Celtic harp, folk and electronica isn't something you'd expect to make for musical bedfellows, and yet somehow Irish duo Saint Sister have managed to combine all three to create bittersweet, yet otherworldly pop. 'Causing Trouble' the latest single from the duo is a perfect primer for newcomers, with gently plucked harp over whirring synthesisers and soft kick drum beats. It's a beautiful track that really demands to be experienced on headphones so that you can really focus in on the little details.

What Morgan Macintyre and Gemma Doherty have managed to create is something with a quiet intensity. Atmospheric folk that manages to move the listener without having to resort to overblown melodrama - instead, the focus is on songwriting and intricately detailed production. With just a couple of singles and an EP currently available, we wanted to get to know the band a little more. They even went a step further and put together a mix for us.

Saint Sister formed back in late-2014, how did the two of you meet and why did you want to start making music together?

Morgan: I had been writing and performing under my own name for a few years before I met Gemma. The music I was making was folk heavy with a touch of country and while I was enjoying myself I was keen to experiment a bit and team up with someone else. I met Gemma while we were singing with our college orchestra in the summer after our final year. I asked her for coffee one day shortly after we graduated and very quickly we started hanging out together, playing music, every day. We were both in the same post-college-blues mind frame and desperate to make music so it just seemed to make sense.

In a lot of the coverage you receive writers seem intent on creating strange genre-amalgamations to describe your sound. How would you describe the sound of Saint Sister?

Gemma: I try not to think too much about genre, certainly not while we're writing, so it feels a bit jarring sometimes to apply these labels retrospectively. But at its core, our music fits within the sphere of contemporary folk, in that it often tells a story. A lot of our songs can be stripped back to our two voices and the harp. We blend old instruments and new, acoustic and electronic, and like to experiment a lot in production stages. We enjoy making use of space in the music, which creates a certain atmosphere or sense of ambience.

What's been the biggest influence for the two of you?

Morgan: We both have quite different musical backgrounds so our influences are scattered and sometimes difficult to place or pick out. We don't really have one or two all encompassing influences but we both share a very strong love for artists like Bon Iver and James Blake. We saw James Blake at Glastonbury last year and we lost our minds when he brought out Justin Vernon. It was incredible to see two of our favourites on the one stage. Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from lyric heavy weights like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. Their songs are the ones I keep returning to, over and over again.

Your songs focus a lot on vocal melodies and harmonies - how difficult is it to get those moments sounding right?

Gemma: We both have very different voices, so when we began singing together we weren't sure if they would blend at all. Growing up, I sang in a folk band with three others, singing in three or four parts, which is satisfying in its own way. We've both done a lot of choral singing too. Two voices feel very different to that, it becomes less about filling the chords and more about having two separate lines weave in and around each other. There's something so magic about voices coming together, in unison and in harmony.

Your latest single 'Causing Trouble' is a really great introduction to you as a duo, how did this song come about?

Morgan: The refrain at the end of the chorus came first; "What was I doing all of those years? Causing trouble I hear". For a little while, that's all we had. But those words kept popping up in my head and slowly the rest of the lyrics and melody revealed themselves. For me, the song is about transitioning from Belfast (my home town) to Dublin (where we've been living for the last 7 years) and from childish love to a more grounded adult love. It's heavily rooted in nostalgia and contemplates the gaps that appear between people and places over time.

To date you've released an EP and a couple of singles. Is there an album on the horizon? What can we expect from it?

Gemma: We've been building towards our debut record for the last few months now. It's too early to know what to expect from the final product but we'll be spending the best part of the next two months in the studio. Very excited to bring a load of new songs to life.

The Mix

You've put together a mix for us - can you talk me through why you chose the songs you did?

Morgan: Most of them are songs we've been listening to lately. I chose the Arthur Russell track because I was only introduced to it recently and have had it on repeat ever since. I love the way he pans and delays his vocals. Listening to it on stereo is a must! Another of my favourite tracks from the mix is 'Undertow' by Lisa Hannigan. We were lucky enough to support Lisa this year on her European tour and it was such a pleasure hearing this song performed live every night. Angel Olson is another magic songwriter. I can't get enough of her voice and the way she bends it. I could have chosen any of her songs but Intern is so beautifully executed; it shimmers.

Gemma: Bon Iver's 22, A Million is one of my favourite albums of the past few years. The soundscapes he creates are so beautiful, every time I listen I hear something brand new. The energy in 'Burn the Witch' is incredible, I love how the vocal effortlessly soars through the chorus above the chaos. We've been loving Maggie Rogers' releases recently, great songs and really lovely production.

Saint Sister Mix Tracklisting

  • 1. Lisa Hannigan - 'Undertow'
  • 2. Lucy Rose - 'No Good At All' (3:18)
  • 3. Maggie Rogers - 'Alaska' (6:52)
  • 4. Sylvan Esso - 'Coffee' (9:48)
  • 5. Angel Olson - 'Intern' (13:56)
  • 6. Radiohead - 'Burn The Witch' (16:35)
  • 7. Arthur Russell - 'That's Us/Wild Combination' (20:10)
  • 8. Cass McCombs - 'Bum Bum Bum' (27:07)
  • 9. Bon Iver - '8 (circle)' (31:58)
  • 10. Massive Attack - 'Unfinished Sympathy' (36:57)

Saint Sister's latest single 'Causing Trouble' is out now.