Sister Species descends on Trumpet Blossom Cafe

Sister Species w/ Elly H., Dana T

Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Saturday, Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.

Sister Species in full splendor. — Laurel Goulson/Sister Species

Minneapolis-based band Sister Species has, to put it mildly, one hell of a roster. The self-described “orchestral/chamber pop” group features an eight piece lineup, including three trumpets, a double bass and an accordion.

Touring shortly after the November release of their latest album, Heavy Things Do Move, and a new music video trilogy, Sister Species will be at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe in Iowa City at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2. The cover is $7.

Fronting the midwest behemoth is the sister songwriting duo Emily and Abby Kastrul, who individually write songs to bring together to the group. It’s a tricky matter of striking a balance between not only the voices of two distinct songwriters but also multiple musicians.

This heterogeneity between such different instruments and musicians comes to play not only in the band’s music, but also their name. Rooted deeply in the ideas of individuality and evolution, the band’s name comes from a surprising evolutionary source.

“Sister Species are the two species most closely related to each other while still being considered different species.” Emily said in an email. “This idea of being Sister Species also gets at the tension of having two different songwriters and voices in the band. Despite Abby and my distinct writing styles, we find a sense of cohesion with our bandmates.”

The current lineup has been in place four almost four years, after intense searching for the right mix.

Being fronted by the two siblings contributes to a large part of the band’s dynamic, including their name, but creative voice of each of the members is considered on each track.

Actual sisters Emily and Abby Kastrul carry the songwriting for chamber pop Minnesotans Sister Species. — Taylor Donskey/Sister Species

“For me, it’s not just about having a large band,” said Emily, “but actually these particular, committed people that make up Sister Species. Our relationships run deep and I think the care and respect we have for each other is evidenced in the music.”

“I’m someone who tends to have an intense vision and not want to stray from it,” Abby chimed in. “But my music has benefited so much from the seven extra hands touching and shaping each song, even if it doesn’t take on the form I had initially intended.”

Collaboration runs deep with Sister Species, who recently released a new music video trilogy with the Loonarcity production company, as well as Minneapolis-area dance and movement group Hiponymous. In the trilogy, Sister Species blends their deeply personal songwriting with striking imagery and physicality.


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Opening with the delightfully combative “Take it Easy,” the videos cover a certain wandering, introspective arc. While it contains three very different songs, the trilogy plays on a sort of understated connectedness through the visual media. Acting as a sort of throughline, water and bathtub imagery connect the latter two installments.

“The names Minneapolis and Minnesota both come from the Dakota word for water, Mni,” Emily commented. “That water is an ever-present source of inspiration.”

“[Hiponymous and Loonarcity] all asked such deep and insightful artist questions and approach their work with both humor and integrity,” Emily said. “We built the collaborations so that we could take turns leading — whereas HIPONYMOUS came up with movement to bring “Take it Easy’ and ‘In Orbit’ to life, we actually scored ‘Mississippi’ in response to their choreography by remixing and expanding the first verse of the album version of ‘Mississippi.’”

Their new album, Heavy Things Do Move, is a 10-track blend of introspection and intense emotional dissection. Playing with the implications of the title, in this work Emily and Abby take on tough topics such as relationships, mental illness and loneliness. However, despite the intense personal nature of the album, the band works to support each other in sharing their songwriting. To stay in touch with each other, the band shares a personal check-in before every practice, to help foster the sense of intimacy that makes the emotional topics on the album work so well.

“I think it’s oftentimes easier to share heavy emotions to a room full of strangers in a veiled way then it is to share them with the people you know well and care for, who can easily see past that veil,” Abby said.

In closing, Emily verbally solidified the defining bond between the songwriters and their bandmates. “The concept of what defines a species is constantly evolving … a lot of our songwriting is concerned with being in relation to others, whether it’s to the natural world, to an intimate partner, to a friend, to ourselves. The concept of Sister Species gets at this idea that we can be so close to something or someone else, but yet not quite touch or not quite be the same.”

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