May 11, 2015


The Veronicas Return: Talking Magic, Revenge and the Illusion of Fame

Jatnna Nunez for Fuse
Jatnna Nunez for Fuse

In 2005, the Veronicas emerged with The Secret Life Of..., a promising release from two young identical twins from Brisbane. Fast forward two years and the ladies, Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, released Hook Me Up, the pop-rock album that would put them on the map internationally and land them a radio hit in the U.S. with "Untouched." The Veronicas filled the much needed void of alternative pop-stardom, eventually obtaining mega fame at a young age.

Then something happened. The twins found themselves in a contractual bind, stiffed creatively and emotionally. They disappeared, at least to American eyes, for seven years. In that time, they've been invested in self-discovery and health, exploring new sounds and new friendships. In February they released their third full-lengthThe Veronicas, and are prepping their first U.S. tour in almost a decade. They're ready for their next chapter, and they're hoping you'll join them. Here's Fuse's conversation with Jessica and Lisa.

Since your last record, you both gained a new focus on health, which can often speak to personal spirituality and growth. When did you start getting into well-being in a serious way?

Jess: I think the metaphysical world is something we've always been interested in. We were encouraged from a very young age to believe in magic. Our mom used to take us to fairy parties. As we got older, I was always very drawn to manifesting my own destiny...learning how to do spells and personal ritual.

Lisa: The power of intention! I would always find that when I really meditated on something I really wanted I would always get it. 

Jess: It starts to become more than a coincidence when good things are happening. I think I really connected with my own sense of spiritual awakening when I was in a relationship with my ex-partner. I was going through a lot of difficult health issues and all of the sudden the idea of holistic medicine and holistic healing came up. Once I started to explore that everything else started to open up...We've always had interest in other faiths. Religion as a general, ceremonial understanding of what it means and how it directly effects people. It's the ceremony, the ritual. You're connecting to something greater than a material.

That's what awakening is: Understanding yourself so you can understand others better and show compassion for others around you.

Jess: I think because we were able to experience fame and success at a young age, [we learned] very quickly the illusion that a lot of people hold and society raises you to believe: that when you reach a certain level of fame or success or income that all these magical things are going to happen to you. All of the sudden you're very popular. You're very pretty. Everyone loves you and that's going to fix all your problems.

Lisa: If I was more famous, then I would be happy. If I was a little skinnier...If I had bigger boobs, you know, whatever these ideas in our heads are blocking us from happiness you realize very quickly.

Jess: You only realize it once you're in it and you experience those things. You're going to all the cool parties and you're popular and you're being on tv, people are asking for your autograph, you're going on dates with cute, popular people and you realize that you still have those same insecurities and issues that you've always had. It didn't actually fix anything inside of you. Then, all of the sudden, that story or that dream you told yourself can't hold up anymore. For me, I got into astrology. I got into reading tarot for myself, different tools of divination that lead me to a different understanding. That's what awakening is: Understanding yourself so you can understand others better, and show compassion for others around you.

Jatnna Nunez for Fuse
Jatnna Nunez for Fuse

It's a form of empathy that I think a lot of people aspire to, but never make room to explore. You took a long time off since the last recordit's been seven years since we last heard from you. Is that what you've been up to?

Lisa: That was where we channeled a lot of our energy. We've been in the studio, too, taking the time to create and write. I spent a lot of time in Nashville. We actually spent a lot of time apart but still being creative and keeping in touch with each other. I think it was important for us to do that and grow a little bit individually as well, develop different senses of who we are and our style. The majority of those years were spent writing and recording while trying to get off our own label. It was a big legal process that [they] were withholding us from releasing music. It wasn't looking like we were going to get to release the record that we made, recorded and remade three times under their watch. We got a big scary lawyer and said "let us off." Thankfully we did.

Jess: There was a lot of life lived in that time. It was an unfortunate situation in the sense that we were constantly being told to just wait another month and these things will happen, just wait another month. We never got the mental freedom of thinking "Well, we've got this amount of time to go and do something else. I'll go explore India for three months. I'll go volunteer somewhere where I can go do something else other than music." We were never afforded that mental freedom. We were in the studio believing that we were going to release something in the next few weeks and that happened for five years. We were kept in that prison mentality. That was the hardest part. We felt powerless.

Lisa: We had no control over our future. We felt we lost credibility with our fans and when to expect new music.

Jess: We kept telling them, "No, no, it'll be in the next month." Five years of that, later, and people start to lose trust in you. There was a lot of being told one thing, us sort of working towards that goal. We were in the studio and traveling to different places, a lot of writing, but then for the first time in our lives we explored having real relationships and living life. I lived with my boyfriend for a while and that was a very new experience for me at 24. 

