“There’s an unmistakable appetite for life, a chaotic aggression that dances hand in hand with an effortless sense of refinement and beauty.” As the Oracle Sisters describe their adopted city of Paris, you get the sense that the dream pop trio would find these qualities in just about any city you put them in. As captured in their songs – four singles so far – they have a troubadour air to them that makes you think any given night would be a good one with them as your guide.
Their latest single, “From Kay’s to the Cloisters” tells one such story, describing a long night spent passing between bars in Edinburgh, one time hometown of band member Chris Willatt.
We caught up with the full band – Chris, Lewis Lazar and Julia Johanssen to talk about the state of the world today, how to handle it your own way and how to have a good night out in Scotland.
Hi Oracle Sisters, can you tell us about your origins as a band?
Lewis: Chris and I met at school both playing in different bands, by the end of school we joined together where Chris played drums and I sang and played guitar with some others. We stayed in touch over the years while I was in New York and he was in Edinburgh, always getting together to write songs. Circumstances and fate made it so that we were both at a crossroads at the same time, so we decided to pursue writing together for a good year or two by moving to Paris at the same time. This is when we began writing all these songs that became the ‘Oracle Sisters’ : Always, Spotlight and so on were the first songs we composed together. After a year and wanting to play live we began looking for a drummer… we met Julia who was an angelic singer, she joined and brought her talents to the table including her own song writing.
Tell us about “From Kay’s to the Cloisters” too, we heard it’s about nights out in Edinburgh…
Chris: Nights and days. It follows a character, a pub psychologist of sorts, a specialist in the art of moonlight medicine and the bar counter cure. A character capable of alleviating everyone of their worries, but who inevitably ends up carrying them all himself. It’s a series of images of a city and friend I love dearly
Is there something special about a night out there?
Chris: The people and their sense of humour. The pubs and music. There’s a strong folk tradition in Edinburgh. If you can get close to the heart of that, then you’re in for a treat
You live in Paris now, is it a good place to be a musician at the moment?
Oracle Sisters: Paris is visually and energetically a very stimulating city. There’s an unmistakable appetite for life, a chaotic aggression that dances hand in hand with an effortless sense of refinement and beauty. A raging beast of a city with the heart of a painter. It’s full to the brim with colourful characters, those who form the fabric of your everyday observations and those who form the community of artists that inspire new ideas and harder work. In that sense, it’s a good place to be a musician. But for cheap rent, large rehearsal spaces, and live music after midnight. There are better cities to live in.
We arrived finding a small community of very talented artists and musicians who were working off the bat and touring, so this helped us in the sense that there was a group of people who lived and breathed for their artistry. We were all in the same bag of marbles. On the periphery I don’t know about the wider ‘scene’ but we found a small family from the start.
Your videos are beautiful, how do they represent what you want to express in your music?
Oracle Sisters: We have been very definitive on not compromising on our aesthetic sonically or visually. We just don’t want to create anything that doesn’t excite us or we wouldn’t find exciting or interesting to watch or listen to ourselves. So on this front there is no compromise (the use of film for example or spending a long time on each song until we are happy). There is a tangential relationship between the music and the visuals. They fundamentally don’t have a direct link but the juxtaposition between the two always bring out some symbolism that isn’t at first evident. What that symbolism is ..is precisely for you to figure out and decode. Your answer would be more interesting than ours.
There’s something timeless about your music and the visuals. A lot of music is hyper political right now, does it cross your mind to write songs about the times we live in? Or are there even coded messages in the songs you’ve released so far?
Oracle Sisters: The times are indeed hyper political but by definition then there is a crisis with the notion of individual and collective power and how to use it. In this sense an honest introspective song might be the first place to recognize one’s own power and identity in a complex social web, to pause and reflect on yourself and value yourself separate from identity politics – as a soul. From there..to untangle the web of smoke screens and misinformation in the modern zeitgeist? We might tackle it on a whole album conceptually but to do that with subtlety and intelligence isn’t easy. It’s easy to pick sides and state slogans, but it’s not interesting and doesn’t offer any far reaching solutions. Hypotheticals are an interesting way to lay out far fetched ideas that might seem more real than the current mess..science fiction sometimes can be prophetic.
How do you hope for people to feel when they hear your music?
Lewis: I think the ideal is some kind of catharsis, healing or illumination. Some sort of hair raising electrifying eye popping sensation.
What does the future hold for Oracle Sisters?
Oracle Sisters: That depends…we have a lot coming up: an EP and an album and lots of shows but we just hope to be able to continue writing and to get better at it.
CONNECT WITH ORACLE SISTERS
story / Jesse Mico
photos / Maja Mihelič