Rising: We meet brilliant Sheffield quartet Sister Wives ahead of their new release

Photo Credit: Laura Merrill

Those scamps at Delicious Clam always manage to grab our attention, and they’ve struck gold again, signing brilliant Sheffield band Sister Wives to their roster. We’ve already fauned over ‘I Fynwy Af/Rise’ one side of their new release, and with flip side Crags being about strange witch markings found at Creswell Crags in Worksop we’re super excited about it’s release, this Friday out this Friday and available to pre-order right now.

What with the Backseat Mafia offices (my kitchen, usually) being situation in the steel city, and that intoxicating mix of the motorik, with slabs of guitars, and threads of indie rock, psych and garage all thrown in the Sister Wives mix, we got them to answer some questions about the release, their history and what they’re looking forward to when we finally escape from this lockdown.

First, if you haven’t heard it, check out this in it’s fantastic glory, then read on as we talked to Liv, Rose, Lisa and Donna from the band.

Give us a potted history of Sister Wives?

Liv: I’d moved to Sheffield and left my old band in London, and loved Donna’s previous band, Nachthexen, so summoned up the courage to see if she knew anyone who was looking to start a new project – and luckily she was!

Lisa: Being close pals with Liv, I was really excited when she asked if I’d be up for playing drums in a new band with her and Donna. I’ve always been a fan of their previous outfits so it was a great opportunity. It was also the perfect drive to learn to play a new instrument drums, having never done it before (apart from very brief paradiddles in school).

Rose: I was the last to join having met Donna soon after moving to Sheffield. We’ve been going for about 3 years now and have played lots of shows around the north of England supporting great bands like Crack Cloud, Current Affairs and Eccentronic Research Council. We also released an EP last year despite a pandemic and two members of the band being new mums which is a major accomplishment!

Donna: I was very keen on starting a new band and when I heard Liv had moved up, I wanted to speak to her about possibly starting a new project – I was so happy when she mentioned that she wanted to start a new project. We were jamming for a while and decided that we wanted two other women to join us who could bring some interesting sounds. We took a while to find out the right people – and we did!

Who inspired you to start making music?

Liv: My Dad’s always played guitar, and bought my sister and I these tiny little child-size guitars when we were about 7 and 10. I played it a few times, got bored, and complained the strings hurt my fingers (!) so it stayed in a cupboard. When I was in my early teens I discovered punk and finally reached for it again, though quickly upgraded to an adult size!

Lisa: I’m not from a particularly musically dextrous family – but they’re big fans and they introduced me to lots of really great music, at a young age. I was always encouraged to sing, play and learn, not that I ever practised. I had piano lessons throughout school but only took one grade exam. I’ve always sang though, and written little songs, since I was very small! It’s only later in life that I’ve knuckled down with playing instruments. A combination of kind and skillful friends, and the right environment, built confidence to do it myself. 

Rose: I grew up singing in church where we had a live worship band of rotating members, I actually learnt my first bass riffs from one of them who was a talented session bassist that lived with us for a while but unfortunately didn’t touch a bass again for another 15 years. Being around weekly live music definitely inspired me to play music even though it was generally pretty dire. My parents are musical too and found me a cool piano teacher who taught me to play boogie woogie which translated to me playing keys in my first couple of bands.

Donna: I’m from Wales and I have always been singing in folk choirs in the Local and National Eisteddfod. I wouldn’t say that I come from a musical family though. Welsh-ness is an inspiration to me, not out of a sense of nationalism as such, but more out of a love for the Welsh language. I think my other main inspiration comes from the fact that I have always had a keen interest in music and bands and have been an avid gig-goer since I was little. I think this had some inspiration on me picking an instrument up – seeing other women doing bands is what has been a motivating factor for me. If they can do it, why can’t I? 

And the one (or two!) records that inspired you artistically?

Rose: This is a tricky question, as a group we’re all into lots of different music and never decided on a sound together really. Ege Bamyasi by Can is an inspiration for me, it’s driving yet spacious and Holger Czukay’s bass lines are simple but not your usual!

Lisa: I’m inspired by lots of records but haven’t quite attained their drumming style! Usually something quite metronomic with mixtures of tempo within songs. Chairs Missing by Wire or anything Neu! or La Düsseldorf. I also really love Emma Gaze’s drumming on The Power Out by Electrelene. Steve Albini recorded and mixed it which is worth a mention as I’m a fan of Todd Trainer’s drumming sound. 

Donna: I think that Bran, Ail-Ddechrau is a bit of a masterpiece. The singer is an ex Song for Wales winner and she has a magnificent Welsh folk voice but it’s driven by the most incredible guitar riffs. The mixture of Welsh language vocals that are still folk-like in origin along with the most relentless riffs are a winner for me and an inspiration for me in developing the Sister Wives sound.

Liv: It’s not an original choice but Hole’s Live Through This was, and still is, the biggest influence for me. It’s heavy and hooky and I’ve always admired how women’s experiences such as motherhood are sung about with such rawness, and unapologetic rage. 

