Heathers are in full bloom

Twin sisters Ellie and Louise McNamara of Heathers came to prominence with the Bord Fáilte ad, and have since been writing for David Guetta.

Heathers are in full bloom

If the use of their song ‘Remember When’ on Bord Fáilte’s television and cinema ad campaign presented a carefree idyll, Heathers’ musical career has largely mirrored that. The success of that venture allowed the Dublin acoustic duo to re-release their debut album Here, Not There. It achieved broader acclaim and propelled twins Ellie and Louise Macnamara out of the Dublin DIY enclave they had inhabited.

Since the release last year of their second album, Kingdom, this upward trajectory has accelerated. Heathers are currently in the process of releasing that album worldwide and have recently been promoting it in Germany, where they have signed to Warner Music. But one of the unexpected outcomes of their success was the securing last September of a publishing deal with Universal. This has given them the opportunity to write for other artists. Already they feel it has had a knock-on effect on their own material.

“Our own writing for Heathers has changed a little bit since we started writing for other people as well, because you start experimenting with different things and then bringing them into your own music,” says lead vocalist Ellie.

“I think we’re learning as we go along because you have people who that is literally their job. All they do is write for people. So we’re learning what the best way to go about writing is. It is quite a stressful thing to do because you have to be so creative and you can’t just turn on creativity.”

Sometimes they aren’t aware of whom they are writing for. “You’re just kind of constantly submitting things,” says Ellie. “It’s a strange world but it’s fun.”

“A lot of time you’re given a brief so you’re told what kind of song it should be and what they want it to be about,” adds Louise.

Occasionally, the identity of the client has been revealed and that has brought its own pressure, particularly when it’s one as unlikely as French trance kingpin David Guetta. Their brief was simple: they wanted a number one hit along the lines of Guetta’s mega-selling ‘Titanium’.

Louise outlines the particular challenge of delivering this: “It’s funny because you look at a lot of these songs and you listen to them and they’re actually quite simple. Like the melodies and the lyrics are quite simple. But that’s what it’s all about, trying to have something simple with a hook. It’s not so easy to do, especially when you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, it has to be a number one hit’. It’s pressure.”

They both laugh. It may be pressure but they are undaunted by the task. While they set about writing hit songs for global superstars and making strides internationally as Heathers, they are also looking forward to embarking on a tour of Ireland’s more novel venues with Maria Doyle Kennedy.

The trio met for the first time at a recording of Philip King’s radio show South Wind Blows. Says Louise: “It’s going to be in all these pretty cool houses around the country. We’re doing stripped back piano and guitar, which we haven’t really played much in a while so it will be really nice.”

And somewhere in the middle of all this the busy duo are also managing to write new Heathers material.

* Maria Doyle Kennedy and Heathers play Wineport Lodge, Athlone (Sept 4); Ice House, Ballina, Co Mayo (Sept 5); Mount Juliet Estate, Kilkenny (Sept 7); and The Grainstore, Ballymaloe, Cork (Sept 8).

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