Irish folk duo Saint Sister on their radical, unexpected first trip Down Under

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Irish folk duo Saint Sister on their radical, unexpected first trip Down Under


In September, Irish folk band Saint Sister embarked on a massive world tour in support of their debut album Shape of Silence, which would see them take in three previously untouched continents.

One of these continents is Australia, a place where one half of the duo, Gemma Doherty, says they never thought they’d be coming to this early in their career.

“It’s not somewhere that either of us have been before and it’s certainly not somewhere that we expected to be on our first album, if at all. It wasn’t really on the radar as somewhere we thought this album would bring us so soon,” she says. “We’re very grateful and it’s really exciting to be able to come over there”.

One of the best parts of performing live and touring is being able to connect with fans in person rather than via technology. Doherty says that when releasing their music online they can see the far and wide places that it’s reached, but going and meeting the people that like their music is what makes it feel real.

“When you actually go and meet these people, you talk to them and you see them react in a very real way,” she explains. “That’s been really special and it brings the whole thing to life.”

In terms of performing live, Saint Sister practice two different kinds of shows – a full band version with themselves plus a drummer and bassist, and the stripped back version where it’s just the pair of them. Saint Sister pull out the different versions depending on the gig, for example when playing at home in Ireland they’ll use the full band, who they also bring to some of the larger gigs in Europe, but when touring in North America and Australia, it’s just Doherty and her bandmate Morgan MacIntyre performing. Doherty says the full band version is more dynamic, but the stripped back version is more intimate.

“We try to give everything the same amount of energy and the same amount of emotion and sometimes you actually get more out of a song when you’re hearing it with less elements,” Doherty says. “It’s been really nice playing both setups in tandem with each other and it gives that extra bit of a challenge as well because you can’t get too comfortable either way because you’re going to have to change it up again real soon, so it’s been nice reacting off that.”

Having recently released their debut LP, Shape of Silence, Doherty says that the album is a culmination of the past four years of playing together with MacIntyre, writing together and learning about each other. It also says a lot about them growing up and spending their 20s in Dublin, after they both moved from Northern Ireland. It took them some time to figure themselves and each other out, but they are both really happy with how it’s turned out and are glad it’s finally out there.

“It came about quite sporadically over the course of the years because we were playing a lot live. We were recording it around this time last year, it was only really towards the end of that time we could sit down and really get our heads around what this album would be and what we were trying to say,” Doherty says.

After finding the energy to write on the road, the band is looking forward to getting back into the studio and doing more recording during the New Year, after getting caught up in the rhythm of touring, performing and heading to the States and Canada again over New Year’s.

“Recording and playing live are two very different parts of the brain and they require something very different, but this is the first time that I’ve felt them both come together and they’re both making sense so that’s really exciting. I’d say getting back into the studio is what I’m most excited for after this run.”