INTERVIEW: Shakespears Sister

They say good things come to those that wait. 26 years ago, Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit acrimoniously slammed the door on one of the most successful female duos of all time following a succession of stand-out hits that still define the era in which they were released. They even headlined Glastonbury before going their separate ways but as Fahey breathily concluded in their 1993 song ‘My 16th Apology’, ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine’.

Kevin Urquhart caught up with both of Shakespears Sister to talk forgiveness, making new music, going back on the road and what they got up to last night….

SF: We’re pretty knackered to be honest; we did Graham Norton last night and that’s being broadcast tonight. I can’t wait to see it. They record it live the day before. It’s typical that our very first performance
together after 27 years is live on television in front of five million people. It was a little bit nerve-wracking, but I think we pulled it off. It was quite emotional actually

I can imagine. 27 years is a long time. Did you feel like you slotted back into your roles?

MD: It’s just kind of happening naturally. We found this newfound respect and appreciation and acceptance of each other and it’s all just falling into place like every day. It’s evolving into this thing and it’s so much more fun and enjoyable now.

SF: Yeah, we can really enjoy it and be grateful for it now and savour the journey. Plus, we’re on a creative high, we’ve just written 6 new songs together, we’re halfway through a 5 track EP. All the tracks are amazing, I love them. I’m so excited to release our new material.

Our social media lit up last night when we said we were talking to you; so much excitement! Everyone wants to know if there will be new material so I’m going to get straight to the point. Will there be new material?

SF: Yes! The new single was called ‘All the Queens Horses’ and it’s the first song we’d written together for 27 years so it was a hole in one. As soon as we wrote that song I was like ‘Game On, this is magical’; it’s been a long time coming!

SF: It has been a long time coming! Brewing. It’s been a long pregnancy. We’ve got an amazing new video to accompany it by Sophie Muller who did all our previous videos. She was very much like our third member visually; very much an architect of the videos which is a big part of it. She was greatly inspired by the difficulties we were having between us.

MD: What difficulties?!

SF: So, it’s a revisiting and an updating of the ballad of Siob and Marcie. It’s very funny the video.

MD: It’s heart-warming and it just covers a gambit of emotions

SF: It actually made me cry the first few times I saw it. We’re getting more sentimental in our old age.

Has it surprised you about how much interest there has been in the reunion?

SF: Yeah well, we sold over a million records in 1992 so that means there’s got to be about a million people who are going to be very excited to hear about it.

You’d hope so.

SF: I never wanted us just to be a retro band, I mean I’m incredibly excited about the new material and judging by the journalists, some of who are younger than my children, who have heard it, my hope is that we get a whole new audience with the new stuff.

I saw the Bananarama Reunion tour a couple of years ago and I tell you what, I see a lot of gigs and it was one of the most fun gigs I had been to in decades. I loved it.

SF: Fantastic. It was very joyful. The Bananarama tour was a wonderful celebration of what we had been as a trio of young women forming a band when we were very young and learning on our feet on how to write and
make records and actually making quite a few records that really touched people. I wanted us to make new music, but Sara and Keren weren’t so into that idea. I was just desperate to make new music so after that tour I was like I’ve got to make another record myself and then when I met up with Marcie and we’d put our differences to one side finally. All of sudden that became a possibility and something that I definitely wanted to explore between us. We’d always had a symbiotic relationship as songwriters and artists, it was always easy flow creatively.

So, about the split…

SF: It was a gradual thing. There were many components of it which neither of us were aware of the whole picture until we sat down and actually talked. I come from this culture where we don’t really tend to air our grievances, we brush everything under the carpet and have a stiff upper lip. I just wouldn’t talk about stuff that was bothering me, Marcie had no idea. Whenever she tried to talk to me about things, and being American she just wanted to confront things, whereas I took it as an attack. I never gave her or myself the opportunity to clear the air. I’m so glad I finally got there as a human.

That’s the benefit of wisdom, sometimes stepping out of a situation is the most positive thing you can do so you can salvage any form of future relationship and be at peace with yourself.

