EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: THE REBIRTH OF THE VERONICAS

The-Veronicas-The-Veronicas-2014-International-1200x1200

The Veronicas are back and better than ever.

In the seven years since the release of their last album, Hook Me Up, Australian twin sisters Lisa and Jess Origlassio fought a highly publicized battle with their old record label, traveled the world to find inspiration for their masterful and biting songwriting, fell in and out of love, and above all else, rediscovered themselves artistically.

Their comeback single, You Ruin Me,” off their new and superb album The Veronicas (released via Sony’s Red label), spent several weeks at #1 in Australia and quickly became certified over 3x platinum. After a hugely successful and hotly anticipated tour in their homeland, The Veronicas have returned to the United States for a series of intimate, acoustic shows before bringing their full rock concert stateside later in the year.

I caught up with the girls over a bar of peanut butter chocolate about their new record and its upcoming deluxe edition, the band’s rebirth, their gorgeous latest music videos, their passionate social activism, their Real Housewives taglines, and much more.

IMG_0667-700x700

JESS: Do you like peanut butter? You have to try this chocolate, it’s so good.

ALEX: I love peanut butter. Thank you!

LISA: Jess, what the fuck? How did you know this was so good?

JESS: I just saw it at the Whole Foods on Houston Street. Listen to the description on the wrapper: “creamy peanut butter cradled in dark chocolate.”

LISA: Are you kidding? I would like to jump in that.

JESS: I like how it says “cradled.” That’s so specifically worded.

ALEX: That is seriously unreal. I don’t want it to end. So, there was a seven year gap between the releases of Hook Me Up and your new and self-titled album. In your opinion, how had the landscape of pop music changed between these two records and in what ways – if at all – did that impact you as artists/songwriters while creating this album?

LISA: Oh god, was it that long?! I thought we’re getting younger not older.

ALEX: Well you look younger, so …

LISA: Bless, bless.

JESS: I think that the biggest change was the up rise of social media. That happened at such a rapid pace. When we first started, we were one of the first bands on MySpace. So that just goes to show how it was back then and how these things have changed. I think the accessibility between fans and artists has become so intimate, which is unreal. We’re so stoked about that because even back then, we were so excited to be able to be close with the fans, and I think it’s important to have that direct interaction and we like to see their reactions firsthand – what they think about the music and giving things to them directly from the artists. It takes out the middleman. Whoever fucking likes the middleman anyway? The middleman is always there just to you know –

LISA: Buffer.

JESS: Yes! He’s always the buffer. And I understand the middleman is important for a lot of things but taking him out gives you that direct, personal, genuine relationship with fans, which as artists –

LISA: Is everything to us.

JESS: It’s the greatest. We love that.

LISA: I mean, it’s so interesting to know that we have fans all over the world.

JESS: It just gives us such a great concept of where things are being embraced. And just on a completely pop culture level, you are able to stay connected to so much information. I think that serves as a really great source of inspiration.

LISA: For us, inspiration for our writing and for our music is life. All the different experiences in life.

JESS: I think that being able to educate yourself with the internet at your fingertips and being able to research your own passions and even look into what your fan base is into and where things are progressing is a really important part of it. You just didn’t have the ability to be able to do that before. You needed someone else to be able to go log in and look at statistics. Now we’re able to do that ourselves.

LISA: And then obviously sonically the landscape has totally changed. Back when we were releasing our last record, Hook Me Up, and “Untouched” and all those songs, it was very hard to get them to be played on the radio because they were deemed “too electro dance.” And when you look at music now …

ALEX: That sound is everywhere!

LISA: Back then, “pop” was kind of a dirty word. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry hadn’t come out yet. There came a rise of the female pop star that was doing things a little more in that sonic vein. So I think it’s so crazy how just radio and pop culture is –

JESS: Now sitting.

LISA: It’s cool. It gives you a place to react off, that’s what we do as artists. This is where things are and you continually react off that middle ground. So creating this record, we didn’t want to make something that sort of seemed like we’d already done that. At the beginning of this, we decided that we weren’t going to just go back and do that sound again because it’s now happening and relevant. Instead, we went back and challenged ourselves.

