Yes, Elektra and Miranda Kilbey of pop duo Say Lou Lou are Swedish/Australian twins with model good looks and famous rockstar parents - let’s get that out of the way early on - but If Semaine were to characterise its impression of them with one succinct phrase, there’s a good chance it would revolve around the ‘quiet intensity’ that the crystalline pair transmit. It is ever-present, as topics move from creating art versus making money to gender performativity in the fashion and music worlds.
‘Quiet intensity’ is a phrase that would also fit neatly into a description of the music they make: last year’s debut album, the aptly-titled Lucid Dreaming, was shrouded in rolling, synth-driven melancholia punctuated by irrepressible hints of sunlight and pop turns.The truth is though, to describe either the music or the sisters themselves in such minimal terms would be far too reductive.
It is credit to the pair that they refuse to let their careers be defined solely by the mere genetic twists of fate that account for their parentage and oh-so-high cheekbones. Not only that, but the thoughtful, articulate ways in which they deconstruct and explore their identities is a refreshing break from the countless public figures who refuse to engage with such issues. ‘I think a lot of people think that you can’t possibly be smart and beautiful and fashionable and really good at sports and really political,’ says Miranda. Elektra joins in: ‘as a woman you’re expected to be just one thing. You’re either the pretty girl or you’re the nerd…’
Maybe it’s because of the distinctly DIY path their career has headed down in recent years that enables them to express themselves so freely and firmly. The buzz from their debut single, ‘Maybe You’, was sufficient enough to bring about a major label deal with Sony/Columbia but their upwards trajectory took a slightly more complicated route than that might suggest. Ultimately, the outside interference from the label grew too great, and the duo took the bold decision to go their own way. This conviction in their role as artists first and foremost has allowed Say Lou Lou to navigate the various opportunities thrown in front of them with consummate ease. That includes their thriving, well-documented relationship with the fashion world - most memorably showcased in the video campaign that the pair starred in for Gucci’s AW14 collection. The video, set to Say Lou Lou’s own soundtrack, is striking in how present both Miranda and Elektra appear. The passive facelessness that is found so often amongst anonymous runway models is subverted front and centre by (the quiet intensity of) Say Lou Lou. ‘I think sometimes people [in fashion] can mix up their own world with the music world, and in the music world, you’re an artist - not something purely mouldable,’ says Elektra, the slightly fiercer of the two sisters. ‘I think if you’re an artist you come in and you just already have baggage: who you are, what you want to say.’
Not that the sisters are the sort to turn their nose up at fashion. As Miranda says, ‘I think fashion is fun. Fashion is fun. I think clothes are fun in the same way I think art is fun, and music videos are fun…. They’re all big parts of building who you want to be and what you are and what you want to say. I mean, look at David Bowie for instance…’
“Who you want to be,” is something the girls toyed with from a young age, despite the seeming inevitability their musical heritage provided them with - their father is Steve Kilbey of Australian rock band The Church whilst their mother is Karin Janssen of Swedish new wave band Pink Champagne. Whilst exploring other passions in their younger years - both artistic and academic - as they head firmly into their mid-twenties they seem to have no doubts over the path they’ve ultimately gone down. Says Miranda, ‘I think deep down I always felt like it would have been a big loss, a big sorrow if we didn’t make music.’
Making (new) music is back on the agenda for Say Lou Lou, after a heady year spent touring their album - an experience that felt, they say, ‘very organic, fun, natural. Sleeping on a nightliner every night, waking up in a new city everyday, meeting new audiences everyday… it was so much fun.’ Now, the duo feel confident that they’re at a stage where they can truly expand on the sharply defined sound and aesthetic they’ve been honing ever since ‘Maybe You’ was released in 2012. ‘When we go into the second album, we want to explore new aspects of what Say Lou Lou can be, instead of what Say Lou Lou already is. What can we do? Where can we take this world?’
Wherever that may be, it seems certain that the personalities at the heart of Say Lou Lou will continue to forge their own path, defined amidst the tension of what they ‘should’ be and what they aspire to be. ‘We’re quite dramatic little old souls really, very fascinated by love and destruction and death and sadness and broken hearts.’ Both romantic and Romantic, it will surely be intense (in a quiet sort of way), but also completely, defiantly on their own terms.