There aren't many Irish bands who've had as successful a year as Heathers. The Macnamara twins, Ellie and Louise, began the year by scooping up the Best Irish Band award at The Erics in January and their schedule hasn't let up since then. Incessant touring, both at home and abroad, has seen the Dubliners expand their support base exponentially and even added some celebrity fans to their ranks (Hello Mr. Spielberg!).
Heathers have just contributed a song to the brand new Simple Things album, which is out now, and will play a full band show in The Academy in Dublin on Thursday 28th November. entertainment.ie music editor John Balfe caught up with Ellie and Louise for a chat ahead of the gig, recorded it and then wrote down everything that everybody said.
Now that we're reaching the end of the year have you had the time yet to reflect on exactly how big a year 2013 has been for you?
Louise: I don't think we've thought about it too much, it's still quite busy. We're just taking things as they come but when we do think about it, it's been a pretty mental year. We couldn't recently the amount of flights we've taken this year and it's an unreal number - something like 30!
Last year at The Erics, the entertainment.ie awards, you won Best Irish Band and performed on the night. But didn't one of you lose your voice backstage? What happened exactly?
Ellie: Louise lost her voice and mid-set I had to take over all the songs, singing two-part harmonies with my one voice! It was actually terrifying.
Louise: There's only been two points to date in my life where I've lost my voice. One was Electric Picnic last year and then it was [the entertainment.ie show] where I had a really bad cold, which had never happened before. It was proper gone, it came to the second song and I tried to sing it and... (mimes being unable to speak). That was a great night though!
Tell me a little bit about how the Simple Things album came about.
Ellie: We were contacted about a year ago by Jim Breen who organised Cycling Against Suicide and he had heard 'Forget Me Knots' and thought that it was the perfect anthem for the cycle, asked us if we'd like to be involved - and that's basically what we wrote 'Forget Me Knots' about. We wrote it for a friend of ours who took her own life, so we jumped at the chance to get involved. The cycle was a massive success and then, after that, Bressie contacted us and asked if we'd be interested in being involved in the Simple Things album, which is a collection of Irish musicians who've contributed songs specifically for raising the awareness of mental health. We all take part in one song, called 'Simple Things', and that was released last week and was absolutely amazing to be involved in.
Louise: I think it was a really good idea to release the album. I was saying to someone last week that there are so many young people that are dealing with depression, so many young people taking their lives, and its absolutely horrific but I think that a lot of young people listen to music and it's something that they can connect with.
'Forget Me Knots' has had quite a big life since its release. Do you find it fulfilling from both of your perspectives that, not only do people like the song, the deeper meaning also resonates?
Louise: Definitely. We've gotten a lot of emails from people all over the world saying, 'just want to let you know that 'Forget Me Knots' helped me through really bad situations'. It's not like we initially wrote 'Forget Me Knots' to get out a message, it was more that we wrote it for ourselves when we were dealing with what had happened. To see that it has spoken to a lot of people and that people have related to the song means so much to us.
How are things going for you further afield? I know you're spending a lot time in North America and mainland Europe.
Ellie: We just released 'Forget Me Knots' in America about two weeks ago and then Kingdom will be released there in early 2014. We've already released it in Canada and 'Forget Me Knots' in Germany. We literally spent the last couple of months touring non-stop and just going to those various countries and it's really interesting to see what the different audiences are like too.
When I'm interviewing bands from outside of Ireland the topic sometimes comes up about how great they think Irish audiences are. What's the difference you've found between us and a German audience, for example?
Louise: Irish audiences are a little bit rowdy and that's a really good thing. There's so much energy in Irish audiences, which we love. German audiences are amazing too. This is what we've found, so it might be different for other bands, but they really listen intently and are a bit more respectful.
Ellie: It's really similar in Canada too. They're really into music and very attentive.
The first time I sat down with you two you told me about the potential collaboration with yourselves and David Guetta. Where is that at now?
Louise: At the moment we don't have an awful lot of time because we're writing our own next album and when we're not doing that we're touring. So many not necessarily his next album but whenever we have downtime we write stuff for other people and it's an open-ended thing.
How much time do you actually have to write new material? You seem to be incredibly busy touring but have you actively sat down and gone, 'okay, third album. Here we go!'?
Louise: To be honest we haven't had a lot of time. We find it quite difficult to write on the road. A lot of our later stuff has been written on midi keyboards rather than acoustic guitar. Also, sometimes we write together and sometimes we write separately. We'll be in Ireland for another 3 or four weeks, so we've planned out some time where we'll go down to where our father grew up in Clare and do writing sessions. We find getting away from everything and turning off the phones works for us. It's very hard - and maybe this will change over time - that when you're on tour to find the time to write because we're so focussed on giving everything to the tour. But I guess when things get busy we'll have to learn to multitask!