An alternative punk band from East London, Sisteray’s 15 minutes project was described as ‘the best new EP by an emerging band in years’ by God Is In The TV. We caught up with the band ahead of their Hastings Fat Tuesday performance as part of Under the Radar a showcase of emerging artists.
How would you describe your sound?
Well it’s something we’re always working on. We play with a lot.. a lot of bands, influenced by the classic 60’s bands, The Beatles, The Who and then the whole britpop thing but it’s important to go beyond that and look for a different angle, so we’ve got quite a few lo-fi punk influences as well like The Fall, even bands like the Cockney Rejects, definitely The Sex Pistols and newer bands like The Libertines and Savages and then The Streets, Sleaford Mods and grime stuff for the lyrics. Getting the rhythms harder and sharper, so it’s guitar music with punch and kick and if you’re lucky we might throw in the odd vocal harmony.
When did you know that you wanted to be a performer?
Singer and frontman Niall Rowan admits he has quite a short attention span and has flitted between one thing and another and at various times has wanted to be a footballer, tennis player and even trying the odd round of golf before getting into music. For guitarist Dan Connolly, it was round the age of 16 when music became his main obsession, with aspirations to be the next Mick Jagger or Liam Gallager but quickly realised (due to complaining neighbours) that singing might not be his thing so picked up a guitar instead. Bass player Mike Hanrahan says he used to hang around outside the garden shed where his mum and dad’s mod influenced band rehearsed, thinking that it always seemed to be a laugh and he just wanted to be up there with them. New recruit Calum Landau on drums says he’s always performed, it’s just nice to have an audience.
What was the first album you bought?
Niall’s first album he bought was ‘Be Here Now’ and Dan’s was Stanley Road by Paul Weller because he thought it was a grown-up thing to do, the album flows perfectly and Weller’s voice is absolutely outstanding, he’s got an amazing back catalogue of songs with the Jam but this is his best solo album by far. Apologetically Mike says….. Shaggy. It got better after that. The first one that actually meant anything was ‘We’ll Live and Die in These Towns’ by The Enemy, anthems that sound tracked the days of our youth. Calum’s still thinking…. ..probably Green Day ‘Dookie’ or could have been something by Eminem. Or Snoop Dogg’s Rhythm n’ Gangsta (my mum bought me this and said if I ever repeated the bad words she would smash it up in front of me). Justin Timberlake’s ‘Justified’ was also in the mix somewhere.
When was your first public performance?
Thinking about this one, Niall wonders if his appearances in school plays counted but other than that it was the first Sisteray gig in Camden, vaguely remembered as The Camden Rocks Bar. Dan was an open mike night in Kentish Town when he quickly decided that being in a band might be a better way to do this thing and Mike’s was also Sisteray’s first gig before he’d barely had any time to learn the songs. Calum’s was a battle of the bands contest at his old school with a couple of pals and his sister, he admits “I played pretty crappy”.
Who or what inspires you?
As a band and writing songs, the common ground is that Sisteray are inspired by the things we see around us and people we know from the postman to the barmaid down our local. Niall also gives a nod to “musicians that have moved things forward and made records that really encapsulate a mood or an idea or time, our name is taken from a Velvet Underground song and our recent EP ’15 Minutes’ was very much inspired both literally and in feel by Andy Warhol. I’ve always been inspired by the punk bands in the late 70’s” says Mike, I was brought up a mod with parkas and a scooter. It is very prim and proper and seeing the punk bands felt like letting loose. It was never quite fitting in, which pretty much sums Sisteray up as well.
What have been the proudest moments of your career to date?
Certainly recording and getting our 15 Minutes project released on Vallance Records was something we were all happy with. We took the Andy Warhol quote “In the future everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes” and used it as the inspiration to record exactly 15 minutes of music with producer Rory Attwell. It turned into five songs we are all proud of and seeing the vinyl 12 inch for the first time and hearing tracks on the radio was something special. Job well done.
Live-wise, we all thought playing the Reading Festival was a bit of an ambition fulfilled, now we’ve just got to move up the line-ups on that one. Camden Rocks festival was special last year, we played two sets and the second slot of the day was headlining The Good Mixer, a legendary music related pub that has never been a venue as such but they stuck a PA in there. We were all a bit worried that we were up against all the bigger names headlining the established venues but it turned out to be absolutely packed and chaotic, people still come up and talk to us about that one.
If you weren’t making music, what might you be doing instead?
Truth is we don’t know. These days you’ve got to be pretty committed and believe in your band to keep going. Otherwise, in prison? Dead? Working day to day trying to make ends meet, not too far off what we’re doing now. Mike says he’s sometimes not sure what he’s doing in the band so has no idea what he’d do without it but as he’s a vegan, he’s pretty sure at some point he’d want to work helping animals.
Aside from Hastings Fat Tuesday, what are the band’s plans for 2018?
We’ve decided to have a reboot this year and look at the way Sisteray do everything from recording to playing live, social media the whole thing. The bottom line this is not going to work for anyone unless we draw people into our world, make our songs important to them and give them a very special live experience. We recorded two new tracks at the end of last year which were supposed to be for a single but the reason we turned a few heads last year was because 15 minutes was more like an EP and the four or five song format seems to fit our music. So we resorted to any means possible to get back into the studio (a boat owned by The Who’s Pete Townsend) and recorded two more tracks and now we’re happy that we’ve put together another Sisteray EP that should be out end of March / beginning of April. We love to play as many gigs as possible but are trying to make it more targeted now and not keep doing stuff in London, other than continuing our Welcome To The Monkey House, the club night we book and run. So we made a conscious decision at the start of the year to do a bunch of dates we labelled #HitTheNorth after The Fall song, where we’re playing Manchester, Sheffield, Blackburn and Liverpool. We’ve been overwhelmed by the reaction so far and sadly, Mark E Smith off The Fall has died in the middle of it, so we’re dedicating the rest of the Hit The North dates to him. Then we play our biggest London headlining show to date at the legendary Dingwalls in March and got our eyes on a bunch of festivals in the summer. 2018 onwards and up.