I could [finally] find who I was rather than my identity as one of the Veronicas, as one of the sisters.

Lisa: I was in Nashville and I was seeing an artist there at the time and I was having just the most amazing time there, discovering who I was as an artist because that is such a music city. I had all these different people to collaborate with and write with and jam with, other than Jessie who is obviously my favorite [laughs]. Everyone there is so friendly and inspiring and down to jam. For me, I really discovered my voice. My true voice. I was comfortable. I could find who I was rather than my identity as one of the Veronicas, as one of the sisters.

Jess: We made back to back records with The Secret Life Of and Hook Me Up. Once you take a break, you have an observational perspective of how things have gone down, where we like to move things and where the Veronicas went moving forward. That revolution alone took a lot of bravery and time to really think about what we wanted, who we are as people and who we allowed ourselves to surround ourselves with the challenges...all of that really defined where we are taking this band more so than anything we've done in the past. When people ask what influenced this record, what we've done previously is such a small impact compared to who are now as people. We needed that time to be able to find that, to be separate, to go through whatever we went through. I think of it as divine timing. 

Jatnna Nunez for Fuse
Jatnna Nunez for Fuse

The best records typically represent a very specific time. When you were on this quote-unquote hiatus, were you writing this particular record over half a decade?

Lisa: We started writing for this record in 2011 to pretty much last year. We basically had the creative freedom, even though we didn't anticipate it to take as long as it did—the upside, we like to see the positive of it instead of the fact that they stole four or five years of our career—the upside is that we had the time to be as creative and free as we wanted to explore and challenge ourselves with every kind of genre that we wanted do.

Sonically, I think that’s why the record is quite eclectic. We go from something like “Santicifed,” which, to be honest, wasn’t written with the idea of being a Veronicas track. That was very much written when I was in Nashville and I was immersing myself in the blues and roots-y, swampy soul singing. Then we were working with Billy Corgan we did a “fuck you” kind of track “Did You Miss Me,” which we rap on, which is a completely different thing. We get poppy with “Cold,” and bring it back to an acoustic song like “You and Me” which could be considered a little bit folk-y, country. “You Ruin Me” was the very last song in the mix. When the album was completely done and we were just writing to write, essentially, that song happened because I was going through something we just needed to write out. It was very intended to be on the album at all and now I find ourselves here, releasing it as the first single. I think that’s kind of the beauty of music is that these songs…it’s a collection of songs that kind of just speak for themselves in a sense. There are so unique and different in their own right. Each is meaningful as each other. It wasn’t done in six months with the same person.

You worked with a handful of producers and co-writes.

Lisa: Each song was like, “Let’s go in, we need to write about this because Jess is going through it or I just gotta get this out or do this record label thing, let’s channel it into this.” Each song has significant meaning for us, either a situation or person behind it.

You Ruin Me,” is a sad, slow, morose sort of song and you made it the first single. That feels like a brave move.

Lisa: Very brave. I like to say it was entirely our call. It was brave to do the song but it was also very selfish. The entire reasoning behind writing that song was we had to, one, it was therapy. It’s the only safe place that I know to put those kind of emotions. Two, I just wanted to send it to the guy I wrote it about.

Not only did you send it to him, but now it’s a single so he can’t escape it!

Lisa: It got heard and our guys over in Australia were like “This has to be the first single.” It was like, “Oh no what have I done!” The rest is history. It still blows my mind that it’s actually out. It was incredibly a one-sided story.

Jess: That’s the thing about being an artist, you don’t have to take anyone else’s perspective into account. You can act as self-indulgent in your emotions as you want.

That guy is a total villain.

Lisa: Total villain! Well, I’m really a villain.

It’s been a handful of years since you’ve played in America—I know you played two dates at the Forum with 5 Seconds of Summer but that’s obviously a different audience than yours. What are you most looking forward to?

Lisa: I think we’ve had a little bit of a taste of it. We’ve been doing this promo tour the last few weeks around America and we’ve been doing these acoustic sets at [Aloft] hotels. It’s just so great to be back in front of the fans and meeting them again. They’ve been waiting so long. They’re just pumped. They know all the lyrics to the new songs. That’s made me really excited because when you’re gone for so long as far as touring and you’re away in the studio cave you sometimes forget how much the music means to people. We’re excited to reconnect with everyone.

