Updated: This event has been rescheduled for July 9
Houston indie-pop duo Say Girl Say is no 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 mainstays in the city’s independent music scene.
Their 2015 self-titled debut album, with its soothing yet haunting vocal harmonies and acoustic folk-pop instrumentation, garnered heaps of local and national praise for the singer-songwriters/multi-instrumentalists. Last month, the pair released their sophomore album, Let My Hair Down, after delaying its release 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, thanks, in part, to a team-up with Houston producer Birdmagic.
He “was able to take our ideas and songs to another level,” the duo, who perform at Discovery Green on June 25 during the park's Friday Night Live Concerts kickoff, tell Houstonia. “Spending hours for months cooped up and creating together, writing and rewriting, experimenting with samples and beats, sharing ideas and vibing together was magic.”
We caught up with Yawn and Ihsan ahead of the show to discuss their collaborative history, evolving sound, and the slow recovery ahead for Houston’s live music scene.
How did your creative partnership come to be, and what's kept you creating together for over a decade?
We like to call ourselves soul sisters because it feels like our spirits met before we did. Back in 2011, we met at a nonprofit and quickly realized our mutual love for music, although we had no intention of becoming a band. We started off learning songs together on our ukuleles, playing for friends and coworkers for fun. Gradually, they encouraged us to sign up for open mic nights, and, later on, we were invited to perform at local art galleries and bars.
The support we had from our community really inspired us to put ourselves out there and continue to play music. It hasn't always been easy to stay committed, with full-time jobs and personal responsibilities, but to this day, that support and love are what keeps us going 10 years later. We know we have something special when our music brings people together, and we want to continue channeling that positive energy.
On the first album, you established this very organic, acoustic, folky sound. What inspired the more electronic, synthesized aesthetic of Let My Hair Down?
Ever since we started writing music together, the process has been organic. We don’t typically have a set formula or a standard form of songwriting. The music we make feels like it writes itself, and we are there to listen, following the melody or beat or lyric that one of us channels during an improvised jam session. Later on, we add or remove elements, maybe combine old ideas with new ones, meticulously refining 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 remaining true to ourselves and the creative process, we still made music that represents who we are, what we’ve 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 in the wake of Covid?
Houston has proven to be a strong and resilient city filled with people who persevere through any hardship or setback. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a pandemic, we are hopeful that Houstonians can get through anything together. As the music scene reemerges, it may look different than before, but we are eager to join forces with local venues, businesses, and the art community to support them in any way we can.
June 25. Free. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St. More info at discoverygreen.com