Singer Sisters Lily and Madeleine on the Problem with Being Too Nice
There's an enormous misconception that, in order to fully realize your dreams, you have to relocate to one of the coasts. A one-way ticket to Los Angeles if you want to be a singer or actor, or New York City if you hope to make it as an artist or writer. There’s nothing wrong with those cities—I live in one of them!—but there are 48 other pretty rad states out there.
Lily and Madeleine are proof you can make things happen no matter where you are. The sisters grew up in Indiana and snagged a record deal when they were still in high school. Though they’re frequently running away to far-flung places for performances and press, they’ve stuck to their Midwest roots and still spend much of their time in Indianapolis, the same town they’ve lived in since birth. When your talent’s that big—and the internet exists—a couple thousand miles mean nothing.
Their third album, the tellingly-titled Keep It Together, is out today, and it's their most relatable release yet. Lily, 19, and Madeleine, 20, sing a lot about what it’s like to be a young women living in 2016, navigating not only this effed-up world, but also the male-dominated music industry and one of the least socially progressive parts of the country. Speaking of the latter, the girls dialed in from Indiana this week to talk about catcallers, Nicki Minaj, and why this album means so much to them (and will to you).
This album is inspired by the desire to be taken seriously. Do you find that you're not taken seriously because you're a girl, a girl in the Midwest, a girl in the music industry, or all of the above?
Lily: I feel like this album was more proving to myself that I’m serious and that I’m a real artist. I don’t want Madeleine and I to fade away. I want to take a step forward personally and share it with the world. It’s cool that we have this platform from which we can proclaim what we believe. Not to bring politics into it, but the Midwest is one of the more conservative areas of the country, and here, it’s easy to feel a little “less than” or trivialized.
You reference a really golden Nicki Minaj quote in your band bio. "If you speak up for yourself, you're a bitch. If you party too much, you're a whore. Men don't get called these things," she said. Why does that speak to you in such a big way?
Madeleine: She’s a role model without being what a white man would consider to be a role model. She does whatever the f**k she wants.
Lily: I take a lot of crap from people that I shouldn’t. I’m afraid of coming off as bitchy. Just recently I’ve learned that I can’t do that anymore. It can get me in trouble and put me in dangerous situations.
Madeleine: The way I see it, some idiots are always going to think you’re a bitch if you stand up for yourself. You have to do it anyway.
Who do you consider a role model (other than Nicki, of course)?
Lily: Our parents definitely raised us to be strong women. Our mom is a role model, she’s wonderful.
Madeleine: I really love Marina from Marina and the Diamonds. I think she’s super cool and I really love the art she creates. It’s pop but it’s really interesting and unique.
Lily: I would also say Rihanna. She’s on the same level as Nicki. She’s a strong black woman and she doesn’t apologize for anything.
Tell us more about the lyric, “Everyone's expecting me to say I'm sorry but I'm not…”
Madeleine: "Not Gonna" is one of the strongest songs. It’s a simple chorus. We don’t want to apologize for being bold. It’s personal, but it’s universal to women. When I’m talking to one of my guy friends, and I’m talking about someone catcalling me or something, they don’t understand. And I’m like, listen to me!
What other lessons do you hope girls take away from the album, other than not apologizing for being themselves?
Madeleine: Besides the theme of empowerment, I hope people listen and relate to what we’re saying as young ladies in the Midwest. A lot of our experiences are universal and a lot of the questions are universal as well. I want people to connect experiences and emotions.
We can't stop listening—and, yes, connecting—to the album, and as soon as you click this link, you won't be able to either. (That's our official warning.)