Jatnna Nunez for Fuse
Jatnna Nunez for Fuse

They’ve lived a lot of life too, if it’s been seven years.

Lisa: They have! Meeting them again. We sang “You Ruin Me” acoustic the other night for a crowd and there was a woman bawling her eyes out the entire time and after the show she came up and was like “thank you so much for writing this song, it has literally saved my life through this thing I’ve been going through.” It’s a reality check about how powerful music is and it’s really not to be taken lightly in that sense. It’s really cool. That’s the most rewarding thing.

Jess: We were babies when we wrote our first, even the last record. We were still self-conscious young females. There’s a different peace and a different power that comes with growing up. I’m excited to be able to perform for the fans from that genuine place. I find my confidence now is a completely different confidence than what I had then. Now it comes from knowing that I can nurture myself. I’m comfortable with myself, my sexuality, being a woman, my self-understanding, what I think of the world, where I stand and my integrity, my morals—that I hadn’t developed. Of course it’s going to change and evolve but now I can stand there and I can speak confidently. I’m really excited to be able to stand in front of the fans and sing and speak and talk to them from that place. That’s sort of the most exciting thing for me for this tour. People who used to like us when they were 14, 15 are 22, 23 now and they see us and they really feel it.

It’s interesting that you say when you found this true confidence; you came to terms with a certain level of self-understanding about being a woman and female sexuality. Are there any female artists, specifically, that inspire you in this way?

Jess: Babes in Toyland are my absolute favorite band ever. I really immerse myself in the riot grrrl era just after the second record. I was a late bloomer. I always sort of inclined that way. I always loved Hole. I loved Courtney Love. I love the grunge era. I loved Nirvana. I really looked into the riot grrrl and I got off on it so much. I love that time, I love what that music stood for—females stood for something greater than just trying to sell a song. It influenced me as a person which would obviously directly influence our music. We write from whatever we’re feeling at the time so obviously it changed me as a person. I loved the Divinyls, Australia has some killer female-fronted bands.

I think of a song like “Cruel,” and it has a sort of aggression when dealing with a very intimate subject that usually isn’t available to women—as far as the way female artists are written about. I was talking to Halsey about this, she said she wants her album to be an angry, female record. We haven’t had one in a while.

Lisa & Jess: Alanis Morissette!

Lisa: Jagged Little Pill, which is the greatest female angst record of all time. What a brilliant record.

Jess: And she [Halsey] is cool. Everything we’ve seen about her is powerful and cool and strong and she seems very genuine. I’m excited to see where she goes.

Lisa: I’ve always been really attracted to the really quirky women that doesn’t apologize for who they are, like Fiona Apple was my ultimate for a while. She’s a weird kind of chick!

Jess: PJ Harvey is forever and forever one of my absolute favorite artists. Liz Phair is awesome.

Lisa: Alison Mosshart is always doing something cool and amazing.

Jess: On the pop side P!NK is amazing. We love P!NK. She fits that mold absolutely as well. It’s just being brave enough to not have to fit into any stigma as far as females in pop goes.

In the beginning of the “You Ruin Me” video you hear a little bit of “Cruel,” so it feels like an extension of that song. Were those songs written with that in mind?

Lisa: Conceptually that’s how we always imagined the music video. Storyline-wise we liked the idea of “You Ruin Me” then leading into a song like “Cruel.” “You Ruin Me” is a really broken song. There’s not much of a silver lining to that moment because there wasn’t one. When we wrote it, I was nothing but devastated. I wasn’t in the place of afterthought. There was no “You screwed me over and now I feel empowered.” It was a place of great sorrow because of great love. “You Ruin Me” because I’m heartbroken, but “You Ruin Me” because I love you so much. There’s a strength and power in vulnerability that I think that in itself is powerful, to be able to be okay with that. Leading into “Cruel,” that was just, you know, we’re always going to be vengeful little bitches at the end of the day.

We’re always going to be vengeful little bitches at the end of the day.

Not bitches, witches!

Jess: Witches before bitches! Definitely witches. We like to torture the villain a little in the storyline. It’s fun.

Does that linear narrative carry through the record? It’s self-titled, so I assume your seven year journey is felt throughout.

Lisa: I think having “Sanctified” as the first track really speaks to that. If we could have renamed the record, instead of the Veronicas I think I would’ve called it Sanctified. We feel that it’s our rebirth. There was so much growing and discovering of ourselves during that time that it’s almost a bit like “well, here it is. Here’s all our dark corners and you know everything’s there on display.” At the end of the record, it’s that idea of sanctification, being reborn, re-new. Phoenix as fuck.