SF: Absolutely, it’s primarily to do with that. You don’t want to take that to your grave. That was the primary objective for me in sitting down and having a coffee with Marcie. That day everything was healed.

MD: Pretty much, yeah. Clear up any misconceptions, that was much needed and appreciated.

SF: We both learned about the situation that we perhaps weren’t aware of back in the day. What I didn’t know was the incredible reward of the creativity was to follow from having the courage to do that.

Do you regret how it all ended back then or are you just chalking it down to different times, different people?

SF: I think regret is a wasted emotion.

MD: Likewise. It happened, we don’t have a time machine, we can’t go back and change things. It was so kind of circumstantial. Like Siobhan has said, there was a lot of divisiveness around us, people around us,
miscommunication and we just kind of reacted to it in the best way we thought it was to react. Thankfully now we understand it more and we can move forward and appreciate each other more.

SF: Yeah really appreciate the power of us two together

When you sat down for that coffee, who was that peacemaker?

SF: I had been approached a couple of times over the years by Marcie and I hadn’t really got there yet, and I wasn’t able to do it. It did actually have to wait until I was able to face it
and I was being heavily encouraged by Peter who is managing us back together again. I knew that I needed to do it, but I was so cowardly about it. I hate confrontation.

MD: It is scary, the fear of the rejection or failure or of what’s going to happen.

SF: Or it is exploding into an ugly scene

MD: In that first meeting I thought maybe I need to drink Vodka I wasn’t really sure what to do but we were no, we were brave, we just met up on our own, there were no mediators or anything.

What do you think the past twenty years has taught you about yourself and each other? Can you see in a change when you look at one another?

SF: That’s a very deep question for two sleep deprived women. I mean the answer is yeah, it feels very different between us now. In a sense we’re very much the same people but I think we’re both wiser and been through a lot of experiences through the years. Highs and Lows. It gives you a great perspective on life and its process.

There’s not one other person who can say they’ve had the same experience, I guess.

Both: No

SF: I think we both lead life on our own terms and outside of the normal choice of the way you might live your life. It’s difficult thing to relate to. Being in a band with somebody is quite a loaded and extraordinary relationship.

MD: Kind of like a marriage.

Do you think the industry has changed? I know you’ve been active in the scene but as a duo are you expecting the scene to be different now?

MD: I think the most important thing is to hope for the best and expect not too much. Because the way the music business has changed over the years it’s still kind of fractured. It’s not like this identifiable machine that it was. I’ve heard people like Quincy Jones and saying three or four years ago that the music business is dead as we knew it back then but, anybody can make a record now and the market is flooded with new artists every day. We all have the common hurdle of ‘how do we get this heard? How do we get our art out there?’ Everybody has that hurdle, but we have been so lucky that we have a label behind us now and everything has been magically aligned.

SF: The stars have aligned for us in a crazy way. We’ve got a wonderful new record label who are excited about our new material to the point where we are now able to work with top producers and we can afford Sophie to make
our videos again. We can work at the top of our abilities again with amazing talent, we’re working with amazing artists to help us realise our art. Both of us have struggled in obscurity for twenty years, you know making records in your garden with no budget.

MD: Yeah, in my bedroom on my iMac. It’s been a great experience doing it because you learn a lot along the way. I know I have about creating records and the process and learning how to do sound design and not being dependent on anybody else.

SF: That was amazing There was just me and Marcie and a tiny amount of musical equipment and her instruments and we were able to create these beautiful and fully realised demos.

Do you think as a listener? If I had my eyes closed would I still be able to hear Shakespears Sister as I knew them back then?

SF: We’re ploughing a different furrow of musical instruments on this new material. It’s much more organic and culled from Americana type influences. It still sounds like Shakespears Sister, everybody who hears it goes Oh My God you sound like Shakespears Sister, we can’t help it.

Shakespears Sister will release Singles Party on 19th July.
Their tour will see them perform at The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham on 31 October and at Symphony Hall, Birmingham on 19 November.
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