By David Hennessy
“It was scary,” Catherine Pierce of the sister duo The Pierces tells The Irish World of her experience of the London riots of 2011. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, the sisters Catherine and Alison were in London to promote their album, You & I when chaos took over the streets for days. “We were in the area where it was happening. We were in Bethnal Green. We were on lock down, we were staying at the Town Hall Hotel and we just stayed in there for a couple of days and waited. It was very scary.”
But Catherine is quick to point out this was not her first, or even worst, experience of witnessing a horrific episode from up close: “But we were in New York for 9/11, we’ve been through that stuff before and you just have to ride it out, stay calm and say a little prayer.
“9/11 was really, really terrifying. I was there alone actually, Alison was upstate New York, we had just moved there and my mum called me in the morning and she said ‘a plane’s gone through the World Trade Centre’, or she thought it was a bomb that had gone off because people didn’t quite know what was happening at the beginning and you just really couldn’t take it in. I looked out my window and I could see the burning buildings and I couldn’t absorb it, it was too beyond anything I’d ever experienced. It was really tough but we stayed in New York and we love New York and the people there are amazing.”
The first plane hit at 8.46am giving New York a horrific way to wake up on September 11 2011: “I actually thought it was a dream. She called me and I kind of went back to sleep and thought it was a bad dream, and then I woke up and saw it was very much a reality.”
The Pierces had just released their eponymous debut in 2000. This was followed by Light of the Moon in 2004 and then Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge in 2007. 2011’s You & I, produced by Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman, was something of a breakthrough and the forthcoming new album Creation represents a development to a more euphoric pop sound from the psychedelic folk they were previously known for.
In preparation for making the new record, Catherine and her sister Alison travelled to the Peruvian rainforest and took the hallucinogenic ayahuasca. People who have consumed ayahuasca have reported having spiritual revelations as well as deep insight into how to be the best person they possibly can: “It’s very hard to describe but you see things that are beyond your imagination and into the depths of yourself. At one point when I did it, I felt the most me that I’ve ever been, I felt like I remembered who I was and I didn’t even realise I had forgotten who I was. You feel yourself stripped away of all the layers that the world puts on you, that your parents put on you, that your friends put on you or that you take on rather. When you’re a child, you’re very free and then as you get older and more self conscious, you kind of put up these barriers to protect yourself from the world and the opinions of others. It (ayahuasca) lifts the veil a little bit and you can see yourself in your purest form again and once you see that, you want to get there in your everyday life so it kind of sets you on a path to becoming your best self.”
“Also it showed me that compassion is the most important thing. If anyone is treating you badly or you’re having a weird encounter with someone, you have the choice to either argue with them or to have compassion and realise that that person is experiencing pain and that is probably why they are being an arsehole so it’s things like that that sound simple but when you see them clearly, it makes you want to implement them into your daily living.”
Ayahuasca can have the active ingredient the chemical DMT which is a Class A drug, but taking the hallucinogenic is legal in Peru: “It’s not poisonous. There’s a documentary called the spirit molecule and it tells you all about it. It’s good for your body. It’s good for your brain, it helps you rebuild serotonin receptors in your brain. Physically there’s not any danger but emotionally it can be hard because it does reveal a lot of stress to you, it can take you back to childhood memories that you’ve repressed. It’s very powerful. It’s not dangerous it’s just a big undertaking emotionally.
“I think it did change the way we wrote a little bit. I wrote Creation, the title track for the record, right after that experience and it makes you see life in a different way and see yourself in a new way. It’s pretty amazing. It’s difficult, it can be difficult but it’s worth it: It’s kind of incredible.”
Although the sisters have played some high profile Irish dates like the festival Oxegen, Catherine says: “We haven’t been able to spend enough time there, we’ve been in and out but what I love about it is how beautiful and green it is. The people are very friendly and they’ve got freckles like me. I know that we do (have Irish roots), I don’t know specifically where in Irelan but I’ve heard my mum say we’re part Irish, part English, part French, part German: We’re mutts.”
For the full interview, see the June 14 Irish World.
The Pierces play Concorde 2 in Brighton on June 10, Koko in London on June 11, Manchester Club Academy on June 12 and Oran Mor in Glasgow on June 14.
The single Kings is out now.
The album Creation is out in September.
For more information, go to: http://www.thepiercesmusic.com/.