it comes to making a living in music. I think they’d actually be the ones trying to convince me if I changed my mind and decided to go down a different path.

What do you think about the music scene in Ireland? Would you ever consider moving to benefit your music career? G: We’d happily make a move if we thought it would be beneficial, but it doesn’t seem to make much sense for us to move away at the minute. Dublin’s music scene is buzzing, it has so much to offer. M: Before we got together I thought about it a lot. I had big dreams of moving to the big smoke and being discovered but when we started playing together it just made sense to base ourselves in Dublin. I think we’re coming into a golden age for Irish music. There’s a great scene here full of bands that we love. With acts like SPIES, Tandem Felix, Jet Setter, Rachael Lavelle, Wyvern Lingo and Bitch Falcon, we count ourselves lucky to be in such good company.

And you were recently on Irish TV - what was it like to perform on TV for the first time? M: Well, we had to brush up on our Irish for TG4. Apart from that, it was a pre-recorded show so it wasn’t too stressful. G: That was actually one of our first performances together, so the trip to Galway was a lovely bonding session.

You recently supported SPIES across Ireland, how was that? M: It was class. They’re all lovely lads so the tour was a dream. It was a pretty big deal for us as the first night of the tour, in Limerick, was our first live gig as a band. The SPIES boys are all very supportive and incredible musicians. It was a pleasure to watch them kill it on stage every night.

Do you have a pre-show routine? M: Not really, every gig is different. We like to get to the venue with a load of time, drink a lot of water. Staying backstage beforehand helps a lot with the nerves. It’s all a bit boring really. Then the magic begins.

What do you think about choosing what to wear on stage? Is it important to you to have a theme? G: We don’t consciously have a theme, but we both tend to wear black a lot. M: That’s not exclusive to the stage though. I wear black every day, we just kind of wear our regular clothes on stage.

Have either of you embarrassed yourself on stage or in rehearsal? Any funny stories? M: At our second gig ever, in Cork, I introduced us with a big “We’re delighted to be here in Limerick”. That’s a cardinal sin. I’ll never do it again.

So do you plan on touring the rest of the UK anytime soon? M: We’re heading to London on the 30th of November to play the Shacklewell Arms in Hackney with Paddy Hanna and O Emperor, two top notch Irish acts. We can’t bloody wait!

**You both began as solo artists so now that you’ve come together how does the writing process work? How was it adapting to co-writing? M:** The crossover was easy enough, but the whole process is becoming more fluid every time we write together. We each have different strengths when it comes to creating a song, what I lack Gemma has in buckets, so we’ve got a pretty good thing going. *G:* We both bring different things to the table, so we kind of balance each other out. Morgan has a way with words that I can only dream of. We don’t have a method as such, all of our songs have come together in different ways. Writing and practising music can be quite solitary at times, so I really enjoy the collaboration.

What kind of topics do you like to write songs about? M: Mainly love. I’m normally at my most creative when going through some sort of tumultuous period. All is plain sailing at the moment so I find myself going out of my way to find heartbreak. It’s not really feasible to rip apart my own life for a song the way I used to, so I’ve started looking outside of my own experiences. Blood Moon (one of the tracks on our upcoming EP) was inspired by a painting.  A lot of our songs touch on loneliness. I’m completely incapable of being alone and when I am I tend to write.

Do you find writing and performing a stress relief or stressful? M: I think writing is the most natural part of the process. It’s a complete stress relief, I would be writing even if I had no intentions of performing. Performing can be stressful and can wreck your head. It’s very hard to wind down after a gig. Before and after I’m a nightmare to talk to. G: Being on stage is the best part. There are so many things that can potentially go wrong before or during a live gig, particularly when you’re relying so heavily on electronics, but that’s all part of the challenge. Whether it’s stressful or a breeze, you just have to make it work.

What’s your favourite song to listen to? M: This is a tough one. I can’t be sure it’s my absolute favourite but I’m obsessed with Joni Mitchell, A Case Of You. Always have been, always will be. G: To choose just one! Bon Iver’s Perth is a very special song for me.

What do you think about streaming services like Spotify and the new one Apple is developing?

M: They offer a useful service and it’s easy to see the appeal for music fans but it’s imperative that we protect artists, especially at the start of their careers, usually broke but desperate to get their music out there. Mind you, big companies taking advantage of artists is nothing new…

What do you want to have achieved as a band by this time next year? M: We’re eager to keep improving as a band, whether it’s nailing our live performances or writing better songs. We’re recording our debut EP at the moment so we’d like for that to have gone well!