Photo: Brian Ziff
The Veronicas Talk New Album, Why Performing Pride Is So Important & Coming Of Age In The Music Industry
Identical twin sisters Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, born on Christmas Day in Brisbane, Australia, have always had big dreams and strong sense of who they are. They are better known as alt-pop outfit The Veronicas, which they formed in the early '00s after moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music when they were just 19.
In 2005, they released their debut album, The Secret Life Of..., along with their breakout single "4ever." They followed up with Hook Me Up in 2007, featuring pop-rock classic "Untouched." Due to issues with their label, they would take a forced hiatus until 2014, when they could finally release new music, which would eventually be their self-titled third album.
Through it all, The Veronicas have remained 100% themselves: bold, confident and creative, always exploring new sounds and styles. They are not only bolstered by the unbreakable bond they have as twins, but also by the support of their fanbase, especially those from the LGBTQ community, as they tell us.
Not long after their breathtaking performance at L.A. Pride, and before they took to the stage at World Pride in N.Y.C. this weekend, the Recording Academy sat down with Jessica and Lisa to learn more about what new music they've been working on, and what performing at Pride means—and feels like—to them. As they finish each other's sentences, they also dive deep into their creative process, the pressures of the music industry, their biggest influences and Jessica's own journey with exploring her sexual identity.
Okay, so let's start with new music. You guys released a new song earlier this year, "Think Of Me," which I think is your first new song in two years. How did it feel to be sharing your music again with the world?
Jessica Origliasso: It's always incredibly inspiring to be releasing new music, and for us, it's like every song is our baby. Everything that we put out is something that we've slaved over in some capacity. "Think of Me" was the beginning of a bigger picture of music that we've created, and it just felt like a relief really to have it out, the first sort of piece of the puzzle, the story.
Lisa Origliasso: Yeah, it's been fun because it has been quite some time since we've actually got in the studio to write an entire album, and we have about an album's worth of material now, but we did it in a relatively short time. So, about six to eight months we just kind of wrote out everything, and, I don't know, the universe is kind of inspired to get us at the right time, inspired writing. None of it was sort of too preplanned. It was just the right pieces fell into place, or the right inspiration was there.
Jessica: Artists that we wanted to collaborate with were available to get in the studio, and it all just sort of worked out that way. So, yeah, it felt right.
Do you want to talk a little bit more about that song specifically, and then maybe about the bigger project as well? What can we expect?
Jessica: When Lisa and I go into write an album, usually we're drawing from a lot of different influences of whatever we are listening to currently, but then also stuff we've been into for a long time. So, because of how much freedom artists have now with music, it was important for us to be able to storytell, and have elements that don't feel forced.
So, because there's so much now to be influenced by, because when we last did an album in such a short period of time, it was our second record [2007's Hook Me Up]. And at that time the Internet and Spotify were not really there. So, you had to go really searching, you had to go to see a lot of live shows and dig around for a lot of underground stuff, which we did at the time. Whereas now there's a lot to pull from.
I think with "Think of Me" in particular, we went in and just wanted to write a song, and make it as sort of simple as possible, and just embody a feeling. So, it was about a feeling, and that feeling came from a personal experience that I was going through that Lisa channeled into, and the other two writers, the producer and the other writer in the room channeled into, and we all just threw a lot of feelings into the middle, and wrote out some stories.
It's very uncensored when you're in a recording room like that. I think maybe because we're twins we have each other's back, and you automatically feel very comfortable. So we tend to throw out the rawest feelings to the room, a lot of people are probably a little shocked. Like, "How are you so comfortable?" But because we have each other, you feel immediately at home.
Lisa: We've always had that comfortability, and it's what has made us love music so much.
Jessica: I think inspired writing is incredibly important. It's why people go, "Why do you wait so long in between records?" There's actually a really good reason for it. I mean, Adele speaks on it all the time. She's one of my favorites with that because she will not go into the studio and create a record that isn't inspired writing. Because at the end of the day, you can do it. We've done songwriting for 15, almost 16, 17 years now, professionally. So, you can go in and do it…
Lisa: And when you're doing it for other artists, it's maybe easier to do that. But for our record, and a fourth record especially, where you have so much creative freedom, I think it's really important to be able to create it from the most authentic space you can.
