“Remember when we thought we’d known each other…” The jangling opening chords of Heathers’ “Remember When” have become synonymous with Irish tourism, but twin sisters Ellie and Louise Macnamara from Dublin have proven themselves as something far more than one-song wonders. Now with a second album, Kingdom, under their belts, Heathers have become a permanent fixture of the Irish music scene.
So far Kingdom has been a roaring success, resulting in a nomination for this year’s Choice Prize. Unfortunately, Kingdom was beaten to the punch by former Flux cover stars Delorentos, whose album Little Sparks nabbed the top prize earlier this month. Ellie says that they weren’t disappointed on missing out on the gong: “To be honest, we were just delighted to be nominated for it. It was such an honour! We put a lot of work in our second album and we’re really proud of it, so it’s very nice to see it being recognized alongside nine other incredible Irish albums.
“We’re very happy for Delorentos,” Ellie adds. “They’re a great band and they really deserve it.”
It’s been an action-packed month for Ellie and Louise, the most exciting moment of which saw them jetting across the pond to perform at a pre-Oscar party hosted by JJ Abrams, creator of Lost. “It was amazing! The party was in JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot, which was great,” says Ellie. “We were very fortunate to have JJ and Steven Spielberg in the front row, watching us play. Definitely one of the highlights of our entire lives! We got to meet them both too and they were lovely.”
This isn’t the first time the girls have been welcomed Stateside – Heathers made a visit to the US in 2008, where they supported Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches. “It was such a wonderful opportunity and we got to meet so many great people and play in places that we would probably never had the chance to visit otherwise,” Ellie recalls. “Recently we’ve had songs used on the TV shows 90210 and Mob Wives which was fantastic. We love the States, so we’re definitely excited to get back over there again and hopefully release Kingdom over there,” she says.
When Heathers recorded their first album, the twins were still studying for their Leaving Cert and preparing for college. Did they ever manage to finish their degrees? “Louise finished her degree and I haven’t finished just yet. I’ve taken a few years out to focus on Heathers,” says Ellie. “It was definitely hard work juggling the two. Initially, it worked well, and Heathers was a wonderful break from studying, but unfortunately I couldn’t be in two places at once!”
The resulting album, Here, Not There, was a blend of vocal harmonies and acoustic guitars similar to the early work of fellow twins Tegan and Sara. However when it came to writing Kingdom, Ellie says that they took a different approach: “For our first album we worked together on every aspect of the songwriting, however, Kingdom was written a little differently. It was mostly written on synths and Louise did a lot of this through Logic/Garageband.” Kingdom also marks the first time the twins worked on their songs separately. “We would both work on melodies and then I would focus on lyrics. Nowadays, we mostly work separately on music, but now and again we will go back to our old ways and work together on a song.”
Does Ellie feel that Heathers’ sound has evolved or changed over the two albums? “Absolutely! For us, there was a huge change between the first and second album. Our first album consisted mainly of guitar and vocals and was very stripped back. We were 17 when we wrote those songs and we’re 23 now so for us, it was a long time ago. I think our song writing has matured and our voices have too. Lyrically, this album is a lot more upfront which was scary for us. Our previous album Here, Not There was very metaphorical which meant that our secrets were our secrets. This one is a little different.”
The twins also experimented with some new sounds on Kingdom. “Some of the songs are a lot more dance-oriented and poppier than our previous album,” Ellie says. “We listen to a lot of different types of music, so we’re always wanting to experiment with new sounds and I think this is how we were feeling back when we were writing our album.”
The Choice Prize nomination shows that this new direction was definitely a good idea, and the girls are constantly working on new music as well writing material for other artists. In the meantime, they are playing gigs in the US and Canada and tweeting pictures of their cat, Hobbes. Would Ellie say that they are crazy cat ladies? “Haha! Definitely! We love our cat way too much. In fact, we love ALL cats way too much!” Flux approves, girls.
Kingdom is out now on iTunes. www.heathersmusic.net/@HeathersTunes