Loop Festival is serious stuff. Proper music, Squarepusher, intense light shows, video art. So how did three teenage girls sneak in and turn the place upside down? From the vantage point of their own, hand-decorated stage, they looked around and saw the whole of the Dome bar dancing to their simple, kooky, ukulele’n’harmonies songs, not a single stroked chin. How can you stand there stroking you chin when it’s covered – like two thousand other chins – in face paint?
But then The Half Sisters are charmingly infectious. Whether it’s supporting Mum at London’s Tabernacle, playing early at Paddle Round The Pier or busking on the streets of London and Brighton, they’re already masters at disarming the cynics. With confidence well beyond their years they’ll stand up and be themselves. And being themselves seems to be smiling, exclaiming, giggling, singing, laughing, screaming, dancing and more smiling. They’re little bundles of enthusiasm and Brighton is getting caught in their wiles.
“Oh!!!” screams brunette flautist Freya-Rose. “Loop was so much fun!”
“We were so lucky to have our own stage,” laughs her sister Isadora, the flame-haired ukulele player. “We decorated it completely with a banner, we had Lego and comics and free face-painting. It was just a place for people to hang out and have fun.”
“We face-painted the whole of Loop,” exclaims their half sister, blonde drummer Fifi.”We’re not just a musical band. It’s very important to us but we also love playing games with people. We had so much fun!”
Having fun is what The Half Sisters do. Pouting and posing is not for them – they get right into things without embarrassment. Perhaps it’s because they have learned their skills on the street. Not in some kind of school-of-hard-knocks way, but as buskers.
“We couldn’t practice indoors because we made too much noise,” says Isadora. “But it was so amazing to be constantly performing…”
“Thrown in the deep end,” adds Fifi, in the excited sibling way that they talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences.
“Busking shows you how to perform because you have to catch people’s attention so quickly,” offers Freya-Rose.
“That’s why our live performances are so, like, WHAH!” screams Isadora. “And I think that’s why the whole make-up thing went a bit crazy as well. Because we wanted people to get attracted by what we were doing.”
“If we had a gig in Cambridge we’d go up and busk all day and then do the gig,” says Isadora. “It’s free publicity, it’s amazing. And not that many people tell you to go away.”
Why would anyone tell these girls to go away when the songs are so good? They might be surrounded by all that fun, but there’s some real beauty here in the layers of harmonies and quaint ukulele. Our Dancing Skeletons puts forward the lovely idea that there’s no real unrequited love because when you die your bones can be together underground.
“The most important thing in music is honesty,” says Isadora.”We really want to write and sing about honest experiences.”
“But with little stories,” offers Fifi
“Our songs are quite escapist,” ponders Isadora,”idealist notions of romance.”
But the art and the craziness are a big part of The Half Sisters – the playing games with people, dressing up and decorating the stages. The idea is to interact with people; break down the barriers so there isn’t a wall between the performer and the crowd. The girls get people involved with paper aeroplane battles not just because it’s fun, but so people can feel comfortable and feel involved.
“Not feel like a child again, but feel carefree,” Freya-Rose says.”Let go if they’re worried about anything, if they’re worried about how they look. And the music reflects those feelings.”
Does this lovely carefree nature come from being young?
“I think it’s a mixture of things,” says Fifi. “Our relationship with each other is really important. When we’re around each other we feel carefree and invincible. We make each other feel like that, we give each other confidence.”
And as one of the highlights of Beachdown’s Brighton Stage (“I’m sure it’ll have a different energy to other festivals” says Fifi), a recent appearance at Secret Garden – surely a marriage made in heaven – and popping up on Huw Stephens’ 6 Music show they should have all the confidence in the world. Life is just better with face-paint and a smile.
The Half Sisters play Beachdown Mon 31st August 2009