Jessica: This record is actually very collaborative-heavy. Over half of the record is collaborations, and we've never done that before. We've never collaborated with anyone before other than each other.
Jessica: So, we've got collaborations and then we've also gotten features on other artists' stuff.
Lisa: Which is such an exciting time for us because more music is out there. And that's why we love today's climate with music. It's not just about having to slave over this one album and then you're going to have that for two years. You can get into the studio tomorrow with this awesome DJ, and we just featured on our friend Allday's new single. Even though it's not our release, it feels like our release and our fans are excited, and our fans are turning into his fans, and his fans are turning into our fans, and it's just such a beautiful sort of love fest of collaborations. Those experiences have been really, really fun.
Jessica: But this album has been very influenced by stories, feelings and stories. It's driven by the idea of leaving the past behind and stepping into your power. And there's a lot of '80s influence, there's guitars, there's a lot of emotions...
Lisa: A little dramatic.
Jessica: Bit dramatic, but most of our records are.
Lisa: That's sort of a bit of our blueprint, to be honest.
Jessica: And then there's also like the super-stripped-back, raw, vulnerable feelings in the story. So, it's quite a juxtaposed record. Our next single…[looks to Lisa] We can say the name of it, yeah?
Lisa: Yeah. I mean, I'm always saying yes. I'm like "Yeah, get it out there."
Jessica: Yeah, the next single's called "Life of the Party," and we wrote it about essentially the last 15 years of what it's like when you first come into a space of music, and celebrity, and somewhere like Hollywood, and everyone thinks that it's this particular thing. Everyone's here to be the party. Everyone's here to be the life of everything, the center of attention, and how that becomes old very quickly.
Lisa: The reality of that.
Jessica: What is of true value to you, as people? We wrote this song with our friend, Allday, and the hook is like, "Everybody wants to be the life of the party, but I just want to find somebody. I just want to have something real."
Lisa: It's that sort of feeling, that melancholy sadness intertwined with a lot of '80s pop or hip-hop elements.
You put out your debut album back in 2005. What was it like coming of age in the music industry? How has your growth and personal identities shifted within the context of The Veronicas?
Lisa: Well, we have an incredibly interesting dynamic and journey because we are twin sisters, who literally created a band together. Nobody tells you when you start music, that you're about to also embark on a social experiment of celebrity. That is one of the wildest concepts. Nobody has the conversation with you when you enter the public eye for what you love to do, which for us it was songwriting first. We weren't even focused on being artists first, it was songwriting and then we moved into being artists. Nobody tells you at that point, you're going to be entering some weird public social experiment of position, of power, of dynamics, of having money for the first time, of having people recognize you, of knowing how to navigate—
Jessica: The attention.
Lisa: And being completely exhausted.
Jessica: The tabloids.
Lisa: Negative attention, or positive, overly positive attention.
Jessica: Well, and then you put, on top of that, the fact that we are twin sisters…
Lisa: …and young women who are growing, and becoming independent from each other as well.
Jessica: Yes. Becoming independent from each other, and growing into the people that we are. Because you get two twin sisters in a band, people are going to compare you to each other. So, there's the comparisons, there's the interviews. "What's your favorite thing? What's the worst thing about your sister?" And it's kind of like you're constantly navigating this sort of dynamic, that in itself, is just a crazy thing.
Lisa: Well, you don't give it that much observational thought until every single interview it's, "Who's always late? Who's the better cook? Who's the better songwriter? Who's the better singer?" Literally, I would say every single interview from the past 15 years, at least one of those questions will come up.
Jessica: And at the beginning, it would be like, what? Who's the better singer? What a stupid question. Like, wait, who's the better cook? Well I guess I am, or I guess that you are. Who's messier? Well, I'm messier. But then it becomes a competition. So, it's funny that you become this sort of social experiment that you're not ready for. Lis and I, we're very blessed that we grew up with a very grounded family and grounded sense of self. So, for us, none of that was taken on board really. We're very blessed in that. For us it's always just been about music, and about our family and being real.