JESS: We just started writing songs and telling our stories. And I think the next record, which we’re going to start working on really soon, will be very production heavy in a completely different way. But for this one, we really needed to just go back to our roots. We wanted to leave all the shit behind with the old record company and just go back to finding ourselves at our most base foundation of The Veronicas, which was us sitting down, writing on guitar and crafting the melody, vocals, and lyrics from that.

ALEX: Part of what I think makes this new record so brilliant is that it expertly fuses the pop/rock aesthetic of your first album with that more electronic feel of your second album to create something that’s not only a sophisticated evolution of your sound, but an exciting new one as well. Was this amalgamation a deliberate choice or did it just kind of come about organically?

JESS: Very much organically. It was very much led by us. If we could physically produce our own records, we would do it ourselves. We’re just that type of personality. That being said, we haven’t yet mastered the art of full production, so it’s just all our opinions and our thoughts. We sat down and we really worked with each producer on what we wanted to hear.

LISA: As we did with our second record with Toby Gad. Songs like “Untouched,” “Take Me On The Floor,” “Popular,” – with all those songs, we very much dictated how we wanted them to sound. But those had a very 80s electro template, whereas these songs didn’t have a template. The song itself was the thing that we started with, it was like the seed. And then we built around that and we didn’t try to overdo it.

JESS: But songs like “Did You Miss Me” and “Line of Fire” have very obvious production elements to them. We really just had fun with that in a way that we hadn’t really done before because there was no predisposition to a genre.

LISA: Yes. It was just what we heard in our minds. We felt very free and very inspired through every little part of the process. From each sound to each lyric to the way things were mixed and mastered. We’re very, very hands on in a way that made for music that is just a natural progression.

JESS: Did you just eat a piece of chocolate off your arm?

LISA: I was like “peanut butter chocolate mmm.” Very organic progression for that chocolate to make its way from my arm to my mouth.

JESS: Sorry to interrupt. That was just really funny. Anyway.

ALEX: It’s too good to waste! There were many songs you had written since Hook Me Up that didn’t make the final cut of your third album. Was it difficult to curate the track listing given that this record was in a way a reintroduction of your band to the world?

LISA: That was very important to us.

JESS: To get that right, yeah. There were a few different combinations we tried. It wasn’t too hard though, because I feel like the songs themselves sat in a storyline of what we’ve been through anyway naturally. So it was just placing them right.

LISA: I started saying it sort of embodies the themes of life, death and resurrection. So starting with “Sanctified” just made so much sense as far as this being our rebirth. And, you know, regeneration comes in seven year cycles, so it’s so funny to hear that it’s been seven years since the last record. When I hear that, I’m just like, “this is not a coincidence.” We truly do feel like this is our rebirth.

JESS: It’s definitely not a coincidence.

LISA: I was very much into that whole swampy, bluesy, soulful, moody scene in our downtime. I went to Nashville and did a lot of writing and jamming with a bunch of different artist friends and that inspired “Sanctified,” which just felt like such a good place to start. Then we move into “Did You Miss Me,” which we felt like was our sort of real signature song. Lyrically, we actually draw a lot of inspiration from the movie we named our band after, Heathers. So we actually quote a bunch of Veronica Sawyer’s lines in that. And then obviously ending on “You and Me,” which is completely stripped back and bare. For that song, we did one take, harmonized the whole way through together, just on an acoustic guitar and it just felt like the truest form of where we’re at and who we are. So there’s a lot of soul bearing on this record. I like to say that we wear our hearts on our sleeves and the knife is in our hands. In true Veronicas form, we still do write about heartbreak and we’re a bit vengeful sometimes.

JESS: We write about the every mysterious understanding of love. It is the hardest thing to be consistent in understanding love. It mutates and it takes on different forms at every moment of everyday and things change and people are insecure. Love in its purest form shouldn’t affect what love in its purest form is but it does. And it’s crazy that we as humans still have not mastered the concept of just the simplest form of what love is.

