Sheffield-based quartet Sister Wives blend tantalising tales between the reaches of the Welsh and English language. After their dreamy Walled Garden set on the Thursday evening of this year’s Green Man Festival, vocalist Donna Lee revealed the band’s love for folk horror and the festival’s ancient consciousness to Buzz’s Emma Way.
What was the general consensus after your Green Man performance this year?
Donna Lee, Sister Wives: It was just an amazing experience really. While we were playing the sun was setting over the mountains. It was a really gorgeous gig, there were lots of our friends from Sheffield in the audience and when we came offstage, we were just absolutely riding high and just loved it.
Was this the first time you played?
Donna: We played here the year before last – we played the Rising stage. It feels nice to play the Walled Garden because that’s the stage I’ve always loved the most. I like the atmosphere, the walls make it feel really lovely, but also I think often the musicians that I love the most play on that stage. I have fond memories of dancing a lot in that area.
You’re Anglesey-based – am I right in thinking you’re the only Welsh member of the band?
Donna: A couple of the guys have Welsh ancestry – like Welsh grandparents or other links – but yeah, I’m the only Welsh speaker. The other girls are learning Welsh, so they can sing backings more confidently – and so they can then understand the lyrics and the meaning behind them.
How do you implement folklore into your music?
Donna: Folklore’s really woven through a lot of our songs, and I guess folklore is a big interest to a lot of us within the band, especially me and Welsh folklore especially. Anglesey, obviously, is a place with a huge amount of folklore. We sing lyrics which are resurrections of old folk stories and folklore from different communities in Wales, but also we use them throughout our own lyrics. We try to evoke a haunting sound, which links with some of the stories that we tell.
Where did the idea come from to start writing from a folklore perspective?
Donna: I guess because those kinds of things have always been something that’s been mutually important to each one of us within the band, and it evolved quite naturally. I don’t think we ever explicitly said “let’s do something that talks about folklore”, or evokes folk horror imagery. I think the sound we’ve created aligns itself quite nicely with these themes, too; you can imagine it on a folk horror soundtrack.
I didn’t want the band to be fully Welsh-speaking, but I wanted there to be Welsh-speaking elements. Also, when I’m talking about places that are so important to Wales, I feel like singing in Welsh is important.
Are you fans of the horror genre?
Donna: Yeah, big fans of horror. Lisa our drummer, especially, is a massive horror fan. She spends hours and hours in the cinema watching horror films. I think that’s also woven through a lot of our songs. We love the folk horror genre, and I really, really love folk horror films. I go to a lot of folk horror festivals and things like that. So I think that resonates a lot with our music.
Do you find the Green Man Festival an inspiring place from a lyrical point of view? Do you feel like you come away with ideas?
Donna: Definitely. I think being in the mountains, being surrounded by all these ancient trees and beautiful surroundings, you can’t help but feel that there’s an ancient consciousness. It really feels magical.
When can we expect new music from you?
Donna: We’re writing at the moment, we’re also going to be putting aside half of the autumn and the winter for writing. So we won’t be gigging as much then. We hope to get something new out in the new year.
Info: Sister Wives on Bandcamp
words EMMA WAY