Lisa: But it is a wild experience, and we've been doing it 15 years now, and you find that after 15 years, success is cyclic. Success is...
Jessica: It's very individual to the person. What is true success? We would say, at this point, true success is creative freedom. Having the freedom to be able to create how and what you would like without compromise. Now, at the beginning of your career, you're told there's a lot of compromise that has to happen, in order to have success.
Lisa: And success back then is a number one hit, fame, money. But 15 years later, that is not the same value system.
Jessica: Yeah, you redefine what success is, what is the true value on it. That's really what a lot of this record is about; what is of true value?
Yeah, I can't imagine like being a young woman in the music industry, when people are literally staring at you like you're not there, and there's just such an emphasis on women's looks. But you both seem so grounded.
Lisa: We were very young, we were very naïve.
Jessica: Yeah, we were 19 when we moved to America. We had lived in our family's home with our parents up until 19, up until we moved here by ourselves. But the thing about us from the beginning has been that we've always had a very big sense of self, of who we are. And yeah, when we moved here, it was weird because a lot of that was internally going on in the industry. I think we were really lucky to have each other because...
Lisa: We never felt pressured to ever have to compromise on those things. I remember, our first music video was shot in a pool and…
Jessica: …we were wearing like skater boy pants, and just quite horrible fashion honestly. But we didn't want a stylist, okay? We were very much like, we know who we are, and God bless, we really were true to that.
Lisa: They would try and get us in bikinis and all kinds of stuff. We were like, "Why would we do that?"
Jessica: It didn't even make sense to us. I didn't even own a bikini.
Lisa: [looks down at all-black outfit] I own goth attire and that's what I'm going to wear, and just give us the money for the budget because we'll go buy what we like.
Jessica: Which at time was like Dickies shorts.
Lisa: It was a different time, Hot Topic was our favorite shop. I mean, it looks like I'm wearing Hot Topic right now, but the point is that we always had each other's back, and we always were like, well that's stupid.
Jessica: We were always going to fight for who we are and fight for our career.
Lisa: And now, sometimes, people who work with us are like, "Wow, you girls are..."
Jessica: …hard a**es. We don't ever step on people to get to where we want to be, but we're quite stern with what we want. When you've had to fight for 15 years, with people calling you a b*tch for having an opinion because you're a girl in pop music, you learn to value your integrity, and your position through the years of learning where the actual power lies. The actual power lies in you, your ability to create, and nobody can take that from you.
We had a record company shelve of us for four years because they went through internal changes, at the peak of our career, and how debilitating that is for an artist, I cannot even put into words. That can literally destroy you.
Lisa: So crazy.
Jessica: We had dedicated eight years to this, and then they just literally didn't have a single person there to be able to help with our release.
Lisa: And then they also wouldn't let us off the company. So, we had no other choice but to just sit there, and the only way that we could actually take the power back was to get back in the studio. And throughout that time we kept writing, but it was a pretty dark time.
Jessica: And that's why for us, it always comes back to writing. Always comes back to being the songwriters because nobody can ever take from you. Tabloids can't take that from you…
Lisa: That's our voice.
Jessica: Record companies can't take that from you, managers can't take that from you, they can take your money, they can take pretty much everything else, your freedom to be able to release, but they can't take your ability to write. So, for us it's always what it comes back to. As long as we have that, and we've always placed so much value in having that voice.
Lisa: I think that's why there's these big writing camps with the best songwriters in the world, and they come out with these amazing songs, but it's like, well, it's going to take us a little longer because…
Jessica: …that process is the most important for us.
Lisa: It feeds our soul as artists, it feeds our soul as Lisa and Jess, not just The Veronicas.
Jessica: But there is a machine that works, and it works very quickly these days, and so people get a little bit frustrated, like, "Why haven't you got your album out yet? What's taking so long?" And I don't think people realize, because of how quickly music works now, that unless you have the team that's feeding that, it's impossible for one artist or two artists to do everything. But we're trying to do everything.
Lisa: We love to do everything.
Jessica: We would love the time to do everything.
Lisa: Or you find a team that can help facilitate that, but that's also very difficult. It's almost impossible.
