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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Beneath a blinding early summer sun, and in the face of some monstrous, staggering Oklahoma winds, Sisteria took the Main Stage at OKC Arts Council’s Festival of the Arts 2022. 

What followed was both a hard rock history lesson and a forward-looking glance at the future of a band right on the cusp of their full power, even after less than a year of performing together.

It’s true that attempting to capture the raw energy and on-the-spot intensity of a band like Sisteria is nigh on impossible with traditional filming and editing. Luckily, Free Press, in collaboration with OKC’s Trifecta Communications, is proud to present selections from the group’s Arts Fest performance in full 360-degree, VR-compatible video, complete with pop-up comments from the artists themselves.

Sisteria perform at the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts April, 2022. Click to view on YouTube for the full experience. Once there, If viewing on a desktop, click and drag to see the inset interviews and get the full 360 effect. If on a phone, simply move you device to get 360 degrees. (Trifecta Communications/Okla City Free Press)

Collaboration is Key

Though each member of Sisteria brings their own long history and musical background to the group’s dynamic, and each provides an integral element to the sound, the foundation of the band rests with singer/songwriter Katie Williams and drummer/composer/producer Steve Boaz.

Sisteria after the show talked with us about their work. They are (L-R) Matt Knudson – Keys, Organ; Matthew Jewell – Bass; Richie Tarver – Guitar; Nathan Lofties – Guitar Effects, Backing Vocals; Katie Williams – Vocals, Songwriting; Steve Boaz – Drums, Songwriting (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Having first worked together when Williams came into Boaz’s Norman-based Breathing Rhythm Studios to develop and record some of her earlier, more folk-oriented solo material, they eventually recognized the potential for expanding many of Williams’ ideas into much more sonically adventurous, darker directions.

“Collaborating in the past always felt intimidating, whereas now it’s so freeing and the most enjoyable way to create,” Williams told me. “We were really just making music to please ourselves and I think we were both surprised by how well it turned out.”

Sisteria in performance at the OKC Festival of the Arts in April, 2022. (L-R) Katie Williams, Nathan Lofties, Matt Knudson. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

As the resulting songs began combining elements of Williams’ earlier country-tinged, “folky” songwriting and the 70’s-era hard rock and early heavy metal that they found themselves listening to and increasingly drawing inspiration from, they recognized that assembling a wider group of friends and collaborators into a full-fledged band was the way forward.

Since debuting as a band on stage at Tower Theatre in September of 2021, they’ve only tightened up further, both as performers and as friends.

“It’s a band of brothers for sure,” Williams said, “and I did not foresee that, but I’m very grateful.”

Technique and Texture

Sisteria’s sound is shockingly reminiscent of some of the greatest hard rock and early metal bands in history, legends like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath, due in large part to the group’s deeper understanding of what made those acts so enduring and unique.

It’s easy to overlook, for example, just how much influence Led Zeppelin drew from American country and western music, but Sisteria embraces that sound right alongside their heavier influences, allowing the set to calm at times into the kind of psychedelic twang that you’d hear on Zeppelin classics like “Tangerine.”

But the band’s deeply layered, gut-punching sound is as much about the contributions and talents of its members as about their inspirations.

Sisteria in performance at the OKC Festival of the Arts in April, 2022 (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Lead guitarist Richie Tarver comes from Oklahoma psych-metal masters Rainbows Are Free, and while there’s a fair bit of overlap in the two bands, his playing with Sisteria allows him to explore some very different avenues.

Bassist Matt Jewell lends the band the same kind of swagger and low-end fuzz that he employs in bluesy garage-rock outfit Merry Walkers.

Matt Knudson’s wooly, enveloping keyboard and distorted organ sounds, seemingly jumping straight out of the best Deep Purple cuts, provides a thick, supportive backbone to many tracks with what Boaz calls “one of the most beautiful sounds, regardless of genre.”

Sisteria in performance at the OKC Festival of the Arts in April, 2022. Nathan Lofties uses various tools and a violin bow to create unique guitar effects. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Nathan Lofties might be the band’s secret weapon of soundscapes and ambience, though, carrying over numerous techniques that he developed in his band Magnificent Bird, including everything from a cello bow or metal tools on guitar to affected, atmospheric vocal textures.

“It’s just about understanding what the song needs,” Tarver said. “Steve and Katie have such a vision for these songs, so just listening to them and hearing where they’re coming from is the most important thing.”

Sisteria in performance at the OKC Festival of the Arts in April, 2022. Richie Tarver – Guitar (L); Matthew Jewell – Bass. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

“Dark” Days Ahead

After a year’s worth of performances on some of the Metro’s most respected stages, and after years of experimenting, writing, tweaking, and perfecting these songs in the studio, Sisteria is readying to drop their debut album, “Dark Matter,” in August, with an official album release show at Ponyboy scheduled for August 20th.

“Music is always going to be needed, but I think now is a particularly important time to provide people with these songs,” Williams said. “I’m excited to be a part of that exchange, and to remind people that standing in their authenticity is something to be celebrated. I’m learning to not hide who I am, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.”

You can follow Sisteria online at their official site, sisteriaband.com and on Instagram @sisteriaband.

Katie Williams and Steve Boaz after the show in April 2022. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Last Updated May 22, 2022, 9:58 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor