Planet Jedward: 'We don't need to be different'
John and Edward are a preternaturally beautiful, eerily self-contained universe of two. They don't need friends and they couldn't imagine having a girlfriend. And behind the madness is a focus and control freakery that belies their years. 'Right now, we're John and Edward,' they tell Liadan Hynes. 'It's not John and Edward, oh, and he's got a girlfriend.' Photography by Barry McCall
Published 18/04/2011 | 10:38
'Your hair looks really nice," John whispers reassuringly to Edward. We're about to start our first shot of the day, and Edward has just joined his twin brother under the lights.
They're both wearing Dolce & Gabbana suits, hair slicked back, alabaster skin glimmering under the lights. John gives Edward a discreet once-over, before nodding. "Always keep your tie up,"' he whispers, indicating a neat neck knot.
We begin shooting and John keeps up a constant patter of advice on performing in front of the camera -- stand straight, look taller -- all of which Edward placidly accepts.
In person, the brothers Grimes are far less Energizer Bunny than you might expect. Maybe it's exhaustion -- the previous day they worked from five in the morning until 12 at night; they're on a gruelling schedule in the run up to Eurovision, their new album, a tour and a TV show.
If anyone praises them too effusively, they burst out laughing, glance at each other knowingly, or whisper in each other's ear. It appears half teenage embarrassment, half scepticism of any overt display of possibly insincere showbusiness luvvie-ness.
Edward's hair has been playing up; his brother quietly takes him into the bathroom and patiently ministers to him. Their interaction is almost shockingly tender; totally lacking in the sort of back-slapping, fart-joke-telling bravado that teenage boys normally engage in.
"John has really good traits of being caring," says Edward rather sweetly when I ask him to describe his brother. "He always looks after me, tells me that I'm cool. And when I'm sick he always helps me out."
If singing, acting, TV presenting and the various other careers Jedward currently have their pick of don't work out, they will always have modelling. In fact, I'm amazed that they haven't been snapped up as the faces of a major fashion campaign. From a stylist's perspective, working with the twins is like having two perfectly formed little dolls to play with. They could wear anything, and they are exceptionally accomplished in front of the camera, barely dropping a shot.
Both are preternaturally beautiful, with the sort of beauty that would not look out of place in a Twilight movie, or as Brad Pitt's younger brothers in Interview With the Vampire, should such a role ever exist. In fact, with their pale skin, blond hair and plump lips, at times they bring to mind Brad's daughter Shiloh Pitt.
At one point, I glance at Edward, who is working a tortured expression for the camera, and he looks like Scarlett Johansson in her early, most beautiful days, when she was all huge lips, porcelain skin and peroxide-blonde hair.
It's a sort of non-threatening, non-sexual beauty, and is probably a huge boon with the teenage fans -- "We are on a trip to your hearts," promised a recent tweet.
They're quite slight, John's build a bit more substantial than Edward's, his voice slightly deeper; the plains of his face have a slightly broader cast, where Edward is more aquiline. When they arrive, both are in skinny black jeans and red high tops, John is wearing a Superman hoody. Once it comes off, it takes me about a half hour before I am adept at telling them apart.
On the day we meet, Edward seems the sprightlier, chattier of the two, with John a shade more brooding. Both speak in husky tones, and are nursing colds; John's is more pronounced but he refutes that morning's tabloids' claim that he is having nodule issues. "No," I'm told, when I ask whether he's having throat troubles, with the sort of flattening blank stare only a teenager can deliver. "It was just, like, a check-up."
"We signed more autographs than we did checking up," adds Edward loudly in his sing-song voice, leaping to his brother's defence. In the run-up to their bid for Eurovision glory, Jedward are on the sort of brutal schedule that would make many a more seasoned pro quake. So far, their energy and enthusiasm know no bounds. Asked what would make him happiest, Edward tells me, "If, like, I went to every country and everyone knew who I was."
"John could be the leader of the world," says Edward proudly. "'Cause he's, like, really, really good at keeping me on track."
"I always keep him organised," John agrees, softly.
John is the elder by 10 minutes, but Edward scoffs at the notion of him feeling like the older brother, and I believe him: the brothers Grimes are too much a unit for such individualistic, isolationist notions as elder and younger. They pooh-pooh the notion that there is any differentiation between them. "We're not different at all," Edward almost snorts in disgust.
"Yeah, we're not different at all," John agrees in an offended manner, throwing me a cute, bruised pout.
