TALENTED: Gemma Doherty (left) and Morgan MacIntyre of duo Saint Sister.
TALENTED: Gemma Doherty (left) and Morgan MacIntyre of duo Saint Sister.

Saint Sister: New Celtic sounds

CELTIC sounds from the Twenty First century are at the core of Shape of Silence, the stunning debut album by Irish duo Saint Sister.

Formed in November 2014, is the new project from Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty. Their music draws from early Celtic harp traditions, and 1960s ballads.

We had a chat to the young artists ahead of their Mullum Music festival this weekend.

What can we expect from your upcoming Australian shows, particularly at Mullum Music Festival?

Morgan: We'll be playing as a duo across Australia, which means the show will be quite intimate and mostly centred around the harp and keys, with loop pedals and sample pads on stage too.

Recently we've been spending a lot of time developing our two-piece set up and making sure we could bring the songs on the record to life with only two people on stage. It's taken a while, but I'm really proud of the show we've made.

I think having less to play with forced us to become a little more creative and encouraged us to take a few more risks in our live set up.  

How important is Celtic and Irish traditional sounds in your music?

Gemma: I played a lot of Irish trad and folk music growing up, and there's no doubt that it's had a huge influence on my writing and performance. In terms of our collaboration, it wasn't such a conscious thing at the beginning; when we started writing together we weren't really sure what form it would take. It became clear early on that the harp and the two lead vocals were becoming the bedrock for the music, and it followed on from there. I haven't consciously tried to incorporate traditional elements nor have I intentionally turned away from them. 

When I listen to your music the word 'ethereal' comes to mind. Is this something you worked towards? 

Gemma: I think the most important thing for us has always been honesty in the songwriting and in the performance. We focus a lot on the blend between our two voices, and to sing with one other person requires a lot of listening too, which maybe lends itself to a different type of performance than a solo performance. Something changes when the two voices come together. I think the delicacy of the harp also plays a part in the way that we sing together. 

Is there a particular inspiration or theme across your EP you would like to acknowledge?

Morgan: The album, from beginning to end, follows the course of a relationship so the tone drifts from quite optimistic and inquisitive with moments of blissful denial towards a darker more fractured atmosphere. I think throughout the narrator is trying to figure out her own self worth and sense of identity. The last song on the record, The Mater, feels like the final act of isolation, the final analysis, the last straw. 

What do you do when you are not making music?

Morgan: One of my favourite things about my life is my book club. I can't tell you how much I look forward to meeting up with old friends and dissecting a book and then in turn each of our own lives. I'm also just getting into yoga at the moment. I'm very bad at it but it's been a good cure for the stressed out head in the last few months.