LISA: We’re always trying to conquer what that is. It’s that mysterious kind of force that fucks us up or is our driving force. It’s kind of wild. So we love to write about that in all of its forms.

ALEX: You’ve teased that a deluxe version of the album will be coming out with seven unreleased songs added onto it. When do you anticipate that to hit stores and how do these new songs compare to the rest of the record?

JESS: In June or July. I actually just sent an e-mail to Sony about it yesterday. They’re some of my favorite songs. Some of these songs mean an incredible amount to us. They’re very, very personal.

LISA: These are ones where I was like, “Man! We should have put that one on the first version of the album!” So yeah, they’re some of the best ones I think we’ve ever written, definitely.

JESS: One song you may have heard online, “Sugar Daddy.” We’re going to include the full version of that and six other songs.

ALEX: I love that song! That’s exciting. From the moody “You Ruin Me” to the calls for social change in “If You Love Someone” to the most recent and gritty “Cruel,” shot on the set of Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, all of the music videos that have spawned from this new album thus far have been incredibly cinematic. Which of these were the most fun and/or challenging to film?

JESS: Thank you! I think the most challenging one out of the three was “Cruel,” just because of the physicality and stunt work.

LISA: Yeah, definitely.

JESS: Even the weather. We were in the desert about two hours out of LA and it was –

LISA: Below freezing.

JESS: So fucking cold! And we were wearing these latex outfits. There was a moment in the video where I thought I was going to freeze to death. But it was worth it because the location was unreal. We did our own stunt work, including a knife fight I did with the lead actor. It’s hard enough to think straight when you’re freezing in the middle of the night in the desert! And he had a real knife that he was using. So he was getting really close – I mean, he’s a proper stunt guy so it was fine – but there was this element of fear because I’m thinking, “there is a chance that this could go wrong and if that happens then this knife is going through me.” It’s not a rubber knife, it’s not a retractable knife. There’s a real risk there. But I think that that added to the intensity and the magic of the video. You get a different outcome doing it head on like that. That’s how we approach our songwriting, so it made sense that we would approach it with the risk of real injury with the video.

LISA: And we’ve been so meticulous and hands on with the creation of these video clips. We definitely wanted each one to have its own cinematic feel. We wanted the songs to be the soundtrack to their own mini-movies and their own worlds. “You Ruin Me” was wild because we shot that over 3 days. That one was tough for me just because of what the song means to me. It was still so fresh and new, so I wasn’t used to being that vulnerable and in the moment in front of so many people. When we were shooting that, there was actually quite a big crew. So that one was a little bit overwhelming, but I think that just added to the magic of the video. Specifically regarding “Cruel,” we love Tarantino and David Lynch and we wanted the video’s vibes to reflect their kind of darkness and black humor.

ALEX: You recently completed touring in Australia and in the UK. When will you bring the Sanctified Tour to the US?

JESS: We definitely plan on doing that this year. I’m thinking probably after August, so it will be towards the end of this year. But we’re just doing as much promo right now as we can and we’re trying to make sure that we’re doing lots of competitions at all the different stations so that we can meet fans in each city. Even though they’re not full shows, it’s fun to be back and meet them all. We’ve been waiting to for so long. They’re so cool. We definitely want to bring the whole band to do our full rock show production sometime this year though.

ALEX: In addition to being exceptionally talented musicians, you’re both very passionate social activists. Highlights include protesting against Proposition 8 in California and joining the “Wear It For Pride” campaign in Australia, posing nude for PETA, becoming ambassadors for Sea Shepherd, and lending your voices to speak out against the forced closure of aboriginal communities in Australia. How do you balance your music careers with your philanthropic efforts and how do you recommend that more people get involved with these causes?

JESS: I think as far as the balance, it’s just to live the value system every day. So then that comes out through the music.

LISA: Yes, it’s literally integrating it into us as people and then that will come out through the music, through our art, through just being immersed in it every day and being able to talk about it.

JESS: We need to be able to have more and more conversations about our government system and structures and helping our wildlife and helping people in need and all the things that go on as far as social conscious goes. Then it’s going to become more comfortable for people. See the thing is that I think – especially in pop music – people are scared to get political. People are scared to be too outspoken because nobody wants to alienate a possible fan.

