T Sisters are an American indie-folk band made up of three sisters: Chloe (percussion), Erika (guitar), and Rachel (guitar/banjo). The band’s catchy melodies have helped innovate the indie-folk style. D-CAF sat down to chit-chat with the sisters about music, their role as women, their new album as well as the women empowerment workshop that they will be giving at D-CAF.
Q: How do you feel about participating at D-CAF?
Chloe: We are very excited. It seems like a really amazing great festival. Of course it’s our first time in Egypt. We are very honored to be a part a big festival like D-CAF.
Rachel: Yeah, we’re really excited to connect with people through our music because we’ve never toured internationally, and we are just super excited for the new connections that we will be making on this trip.
Q: Since the beginning of your career, you have been known for singing personally-inspired lyrics. More recently, however, it seems that you have moved towards discussing more dense themes. Is that due to your desire to diversify your music style, or rather to play a socially-engaging role?
C: That’s a good question. I think it’s a natural progression. A lot of people upon starting, begin with what is most familiar, which tends to be their own experiences and emotions. And I think that as you mature and start looking at the world outside, you see that there are so many different voices that need to be expressed. These are equally able to say something important about what is happening in the world. And they are able to spread positive and empowering messages as opposed to what you hear in a lot of mainstream music, which isn’t always very flattering or empowering towards women.
R: Yeah I think all that rings very true. Our goal as artists is to continue to speak to people and to connect with them; and like Chloe said, to really mature and then have that role as an engaging artist, means being able to see yourself in different positions and assume different roles from different perspectives; it means to be able to connect with a wider group of people and just to start thinking about different concepts besides what’s happening maybe in your own personal life. I think part of the beauty of being on this path as an artist is to really be capable of thinking about more meaningful things and to try to have your work reach people in a meaningful way. In order to do that, I think you have to get outside of your own emotions and feelings to a certain extent.
Q: Since you will be giving a women’s empowerment workshop at D-CAF, how do you feel about the status of women in the aftermath of the #metoo movement?
R: I think the bulk of our women empowerment workshops are there to empower female voices, in the way #metoo is trying to do. It’s getting people to speak up while raising awareness for alarming things. It’s just to be able to hear a female voice in a public space, not only pointing out injustices that women are facing but also having the ability to feel confident about what they may offer to the world, creatively.
R: Yeah, I think that the #metoo movement has brought about a platform for people to talk about something that has been going on for a really long time and to feel solidarity with other women who have experienced similar things. It also allows us to feel that okay, these things that have been going on forever can change, people can change and the world can change. The only way for that to happen is to talk about it and to have it be out in the open so it feels like things are starting to change. So hopefully women will one day be on an equal standing with men and not have to feel that way. Now I can talk about this thing that has been happening that that I never felt I could say out loud before.
Q: While you were young and still dreaming about a professional career in the music industry, who were your idols?
C: One that comes to mind right off the bat is Brandi Carlile. She is an amazing artist. We’ve been following her for a long time and she has just recently been widely recognized as she won a bunch of Grammy awards. She has such a powerful voice, not only in the tone but also in the way she sings. I mean her songs are so wonderful and her messages are so powerful. She has a very poetic way of saying things that really touch you to the core and in the heart. But they may also be considered controversial if you don’t believe in things like equal rights or women’s empowerment.
R: We know a lot of local and smaller artists that we that really inspire us but in terms of people who are out there and more in the mainstream, I think Beyoncé is really great and she’s making a lot of really powerful statements and videos. She is talking about these divisions in our country and it’s amazing that she has such a huge platform for talking to people. Of course there are also a lot of other artists that we really admire. I love Janelle Monáe, she’s a very strong female presence on stage. Together with Beyoncé, these artists show that women can inhabit such a powerful role. I think Miley Cyrus has spoken out for several causes as well.
Q: Having started at a young age, you are likely to have been influenced by many singers. How did you manage to find your distinct musical identity?
R: I think the identity comes in part from all the different influences combined. Also, being sisters who grew up and learned together, has meant that we were exposed to the same musical influences. We have learned how to create our own sound with our own unique style.
C: How did we form our musical identity through what sounds right for us? I agree with a lot of what Rachel mentioned; a lot of it is continuing to grow, we’re not confined to any certain genre and we love to experiment. But what really ties us together are vocal harmonies, which we come to very naturally because we’re sisters. The blend is very natural and it’s a great way to connect with each other as well as with other people. So a lot of the music is built around that core of vocal harmony.
Q: Could you tell us more about the collaboration with Shereen Abdo? To what extent do you believe in international musical projects as an attempt to reduce the cultural gaps?
C: We’re really excited about it. We have already been in touch via email and Shereen seems incredibly sweet. We’ve watched a lot of her videos and she has a gorgeous voice and is so talented. We can already feel that it’s going to be really good. There’s going to be great synergy with her.
R: We’ve already thrown out some ideas; we are going to learn a song in Arabic and Shereen, as a Jazz singer, is going to be in harmony with us. Additionally, working with local musicians will allow us to get immersed in Egyptian music and thus build on our musical experience.
Mentioning the musical collaboration with Shereen, I would like to know if you believe that international musical projects can attempt to reduce cultural gaps?
C: That’s a great question. Well, I think that the mere ability to accomplish something like this, to create music together, is a signal to other people. I think that on both sides, when we share with our American fans and Shereen shares with her Egyptian fans, we’re showing that that this cross-cultural connection can happen, and that that we do have more in common than we think we do. This is a great way to bridge those divides. We as artists can lead by example, by showing that there are many ways to connect with people from all over the world.
R: Yeah, I think we have this special connection to people, this heart-to-heart connection. Instead of simply standing as distant musicians on the stage, we offer a kind of door that we can open with people because our music helps to bring us together.
C: Music is a language through which cross-cultural connections are possible. For example, there are many people around the world, especially non-English speakers, who are great fans of American music.
Q: Since you will be addressing youth during the D-CAF workshop, what advice would you give to a child/young adult who is passionate about music, considering you started your career at a young age too?
C: I think it all starts with putting a lot of effort into the type of work most young people do not understand these days. Especially given the format in which entertainment is consumed nowadays, you do not see all the work that goes into it or how some artists who have gained popularity through talent shows have actually worked so hard to reach their level of proficiency. They have not simply been discovered and become famous through these shows, that’s really an important thing to remember. You are not going to just become popular without exerting any effort. Also, when it comes to stage performance – getting yourself out there – there is nothing more beneficial than real experience.
R: They have to know that failure is a part of the process and part of discovering your inspiration. If you just tried to copy someone without pushing yourself a little further out of your comfort zone, you will not succeed. Someone once said that the more failures you endure, the more successful you will be. So you do not have to be afraid to fail; there will be ups and downs, but it’s worth it.
Will you be singing songs from the new album?
C & R: Yeah. All of them.
C: Actually, the album release will be on March 15. So our concert at D-CAF is going to be the first lag of our CD release tour.