"Are you normally the chattier?" I ask Edward. "No . . . the thing about me and John is, some people are like, 'Oh, Edward's chattier, John's more chatty.' It's just, like, who was more awake at that time," they smile knowingly at each other, always in on the private joke.
"I'd describe Edward as being a real down-to-earth, cool person," says John, glowingly. "Ed's real funny, but he can be real serious. You can tell Edward anything," he remarks, the sentence becoming more a question than a statement, thanks to the twins' mid-Atlantic lilting drawl.
Does being twins provide a special kind of closeness? "It's not just twins, 'cause we've seen loads of other twins that are not cool," Edward says, scoffingly. "They're just, like, 'I don't wanna be a twin'; they're fighting not to be like twins." He's clearly baffled by this.
"Me and John, we're just kind of like, 'Yay, we're twins,'" he continues. "We don't go, 'Oh my God, we need to be different.' I've no one else to talk to besides John."
They do everything together, says Edward. "If we're at our table at home and our mum's like, 'Oh, what did you do today?' to John and then it's like, 'What did you do today, Edward?' it's like, 'Whatever he said', 'cause we do everything together."
"We never were, like, really popular kids in school," he recalls of their childhood in Lucan, and school in the prestigious King's Hospital, and later The Institute of Education. "We had one or two friends, but we weren't always, like, 'Oh my God, I need friends.' Me and John never really had the want to make loads of friends."
"Yeah, me and Edward were always best friends," agrees John. "We always did everything together. You can have like loads of friends. But, like, they're just friends."
"Because the thing is, me and John could be friends with everyone. But me and John have to really know someone to be considered a friend," Edward interjects. It's their rather involved, tangled way of saying that no other friendship really stands up when considered in the light of what they have with each other.
Is it that they find it hard to trust others? "No, I feel like everyone needs to live up to the expectations of John," says Edward, referring to his relationship with his brother. Because you've got such a good relationship that it's hard for others to compare? "Yeah," says Edward.
Do they have a girlfriend? "Do we have a girlfriend?" Edward replies. "We don't have a girlfriend right now." John, in slightly husky, tortured anxious tones that would be music to most teenage girl ears, adds, "But the thing about it is, we don't have a girlfriend, 'cause I feel like . . ."
Edward jumps in, "I feel like that's another thing that, like the media and everyone goes, 'Oh my God, do you've a girlfriend? And it's kind of crazy. Like, I wouldn't even want to."
"Like, it'd be kind of weird. Right now it's just me and Edward, and imagine having a girlfriend," John says, with a palpable sense of the downright ridiculousness of such an idea. "Like, John and Edward, and, oh, John has a girlfriend, or Edward has a girlfriend."
"I think it would put you in a different life if you had a girlfriend," Edward continues. "Right now, we're John and Edward. It's not John and Edward, oh, and he's got a girlfriend. We know loads of other people who are famous and they say they don't have a girlfriend and they do, and they're in a relationship. Me and John don't have anyone." Have they ever had a girlfriend? "We never had a proper girlfriend," they answer in unison.
Jedward are facing a summer of Eurovision, a tour, a new album, and a TV show with the BBC that will air in the autumn -- "Me and John have to learn a script and then we've to guide people, and do loads of crazy things." Do they ever worry that this will all end?
"No," says Edward almost dismissively. "It only ends if you're a lo-ser," his brother adds. Edward continues: "It only ends if you get bored, and you're not interested. If you keep focused and keep going, then you're always going to be out there. It doesn't just happen where one day someone turns around and goes, 'Oh my God, you're a fad.' If you keep everyone interested, then that means no one will lose interest."
The Grimes brothers have been easy target for mockery so far. Actually, the seriousness with which they discuss their career is surprisingly credible and savvy. On his way out, John stops me, and solemnly intones, "Thank you, you were very focused."
"All the most famous people that we meet are always really, really nice. To be famous you've gotta be a real nice person, and real nice to work with," says John sagely.
"Clive Davis," Edward chimes in, with his slight American twang. "He gave us advice. He said that we'd so much energy in our eyes, and to always show that."
"Clive Davis, Whitney Houston's manager?" John looks at me. "Basically, me and Edward have so much to do, we've only just begun. Everyone kind of knows who we are now. We're always the underdogs, so we've just gotta keep on putting positive energy out there. And always want to do different things; music, and TV programmes. TV presenting, whatever it is, just always be out there."
Ask Edward what most annoys him, and his answer has undertones of the career control freak who will go far. "Sometimes I might get frustrated. If I had a vision of something being amazing, and I give the control to someone else, and they say, 'Oh, I'll do that and make an amazing job of that,' and then it doesn't live up to my expectations. I'm just, like, 'God, what the hell, I thought you were going to be able to do it,'" he says in aggrieved tones.
