Q + A with Lily & Madeleine

image by Polina Osherov

Indianapolis has always been proud to claim pop-indie duo Lily & Madeleine as locals. With their gorgeous voices, enchanting harmonies, and sisterly bond, what’s not to love? But a lot about their career has changed since 2013, and the sisters aren’t shy about sharing their journey. As artists, individuals, and sisters, Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz are more confident than ever in their new sound and direction. Before they took the stage in their hometown, their last stop on a string of Midwest tour dates, we sat down to talk life on the road, songwriting, and the meaning behind their latest album, Keep It Together.

AD: This is the last stop for you guys, right? Do you have some time off before the next leg?

L Jurkiewicz: Yeah, we have a week and a half off.

AD: Cool. What do you look forward to once you end a tour leg? How do you recharge and rest?

M Jurkiewicz: I’m just looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, waking up and having coffee, listening to the radio, and hanging out at home.

LJ: I like to see my friends and update them when tour gets off. And a lot of my friends are down at Indiana University, so I visit that area. I also have two volunteer jobs I really like that I’m missing out on because of touring, so hopefully I’ll get back to those.

AD: What are they?

LJ: I work at the Hamilton County Parks Department and feed the birds once a week, and I work at the Indiana Museum of Art, but I’ve only done one shift for them so far.

AD: I love going the IMA.

LJ: It’s such a beautiful space even if they have a million other volunteers.

AD: So you go to Europe next. You’ve been doing this a long time now. Do you still get excited when you go to a new country or a new city? What’s it like traveling all the time?

LJ: We’ve done lot of the same things over the past year or six months. This last tour, that we’re ending today, has been a lot of the same — we’re playing a lot of the same venues and don’t have any new material, so we’re pretty well rehearsed. But next month is gonna be different. We’re doing shows in five cities in Sweden and Germany that we’ve never been to, so that’ll be cool. And then we’re going on tour with John Mellencamp this summer. That’s gonna be totally different. We’ll be on a bus. It’s just gonna be completely different so I’m excited for that.

AD: So will that be a North American tour?

LJ: Yeah, it’s announced. And we’re playing 22 dates with him, and then he’s doing a bunch of state fairs into August.

MJ: So, we’re doing California, Oregon, Florida, Georgia, and some of the South in June and July.

LJ: We’re not coming here though which is lame. I really want to go

MJ: We’re not really doing the Midwest with him too much. I think he’s doing the Midwest when he does the state fair run.

AD: Well congrats on that, that’s awesome.

MJ: Thank you, I’m nervous and excited.

AD: You’ve both describe Keep It Together as much more personal than any of your other work. Talk about your creative process in writing the album and what it means to you.

MJ: Lily do you wanna take that?

LJ: Yeah, so KIT is more personal. We started writing it two years ago. It was in the process for a while before it was made. The writing process was different from our previous albums because we wrote full songs separately and then came together. That worked really well and we’re probably gonna do that from now on because it’s less pressure. So then we don’t have to sit down and say, ‘we’re gonna write three songs today!’ Instead, we just write at our own pace and bring them together.

MJ: We now kind of have the knowledge and the experience in knowing how to create a record that we want to make, so that’s the biggest difference from KIT. The past two records we made – we were still pretty new at it (I mean we’re still new at this), but we didn’t really know what we were doing for the most part in the studio. But this time around we made sure that every song was more cohesive. We wanted it to have more of a band feel, and actually the whole project itself is more cohesive. Lilly even said earlier today, ‘From our first record I wanted our cover to look something like this.’

LJ: When we were first making the EP from five years ago, I was picturing the cover we have now and the posters we made for this show. But I didn’t know how to voice what I wanted because I didn’t really know what I was doing, so we just went along with the suggestions of others. Not entirely, but we were influenced by others. And now we’re really autonomous. We know what we’re doing.

AD: So it’s almost been a confidence boost in creating this album

MJ: Yeah, yeah absolutely.

LJ: But for me it’s not an exhilarating confidence boost, it’s just like ‘Yeah, I know what I’m doing.’

MJ: I know what I’m doing now. So we’re just gonna keep going and keep getting better.

AD: You trust yourself.

MJ: I definitely think I trust myself more. And we’ve taken on a business side because we’re technically artists and business owners. So we do a lot of show advancing, we talk to all of the venues, we know how to promote the shows, how the contracts work between venues, and stuff like that. So it’s a lot to handle, but it makes me feel much more confident when we can control that ourselves.

AD: What about the live performance aspect? You have this album now that you feel like is really you. Have the live performances been a little more intimate?

LJ: We went on a tour in the fall for 40 shows. We were opening for Brett Dennen. It was all over the country, and we did that as a duo. I was not looking forward to it at first because I wanted to promote the record and play as a band. But we adapted the songs for a duo situation and it made me appreciate what we do as individuals coming together. But touring with Shannon and Kate is perfect. It’s so comfortable, and we’re all on the same page.

AD: Were they friends of yours beforehand? How did you meet them?

MJ: We didn’t know these ladies until we started making music. But I feel like we would’ve met eventually. I’m glad we met when we did though. Kate was an audio student at IU. She graduated from that program and is super talented, and Shannon is a classically trained cellist and has been doing that for her entire life.

AD: I was reading your bios online, and it seems like the phrase ‘Keep It Together’ almost has a political connotation for you both as far as what it means to be a young woman in the spotlight, or in today’s society. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how you view that phrase?

LJ: At the end of the day we just want to be genuine and true. As a band…

MJ: As artists, and as sisters, and as individuals even though we’re related.

LJ: It’s ironic because I thought this album was gonna be the thing that shot everything off, and everything was gonna be so easy after we released this album. But everything’s become so much more complicated.

MJ: I agree.

LJ: In our team, we switched labels and managers.

MJ: I mean, we switched management mid-release.

LJ: Right, so I don’t want to dis on the album because I love it, but it just wasn’t what I anticipated it to be. I still love it as a project, but I’m talking about the way the public perceived it.

AD: So what’s next for you guys? You have the John Mellencamp tour, but when you finally get a break from touring whenever that might be what’s next for you both individually, personally, and for the band?

LJ: I want to move out of state, but I don’t know where yet and have not done any planning. So that’s a very far idea. But we’re gonna make another record in the fall, hopefully, and it will come out in 2018.

MJ: At some point. It’s a very loose plan. We just know we want it to happen. Shannon and Kate are also super busy. I think Kate could potentially move to Boston soon and then Shannon is just kind of traveling wherever her work takes her. We want to make sure those ladies are locked down before our next recording because we love them so much. That would be a total shame.

LJ: They’re totally irreplaceable.

MJ: Yeah. But, that’s really it. I’m having a lot of weird writers block lately. But we’ve been working and traveling so freaking much.

AD: When you begin the process of writing another album do you have to isolate yourselves? How do you nurture that creative freedom?

LJ: I like to be an individual and not think about music. Just think about my personal life and feelings, and that’s what inspires the songs. I like to write a song everyday if I can.

MJ: I personally only have a little keyboard to write on and I hate it so much. I need to learn guitar now because I’m so sick of writing on piano. Our sound is gonna change.

AD: That’s all I have. Thank you guys so much, and good luck with everything. You have a lot going on, I’m really excited for you.

MJ: We’re excited, too.

Photography by Polina Osherov.

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