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Sistir: Tracks That Shaped My Sound

Hailing from the Irish republic SISTIR is the musical project of Aisling McCarthy, an accomplished musician and singer whose breathtaking vocals and songwriting have seen her make waves far beyong the emerald isles, touring across her homeland, the UK, and Europe (in company of various artists and assorted outfits). Now flying solo, SISTIR seeks to carve out some elbow room at the table of celestial soundscapes, chilling 80's synth, haunting harmony along with James Lock's dreamy guitar riffs. Singular, McCarthy deals heavy hands in femininity, trauma, sexuality and living in emotional urgency. We spoke to her about the tracks that shaped her sound:

Howl - Florence and the Machine

I knew straight away what kind of drums I wanted for ‘bridge’. Booming, tribal, timpani like drums to make you shift your feet from the ground. This classic Florence and the Machine track is the perfect example of the feeling I wanted to create in the listener.I remember I first heard Florence when I was a teenager and I had never heard a female sing with this kind of power. I was classically trained so using my voice like hers was out of the question. I was starting to rebel with my voice, using it in ways that weren’t ‘pretty’. I feel like seeing Florence sing like this gave me permission to explore.

House in LA - Jungle

If anyone asks me to put on some music, Jungle is the first band I go to. I am such a huge fan of their music. Although my music is not similar to Jungle’s, there are definitely glimpses of the influence presence in my music. I like creating haunting sounds and I feel like Jungle capture this in their tracks. In House in LA, they have created a siren-like sound that alarms us and goes against the gentle,softer, lazier instrumentation. I love creating this juxtaposition in my own music. In the bridge of ‘bridge’ (always feel silly saying that), although the music, lyrics and vocals have come to a euphoric, uplifting point, the guitar acts like a siren, creating dissonance that needs to be resolved (which of course it is in the last chorus).

Kyoto - Haelos

I write a lot of my songs on piano and ‘bridge’ originally had a piano intro in a similar style to this track, building from a simple block chord introduction. I wrote with the intention of using a loop pedal and I love the whole progression of this song. How it builds on the repeated block chords and layers vocals and synths while changing the melody over it. I just love the whole production of it in general. Cormac (the producer on this track) asked for references for tracks that I liked the production on, and this was the first track on the list.

Moon (and it went like) - Kid Francescoli, Julia Minkin

Again with the simple chord intro and building on the chord loop! I knew I wanted some moody synths but nothing could prepare me for the synth my friend Kev ended up throwing in the chorus of ‘bridge’. Here is an example of the kind of synth building that I love. I knew ‘bridge’ had the potential to become a more uplifting song that you would want to dance to, but it wasn’t until an arpeggiated synth was added that I really understood what kind of track it could be. Moon is a perfect example of how adding an arpeggiated synth over a simple 3 block chord progression can be transformed into a track that makes you want to move.

Moby - Why does my heart feel so bad

I remember playing this song a lot around the time of writing ‘bridge’. The instrumentation and progression of this song were definitely an influence, but I think it was more the soulful, heartfelt vocals and lyrics that were the major influence for me. Even though ‘bridge’ sounds uplifting, showing glimpses of the hope I had in the situation, I think underneath it all, I was asking a similar question to this track ‘why does my heart feel so bad’.

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