"I’d be lying if I said we don’t feel any anger towards the industry”
18 months of hushed whispers don’t serve as preparation for this. I’m stood watching Sistertalk, a bustling Brixton bar (the Windmill, of course) behind me, five unassuming well-dressed young men up front. They’re playing their instruments well; pleasantly off-centre melodies crash around unsettling guitars that gently build tension. Suddenly I’m hurled stage right as the band change gear. I’m taken somewhere I wasn’t expecting to go, musically and physically. This continues until the band finish.
One week earlier, sat with Gabriel, his brother Daniel and long-time friend and bassist Thomas Harris, the mood was one of calm. On reflection though, tell-tale signs of the group’s willingness to subvert expectations crept into our meeting. In fact, this entire interview would act as a sneak preview to the sense of shock I felt so viscerally in Brixton. “We want to challenge the blueprint,” said Gabriel with a steely focus, “in terms of how a band can create and release music – that stereotype is so mundane. I’d be lying if I said we don’t feel any anger towards the industry.”
Sistertalk formed as a result of Gabriel’s disillusionment with his career, and there’s a painful honesty to his story and downtrodden determination as he tells it: “I had been performing as a session guitarist and a musician 3 years prior to this and I had a really different relationship to music back then. It wasn’t until I began writing my own songs that I started to realise that this was my path.”
The path Sistertalk have taken is anything but conventional. “We know now how the industry wants to work,” grins Daniel. “You play five great shows, then release a song, and then everything blows up, but that would have been the worst thing to happen to us and that’s not how we operate.” Gabriel is shaking his head, looking just as exasperated as his brother. “We hate that blueprint, so after coming to terms with our individual roles and the music we felt compelled to write we wanted to manage ourselves and be more self-contained and in control.”
So instead of riding the initial buzz garnered from low-key, high-energy South London shows and releasing a single after a couple of months, Sistertalk retreated into solitude to hone and master their sound. It took them 18 months before they were happy to emerge once again, much to Daniel’s relief. “To be quite frank,” he says, “we’ve had people say why didn’t you capitalise on that early buzz, but I think we did the right thing as the song wasn’t there.”