Sisteray - L-R Niall Rowan, Mick Hanrahan, Calum Landau and Dan Connolly             © Albert Jagger
These are thrilling times to be a member of punk rock four-piece Sisteray and 2018 could turn out to be their best year so far.

Sisteray just completed a Pirate Studios Live Session midweek and they are still buzzing from the experience, they absolutely loved it.

The new year has kicked off in a big way. Following a hectic 2017 the London band only just announced news of their up and coming tour.

Sisteray – Hit the North – will see the band play iconic music cities in the north of England in January and February.

Mick: gigwise there is so much going on in London in January, including all of the 'Big In 2018' gigs, we were asked about these but thought it would be better to go and spread the Sisteray word in some of our favourite northern cities where we are playing with some great bands, Aerial Salad in Manchester, The Kavaliers in Sheffield and The Racket in Liverpool. That is going to be our weekends sorted.

The band members have spent the majority of last year keeping super-busy playing festivals and lots of touring. There is little sign of them showing a need to chill or start the year quietly but why should they when things are going well?

2017 was when band released 15 Minutes, the title of their excellent and highly regarded concept art inspired EP.

Taking inspiration from Andy Warhol, 15 Minutes not only received rave reviews, it subsequently played a critical role in taking the band to the next stage and continue to build their reputation in the UK and parts of Europe.

Keen to maintain a consistent level of creativity, lead guitarist and vocalist Dan Connelly, vocalist and guitarist Niall Rowan, bass player Mick Hanrahan and drummer Calum Landau are soon to go straight back into the studio to record. Any fans attending the northern shows can expect to get some intense exposure to some of the new songs.

There is a theme to Sisteray’s recording, to date they have only recorded on boats moored on the Thames. On Lightship 95 with producer Rory Attwell (The Vaccines, Palma Violets) and to record the 15 Minutes EP and previous single 'A Wise Man Said/Back To Yours' and now at the studio set up on Grand Cru,  owned by The Who's Pete Townsend, with Jonathan Hucks producing.

Jonathan has a strong track record of working with guitar bands and he recently recorded with the likes of alternative band False Heads. So far his work with Sisteray is going really well.

The original plan was to record two tracks for a single but the work has been so successful they are back in the studio to turn it into an EP.  The producer really knows how to achieve the sound the band members are looking for in their recording. Taking the time necessary, he is thorough and makes sure a job is done properly.

Niall: having a top producer like Jonathan is great. He has so many ideas to bring to the recording process. He is very conscientious and is showing great patience. A good producer is able to make suggestions in order to make things better and it is great when you can sense the producer is actively involved.

Enjoying the support of a good producer is clearly beneficial but Sisteray also have the ideological and creative freedom to focus on making the sort of music they actually want to make, as opposed to, what might be expected from them.

The band members are seeing clear benefits of being signed to an independent record label.  Founded in East London in 2016 by label manager Elliott Hale, Vallance Records is one hundred percent independent and totally behind its artists.

Dan: Elliott gives us a lot of freedom to do more or less what we want to do. It is a collaborative relationship. As a band you do not really want anything else and it is an ideal situation for us. That is one of the main differences from being signed to a major record label where there might be someone telling you what sort of music you ought to be making.

Being signed to a small independent label also means there are options to develop the creative work in far more depth and not just take a short-term look at things and focus purely on how many hits you can get on the radio. It is better to make a long-term commitment, develop and build something.  

Calum: there seems to be a lack of willingness to invest in longevity within the industry. In the world of pop people are there for a hit and radio plays a big part in that.

Calum: I think with guitar and rock music it is far more important to get into something properly, get a body of work together, work, consider and listen to a full record. Major labels only seem to commit to putting out singles for bands. Not a lot of great guitar music is being released because there is a tendency to commit to one song only.

Sisteray are on a great creative run just now that is for sure. Rehearsals continue to be productive, the band members have been writing material and they are constantly bringing in new ideas and have even started to introduce different approaches to songwriting. Being able to try out new things and feeling creative is definitely having an impact.

Calum: there is a big difference between innovation and the need to try and fit the mould. It is where a lot of bands tend to fall apart because they are trying to fit in rather than being themselves and be who they actually want to be.

Dan: that is quite possibly why some guitar bands fail and start to sound more or less the same. At least, if you try to look and sound a bit different, it will make you stand out.

A strong artistic expression is key to Sisteray but the band members also like to take a direct, straight-talking approach and deliver lyrics with substance. They like to comment on social issues and doing so comes with ease. Yet, despite being vocal and explicit on a wide range of political issues, they are not comfortable being referred to as a political band.

Niall: being political comes natural I guess. I do not think it is overly political in terms of us telling people to do this and do that. But we do like to comment on what is happening in the world. If you look at something like our song Fast Food for example, we take a really basic idea but then there is still some politics involved. Approaching a topic in that way can be quite effective.

Niall: it was not like we ever set out to be a political band, announcing how we support this and that but are against something else. It is more about providing a comment on what is happening out there.

Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, there is plenty of political complexity out there to comment on.

Calum: around the time of Brexit and the general election we just had a lot to say. We talk more about what we are seeing at a particular time. Record and comment on what is going on around us. As a band we are quite ‘on the nose’ lyrically. At a time like this you are going to be direct whatever you are writing about, you can’t and probably shouldn’t just sidestep something because it appears to be unfortunate.

Either way, it is very effective, being direct and politically ‘confrontational’, knowing how to make use of other art disciplines and applying them to their music definitely makes Sisteray stand out from their contemporaries. It makes them different to the vast majority of guitar bands out there.

Niall: we offer originality. I have seen many bands who are brilliant but then people will to talk about how good they are and describe them by saying they sound like this band and that band, whereas , at least we offer  differentiation because of our songs.

Sisteray’s songs are strong and that has to be at least partly attributable to how well they work together, be it in the rehearsal room working on new material, in the studio or when they play live.

They recently discovered how shifting the songwriting process, and to start with a different instrument, can completely transform the end result in unpredictable but very positive ways.

Dan: we had been talking about doing the drums first and sometimes it might just come with a grove or a certain feel.

Niall: it is easy to get stuck and continue to write songs in a certain way. Changing things take courage. To suddenly have the songwriting process start with a single drum beat can seem a bit scary at first but at the end of the day, you want to work with it to see where it takes you. We have become so much better at writing songs now.

Sisteray - Hit The North:

Jan 20th - MANCHESTER - The Castle
Jan 27th - SHEFFIELD - The Hubs (Hallum Union)
Feb 2nd - BLACKBURN - The Lemon Tree
Feb 3rd - LIVERPOOL - The Magnet