With accolades such as winning ‘Best Live Act’ at Northern Ireland’s Music Prize in 2019 and airplay from the likes of BBC 6Music and BBC Radio 1, Derry based Shannon Delores O’Neill and Maeve Mulholland – aka Sister Ghost – have just released their brilliantly entitled new EP Stay Spooky. Taken from the EP, latest single ‘Buried Alive’ oozes the duo’s distinctive swirling, gritty power as soaring impassioned vocals and catchy hooks rage with a seething energy. A perfect slice of sparkling rock ‘n’ roll, exuding a much-needed empowering raucous spirit.
We caught up with Shannon to find out more about the new single, what inspires Sister Ghost’s sound, her thoughts on the industry at the moment and more… Have a read and listen to new single ‘Buried Alive‘ now!
Hi Sister Ghost, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
I started Sister Ghost while I was in uni at Belfast. It’s brought so many cool moments to my life, such as supporting LeButcherettes, Pussy Riot and Shellac (meeting Steve Albini and getting his plectrum was amazing!). One of the greatest moments was winning Best Live Act at the 2019 NI Music Awards – getting to stand on the famous Ulster Hall stage where Zeppelin played Stairway for the first time was cool. That award meant a lot too because we were two women, playing loud rock music, with no big team around us – totally a win for grassroots rockers. Sister Ghost started off as a means for me to make the music I always wanted to make, and it’s evolved into a band that is all about a great and energetic live performance where the audience should have as much fun as we do.
Are you able to tell us a bit about how you initially started creating music together?
I’d been writing and performing as Sister Ghost for a few years but met Maeve at Girls Rock School NI in 2017 (I was directing and she was learning bass) and we got on well, so I asked her to join in 2019 and it’s been going great. During the pandemic I was able to have the time to write an album’s worth of material and I sent those demos to Maeve who then wrote her bass lines – she’s always on hand to help with any technical side of things when I need a hand. The same process led us to writing the new EP Stay Spooky that came out earlier this month.
I love the gritty, seething energy of your sound, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Thank you – I like that description, it reminds me of the song Seether by Veruca Salt, who are a huge influence on Sister Ghost for sure! The songs on the new EP are the best example I feel of a mash-up of two particular eras of music for me: lots of ’90s stuff like L7, Soundgarden & Radiohead and then ’60s folk/psych infused rock like CSNY, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mamas and Papas, The Doors, The Byrds etc. Kate Bush and her iconic level of artistry and not bowing down to anyone, has always been something I look to as well.
You’ve just shared your immense new single ‘Buried Alive’, which is super exciting! Are you able to tell us a bit about this? Are there any particular themes running throughout the song?
I wanted to write about the experience of feeling smothered under the weight of responsibilities as well as when you feel that pressure to question yourself and where you’re at in life. Equally, I also wanted to acknowledge the realisation that everything that’s happened before has led you to where you are now – with purpose, and the gratitude and comfort you can feel in knowing that.
How have you found recording and promoting music during these strange times?
It’s actually been my most fruitful time for writing, literally just because the pandemic meant that moving back home to the countryside with not much else to do meant I could just be with my guitar, laptop and notebooks. It’s been shitty not being able to play many shows and live-streams are kind of a buzzkill too (even though they were necessary at a time). But the sooner we get back out on a series of gigs the better – I’m trying to manifest a busy 2022 for Sister Ghost!
You’ve recently played an exclusive, limited-capacity in-store show in Starr Records, Belfast – how was that experience for you?
It was really great – the room was perfect, filled with candles and plants and it was the first time I got to play my new 12 string guitar as well (I’m a guitar nerd for sure). It was just so much fun to get to perform in a full band set-up for the first time since Friday 13th March 2020, which was also in that same record shop! It was so nice to see friends we hadn’t seen in a long time as well.
And how is the live music scene in Northern Ireland at the moment – has it ‘recovered’ after the limitations of the last couple of years?
Not really in all honesty – our government only just allowed a return for standing gigs on October 31st so we’re way behind.
How do you feel the industry is for new artists at the moment? Do you feel much has changed over the last few years in its treatment of female and non binary artists?
Someone recently told me they felt it was an easier time for the brand new, just out-of-school artists right now because they had all that time during the pandemic to try out stuff without having the pressure to be out gigging straight away etc. I think it’s probably a bit of this and that really, I think the internet is helping a lot of people gain a following these days, more so than just being out gigging in the real world – cutting your teeth like I did as a teen in bands etc. In terms of your second question, I just think people who hold power need to keep making sure their venues and spaces are free from toxicity. I also think that work needs to continue on calling out the patriarchal systems and ways of thinking we experience on the daily, so that people of all gender identities feel validated and safe in every walk of life.
And, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists or bands you’re loving right now that you’d recommend we check out?
Yes! Heart Shaped – Kendall is originally from Houston but has been based in Belfast for a few years now – we met through Girls Rock School NI. Mom Friend – Emily is based in Georgia, USA and we met at Girls Rock Santa Barbara.
Finally, what does the rest of 2021 have in store for Sister Ghost?
Preparations for the debut Sister Ghost album… Woohoo!
Massive thanks to Shannon for answering our questions!
Stay Spooky, the new EP from Sister Ghost, is out now. Buy on bandcamp now.