Monday 28 May 2018

Sisters ease the pain of modern life with song

IN THE WILDS: Louise and Ellie McNamara, the twin sisters who make up Heathers
IN THE WILDS: Louise and Ellie McNamara, the twin sisters who make up Heathers
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

'You know full well as I do the value of sisters' affections," cooed Charlotte Bronte. "There is nothing like it in this world."

Ellie and Louise MacNamara - twin sisters from Blackrock, Co Dublin - ought to know too.

Now 25 years of age, they have been performing as Heathers since 2007. A year later, they recorded their debut album Here, Not There while supposedly studying for their Leaving. About to release their new single November, Heathers are to cliche-ridden pop ditties what Adele is to heavy metal.

Ellie and Louise are different - in a good way. Raw in their honesty, both in their music and in their lives, the truth they speak resonates in their beautifully harmonic songs. When Louise talks of lows, she is full of emotion.

"We struggled to write songs for our second album," she says referring to Kingdom, which came out in 2013.

"We were both going through a difficult time in our lives. We felt a lot of pressure and we put a great deal of pressure on ourselves when it came to writing. We got there in the end - but there were a lot of ups and downs."

I ask her to explain what she means by a difficult time.

"A friend of mine had just taken her own life," she answers. "It was the first time I'd dealt with death of this kind and it had a big impact on me."

Ellie concurs with her sibling about low points.

"I would say writing our second album Kingdom was a low. I was going through a tough time, with anxiety issues and the pressure to write was all a bit much.

"We got there in the end though - and in a way I feel that those songs means a hell of a lot more to us because we made it out the other side…with an album that we are very proud of."

What goes on inside your heads when you sing, when you write?

"To this day," Louise says, "I still get quite nervous when performing on stage. Sometimes I end up thinking more about everything going on around me, rather than the song and performance itself.

"But when I do relax, there's nothing better than that feeling. I love to sing and perform. I love to write music. I don't know what I'd do without the two. I would describe myself as passionate, ambitious, but slightly anxious at times."

"When I'm singing I feel free," says Ellie. "I know it's a cliche - but it's true. It's the one moment where I feel totally in control and relaxed.

"Writing is totally different. It can be the most frustrating experience. Absolutely mind-numbing when you feel like you're getting nowhere. But the moment you write something that feels special… one of the best feelings in the world. It makes it all worth it."

"We started going to DIY/punk gigs when we were about 15 or 16," continues Ellie.

"All of our friends were in bands and we were inspired to write our own music. I don't know if Heathers would have formed if it wasn't for that scene and all of the wonderful people that surrounded us."

"We started Heathers when we were 17," adds Louise. "Most of our friends were in bands, putting on gigs and releasing their own records in the Wicklow/Dublin DIY scene. We grew up surrounded by quite a musical family and had always sung together.

"Seeing our friends writing and putting out their own music inspired us to start doing it ourselves."

What inspired them to choose to cover Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen for The Windmill Lane Sessions on

"We're big Springsteen fans," says Louise. "We grew up listening to him and this is one of my favourite songs of his."

To watch the full interview with Heathers, plus two exclusive performances, see the Windmill Lane Sessions on You can now also watch the sessions on TG4. 'November', the new single by Heathers, is out on January 15.

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