'Demoralising' | 

Irish duo Saint Sister say Covid-19 restrictions are 'really frustrating' for musicians

Founded by Belfast-born MacIntyre and Derry native Gemma Doherty in 2014 after the pair met while studying at Trinity College, Saint Sister have had an incredible year.
Morgan MacIntyre (left) and Gemma Doherty (right) of Saint Sister (Photo: Audrey Gillespie)

Morgan MacIntyre (left) and Gemma Doherty (right) of Saint Sister (Photo: Audrey Gillespie)

Neasa Cumiskey

2021 has been a “rollercoaster” for Irish musical duo Saint Sister, according to member Morgan MacIntyre.

Founded by Belfast born MacIntyre and Derry native Gemma Doherty in 2014 after the pair met while studying at Trinity College, Saint Sister have had an incredible year with the release of their second album ‘Where I Should End’, which has made its way onto several ‘Best Irish Albums of 2021’ end-of-year lists.

Speaking to sundayworld.com, Morgan explained that although this year has been “incredible” for them as musicians, they – along with dozens of other Irish artists – have faced their fair share of difficulties.

“It’s been a rollercoaster. There’s been a lot of highs and a lot of lows,” she said.

“I guess some of the big things we’ve gone through as a band would be releasing our second record and trying to do that in the middle of a pandemic, especially with the ever-changing restrictions. That was an incredible experience, but it was also quite draining.

“[We couldn’t do] really basic things that you would usually associate with an album campaign like playing in record shops and touring.

“Although that was really challenging, it was really fun. It forced us to think outside the box because we couldn’t play shows around that time and we were still trying to connect with anyone who wanted to listen to the record.

“We did stuff like play outside record stores instead and we took over a building on Drury Street in Dublin over a weekend and sold the record from there and sang outside the shop. They were real highlights but they were born out of the frustration of not being able to do our jobs.

“Being able to start playing gigs again in the latter half of the year was incredible but then with new restrictions and trying to adapt again, it’s been a very strange year.”

Last month, the pair had to reschedule some gigs after Gemma fell ill and new Covid restrictions on live events were introduced.

“We had three [gigs] that we had to reschedule. There was a very unfortunate sequence of events where we were cancelling because of sickness and then when we were able to play shows, restrictions changed that again. It really does feel like we’ve taken a few knocks from several angles.

“It’s hard to keep your head when things keep changing. Different people have different coping mechanisms, but you’ve had a year of planning things and then everything gets cancelled at the last moment, you have to really fight.”

Morgan said that the latest restrictions – which allow concerts and live performances to go ahead (but only at half capacity) – are “really frustrating.”

“It would be easier to figure out a plan if the responsibility wasn't on the promoters and the artists to figure out a way of making 50pc capacity shows viable,” she explained.

Saint Sister on the cover of their 2021 album 'Where I Should End'

Saint Sister on the cover of their 2021 album 'Where I Should End'

“Unfortunately, it’s just not viable for anybody – if you’ve already sold the show at 100pc capacity, how do you decide which half of those people get to go to the show?

“What’s been really frustrating is that the responsibility for sorting this out and trying to find a safe way to host shows has been squarely put on the promoters and the artists without any kind of backing, guiding, or road map from the Government.

“People have been playing two shows [per night] and that’s a testament to the hard work of the musicians and their passion for music and strong desire to work regardless, which is really to be commended.

“The one thing is that everyone’s going through it and we’re taking comfort from our fellow musicians. It’s just disheartening. It’s a demoralising time really.

“We’re all leaning on each other, and a real community has come out of the struggle of trying to stay afloat. It’s just a very hard time to be any kind of freelancer. The arts are particularly vulnerable at the moment.

“It feels like a lot of things have been neglected and not been taken seriously. The arts are being left out to dry and left to fend for themselves and figure this out with no support.

“We’re looking forward to being able to play full capacity shows when it’s safe to do so and it makes sense for the shows to go ahead,” she added.

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