Drawing inspiration from the heavy hitters of alternative rock, punk and female icons ranging from Patti Smith to Siouxsie Sioux, Sister Ghost have been doing plenty of heavy hitting of their own. Previous releases such as ‘Little Lamb’ and ‘Growing Pains’ have been all about the riff, but it’s live where the four piece really come into their own. Frontwoman Shannon Delores O’Neill exemplifies the band’s punk attitude and power through energetic guitar playing and spirited vocals. The strong band behind her, with their own alt rock credentials as part of Belfast’s Junk Drawer, ensure that both live and on record the four-piece never go out with a whimper.
The band’s releases to date have demanded attention, and the release of a new EP ‘In A Spell’ continues that trend. Recent highlights for the band include a support slot for The Butcherettes but Sister Ghost will surely be adding another to their list with a performance in Berlin this week for the 5th anniversary of the Oh Yeah Music Centre’s Scratch My Progress programme. Berlin’s Loophole venue will surely need their earplugs at the ready.
► Where did the name Sister Ghost come from?
It was really a combination of a few things for me; being the youngest sibling and sister in my family and a reference to some of my favourites books when I was wee – Funny Bones and My Naughty Little Sister.
► What makes this EP different from previous releases?
I suppose musically the songs are a bit heavier than the likes of ‘Growing Pains’ but the pop melody sensibilities of that release are still present there too (as heard with ‘Limbo’). I think lyrically the darker subject matter is reminiscent of ‘Little Lamb’ (from the double A-side in 2015). I think the songs weave together in a sort of dark story, or at least I hope that comes across.
► Which song was your favourite? To write/record and why?
‘Limbo’ had a few different versions, specifically the lyrics. I kept changing them and wasn’t sure what I wanted the song to be or say. So once I had the song in its final form ready to be recorded in June I started to finally enjoy playing it. I enjoyed recording and playing the solo at the end of ‘Wreckless’ because hey, guitarists like to sing with their fingers!
► How does the writing process work for the band?
I record guitar riffs and progressions on my phone or multitrack, then I play along with the recordings usually on my drums back home. I then send the ideas to the guys or bring the songs to practice and we try them out. Once the ideas have a structure I feel happy with I’ll add the lyrics – they always come last for some reason.
► How was it to record with Smalltown America? Have you recorded with them before?
This was the first time I’ve recorded with Caolan Austin at Smalltown and it was a real novelty being in such a cool and inviting space. I’ve known Caolan since 2009 (we were in a band together) so it was also great to be working on a project with a friend. We had a very long day tracking the guitar overdubs and vocals, with the vocal takes going on until 2am, so needless to say Caolan is a dedicated producer. He also asked us to tune up a total of (but not limited to!) 53 times.
► Local or international, who are some of the musicians who have inspired you the most?
Local – Mojo Fury, Ash, Fighting With Wire and the wealth of NI punk bands from the 70s and 80s. International – the women of punk (Poly Styrene, Siouxsie Sioux, The Slits, Patti Smith etc) and alternative rock (Kim Gordon, Mia Zapata, Kim & Kelley Deal, L7, Kat Bjelland etc) as well as the likes of the Pixies, Weezer, Alice in Chains, Queens of the Stone Age and of course, the one and only Kate Bush.
► What was the experience of touring the EP like? Especially the aspects of playing with different support acts each night?
I have really fond memories of it even though it was just over the course of a fortnight! I met so many new people and heard a lot of great local music. It was humbling that so many bands had agreed to join me and the boys on our mini tour and I am thankful to them all.
► Which show was the most exciting/means the most to the band?
Shannon: There was some gold in each of the dates for me. I enjoyed the time spent gambling on the online games here. 2ps in an amusements place with Brian and Jake in Portrush and I loved the all for one and one for all spirit of the crowd in Derry during the uncertainty of the having no bass to continue the set – (the moment when Kevin Magee, the promoter, arrived with a spare bass was amazing and everyone cheered!). The surprise addition to the tour with the Le Butcherettes support slot was incredible (obviously!) and I was coming down from that high for days after. In Dublin the mass sing and dance-along to our Pixies cover was butterfly-enducing and of course Belfast was fun for the dressing up and Garth Marenghi visuals craic!
Brian: Derry was weirdly special in hindsight but Belfast was my favourite out of the four tour dates. Overall, it’s Le Butcherettes for me though.
Stevie: Derry was a lot of fun. Probably Derry or Belfast for me; tough call.
Jake: Both Belfast gigs (if we are counting in Le Butcherettes).
► What is your favourite aspect about performing?
The exhuming of emotion and when the crowd let themselves go and have some fun! I feel most fulfilled as a performer when I feel like the audience is getting something from the performance – that’s what’s most important to me when I am in an audience myself.
► What is your most memorable/favourite show as a band?
We all collectively love the gig we played at 2am in Sweeneys Bar in Dublin back in March this year. I don’t know if it was the late hour but it was one of those rollicking gigs from start to finish with the packed room properly rocking out. That’s what it’s all about.
► You have had many successes together, which one are you most proud of?
Shannon: Getting through multiple gigs without even minorly killing each other (and I don’t just mean Jake’s driving skills..)! Haha but seriously, the Le Butcherettes support gig. It was hands down the biggest ‘Wow. Is this real?’ moment with Sister Ghost so far.
Jake: The Le Butcherettes gig or being part of Scratch My Progress.
►How excited are you about playing a show in Berlin?
We couldn’t be more excited! Charlotte was in touch about it months ago so it’s been really hard not to let the secret slip! I’m going to soak up the experience and try and savour every last minute of it.
► What would be a dream come true for the band?
Touring the world, playing noisy rock music for sweaty, smiling faces.