- 17 Jul 20
The vocal-driven electronic duo talked influences, process and philosophy with Hot Press in advance of the July 31 release of their debut album.
At the beginning of our interview, Georgina and Una McGeough greet me in perfect unison. The two are identical twins and, together, Song Sung — a high-concept electronic duo that has released a string of hypnotic tracks over the past year.
Georgina and Una do more than just talk in sync. The sisters grew up in County Monaghan, attended the Belfast School of Art and moved to New York City, where they have been conquering the art world together for the past decade. In Manhattan, their first apartment was above a bar, and they began making music singing over the bass coming through their floor. Song Sung have come a long way since then. On July 31, they’ll release their first full-length album, This Ascension is Ours, with help from electronic composer David Holmes.
Song Sung often seem like they’re from another planet. I nod along as they list influences that go far over my head: sound collage pioneer Christian Marclay, avant-garde composer Laurie Anderson and multi-media artist Douglas Gordon, among others. Song Sung know that their background is unusual, and that these are artists more likely to perform at MoMa than your local rock venue. “We’re not trained musicians,” Una says, “we come from an art background, so we’re interested in the mechanics of making a song.”
Though they both focus on sound art today, Georgina is trained in painting and printmaking, and Una in film. Visual artists are among Song Sung’s most frequent collaborators; one of their art world influences, Douglas Gordon, even “named the band,” they say. Song Sung also reveal that Gordon is making the music video for their most recent single, ‘Take Some Time’. Una mentions this off-handedly, but it’s actually huge. Gordon has won the Turner Prize and the Hugo Boss Prize, two of the art world’s highest honors.
Questioned about the intent behind the name, Song Sung invoke several themes in Gordon’s work: the dynamics of “present and past” as well as “dualism,” a philosophical theory of mind. These themes are complex, but you don’t need a fine arts degree to appreciate them. In their mere existence, identical twins like Song Sung illustrate problems of time and identity — watching two kids with the same DNA grow into distinct humans makes us wonder how much of who we are is fixed, and how much changes as years pass.
It’s natural that these problems appear in Song Sung’s music. On tracks like ‘Telling Tales’, ‘The Mind’s Eye’ and ‘The Mad Song’, thick layers of reverb blend Una and Georgina into a single, unearthly voice. Together with the reversed vocals on ‘Take Some Time,’ these effects drop listeners into a world where identity and time are fluid. Dreamy and delicate, this sound is the product of Song Sung’s collaboration with David Holmes, an electronic composer whose music has appeared in Killing Eve and numerous Stephen Soderbergh film scores.
When I ask what working with Holmes is like, Una and Georgina say “fantastic” almost simultaneously. They tell me the collaboration began when, in exchange for an introduction to Lithuanian director Jonas Mekas, a filmmaker friend sent Holmes one of the “six, seven hundred” songs the sisters had produced. Soon after, Song Sung stopped by Holmes’s studio while visiting family in Ireland. The three “sat in his studio for four and a half hours talking that evening, and before we left, he was like, we’ve got to do something together.”
After this very art world introduction, Holmes and the sisters began sending tracks back and forth: Una remembers that on the subway “my phone beeped, and I could see that David had sent an email with three files. As soon as I got off the train, I practically ran home; I was so excited to start mapping everything out.” The songs on their upcoming album are “a melodic response to the arrangements that David sent us,” Georgina says, because “the arrangements we got were so powerful, almost like film scores.”
That album, This Ascension is Ours, is coming out on July 31. Until then, check out the music video for Song Sung’s latest ethereal single, ‘Take Some Time’, below.