Jessica: Well, let's also be real. We really know what we want, and more often than not, we're not satisfied with someone else doing it. It is nice when you find those people you can collaborate with. It's just so rare to find that special connection, I think we're lucky we have it at each other. And so you almost expect other people to be on that same wave, and more often than not, I'm sure we're on a wavelength of our own. I mean, maybe no one else can actually get on this frequency.
Lisa: They probably don't want to. It's probably a bit much.
Were there specific artists or someone that made you feel like you had a place in music when you were younger?
Jessica: We had a very eclectic [musical] upbringing.
Lisa: Our parents were super into a lot of different stuff. So, they were playing records around the house, but I mean it was anything from a glam rock band from Australia, called the Skyhooks. It was very camp, it was fun, it was rock and roll.
Jessica: They'd be in make-up and dresses, super gender-bending.
Lisa: Australia's very innovative, especially with rock and roll music.
Jessica: We loved them. And we grew up in musical theater. So, Jesus Christ Superstar and Rocky Horror Picture Show. I mean, this is stuff that our mom was really into, so she was just constantly playing it around the house. For us, it was just the coolest thing we've ever seen when Frank N. Furter comes out in this women's corset, just rocking our world. And then on the other side it's like k.d. lang, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley...
Your performance at L.A. Pride was amazing; you said it was your first show in L.A. in eight years, and you two seem so natural and powerful on stage. How did it feel to be back?
Lisa: There's something so beautiful about the LGBTQ community in particular. Wherever you go, they're the most supportive, loving crowd. In L.A., we've lived here for 15 years so, we're sort of L.A. natives a little bit in that way. You're kind of spoiled here, everybody comes through, you can see your favorite artists in rare, small shows. We're very lucky, but with having played for the first time in eight years, especially to such a huge crowd in L.A. But the LGBTQ community in general, wherever you are [shows up], and in L.A., for this particular show, they showed up hard for us and it was the best feeling.
Jessica: Oh my god. It was so much love coming our way. And just looking down, seeing people just…
Lisa: …Loving it. And knowing all the songs.
Jessica: Singing every word and just giving us all their love and energy. It was overwhelming. I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is my fave. I wasn't expecting want everybody to know all the songs, all the words.
Lisa: We got off stage and we were like, "I think that was the best show we've ever done." I couldn't even think of a show where we left feeling that good.
just want to report that yesterday at LA pride, the veronicas took the stage and boldly said "all rise for the gay national anthem" before playing "untouched" and honestly... where is the fuckin lie
— Jill Gutowitz (@jillboard) June 10, 2019
So, during the L.A. Pride performance you guys were like, "Okay, it's time for the gay national anthem," and then sang "Untouched." That was kind of amazing.
Lisa: I was thinking about it because so many people we've been playing for—we played Pride in Orlando as well—and so many people said like, "Your music helped me when I was coming out." There were these beautiful stories that we were hearing from every single person that we were meeting. And I thought, I wonder what it is? What could it be that connected with the queer community in general in such a huge way at that time, beyond obviously we wrote lyrics like, "I want to kiss a girl, I want to kiss a boy." We were just writing out our feelings at the time.
But even beyond that, what was it about the music? What was it about it that really captured the community in such a big way? Well it makes sense because we grew up with the queer community. We grew up in theater from the age of five, where every single friend of ours was gay or queer or in some form of the community. Our main director at the theater company was a gorgeous gay man, and every song was some kind of an anthem for that time as well.
Jessica: Free love and celebration.
Lisa: Yeah, free love, celebration, liberation, sexual freedom. I thought to myself, we've taken that on board in our songwriting, in what we're attracted to sonically. So, we've created music that has essentially embodied a history of music that has engaged the LGBTQ community.
So, that's what we have then been influenced by and created. So, people say that we gave the gays "Untouched," but I'm like, gays actually gave us "Untouched." And that's why I call it the gay anthem.
Jessica: You're right. It's the culture and queer community, and even entertainment was ingrained. It was such a huge part of our upbringing.
Lisa: It's our DNA, and our blueprint. And that's why we've gone on to create this music.
