Sistertalk are sat downstairs at The Old Blue Last in East London. It’s a crisp January evening, the sort that makes you bristle the collars on your coat and pucker your lips together as you stroll down the street, all with that thought of where the windy nights and New Year can take you.
Sitting suited to a tee, these are the nights Sistertalk have made their own over the past year, becoming a word of mouth nod throughout London and scooping new band picks and shows across the board, all without a single song out in the world. Now, they’re ready to step out to something bigger.
“The sooner you get things out, the sooner the pressure is on you,” notes frontman Gabriel Levy, sitting alongside his brother Daniel as they gear up for another show to kick in their next chapter.
“I think, we’ve had a fair bit of pressure but the good kind, one that’s more of an air of excitement as opposed to anything else. Up to this point, it’s been about getting the material together to be able to take this year and be as prolific as we like with everything. It’s been a long time coming.”
For those who’ve managed to catch a glimpse of Sistertalk, it’s understandable why the hype is high. Stepping on stage with unbridled confidence and looking brimmed with the sort of sharp attire that makes you want to be in their gang from the very first note, that blend of menacing electro and snappy post-punk stamps its ground as a band unlike any other right now.
“It’s taken a while to get to the stage where we’re all happy with how we’re sounding and what we want to be going forward,” admits Gabriel. “It’s been 18 months of trial and error to get to this point where we’re completely fine, and we are confident going forward in what we’re doing and really, really proud, and I think that’s the most important thing.”
“We’ve always been a live band first,” states Daniel, reflecting on a run of incredible shows and crowing crowds flocking to have a peek at who Sistertalk are, “so it’s been nice in the last period to reverse that a bit. Actually, focus on the songs that we know can fill a room and get them sounding good in the studio.”
Gabriel and Daniel were the first in their family to pick up an instrument. Music had always been a ringing normal in their house (“Our parents have incredible taste in music,” cracks Gabriel), sharing a wall with the neighbour next door who just so happened to be a professor of guitars.
From the age of 7/8, Gabriel picked up the guitar and never looked back, pointing out that “for me, it was always a means of expression more than anything else.” He’d learn a new song and put on shows for his family, charging 50p for entry of course. That connection between him and his brother was always tight.
“I was a bit strange,” starts Daniel. “I didn’t talk till I was 4, and I was always a sponge for what Gabe was doing until I could open my mouth. Maybe still later when he moved onto guitar and I was like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’.”
He started playing drums soon after, and they began jamming together regularly. They had already been drawn to bassist Tom from an early age, meeting at a youth club where they bonded over the same things that others there weren’t interested in, from there playing in each other’s bedrooms and various guises for a number of years. With Daniel meeting guitarist James while at university and the idea of starting a band was at the forefront of their mind, and then meeting Seth after seeing him play around London – Sistertalk were set.
It’s understandable for all of their live buzz that the band threw themselves into things when it came to getting out there. “We were quite shy anyway,” admits Gabriel.
“It was good because it was trial by fire,” recalls Daniel. “We’re not one of those bands who are blessed with having a lot of musicians being in other bands from a young age, so we don’t have that two rows of smiling solid faces. You’ve got to turn someone to your music.”
That’s certainly something they’ve nailed over the past year and a half, with their frantic, grooving and potent hooks making their mark no matter what the night and no matter who would be following after them. Stopping people in their tracks with intrigue, it’s like a boardroom summit erupting into frenzied and palpable destruction, with a band doing things differently.
“It’s classic London,” reflects Gabriel, thinking back to those early shows when Sistertalk would take the stage in front of rooms where nobody would know who on earth they were. “At the beginning, there was a lot of chin-scratching and arms-folded and all of that, and now we’re in a place where the front two or three rows wherever we go are the same, and the rest are intrigued”.
“We totally get why there’s a sort of ambivalent reaction at first,” continues Daniel, “because it’s like – can I dance to this? Well, sometimes and then 30 seconds later, no. Can we mosh to this? Maybe and then it’s gone. Things change quickly and move, but what’s great is when you get those people that come back on the second or third time, and they know what to expect. I think maybe we’re a band who benefit from multiple views…”
“And listens!” comes back Gabriel.
That’s the next step, with debut track ‘Vitriol’ out in the world showcasing what live crowds have been lapping up – the sort of pulsating and shape-shifting cut that bursts into darkness and holds it in the palm of its hand.
“It was the first thing I wrote,” details Gabriel, “so it’s fitting that it’s the first track we put out. The fact that it’s become almost a staple of our live shows is something we never knew would happen. It’s nice to let it go; we’ve been sitting on it for such a long time, there have been so many different versions of the song that it feels good to let it go and see what happens. It’s nice to not have it under ourselves anymore.”
As Daniel picks up: “It has that frantic sound of being the first thing we wrote, so it’s nice that we’ve kept that as the first thing to put out there.”
Looking back at what they have recorded so far, it’s clear Sistertalk wanted to make sure they were ready – both in the studio and out facing the world.
“It’s been interesting and a little bit tricky because we’ve taken that do it yourself approach,” notes Gabriel. “We wanted to learn how to produce and mix our own music as opposed to walking into a studio without any idea at all and paying someone a flat fee to do a terrible job that we’d have to take.
“It was a long process but one that was really enjoyable. It comes from a place of interest and learning to do these things so that we can better the communication between ourselves and say, a producer or an engineer. So we can all come at it from a place of understanding and not coming across as something without any knowledge to back up what you’re saying.”
With an understanding of what lies ahead and a knowledge that now means they can widen their palette of sounds and recording. Lyrics explore the mundanities of everyday life (“in London, there are so many places you can find those stories”) and with a sound that shakes things up good and proper, Sistertalk are primed for a big 12 months.
“Starting from when it was me and Gabe making music as this self-contained project, now we’ve slowly built up this group of friends around us who are producers, artists – people who inform what we do,” explains Daniel. “If we can have the time and space to bring people together to continue to create, then I think that’d be great.”
“We just want to stay true to ourselves, however long this journey may be and see where it takes us,” lays out Gabriel, looking ahead at what seems set on the horizon. “If it takes us to whatever stage that’s great, but we just want to make stuff that people enjoy, and we enjoy. It sounds very nice, but that genuinely is it.
“Taking the time that we have and where we are now, it leaves a lot of space for people to come on a journey with you. You can be very put together on the surface but if there isn’t any room for people to join and have a long journey with you then what’s the point – as a fan,” Gabriel elaborates. “We’re both huge music fans in general of course, and being given that room by many bands to join and follow them on that journey – it’s valuable.”
No longer London’s best kept live secret, Sistertalk are bringing their unmistakable sound to the masses. As Gabriel and Daniel head back to the rest of the band, they’re commanding a space downstairs in the pub sharply-dressed as standouts in the room, before blistering through another memorable set that proves why so many are talking about them.
“The suits are more of a reflection of our approach towards the process in a way,” details Gabriel earlier, “we all enjoy the work and want to embody that when we’re outside.”
“We all kinda enjoy looking at bands and feel like they give off unified images,” continues Daniel. “You look at a band, and you think oh, that’s a unit there with a certain sound.”
Sistertalk are a different type of pack in modern music – now get ready for the ride.
Taken from the March edition of Dork. Order a copy below, or subscribe here.
Words: Jamie Muir