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HomeCultureArtist Highlight: Sis - Our Tradition

Artist Highlight: Sis – Our Tradition


Jenny Gillespie Mason was pregnant along with her second little one when the thought of Sis began coming collectively in 2015. The Bay Space-based singer and composer, who can be the founding father of Native Cat Recordings, had already been placing out data below her personal title for a number of years, and the brand new challenge was born partly out of a want to include extra digital textures into her folk-oriented songwriting. After weaving her big selection of influences in intricate methods on the primary two Sis data, 2018’s Euphorbia and 2019’s Gasoline Station Roses, she returned with a brand new EP known as Gnani earlier this month. Not like earlier, extra collaborative releases, the six-song effort was largely recorded at Mason’s house studio in Berkeley, CA, although it options tasteful contributions from the likes of Brijean Murphy on percussion and Doug Stuart on bass. Sis’ sound has turn into extra intimate and playful however stays simply as enchanting and immersive, every monitor representing its personal ethereal journey brimming with unusual, mystical element. “Got here on this journey to seek out life/ And the best way to seek out life/ Is to comprehend it stops midair,” she sings on ‘Wooie’, but the music retains going for simply as lengthy earlier than, naturally, it dissolves.

We caught up with Sis’ Jenny Gillespie Mason for this version of our Artist Highlight interview collection to speak about therapeutic, the making of her new EP, and extra.


Listening to your new EP right now of 12 months, the songs really feel particularly hopeful and delicate. To what extent was that intentional – the tone and the timing of the discharge?

I used to be undoubtedly glad that it was timed to the brand new 12 months, however that was extra only for press causes. The intention was to heal the listener and to heal myself whereas I used to be making it and to connect with God in a devotional means. I believe that that comes by means of, and I’m so happy that individuals are responding in the best way they’re and that it’s serving to them transport to a spot in themselves that’s related with the divine.

Was there a specific purpose that you just went with the shorter format somewhat than a full-length?

Truthfully, I obtained to the six songs and I used to be simply spent. Not in a foul means, I simply felt like I put a lot into the six songs and I used to be so proud of the place they have been, I didn’t have the power actually to make extra stuff at that time. And I felt able to sort of get again into my life as a mom. I used to be nonetheless mothering, however I used to be undoubtedly pushing it, like staying up actually late to make the file. [laughs] I believe it was a mix of simply operating out of inspiration and in addition feeling like it is a full factor and I can provide this now.

It does really feel full to me as it’s. I used to be studying your essay, The Seashore and the Bells, which was printed again in Might 2020 and is only a lovely meditation on motherhood and household life in the course of the pandemic. Does it really feel unusual to suppose that it was virtually two years in the past that you just wrote that?

Thanks a lot, that’s so sort. Sure, very unusual. Once I wrote it, I believed, this isn’t gonna final that lengthy, however I need to seize what it looks like proper now and what we’ve all been by means of. We’ve had so many ups and downs, and the nuance of every flip is worthy of a number of essays. I’m attempting to jot down a inventive nonfiction e book concerning the final two years now, that’s my latest hope. We’ll see how that goes.

That’s one thing that stood out to me concerning the essay – the way you take note of these nuances, the small particulars in your observations. Is that one thing you’ve been attempting to actively domesticate in your music and writing extra usually?

The intimacy of element is one thing I’m at all times striving for, particularly in prose. I believe with songwriting, I are likely to let myself turn into a bit extra aphoristic, I assume, or lyrical, striving a bit extra in the direction of the poetry facet of issues. However I’m actually huge on these little particulars – observing human works and looking into nature, seeing what yow will discover, the way it’s mirroring us again.

Has that at all times been a kind of intuition of yours, or is it one thing you’ve discovered through the years?