If you’re trying to explain who you sound like to someone that’s never heard you, what do you say?

Liv: We always struggle to define our sound as we all have so many influences. The best we’ve come up with is fitting somewhere between Siouxsie, Hawkwind and Eno.

Rose: I really liked it when Adam Walton on BBC Radio Wales described us as sounding like Black Sabbath playing Neu! and said that our song Gweler Ein Gofid sounded like music for a satanic funeral parade.

Donna: I think Adam Walton also said we sound like one of Gwenno’s night terrors. I loved that. People always say that they can’t quite place us musically, which is a clear indication of our very eclectic music tastes as a band I think. We have also been compared to  slowed down Hawkwind which is awesome. 

Tell us about your new release – Crags / I Fynwy Af?

Rose: Our new AA-single, Crags, was recorded in Sheffield and we wrote the title track after reading about a mass of witches marks being found in Creswell Crags which is nearby. The ritual protection marks were made by superstitious locals hundreds of years ago to fend off witches and evil spirits from harming them and the area. The song is both sides of the story.

Donna: The other song on the AA single is I Fyny Af/ Rise is a Welsh language song which summons the consciousness of the ancient forests, lakes, mountains and seas of Cymru. For me it was really important to create the voice of this consciousness through the vocal harmonies which reflect the harmonies found in Welsh folk music, but of course to be accompanied by fierce riffs. In terms of gear to create this AA, I have a synth-rig set up with two organs, mini-korgs to create eerie noises in the background and an echo vocal effects unit to make the vocals sound as though they are echoes from the past. 

Where can we get hold of it?

Liv: The AA-single is being released by brilliant local Sheffield label Delicious Clam on 26th Feb. It’s a 10” etched record on eco-mix vinyl, with a double sided poster zine.
You can preorder it here: https://deliciousclamrecords.bandcamp.com/

Tell us how you write?

Rose: We tend to start with someone bringing a melody or riff on an instrument, music first and then singing later. We’ve not had much time together lately obviously but when we did have more time, we’d just jam too and see what came out of it.

Lisa: We’ve been trying to get down to the practise space as much as possible to write and to keep playing. We can’t all go together at the moment so we’ll send whatever recorded parts we can get and add parts and back and forth. At the moment that’s just on phones. We’ve tried a couple of virtual practises which seem to work quite well.

Donna: Starting with a riff is our main tactic, then we work out sections that work around that. It’s been really hard with lockdown though. I often have an ancient site to write about in mind and try to channel the energy of the site into the music, but that doesn’t always work! I also like to listen to some traditional Welsh folk music to see if I can translate some of the harmonies and melodies to our strange sound. It sometimes works, but sometimes ends up sounding weirdly medieval, so the girls have a laugh about it and tell me to reel it in a bit. One of us usually comes up with a riff in the current climate, then we practice over the riff at home, re-record and share to add bits to. It’s all we’re managing in the pandemic!

Tell us about your live show? And how much have you been missing it recently?

Rose: Our live shows have ranged from being total chaos to pretty polished and I miss them all so much!

Lisa: I feel the smaller the stage the tighter we are, and somehow the more fun. We always love playing at Delicious Clam here in Sheffield. A mega community of familiar and new faces, quells the nerves! 

Donna: I really like playing gigs and really enjoy talking to the audience. I am really missing gigs. I was playing gigs right until the day before my baby was due and was back into it fairly quickly after giving birth as well. I think that seeing women who are pregnant on stage is so unfamiliar and I wanted to make a point about the fact that women can have babies and still play music. Gigs are important for me so we can raise the profile of the Welsh language but it’s also nice to be able to get our costumes on and become ‘Sister Wives’, it always feels like we become different somehow – like the outfits give us more strength! 

I really miss playing and just want this pandemic to be over now so we can get really tight as a band and play in more awesome places.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

Liv: An album is in the works..

Rose: And some new costumes…

Lisa: Hopefully lots of gigs in lots of unfamiliar places.

Donna: We will have some exciting news about working with Libertino Records some more – which will hopefully also mean lots of new doors opening for us, especially in Wales. The music needs to be heard more in the Motherland!

Tell us your favourite records (apart from your own) that’s dominating your listening right now?

 Liv: Been really enjoying the new Nightshift record, and catching up with recent Trouble in Mind releases.

Rose: Being a bit frenetic with music lately but Out of The Blue by “Blue” Gene Tyranny has been on repeat.

Lisa: I love that record, Rose! It’s not new but I’ve been listening to Magnetic Fields – Distant Plastic Trees, a lot. It has all kinds of mega loops, time signatures and beautiful vocal melodies. Lots of tracks to fall in love with!

Donna: I am so rubbish at keeping up with new music, but I have been checking out all the Libertino Records back-catalogue, but also listening to Ani Glass is also so cool – electronic pop with Welsh and Cornish vocals. She’s also a fan of Sister Wives. 

“Crags” 10″ preorder: https://deliciousclamrecords.bandcamp.com/album/crags

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