Sister Species begins where the rest of the world ends

The seven-piece band blends intentional pop tunes with introspective lyricism.

Emily Kastrul poses for a portrait on Wednesday Sept. 4. Kastrul leads a band of seven named

Jasmin Kemp

Emily Kastrul poses for a portrait on Wednesday Sept. 4. Kastrul leads a band of seven named “Sister Species.”

Ksenia Gorinshteyn

Emily Kastrul is sitting on her parents’ old couch with her feet up on the coffee table, looking through her phone.

“Do you want to hear what I said to the band?” Kastrul said.

The groupchat she refers to includes six other individuals, all part of her band, Sister Species.

“I said, ‘If everyone could just tell me how big their range is and what they love, that would be useful, thanks,’” Kastrul said.

One of the members said they have a three-octave musical range and love to squeal, while another mentioned their guitar can reach four octaves if she tunes it weird.

“Range is a capitalist construct to sell more pianos,” said another member. 

Sister Species, a self-described orchestral pop band, is in the midst of recording their third EP after the release of “Heavy Things Do Move” last May. 

“[This next EP is] almost like a bird’s eye view on pain or suffering,” Kastrul said. “A lot of it’s about being present and showing a blueprint for healing.”

“Heavy Things Do Move” focused on the relationship someone might have with mental health, and this new record is an extension of it.

“It’s not like a sharp direction shift from that record,” Kastrul said. “It’s more just like as you continue to grow and mature, you have different views on the world.”

The band has also had a shift in their lineup recently. Kastrul’s sibling, Abby Kastrul, left the band to devote more of their creative energy to baking for their project Bakery Box, and Willow Waters joined the band on guitar. 

“I went to play with the group and it just kind of locked right in and felt really good,” Waters said. “There’s great energy in the group and in the room. Everyone supports and uplifts each other.” 

Sister Species sounds a lot like what Kastrul’s home looks like — colorful and chaotic, yet everything has its perfect place.

In addition to the traditional instruments of a three-piece band, Sister Species adds three trumpets and an accordion to the mix. On top of the tightly arranged instrumentation, Kastrul sings lyrics like, “are we lost in the finding, or found in the losing?”

“The arrangements they had written just sounded like music that people had spent time on and really thought about,” said Jason McGlone, who produced their last EP. “It wasn’t haphazardly just put together.”

Kastrul predicts their next release might happen sometime next winter, but they’re in no rush. She says they are following a “get it while it’s hot” technique, suggested by one of their three trumpet players, Jake Baldwin, and recording the songs as soon as they’ve finished writing them.

“A lot of these songs are a little fresher,” Kastrul said. “One of them we didn’t even play out before recording, we were just like, ‘Well it’s pretty close to done. I think we can figure it out.’” 

Many of Kastrul’s lyrics focus on natural imagery, which has also influenced Waters’ solo music. One of the songs on the new Sister Species EP speaks of cottonwood trees and loss. 

“Whenever we sing that chorus line together about the cottonwood trees, it makes the hairs on my arms stand up,” Waters said. “It’s really special.”

Sister Species will be performing some of their new music at Moon Palace Books on Friday, Sept. 13 under a full moon. The EP remains nameless for now until they settle on what kind of message they ultimately want it to carry.

The band is letting the completion of their EP run its course in the same way that healing does: slowly and intentionally. 

“I think we just like, really understand what we’re capable of as a band,” Kastrul said. “It feels comfy.”

What: Sister Species + Ester

When: Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $10

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the range of one of the band members and the cost of the event. The band member has a three-octave musical range and the event costs $10.