It’s undoubtedly at all times been that means. I really feel like I’ve at all times felt sort of like an alien. [laughs] Simply observing the world round me and attempting to grasp, attempting to order the chaos of expertise by means of artwork and thru writing. And in addition, simply discovering these connections between people – that’s a giant a part of my work, I believe, is basically discovering that love and that connection within the human expertise.

To get again to therapeutic, that’s additionally a theme that runs by means of this new EP particularly. How has your definition of therapeutic modified over time and in the course of the making of those songs?

On a private degree, I felt very blocked. I’d had this band that was this huge expertise with touring and collaborating within the studio, and all people moved to LA proper earlier than the pandemic. I’m in Northern California, they moved to LA, in order that was kind of like a mourning course of. After which the pandemic hit, and that was actually intense and traumatic for everyone. I used to be additionally simply attempting to uncover some shadow stuff in myself that most likely wanted to come back as much as heal from my childhood and teenagers and 20s. So all of this stuff got here collectively that have been tough for me, and I felt so blocked.

After which, to be sincere, I did this factor known as Kambo, which is sort of a frog medication from the Amazon. After that, issues began to gush out of me, and it began with journaling, simply free writing. I really feel like this was the primary inventive challenge that the therapeutic was going down in actual time, and I used to be deliberately like, “That is going to heal me.” And it actually did. On the opposite facet of it, I felt like a brand new particular person. Earlier than, I’d performed albums and it was like, “I’m an artist, I need to categorical myself and I’ve this stuff inside which are developing,” but it surely wasn’t like, “I’m going to make use of this to heal myself, get myself by means of this shadowy interval.”

So does this really feel like a brand new begin for you and the Sis challenge?

Yeah, undoubtedly. Yeah, I believe it’s lastly me simply being completely me in my music. It’s like a mix for me of all of the work I’ve performed for therefore lengthy with so many various folks, and now I really feel like I’ve the instruments to maintain going alone.

For lots of artists, there’s kind of essentially been this trajectory of their course of changing into extra solitary or much less collaborative in the course of the pandemic, but it surely looks as if for you it was already leaning that means.

Yeah, I believe I had already began earlier than feeling like I simply need to do my very own factor for some time. I obtained actually into 4 Tet as a result of he does the whole lot by himself, and he was sort of my mannequin. I nonetheless would like to collaborate with folks – it’s simply the core of the challenge, I believe I can preserve going with my very own factor. 

What has Sis come to imply for you as a inventive outlet?

It’s similar to my play house. It’s the place I can go into the wild and play and worship God and perceive myself. It’s like my wild backyard, I assume, and I really feel like I lastly discovered the important thing to my secret wild backyard and I can preserve going again.

I used to be intrigued by this this idea of “woo” that you just’ve talked about in relation to the music ‘Wooie’, which  is extra centered on place and a way of magic and escape. Did making that music and the EP as entire deliver you nearer to that imagined metropolis that you just check with there?

Sure, undoubtedly. One other impetus to this challenge was constructing a world the sound and the panorama and the and the atmosphere, and I believe every music is like its personal little metropolis in a means, its personal locale. And I believe I discovered the escape I wanted – I used to be listening to a Kate Bush interview whereas making it, and she or he mentioned that the studio was her escape. It was virtually reassuring for me to listen to her say that, like, it may be my escape too. I would like this to be one thing actual and pure – it might simply be a lot enjoyable to flee into it and to play. All of us want that proper now, to play extra.

I learn that wanting to include extra synths was a part of the explanation that you just wished to start out Sis, and also you additionally use a big selection of classic keyboards particularly on this EP. Are you able to speak about what appeals to you about utilizing these devices?

