Sister John – Amanda McKeown (vocals, guitar), Jonathan Lilley (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals), Heather Phillips (violin, bass, vocals) & Sophie Pragnell (viola, drums, vocals) – formed in somewhat serendipitous circumstances. Having all met whilst singing in The Parsonage Choir. Amanda cajoled the others into helping her perform her songs at a one off event. They immediately recognised the intrinsic musical understanding they shared as a group and were soon an inseparable gang.
Having swiftly developed their sound Sister John signed to like-minded label Last Night From Glasgow in December 2016. Their first release was ‘He Came Down’, an alternative Christmas song which demonstrated the radiant sound of the blossoming four-piece. A sold out show in Glasgow soon followed along with an appearance at the LNFG / TeenCanteen Christmas Effect charity showcase.
Sister John’s second single ‘Sweetest Moment’ was released in June 2016 and was named Single of the Week on BBC Radio Scotland as well as gaining significant attention on the stations Roddy Hart Show. The track was described as “the sound the Velvet Underground would make if Lou Reed wrote for Vashti Bunyan instead of Nico”. (Brian Sweeney)
Within 12 months of signing with LNFG the band released their debut album Returned From Sea, an effortlessly elegant record and one that would sit comfortably alongside the likes of Harvest, Music From Big Pink, Rumours or Songs of Love and Hate, sharing a lyrical and melodic sensibility with all these records. Returned From Sea displayed a maturity that is few and far between in current music, especially on a debut album.
The album release was followed by various sold out shows around Scotland and England, the band taking full advantage of the interest garnered by the album’s critical acclaim. These well received live shows were followed up with another sold out performance, a showcase at Glasgow’s world famous winter music festival Celtic Connections.
After the release of the single ‘Friends’ in early 2018 the band sequestered themselves to begin working on their eponymous second album. A secret show in June 2018 granted a few lucky souls an early insight into the fruits of their labour. Sister John showcases a band revelling in the confidence gained from the reception of their previous work and live shows. It’s a darker album in places but also features a lighter touch, the bands musical growth allowing them to squeeze more out of their full sound on some tracks whilst filtering and minimising on others to wonderful effect.