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Interview| Five Minutes with She’s Got The River

She’s Got The River is made up of Sigal Kellerman and Chris Palmer. Having released their debut album Landfall at the end of last year, I caught up with Israeli born singer/songwriter/musician Sigal to ask about the band and their tunes. 

Congratulations on the new album, it sound’s great. How long has the band been working on Landfall?

Thanks very much. In all, probably around three years. We didn’t start with a definitive “let’s write an album”. We had been writing and recording various songs and pieces for a while before then. It was really as two or three of the songs we’d been working on started to sound like they’d sit well together that the idea of carrying on to try and get an album’s worth of material surfaced.

How long have you been writing and performing together as a duo?

About five years. Before that we were both working on our own projects, occasionally we’d contribute or work on something together. It took a while to identify a musical space where we both felt comfortable and where we could each “bring something to the party”.

Have you specifically written tunes that draw on a lot of different genres, such as soft rock, pop and folk, or has that just natural feature of your tunes?

With the exception of Hourglass, none of the songs started as aimed at a particular style or genre. We’re both believers in letting the song dictate what it wants to be. For instance, Lorielle started out of jam that was a more uptempo, acoustic rock song. As it developed and the lyrics started coming together it got more of a country flavour. We both like country but I wouldn’t say we’re avid fans, but that was where the song felt most comfortable, so we decided to explore that side a bit more and see where the song took us.

I mentioned Hourglass earlier, that song did start out as a writing exercise. We’re both huge fans of Elbow and Chris wanted to experiment with very simple, repeated piano figures and layered textures.

Another thing which probably influenced the sound of the album was working as duo rather than as a band, so a lot of the songs started life with just the two of us, with acoustic guitars, throwing ideas backwards and forwards so they germinated in an acoustic space, which kind of stayed with them.

For a short while we did a couple of sessions in rehearsal studio with a bass player friend of ours playing as a guitar, bass & drums trio and that informed a couple of the ‘rockier’ numbers, such as Pull Me Up.

Who or what has had the strongest influence on your music?

There have been so many through the years. The one common starting place for both of us was early English prog-rock. Like Genesis, Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. I have been influenced by P J Harvey, Joy Division, The Cure and David Bowie. Chris spent a lot of time in the States and fell in love with a number American singer-songwriters such as Aimee Mann, Jill Sobule and Sarah Harmer.

She got river

Is it difficult working as a duo? Are there more times when you disagree about the tunes or general musical directions you want to take?

It took a while to find a space we were both comfortable working in. One of the main challenges that took a while to sort out initially was the lyrics. Chris has a love of quite intricate, “dense” lyric writing and with English not being my first language, we had to rework songs quite a lot to get them into a form which I felt comfortable singing them.

When we disagreed about something, rather than shouting it out, we would try it one way and then another. Usually listening to it back the next day, we’d then agree which was the best direction to take.

I think one thing which helped was that we both really tried to stay focused on what was going to be best for the song and in the end that was often the arbiter that settled any disputes.

If you had to describe She’s Got The River’s new album, Landfall, in three words to someone who hadn’t heard you before, what would they be?

Diverse, tuneful and colourful.

There are a lot of different instruments heard on the album, played not only by the band but for the track ‘When the night falls’ by a string quartet. What made you want such a range of different sounds and textures?

The joy of having our own small studio was being able to take the time and experiment with instrumentation. Part of the challenge we set ourselves for the album was to do as much of it as possible ourselves, which even extended to designing the cover & booklet and shooting our own video!

The appeal of the songs to us was adding subtle shades and colourings, sometimes a particular instrument might only play a couple of notes just to emphasise a particular phrase.

The power of the technology that’s available is staggering in terms of giving us access to fantastic instruments, but we also wanted not to lose the feel of live playing, so we resisted using loops and sampled phrases, so in the end that meant going out and actually getting the instrument and learning to play it.

In the case of When the Night Falls we initially wrote and recorded the string part using a computer-based string library. While it sounded good, we felt it just didn’t ‘breath’ in the way we knew real string players could make it. Luckily Chris had worked previously on an album for the Echo String Quartet and a good friend of ours, Clarissa, was a first-class arranger. So we decided to ask Clarissa to develop our initial arrangement and get the Quartet to perform it.

Next time I think we’d both like to involve more people in recording. It’s great doing everything yourself, but it’s also tough work and you do lose some of the spontaneity of reacting to other people’s interpretations of the song.

Have She’s Got The River got live gigs coming up as well?

The plan was to put a band together and start gigging as soon as the album was finished but sadly just as we were finishing, I injured my neck and shoulder, which has now developed into a full-on frozen shoulder. This makes it almost impossible to play guitar for more than a few minutes at a time. So, taking the songs out live has had to be put on hold for now, but as soon as I’m fit we’re definitely going to start gigging!!

Stream the new album now :

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