Houston-based indie pop duo Say Girl Say aren’t an overnight sensation. From home jam sessions to open mics to South by Southwest, Brigette Yawn and Suad Ihsan have spent a decade honing their craft and becoming a mainstay of the city’s independent music scene.
Her self-titled debut album from 2015, with its soothing but haunting vocal harmonies and acoustic folk-pop instrumentation, earned the singer-songwriters / multi-instrumentalists a lot of praise locally and nationally. Last month the two released their second album, Let my hair down after the publication was postponed for more than a year due to the pandemic. The follow-up project represents a clear sonic evolution with more mature compositions and an entry into electronic production, partly thanks to a collaboration with the Houston producer Birdmagic.
He âwas able to take our ideas and songs to another level,â says the duo, who performed on June 25th during the kick-off of the Friday Night Live Concerts in the park on Discovery Green Houstonia. “Spending months of hours working together and creating, writing and rewriting, experimenting with samples and beats, exchanging ideas and vibrating together was magical.”
We met Yawn and Ihsan before the show to talk about their history together, the evolving sound, and the slow recovery of Houston’s live music scene.
How did your creative partnership come about and what have you created together over a decade?
We like to call ourselves sisters of the soul because it feels like our spirits have met before us. In 2011 we met at a non-profit organization and quickly recognized our mutual love for music, even though we had no intention of becoming a band. We started by learning songs on our ukuleles together and playing them for fun for friends and colleagues. Little by little, they encouraged us to sign up for open mic nights, and later we were invited to perform in local art galleries and bars.
The support we had from our community really inspired us to show ourselves off and keep making music. It wasn’t always easy to stay committed, with full time jobs and personal responsibility, but to this day, that support and love is what keeps us alive 10 years later. We know we have something special when our music brings people together and we want to keep channeling that positive energy.
On the first album, you created this very organic, acoustic, folky sound. What inspired the more electronic, synthesized aesthetic of Let my hair down?
Since we started writing music together, the process has been organic. We don’t usually have a set formula or a standard form of songwriting. The music we make feels like it is writing by itself and we are there to listen by following the melody or the beat or the lyrics that either of us are channeling during an impromptu jam session . Later we add or remove elements, maybe combine old ideas with new ones, and meticulously refine until the song says it’s done.
As we’ve grown over the years, the music we make has evolved with us. Establishing a new sound felt very natural, even with the challenge of learning new instruments. (Suad learned bass during the early stages of the second album.) By staying true to ourselves and the creative process, we have still made music that represents who we are, what we have experienced and what inspires us.
You’ve been immersed in the city’s underground and independent music scene for years. How do you see the health of our local music scene after Covid?
Houston has proven to be a strong and resilient city, with many people who stand up to any hardship and setback. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a pandemic, we hope the Houstonians will get through it all together. When the music scene emerges again it might look different than it did before, but we aim to partner with local venues, companies, and the art scene to support them in every possible way.
25th June. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. For more information, visit discoverygreen.com