By Lauren Paddison, First year Music
'A set with moments of intimacy and moments of pure drive', Lauren Paddison reviews and interviews Ward Thomas on their Bristol tour date.
The twin sister duo, Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas, took to Bristol's O2 with the same velocity and energy they have done since the start of their album tour ‘Restless Minds’. The venue is brimming with people bathed in blue florescent light, awaiting their entrance.
Influenced by the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and even Patty Griffin, it is clear where the 'country' came from in their ‘country-pop duo’ description.
The sister's set was mixed with moments of intimacy and moments of pure drive. What was especially impressive was their exact harmonies, one voice complimenting the other in both warmth and texture that they almost blended into one.
Their band was equally impressive with the use of drum machines, chunky synth lines and eclectic guitar solos. An instrumental to mark the second part of the show bridged the gap between the acoustic intimacies that the sisters had delivered, to the big anthems of their new album. The crowd were behind them every step of the way.
'No Filter’ sends a perfect message to the selfie-driven, social media dominated society that is responsible for so many scars in recent generations. The song begs for honesty between people, to drop your filter and say what you really want to say. The sisters did a dutiful job of getting their message across, and with International Women’s’ Day looming, it was a joy to see two women on stage doing their own thing in their own way. Empowering and inspiring messages of health and happiness.
A bold move was to encore the show with just their voices and one acoustic guitar. Where some were looking for the biggest and loudest, the duo brought back the intense harmonies, perhaps in salutation to where it all started for them.
I had the privilege of speaking to Catherine Ward Thomas just before their gig in Bristol.
How does it feel being two women trying to break into the music industry? What do you think has been your biggest challenge?
'It’s been a challenge in a lot of ways to be taken seriously. Sometimes when you have two young girls, you can be assumed to be giggly or silly or that don’t really know what you’re talking about. You can also be branded, not that we have ever, but women in the industry can sometimes be branded as ‘divas’ very quickly before ‘motivated ‘or maybe ‘ambitious’. So I think there’s always a challenge to break that barrier early on. I mean, you want to be sweet and nice, but you also want to be taken seriously. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that we’ve found so far, but it’s definitely getting easier the more music you put out there. At the end of the day you want the music to speak for itself.'
Secondly, you probably get this a lot… How does being sisters impact your music? Do you have sameness in ideas or is there sometimes conflict?
'We’ve always got a very similar vision, we like the same music and we very much agree in our creative process. I think the hard part when you work with your sister is that you speak to your sister in a way that you would never really speak to a colleague. So it’s hard to find the barrier when you’re working with your sister to be able to switch on ‘we’re working now, we need to be very much professional, we need to write great songs, we need to perform’. We’re sisters, but we need to have our own identity. I think there’s definitely a challenge with it, but most of the time it’s definitely just the best thing ever.'
Can you remember your first experience in music? Were you with your sister and what was it like at the very beginning?
'I think our first every experience of music that I can remember is when we went to a very strict Catholic Italian wedding when we were very young, about three or four years old. Everyone started singing and we didn’t really know what to do so we just started singing ‘Happy Birthday’. And that was probably our first experience of everyone turning and looking at us and thinking ‘What the hell!?’I think when we joined a choir at school and started learning harmonies, that was when we looked up and thought this is really exciting and cool that we can sing together because I was always the alto and Lizzy was always the soprano. That might have been our official beginning.'
3 albums in the last 5 years, that’s quite impressive! What keeps you productive and motivated?
'Songwriting is one of those things where we feel like we have to do it. It’s like exercise, if you don’t do it you feel sort of groggy and not so good. We write songs as a sort of way of life, and the creative process of getting in the studio and getting the songs out there is so exciting that it’s very easy to stay motivated, I think. As long as we keep having stuff to say, y’know?'
Has your writing process evolved throughout these albums?
'Oh yes, very much so. We write with a lot of people, who have been very influential on our writing style, with how we approach a song. I think we’ve tried to be more open minded the more we write, to try and be more open to other ideas. When we started, we were within our own structure, but we’ve definitely opened up.'
What would be your advice to up and coming singer/songwriters in your genre?
'Keep writing. Write and write and write and write because you just never know when a song is gonna work. I think there’s this illusion that everyone seems to know what a hit is, but I think the fact is that no one does, we just write what we think works, and we try and put it out there. I would just say you can never ever go wrong with having too many songs.'
Featured Image: Ward Thomas/Sony Music GC
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