There is a Vietnamese proverb which states: “Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet”; whilst the comparison here could be viewed as slightly mystifying, its authenticity it certainly not without merit. Essentially hands and feet are different, in purpose and physical attributes; however, their respected virtues, connection and reliance upon each other is a bond near impossible to measure and therefore break.
In essence the connection between hands and feet like siblings, is infinitely resolute and consequently beyond difficult to fracture.
Whether visually or aurally after experiencing only moments of Sitara, the astonishingly beautiful Adelaide based folk-soul sister duo comprised of Erin & Tess Fowler, the observer will witness this connection at an unfeasible degree of grandeur. As Erin details in reflection of working with her sister about the outfit’s visual album Alchemy, she finds a safety and self-assurance when performing with her sister Tess.
“It’s the most important and magical part of Sitara for me. I collaborate with a lot of artists in my other projects, but working with Tess is completely different and such a special thing.” She admits – “We are ridiculously close – I don’t think a day went by in the last 6 weeks that I was in the US that we didn’t talk. There’s so much safety and familiarity in our connection that just gives me a confidence and trust in what we are doing, even when we don’t know what that is exactly. I often get really nervous performing dance or speaking on stage, but since the beginning of Sitara I just love being on stage with Tess – it feels so free. I remember the first time we properly sang in harmony together and both of us were pretty blown away by the experience. I think there’s something pretty special and hard to describe about that.”
The linkage between the sisters is visually, audibly and spiritually felt when experiencing the eight tracks which make up Alchemy. One of the reasons why multiple senses undergo a hypnotism of sorts besides the breath-taking sounds the Fowlers craft and perform; is that the album is in fact a visual record. The songs encompass as cinematic aid enhancing the journey of the LP rather exceptionally. The single Distant Heart for example showcases Erin exhibiting her profound talent for dance amongst a desolate beach wasteland in St. Kilda. The film is exquisitely powerful and as she elaborates, an experience which was memorably risky but incredibly emotionally relieving to an indescribably quintessence.
“The St Kilda wastelands setting was a bit of a risk. I remember the morning of the shoot saying to our director Morgan (Wright) that I had found us a location that I haven’t actually seen in person but I had a feeling it was going to be great.”
She continues – “When we turned up I thought, shit, this is terrible. Firstly, it stank so bad, there were flies and the sand/toxic waste just sank as soon as you stood in it. Not really ideal shooting conditions! But then we found the area that we shot in and somehow the vast expanse of nothingness was the perfect backdrop for the song. Even in really desolate, lonely times, finding a way to come back to your own strength and self can ultimately be the most empowering and I think the location does help to express that.”
Did the desolation and unremarkable conditions suit the song’s meaning?
“The lyrics for this song are a lot more direct and personal for me, which as a contemporary dancer was a little scary at first, as there is certainly some safety for me in hiding behind the abstraction of dance. So I think it did serve as a catharsis of sorts.
”I wrote Distant Heart in Bergen, a small town in Norway a few years ago. Tess and I were busking around Europe and I went there to follow a lost love, even though it wasn’t to be. One night, Tess and I went for a walk to the top of a hill where we could look out over the beautiful Bergen harbour. I remember feeling crushed by the experience and yet, the feeling of being in a foreign place, a very small fish in a very big pond, somehow allowed me to come to peace with everything, despite all of the heartache.”
So did you find a resolution amongst the bewilderment?
“This song for me is about finding a way to be accepting and maybe even thankful for the experience – not in a butterflies and rainbows way – but in a way that allowed me to find some sort of resolve and sense of self again in what felt like a very powerless situation. Even though we might want to feel differently and be able move on from a love, sometimes it isn’t possible. Trying not to hide this and actually just accepting how you feel can sometimes be all the healing you need – which is the core theme of our visual representation of the album.”
There is a phenomenal likening present with the art that Sitara conducts sprinkled throughout their musical recipe. A resemblance to arguably one of the greatest song-writers / musicians of the modern era, the late Jeff Buckley can be slightly perceived in the sisters’ formula and it is simply stunning.
“I grew up listening to Jeff Buckley, and would say he is an influence for sure. For a generally happy person I do love listening to melancholy, dreamy music. I just saw Vancouver Sleep Clinic perform live in San Francisco last week and was blown away by his angelic voice. Bon Iver, Asegir, Sigur Ros are all artists that I love in that genre, particularly for when I’m making dance.”
Are there any other notable influences?
“My tastes are pretty eclectic. For the last few months I haven’t been able to stop listenting to movie soundtracks – I love the drama and magic of composers Alexandre Desplat and Dustin O’Halloran. Perhaps that’s the years of ballet that Tess and I went through that made me love classical music. But then I also love cheesy pop just as much!”
Erin reveals further – “Creativity for me is a hard one to pinpoint. Most songs I write, that I like, tend to be surprises. For the last few years I’ve been interested in using musical composition tools for my choreography and dance making tools for music. So often, being a pretty simple, self-taught guitarist, the chords and notes I write tend to come from an interest in the physical shape my hand makes on the fret rather than any particular musical know how!”
With the upcoming visual album film premiere taking place this week, Sitara are taking their marvellous creation Alchemy on a journey that will undoubtedly captivate audiences on a global scale. But what else is on the cards for these talented sisters?
“We’re really excited for the screening at the Mercury Cinema on the 6th of June. To see it all on the big screen and share that with our family and friends and supporters. Then we are locking details for a gig on the 30th of July with the Umbrella Winter Sounds and Guitars in Bars Festival. This will be an intimate semi acoustic live performance of the album with just Tess and I at the arts space I set up, The Mill. We’ll be making some soup and mulled wine for everyone and it will be a lovely cosy affair. And we’re hoping to project parts of the film on the gallery walls for that too.”
It would seems this undivided connection between the Fowler sisters is about to become more than undivided attention for the rest of the world.