LISA: Not even just pop music, it’s even in the acting world too. It’s funny how much people don’t want to step on the wrong toes or offend anyone because it’s deemed too political. It’s like you don’t want to offend the wrong person because then you might ruin an opportunity. But then you’re just living in fear and not standing up for what you believe in. You can’t do that. That’s not who we are.

ALEX: Especially since you have a unique platform to do so.

LISA: Absolutely! That’s even more of a reason to stand up.

JESS: If there’s anything that we try to encourage, it’s to ask questions. We’re not saying people need to think like we think. But especially young people need to be encouraged to challenge and question everything. The difference between us and animals is that we have the ability to question “why?” for everything. Everything we do. We grow up in a school system that teaches us to conform and then by the time we’re old enough, we wake up and look around and go “wow, this hasn’t helped progress our society or our communities or ourselves in any way.” All this does is feed into a very capitalist mindset of prioritizing the wrong things, which are status, monetary value, material things –

LISA: Ego.

JESS: At what point do we say, “No, the important things in life are love, compassion, understanding yourself and understanding those around you”? If you’re fearing something, it’s because you do not understand it. You don’t have to agree with it, just try to understand it and to question the structures of authority that we have put in place. The problem is there’s a disconnection there. People think to themselves, “Well, I didn’t put that person in that place, so I have nothing to do with it.” Yes you do! If you’re a person of this universe, you have a part to play in this. We were born with a voice to speak up, so why not use it? Why sit there and be complacent? Why sit there and not ask why?

LISA: I really liked what you wrote on Twitter the other day. Let me pull it up and read it because I don’t want to paraphrase anything. It’s a Paulo Freire quote that says, “Washing your hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.” So many people remain neutral! They say, “It’s got nothing to do with me,” and it just comes down to a very, very simple concept of injustice. If you see injustice, speak out and do something about it.

JESS: Injustice to animals, injustice to your neighbor, or anyone! It can be as little picture or big picture as you choose, but if as humans we just sit around and allow injustice to continue, we’re digging ourselves into a world where no one can possibly survive. We cannot live in it, and that’s why we’re faced with the adversity, conflict, and misunderstanding that we’re faced with today.

LISA: Absolutely.

JESS: We need people to stand up and say, “This doesn’t work for me, my community, my family, my loved ones.” Otherwise nothing is going to change and the same things will continue on. We need to just encourage people to question and to educate themselves. We’re in a digital age where we are able to access information that we weren’t able to in the past. So why not use it? And then just love. Love, love, love, love, and be compassionate and understanding.

LISA: It will always bring you back to love.

JESS: That’s the important stuff.

ALEX: I agree! To end on a bit of a silly note – a recent Australian hit stateside has been the TV show, The Real Housewives of Melbourne. Obviously, you’re from Brisbane, but hypothetically, if you were to be on the show, what would each of your introductory taglines be?

LISA: We haven’t seen it yet! That’s so funny.

JESS: I want to watch it now! Isn’t the wife of someone from Silverchair on it?

ALEX: Yes! Jackie, Ben Gillies’ wife, is one of the Housewives and he’s on it all the time as well.

LISA: Amazing. We should do each other’s. Jess’ would be, “I’m into spiritual psychology and I’ll pick you apart.” I don’t even know if that really made sense. That’s just funny for me.

JESS: Yours would be like, “I may be short but I’ll always measure up.”

ALEX: Those are awesome!

JESS: That was a funny question. I just want to sit there and write those sorts of things for those shows now, I’d like that job. I wonder whose job that is, that’d be fun.

LISA: That’s hilarious.

ALEX: Is there anything about the new album or anything else that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to add?

LISA: Your questions were so beautiful and you’re so eloquent.

JESS: Thank you for such a beautiful interview and for letting us rant.

LISA: And for sharing the peanut butter chocolate with us!

ALEX: Thank YOU! This has been so wonderful. And I’m going to buy that chocolate in bulk.

IMG_0666-700x700

Originally published on PopBytes