Lily & Madeleine: 'It's fun being on the road ... even if we do miss our mum!'
Ahead of their Belfast gig, teenage sister act Lily & Madeleine tell Edwin Gilson about the thrill of going it alone in the music business
Madeleine Jurkiewicz displays either great humility or delusion when she claims that her life is "not that different" from that of your average 19 year-old. While it's common for teenagers to want to fit in with their peers, not many can relate to the achievement of having two full-length albums to their name before hitting their twenties. Yet this is the feat of Lily & Madeleine, the sister duo from Indianapolis who bring their lush harmonies to Belfast's McHugh's Bar on Tuesday, December 2.
It's been a wild ride for the Jurkiewiczs, who temporarily ditched their formal educations to "concentrate fully on the future of our music".
"It has been a little strange," admits Madeleine of the duo's rise. "Lily hasn't actually finished school yet, as she's only 17. I consider Lily to be an adult even though technically she's not. At this age kids are being independent and going to college, so I see our band as just a different way of being independent. I think we've proven to our parents that we can totally do this on our own."
Madeleine mentions her parents and independence in the same breath because this tour of Europe is the first time she and Lily have been on the road without their mother, a major driving force behind her daughter's success.
"We miss her terribly," concedes Madeleine. "We're having a lot of fun, though, and we keep her updated with photos and texts."
It is proud mum who alerts Lily & Madeleine to their increasing critical acclaim too, particularly over this year's record Fumes. "I don't seek out the reviews but mum will always bring them to me, saying 'Oh my gosh, you must read this - it's so sweet,'" laughs the elder daughter.
Madeleine describes her band's music as "part folk-pop, part melodic rock". While they've been latterly inspired by Bob Dylan and Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, the sisters' first introduction to music was through their mother's favoured female singers - Sheryl Crow and Shania Twain. This pop influence is very much in evidence throughout Fumes but there is also an intriguing fantastical element to the lyrics, especially on The Wolf is Free, the eerie and ethereal single from the record. Madeleine says that she and Lily have always possessed "large, vivid imaginations".
"We always preferred literature to maths at school, and I think that element of our personalities has probably had an influence on our music. It's just fun to experiment in the studio, and that's where the weirder, darker parts come in." Indeed, Madeleine told a journalist earlier this year that she and Lily wanted to break out of the "pretty, sweet bubble" that folk-pop acts can find themselves reluctantly caught in.
For the good of their career, the sisters have also had to break out of their native Indianapolis. Whilst Madeleine calls her hometown "a hidden gem", she says the duo had to look elsewhere when promoting their output. "Indianapolis doesn't have the cultural appeal of New York or LA obviously, but there are other nearby places like Illinois and Michigan where you can play music. It's really fun to make music in the mid-West because it's not one of those major music locations of the world. Audiences just see you as an everyday person rather than some big-shot."
Big-shots Lily & Madeleine may not yet be, but they're well on their way to folk stardom. Through all these heady times, though, there's still a close sibling bond to be maintained.
"Lily and I do everything together - we hardly have any time apart," says Madeleine. "But I can tell if Lily needs a moment alone. If she wants to go for a walk, that's fine. If she doesn't want to talk to me for a while, that's cool!"
- Lily & Madeleine play Belfast's McHugh's Bar on Tuesday, December 2. For details, visit www.shine.net