“Just keep smiling, whatever you do” reads one of the standout lines from Sisterix’s newest single ‘The Family’, and according to Siomha, one half of the sibling-pairing turned-band, it is descriptive of the general mentality Irish society has had for decades.
Despite being one time zone and a two hour flight away, the importance of the song and the urgency behind it was palpable even through a Zoom call.
When asking Siomha why now was the right time to record and release ‘The Family’, the response I got was fairly to the point; “it’s a culmination of almost a lifetime’s pent up feeling and frustration” towards Ireland, [some of] its people, and its institutions. Ireland, as Siomha puts it, was, and still is, a dark and oppressive place.
‘The Family’ focuses heavily on Ireland’s tendency to wash over massive internal problems, such as government shortcomings and the legacy of the Catholic Church, by simply ignoring them in favour of focusing on more surface-level issues which paint Ireland in a more positive light. The family in the song itself is entirely reflective of that – the hook reads “there’s no divorces […] there’s no abortions […] there’s no abuse there’s no misogyny” in the family.
All of these topics have proven to be at least somewhat contentious in Irish politics and society, particularly the first two, considering the legacy the Catholic Church has in Ireland. Controversial as they were, ‘The Family’ insists that Ireland was too quick and not reluctant at all to move the public discussion onto something else every time, leaving the problems brewing below the surface until they ultimately tear the family (in this case, Ireland) apart.
The urgency and mood of the song is set out right from the beginning. The moody keys, combined with the repetitive and somewhat sinister drum pattern creates a distinctly Irish sound, whilst creating a generally unsettled atmosphere from the get-go. You wouldn’t need to hear the lyrics to understand the emotional nature of the song – however, the lyrics lend themselves to the mood of the song, as well as its aforementioned distinctly Irish nature.
Not shying away from the subject matter, Sisterix make it explicitly clear in the first line of the song that they are talking specifically about Ireland – a decision which ultimately works in their favour. Hearing references to abortion, domestic abuse and divorce feel significantly more impactful and, to some extent, personal, knowing that they’re talking about Ireland. For an Irish audience, knowing the song is about Ireland from early on will encourage them to really think about what is being said in the song, and perhaps some Irish listeners might even feel inclined to learn more about it as a consequence.
To Sisterix, music can, and should, be more political. When asked about the importance of music in promoting political discourse, Siomha argues that we need to see music, as well as Irish culture in general, become “more politically engaged” so that Ireland becomes less like ‘The Family’ and more like a country that is prepared to reckon with itself and address its very real problems.
Perhaps music in Ireland is less political than its anglophone counterparts on either side due to Ireland’s tendency to brush controversial political matters under the carpet – there’s no way of proving this is or isn’t the case. Nevertheless, after listening to ‘The Family’, many questions come to mind about the way Irish society treats politics, and whether the progress we see is actually good progress, or whether it has all come at an unspoken cost.
You can watch their new music video for ‘The Family’ here.
Nicolas Murphy – Music Reporter