Just four weeks after opening for Loren Barrigar and Mark Mazengarb, sisters Alison & Zoe are coming back to Auburn Public Theater to headline a show of their own.
I had a chance to speak with Alison and Zoe Mullan-Stout, who live in Marcellus, about the audience's response to their first concert at the theater, their songwriting and the creative advantages of being a sister act:
Q: Auburn Public Theater announced this concert as "back by popular demand." You were just there March 21. How was the response to your show?
Alison: I felt like the audience there was very receptive. You could tell the people loved music, and were supportive of Loren and Mark and our music. We got a postive response and the music touched a lot of people and resonated.
Zoe: I think people were also pleased with the complement of two young sisters singing their own original songs, complementing Loren and Mark's music. They could be seen as very different, but a similar place of coming from the heart. The audience could see and feel that.
Q: Tell me about your history together — how long have you been playing?
Alison: We were born in Dublin and grew up in upstate New York since we were young. We've been singing together since we were kids. We're sisters, so since we could talk.
Q: What does Saturday's show mean to you? Have you played at venues like APT before or is this a step up?
Zoe: This is kind of our first "proper" show. We've been playing open mics and coffee houses and little gigs, by donation at cafes. We haven't done something on a scale like this, with a press release with our name and our own music, and we get to put it all together. It's exciting for us. It's pretty new, but we're familiar with being on stage and that atmosphere.
Alison: This is kind of our first real show, but we've been leading up to it really gradually with all times we've played and practiced. It's a big step and a small step towards it.
Q. What's your songwriting process like? What inspires your music?
A: I wrote a lot of the songs, and Zoe writes a lot of the guitar and the instrumentals. A lot of the time the inspiration comes from going on a walk in the woods. Songs come through that way, or an interaction with someone, and sitting down with the song and having a conversation with the song. We've just gotten into writing songs together, so we'll spend a lot of time improvising, I guess, and seeing what comes out of that and comes out of our mouth. Sometimes it goes somewhere, sometimes it doesn't.
Q: How does being sisters and playing together so long translate to your songwriting and your live performances? Is there a sort of oneness there?
Zoe: Definitely. Everything feels pretty down to earth because we spent so much time together and see each other in so many ways, so when we're on stage, it's like, "Oh, here we are, singing songs." We do it so often it becomes second nature. We read each other real well; we can see when we have little jokes and side things. It feels really joyful to be sharing our songs. They come from places we experienced together. You can feel that when we're performing.
Alison: We have a lot of practice communicating with each other nonverbally.
Q: What about influences? Are there any sounds you aspire to? Any points of comparison?
Zoe: I would say a lot of our music has kind of a unique flavor to it, and I think it could be described as kind of folk, indie, singer-songwriter. A lot of people say sister harmonies because that in and of itself is really unique. Our original songs — I don't feel like they have a strong influence from anywhere in particular. Growing up in Ireland — in the time we spent growing up there, we experienced a lot of music culture, and song-sharing.
Alison: We've had quite an eclectic influences. There are lots of styles, and I think we take inspriation from other things that aren't music, like listening to birds. It all plays into our music and it all combines to create something new.