Electro-folk duo on first Australian tour

 Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

Saint Sister have won praise in Ireland for their ‘atmosfolk’ sound.

The Irish Times says, “their haunting performance is impeccable”, while Hot Press laud their “tremendous vocal depth and vulnerability”. 

They once sang with world conquering Hozier at Trinity College and now, Irish electro-folk duo Saint Sister are headed to Australia for their first tour which will include Sydney Irish Festival and Mullum Music Festival. 

Described as a mix of early harp traditional, folk and electronic pop or simply ‘atmosfolk’, Saint Sister is made up of Gemma Doherty and Morgan MacIntyre, who first came together in 2014. Their first trip down under comes immediately after the October release of their debut album, Shape of Silence, produced by Alex Ryan (Hozier’s bassist). 

“I’ve always wanted to come and see Australia and we definitely weren’t expecting to be able to go this soon,” Doherty tells The Irish Echo.

MacIntyre adds: “It’s a dream come true to be able to get to go to Australia at this stage. We’re really looking forward to it.”

The band will join big names like Damien Dempsey, Mary Black and Lunasa for the Sydney Irish Festival that takes place over the weekend of 10-11 November and also includes a hurling match between Kilkenny and Galway. 

Gemma says: “It’s very exciting. I came from a very traditional Irish background so it’s where a lot of our influences come from, maybe they don’t come directly out on the surface but that’s kind of the world I grew up in so it’s really lovely to be able to cross over into that more traditional Irish folk world sometimes. I’m really excited about that line-up.”

MacIntyre believes expat audiences will relate to Saint Sister’s sound with its innate sense of longing.

“I think Irish music in general has a lot of nostalgia and longing and yearning,” she says. 

“Every kind of Irish music somehow has that innate sense of longing. I think it’s just the make up of us as a country and because we have such a big diaspora, that longing is exacerbated and exaggerated in those forms (music, literature).  

“Music is such a big connector as well. I think we’re lucky as Irish musicians that when we’re travelling around the world , we have this ready made group of people that understand us and it’s probably not the same for other people whose nationalities doesn’t have as big a diaspora. 

“I think that makes it very easy to relate to and it makes it easy for touring musicians from Ireland because you can go away and know you’ll be understood and that your sense of identity and longing and all that stuff that comes with being an Irish person will translate.”

Doherty adds: “It’s incredible to be going to the other side of the world and having a huge bunch of people who have already come from where you’ve come from. Hopefully there’s a connection there already.”

From Derry and Belfast respectively, Doherty and MacIntyre moved to Dublin in 2010 to study at Trinity College where they met. They sang in the Trinity Orchestra together with Hozier before deciding to join together for their own project. Their sound can be described as dreamy, a feeling that is created by their atmospheric sound and beautiful harmonies.  

Their album title, Shape Of Silence, comes, MacIntyre says, from their interest in “the idea of space and what can be said and what can be felt in the gaps, whether it is gaps in the lyrics or the music.  And what can be said when you’re not saying anything. 

“Silence is quite a deadly thing and quite a powerful thing. We thought it was interesting to think about it as something you can touch and hold and that had weight and was very heavy, so that’s where Shape of Silence came from. It seemed to suit the kind of world we were going for.” 

The album has slowly come together over the last three years as the offers to gig kept coming in, disrupting what could have been writing or recording time. However, this suited them as they still were able to put out material such as their Madrid EP or Tin Man single, both tracks that feature on the album. 

Saint Sister play Sydney Irish Festival on Saturday November 10, Northcote Social Club, Melbourne on Sunday November 11, The Lansdowne in Sydney on Tuesday November 13 and Mullum Music Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November. For more information, go to www.saintsisterband.com