Once I first began the band, I had been doing a folky factor for a very long time. In order that was only a option to to say it is a new factor for me, however I additionally was drawn to the sounds and I preferred the emotional depth of the synths. Just like the OP-1 synth, I used to be taking part in loads within the early days. After which I knew that this challenge, it was going to be an digital challenge. I found this synth known as Omnisphere, which is predicated on the pc and has like 5 million sounds on it, so I knew I used to be going to be utilizing that loads. However I grew up taking part in piano and acoustic guitar, that’s simply part of my make-up as an artist, and I believe I want one thing tangible and earthy and I want my arms taking part in one thing actual to ensure that what I’m creating to really feel entire. So I’d simply by no means actually explored the classic synths and keyboard world, and I discovered this nice man right here who sells them and simply I stuffed up my house with all these nice devices. I sort of had my digital studio in a single room after which I had the earthy, natural studio in one other room and was going backwards and forwards.

I wished to ask you concerning the vocal recording on ‘Flower in Area’. What’s the origin of that?

That was my therapist on the time, speaking to me about an Ayahuasca journey. She herself was very effectively versed in psychedelics, and so she was speaking to me concerning the Vendanta methods, the Indian religious method to having no head, which is sort of a non-dual method to seeing the world. And I’d had this expertise throughout my ceremony of seeing myself with out a head within the mirror. So she was speaking to me about that, and the music, I’m attempting to kind of get at non-duality and to get at, like: we’re all right here in these our bodies and incarnated however we’re a lot extra, we come from our greater selves and our soul and we’re simply on this flower in house, I used to be seeing Earth as a bit flower. I had these empty areas within the music and I simply wanted one thing, I wanted one thing actual and earthy and her voice is so lovely. She doesn’t know I used it but. [laughs] Possibly she’ll discover out. I believe she’d be okay with it.

When serious about this concept of a better self past our bodily type, how have you ever discovered a means of reaching a deeper reference to others in your day-to-day life, regardless of there being this disconnect?

I really feel actually fortunate that I’ve made some actually fantastic feminine associates in the previous few years. I’ve some unimaginable longtime associates. It’s not many individuals, however I’ve some actually good associates. I hope all people can take coronary heart of their friendships proper now. And simply being a mom, you’re so related together with your youngsters as it’s that even when I didn’t have these associates, I might be feeling blessed with my connection to them.

When you consider your totally different roles as an artist, a musician, a mom, a pal – the place do you’re feeling like these paths kind of meet? Do you attempt to set boundaries in the best way you method them?

I had a therapist in my 20s, and I keep in mind she mentioned that you just need to simply be sure to’re constant in all your roles – constant by way of being genuine, doing the very best you’ll be able to and being humble, being keen to study, being truthful. That, I believe, is at all times with me, but it surely’s nonetheless very tough to be constant throughout roles. And I believe changing into a mom is basically intense and the primary few years, you do lose your self. Not each girl, however I undoubtedly did. And it took me some time to return to Jenny, not simply Mother. It was actually tough for me to combine my music life into the house life and have it’s balanced. It was very imbalanced for some time, particularly once I was touring and attempting to be like 25 once I wasn’t 25 anymore and I had two children. [laughs] So this challenge, as a result of I used to be doing a lot of it at house, it began to really feel actually built-in. I used to be in a position to actually stability motherhood with the music in a means that felt a lot more healthy.

Are you able to give me an instance of what it seems to be prefer to be genuine to your self now that the challenge is completed?

Once I began Gnani, I had unblocked myself and I felt able to go, however I used to be pushing myself actually laborious. And so the primary few drafts, they weren’t working actually. I had a pal who’s additionally a healer, who instructed me, “A part of the inventive course of is relaxation.” And so I did, I let myself relaxation for like a very good month earlier than I actually began the challenge. I didn’t do something, I simply learn. I used to be studying Middlemarch. I used to be simply attempting to simply deal with myself and take walks and be a very good pal, hang around with my husband and my associates. After which finally I felt rested sufficient to go for it. I believe that’s sort of the place I’m at proper now. I’m within the resting interval and I’m doing little issues creatively, however I’m not pushing myself too laborious.


This interview has been edited and condensed for readability and size.

Sis’ Gnani EP is out now by way of Native Cat Recordings.

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