Jessica: Yeah. It's funny thinking about it because I guess I haven't really thought back, but that really stems from our mom. Our mom was just the most loving, giving soul there was. From the theater company, she would have all of our best friends sleep over, and it was all the cute boys, and we'd play fairies and wizards and they'd always want to be the fairies. So we had to be the wizards.
Lisa: She encouraged so much, and she always took in, and always loved people for who they were. We grew up in the most diverse upbringing that you could possibly have.
It’s almost pride month!!! My favourite month of the year
I got my weave in and I’m ready to sing my queer ass across the USAAAAY.
— Jessica Veronica (@Jessicaveronica) May 27, 2019
You'll also be performing at World Pride in N.Y.C. this weekend, which is huge, as well as a few other city's Pride celebrations. Why was it important for you this year to celebrate Pride on stage?
Jessica: I think for me personally, my journey sort of coming to celebrate my sexuality, and I always have been very comfortable with my sexuality, but it has been a particular journey for me. Especially because it's all been quite public, and now I'm in a relationship with a trans man, and he's the absolute love of my life. And how I've identified previously, I've had a very bisexual journey, but through it I've realized that my preference is women, but that's in my 30s now realizing that that's how I would identify.
I just feel so proud to be doing what I love to do, in a relationship that is so wonderful and healthy, and loving, passionate and exciting, and be the most comfortable and happy with. I guess it's continuing to always honor myself, and honor every process and step that I'm going through and to be in a community with people that are going through that for the first time.
But also knowing that in some parts of the world and, in other times of the year, it's not accepted. It's not acceptable to a lot of people still. I take so much pride and honor in being a voice to that, and just a creative force in that, and an ally in every way.
Lisa: Bringing our voice, and that visibility as well I think is so important for us, and especially as music is a universal language. So, through our music, that's why we want to be there. We want to use our voices, we want to use that platform to celebrate love and spread that message. And especially because it's my twin sister too, and part of her journey, and I'm so proud of her in literally every way. So, yeah, it's the best feeling to be here celebrating with everyone.
Jessica: I guess because we've grown up next to so many fans, and a lot of them are part of the LGBTQ community, we wanted to be able to celebrate in every way that we could with them. Over here in America too, because we do a lot in Australia, and we do a lot of activism, a lot of the rallies in Australia. But marriage equality was only passed last year in Australia, and it's still kind of up there somewhere in the legislation being seen through properly.
But to come here, and I know it's been legal here for a little while, and just being able to celebrate that, and like Lis said, visibility, as there's so many issues within the community that need highlighting. Trans women of color, and the risks and danger that they face still daily, is a huge part of that. Obviously, legislation around transgender visibility, and freedom, and acknowledgement is still a huge, huge thing. And now, being with a trans partner, it's very important for us to be able to embrace those issues.
So, it's really just like being here for that time, and then to be completely honest, the LGBTQ community has shown up for us in the biggest ways at some of the darkest times of our life. When it's a really hard to be an artist in a time when maybe you're having a down time or a hard time in the press, or whatever it is, and they rally around you and lift you up no matter what.
We played a party the other night, called Heaven Party, it's like an underground queer goth warehouse party. It's amazing.
When we came off stage there was a row of the most beautiful drag queens you've ever seen in your life. And every single one of them kissed me, and was like, "You were amazing. You're so gorgeous. Thank you." And I was like, by the third, I was crying because I just feel so lucky.
What is your message for young LGBTQ+ people this Pride, right now?
Jessica: I think just to feel proud of your journey, feel proud of who you are. [Pauses.] Gosh, there's so many messages. I'm trying to think of something to sum up in a soundbite for you.
That you are beautiful, that you are seen, we see you, we're so proud of you, continue to shine brightly. Know that even if you haven't come out yet or if you don't feel safe there, or in the community that you're in currently, that it will get better, and there will be a time when you can live as authentically, and entirely as you wish to be.
That there are people here who love you and there always will be. And as long as we are creating music, we will continue to try to reach out and inspire people in every way that we can. You're so loved, and that family, and that sense of family and community that is available to love and accept you, might not be blood, and that's okay. Love is love and that there really truly is a community here who will embrace and love you, and to always remember that.