Currently charmed and enchanted by Paris, where members Lewis Lazar, Christopher Willatt and Julia Johansen met (again) by chance, Oracle Sisters has been nominated for the NME 100. Ranking among the essential artists for 2019, the Belgian-Irish-Danish-Finnish band took us with them on their past and present musical journeys.
Lewis and Christopher, which elements – if any – from your childhood compositions assonate in the songs of Oracle Sisters?
Lewis: “Although we mainly searched for harmony when we were kids, we always favoured melodies with a twist, aiming to compose rather unpredictable songs. Chris would throw chords at me that I would use to create a melodic line. We would either write separately and meet up to ideas or write face to face, starting from scratch. This approach hasn’t changed. Starting Oracle Sisters allowed us to develop our ideas further.
a series of coincidental events brought both of us to Paris
Have you two always stayed in touch and shared your music, or did you reconnect by chance?
Christopher: “We stayed in touch throughout our entire youth, stealing a little time for writing together, but a series of coincidental events brought both of us to Paris: the death of a loved one, a break-up and a mysterious summer in a haunted villa in Italy.”
In everyday life you’re working respectively as a painter and a mathematician. How do your professional backgrounds influence your music?
Christopher: “Mathematics is all about patterns, shapes and exploration. Music brings all three components to a whole new level through the framework of artistic expression and storytelling.”
Lewis: “Both in painting and in playing music, I intend to tell the world’s stories as if I were the first and last person to see them. My focus may lie on a steal beam pointing south while there’s no roads heading that way, a gust of spring rain showering the street or a tanning salon out of business in the middle of the Mohave desert.”
Julia, what made you decide to join Oracle Sisters?
Julia: “I felt particularly attracted by the poetic, melodic songs and the opportunity to become a drummer throughout the project, as I usually sing and play the guitar. My ace card is singing and playing drums at the same time. Lewis and Christopher call me ‘the queen of the elves’ of the band – an ongoing joke since we first started Oracle Sisters.”
All three of you have spent quite some time abroad before moving to Paris. Which differences did you notice in your music, depending on where you live(d)?
Julia: “We’ve carried with us the energy and imagination of the worlds where we come from to Paris: Christopher felt largely influenced by Edinburgh’s underground folk tradition, Lewis had New York’s kick and wild pace, fuelled with vertical electricity, and I … naturally carried the fascinating shamanic power of Finnish saunas. We all brought these memories and experiences to the blank canvas that Paris seemed to offer us when we arrived.
Lewis: When we arrived in Paris, these sensibilities were with us, but the city offered us a fresh start, artistically. Always is the first song we wrote together, and it rushed out like a river. We hope it sounds that way, too.”
Could we consider Always as an introduction to the type of music you’re planning to make? There is a clear discrepancy between the melody and the music terms used in the song.
Christopher: “Always certainly lends itself to that interpretation, since we are, for example, singing ‘do re mi fa sol’ while the actual notes are ‘sol#, fa#, mi, do#, mi. Actually, the song reflects the idea of any common structure, any series of ingredients and the originality with which individuals choose to use them.”
How would you describe the Oracle Sisters sound in in just three words?
Christopher: “Zesty, octopus, revolution .”
Lewis: “Fire, amber, telepathy.”
Julia: “Fountain, secret, ceremony.”
Where do you think you are situated in the wide music industry?
Julia: “There’s a rich scene of artists, musicians and song smiths in Paris who we feel close to. Among them are Papooz, Jerome Goldet, Marguerite Bartherotte, Victoria Lafaurie and Xavier Polycarp. They’ve all been helpful.
Lewis: “But music is also subject to an ongoing exchange across time. That’s why we like to imagine ourselves learning from a longstanding tradition of ‘greats’, such as Julie London, Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, Harry Nilsson, John Jacob Niles, Bessie Smith, Slim Harpo and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”
Oracle Sisters has been nominated for NME100 Essential Artists for 2019. What will this year bring for you as a band? Which projects can we look forward to in the near future?
Christopher: We’ll be releasing a couple of singles before summer, as we’re right in the middle of planning a record we’ll produce this month with Noah Geargeson in the south of France. Chances are also high that we’ll be recording with Adan Jodorowsky in Mexico in September.
Lewis: As to concerts and festivals, we’ll be touring in France, Belgium and the UK soon!