Many forecast the brothers' career going down the TV-presenting path, casting them as the new Ant and Dec. Do they have a preference? "We'd always have to be doing singing and music, and being Jedward, because you can't do other things if you're not that, because that's what people like you for in the beginning. Jedward do music, so you can't just start doing TV and that's it," says Edward stoutly.
"Louis always gives us advice," he adds. Their manager is regularly mentioned in conversation as, apart from anything else, a trusted source of unadulterated truth. "He always knows what's happening. He's like, 'No, guys, it's not cool.' Like, he doesn't tell us that everything's great."
"I know he takes 20 per cent but, like, that's what all managers do," Edward adds equanimously. "It's cool, like, 'cause he's a really cool manager. Everything we do comes from him." Do they spend a lot of time with him? "We text him and call him," he says, adding that when they lost their shared and only phone, Louis provided a replacement with just his number on it.
They turned 19 in October, but it passed without any major blow out. "We didn't do anything," Edward tells me in the duh-uh voice he occasionally adopts when you've asked something clearly considered of a particularly dullard nature. "We didn't do anything for our 18th either."
"We don't do anything bad," John elaborates. "We don't do any bad stuff, we don't drink or smoke. So we don't really have the need, or want, to go out and party."
"I think it's, like, so crazy that we're going to Eurovision for Ireland," John reflects. "Louis basically rang us up one night, we were in the May Fair Hotel, and he played Lipstick for us, and said, 'What do you think?' and we said, 'It's a really, really cool song,' and he said, 'It could be yours,' and then he was, like, talking about us doing Eurovision."
They recorded the track in a hotel. "John smashed the microphone off the computer. And so now one of our laptops is broke."
"Yeah I got carried away," John deadpans.
"We're so excited; Eurovision's such a big deal. Think about it, like, this show that we have, we've got a cool image, big stage, big energy. And a really great song for Ireland," says John in the breathless, rushed manner where sentences become lists, that both brothers regularly adopt.
"It's really cool that me and John, we can prove to people that we can do it," Edward adds. Do they feel the need to prove themselves? "Yeah," he says in his best teenage don't-be-an-idiot voice. "We always have to prove ourselves to people, 'cause sometimes, like, some of our fans get real frustrated 'cause their parents are, like, 'Oh, why do you like Jedward?' And then they turn around and show them why they like us, and then they start liking us. But I feel for me and John that everyone is still on The X Factor mode, and they don't realise that me and John have done so much other things throughout the whole entire year, that we've done, like, everything."
There's a new album due out in the summer. "Me and Edward's new album, OK, it's gonna be a really different sound compared to what's out there at the moment. Really good pop music, really catchy."
They've bought "like, a hundred" new CDs that week, everything from U2, to the Beatles, to Blink 182. They are particularly pleased that they got to listen to a preview copy of Britney's new album. The next night, they are to be spotted front row at Taylor Swift, who they've been ardently tweeting.
"It's gonna be a really fresh sound for us, 'cause right now everyone's like, 'Oh, it's just Jedward,'" Edward practically shouts over his brother in his excitement. "But I think it's gonna be a real edgy sound that no one's gonna expect."
Edward would like to launch a fashion line in the future. "I design loads of clothes; I pimp out all our clothes. It's not like the normal celebrity thing where they just put their name to something. We'd design really cool clothes. John would do it with me."
"We've set up our own company and we're gonna start producing, like, our own TV programmes," John adds in hushed tones.
They seem remarkably well equipped to deal with their new fame. "You've gotta realise that you have to close the curtains in your house, so people can't be spying on you," says Edward pragmatically.
"You've gotta realise that you can't be a normal person," his brother agrees.
"You've just gotta wake up, and realise that so many people are watching you, and you can't be living a normal life. You have to be focused, and put yourself out there," Edward adds in brisk, no-nonsense tones.
Growing up, the twins were ardent runners, running from Lucan into Dublin and back on a regular basis. They don't really get much of a chance to run nowadays. "Basically, all our energy has been converted on to stage," says John. "Everyone's like, 'Oh my God, how can you go for so long?' It's more like, we're really good at like pacing ourselves, and going strong the whole way." It's maybe surprising, but he might just be describing their own career.
Photography by Barry McCall
Post-production by Paul Canning
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Assisted by Jessica Gaffney and
Make-up by Seana Long, Brown Sugar,
50 Sth William St, D2, tel: (01) 616-9967