The Impatient Sisters on their “rebirth” and new album ‘7 Years’: “We’ve come full circle”

The Malaysian folk trio talk to NME about their introspective sophomore album, life and the importance of family

It’s the day of release of The Impatient Sisters’ sophomore album and the sisters look relaxed and excited as they sit down for a chat with NME. “I hope people give it a chance even if it is something you don’t normally listen to, that is if you have the time,” says Soraya Taib, the eldest of The Impatient Sisters when speaking about the new album. “If you don’t have the time or maybe you don’t want to, that’s OK as well.”

It may appear odd that Soraya would use time as the deciding factor on whether someone listens to the album or not. Perhaps it subconsciously portrays just how much of a challenge time has become for the trio, rounded out by Nazeera and Irena Taib, to continue making music together given their life commitments. The fact that two of them are dialing in for the call from work gives you an idea just how much has happened since the sisters last released a record.

“We see this album as a rebirth. It’s about us embracing our current selves and leaving the past in the past”

The band emerged as wide-eyed upstarts during the height of the indie folk explosion in the late 2000s. They were initially buoyed by the music scene’s growing appetite for the sound but gradually won people over with their haunting melodies, familial chemistry and three-part harmonies, “When we started I was 18 and meeting all these people in the music scene and now we are where they were before,” shares Irena. “We’ve come full circle in that time.”

Time continues to be a recurring theme during this interview. How much of it has passed since their last record? What happened to them in that period and why is their latest album titled ‘7 Years’? There’s a theory that the body regenerates itself after seven years and it’s been seven years since their debut record. “We see this album as a rebirth,” states Nazeera. “It’s about us embracing our current selves and leaving the past in the past.”

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The idea that this record represents a rebirth may explain why the band has gone for more traditional sounds on this record. ‘Mari Menari’, the most upbeat track on the record, is about as feel-good as you would expect from a literal invitation to dance. You could be forgiven for thinking, between this and opener ‘Rumah’, a bittersweet folk ode set to the saying ‘home is where the heart is’, that The Impatient Sisters are on a singular mission to warm hearts and put smiles on faces. But ‘Kejam’ shows that ‘7 Years’ is not just about celebrating the mountaintops but also acknowledging the valleys. The grungy and angsty track simmers with sharp lyrical intent about a painful betrayal and finds the band in uncharacteristic territory: it goes into a noise jam interlude featuring cathartic screams from Shahril Redzwan of emo rock band Transitions.

“These songs needed to come out now,” adds Soraya. “Three to four years from now we are not going to be the same people. These stories needed to be told right now.”

The Impatient Sisters
Credit: Annatasha Visuals

The magic of the trio lies in how they are able to sit all of the ups and downs of life’s seasons and experiences on a single sonic thread and perform these songs from a place of authenticity.

“The album sounds natural because it largely comes from our own personal experiences. The first album was based on storytelling and was more fantastical. This one is more emotionally raw,” shares Soraya. The time they spent being apart with Irena studying abroad between 2014 to 2017 allowed them to explore songwriting in a deeper, more personal way, she adds. “These songs were easier to write because they are based on things that really happened to me and my sisters.”

The connection between people making music is something they hold sacred. It’s why the sisters appear reluctant in exploring more digital avenues to expand their music “We still like the organic aspect of making music where we interact with musicians as opposed to creating everything from a Midi keyboard,” Irena shares. “Don’t get me wrong. I like modern pop music but I don’t know if the digital sound is somewhere we would go,” Soraya adds, “unless we can make it sound like us.”

“People can be noisy with their opinions, but we prefer to stick together inside this bubble”

The harmony between their voices was what brought people to them to begin with and a lot of that comes from the bond that exists between the sisters. “We are close to each other. We like to be in this bubble because it’s familiar and safe,” says Soraya. “I know it can be a little scary out there. People can be noisy with their opinions, but we prefer to stick together inside this bubble. People who were our fans have become some of our closest friends and our bubble just grows.”

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There is a sense that this bubble is important to The Impatient Sisters and is what has kept them from becoming cynical over time, given the many challenges that come with putting your music out there. This familial bond exists between the sisters, the band and their fans, which is probably why the ‘family’ theme occurs repeatedly throughout the record. “I think it shows when you are really close to your family and when you are not. For us, it occurred quite naturally”, shares Soraya, “We still live close to each other. I rented a condo in front of my mom’s house and I see my family every day.”

The Impatient Sisters
Credit: Annatasha Visuals

This strong sense of filial love is further deepened with Soraya becoming a mother in between records, resulting in songs like ‘Anak Kecil’ and in particular, ‘Aneh’ which was inspired by her daughter Layla. On the gorgeous ‘Aneh’, Soraya writes from the heart of a mother whose child grows more independent everyday: “Bila dewasa / Ku jangan kau lupa / Dari pandang pertama / Ku sayang selamanya. (When you grow up/Don’t forget me/From the first sight/I’ve loved you forever).” Layla is also credited as a co-producer on ‘Three’ and ‘Only One’ because some of her ideas were used for those songs.

The concept of a band where distinct human beings are brought together and expected to create something together may appear already daunting to some. Add the sometimes-incendiary element of ‘siblings’ into the mix and it can be even more difficult – just ask the Gallagher brothers. That’s not the case for The Impatient Sisters, however. If anything, it may just be the thing that makes them keep making music together.

“I could write songs with my sisters and if we never release any of it that would be OK too,” shares Soraya. “It’s really just about the process of doing music together. We would be content with just that.”

‘7 Years’ is out now on all digital platforms

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