#AskHerMore: Heathers Talk Irish Sing-Songs, Tayto Sambos And Their Musical Inspirations
Name: Ellie and Louise Macnamara
Twins Ellie and Louise Macnamara have been making music together as Heathers for close to a decade. With two albums, a worldwide deal with Universal and a major ad campaign soundtrack for the Irish Tourism Board under their belt, this duo are clearly still a force to be reckoned with nine years on. Heathers are Ambassadors for Culture Night 2016 which takes place on Friday September 16th, and as part of our #AskHerMore series we grilled them (nicely) on all things political, musical and inspirational.
You two have spent plenty of time touring internationally. What’s one unique part of Irish culture you haven’t found anywhere else?
Ellie: Since we were small, our family have had large family gatherings that always end in a sing-song. Those kinds of nights evoke a certain type of happiness that I haven’t found anywhere else. And then there are Tayto sandwiches and tea…
Louise: There’s nothing like arriving home. Nothing beats a bit of Irish humour, and the Guinness of course!
What do you consider the most pressing issue facing Irish society at the moment?
Ellie: If I were to pick one specific issue, it would be child homelessness. We have made extraordinary strides as a country over the last number of decades, and have managed to withstand an abundance of problems, but I cannot see how any state can legitimately stand over the reality of several thousand people and their families living in this country without a home. I know there are genuine efforts to try and address the problem, but I think the energy and focus behind it at state level is frankly insufficient.
Louise: There have been great leaps and bounds made in the socio-political sphere in the past few years, but when it comes to women’s rights, we are still living in the Stone Age.
Which person, dead or alive, has inspired you most?
Ellie: Our parents. They are incredibly hard-working, selfless individuals and have instilled in me the idea that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. They have been a constant source of support to myself and Louise throughout the ups and downs of Heathers and everything that’s come at us along the way.
Louise: It’s difficult to choose just one person, but I think Maya Angelou, the ‘Global Renaissance Woman’ is just extraordinary. I stumbled upon Oprah Winfrey’s masterclass with her a few years ago and was intrigued, so started reading some of her poetry and books.
What’s been one stand-out moment of your life from the last five years?
Louise: In 2013, we were invited to play at the pre-Oscars party in JJ Abrams’s Bad Robot production studios in Santa Monica, California. To this day it still feels surreal that we met and performed for Steven Spielberg, whose movies we had grown up watching.
Ellie: That same summer, we flew home to Ireland to play at one of President Michael D. Higgins’s garden parties in Áras an Uachtaráin. We brought along our whole family and it was such a special day. Definitely another stand-out moment.
Is there an album or artist that has changed your life – and why?
Ellie: Louise and I grew up listening to a lot of Irish traditional music and this has had a quite an influence on us as musicians. Sharon Shannon and Planxty in particular were the soundtracks to our six-hour drives to Clare before the motorway, and their music brings back great memories.
Louise: If I was to single out something that ‘changed my life’, I would look to the DIY music scene in Ireland as a whole. We grew up going to punk gigs in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. As shy, self-conscious teenagers, this scene gave us an outlet to express ourselves and be ourselves. We made friends with people who were putting on shows, writing their own music, releasing their own music. This encouraged us and gave us the confidence to do the same. I don’t know if Heathers would have formed if it hadn’t been for that scene and all of the wonderful people in it.
What one piece of advice – or warning! – would you give your teenage self?
Ellie: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Everything passes, so just hang in there.
Louise: Don’t worry about what others think of you.
When/where do you feel most content?
Ellie: In our home away from home in Ennistymon, Co. Clare. We spend a lot of time down there songwriting. It’s such a stunning part of the country and I always feel very grounded and happy there.
Louise: Yes, as cheesy as it may sound, I feel most content in the middle of the Burren, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. No phone, no Internet, just the sound of nature and the breathtaking views of the Irish countryside. It always makes my worries feel insignificant.
What are your words to live by?
Ellie: One of my favourite quotes comes from Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.”
Louise: Stay positive, treat others as you’d like to be treated, and don’t take things too seriously!
Heathers are one of this year’s Ambassadors for Culture Night 2016, alongside Kila’s Rónán Ó Snodaigh, writer Colin Barrett and artist and writer Pauline Bewick.
On the evening towns, villages and cities across Ireland will erupt with creativity as museums, galleries, cathedrals, studios, observatories, libraries, parks, government buildings and theatres throw open their doors for FREE visits, tours, workshops, readings, performances and more. Visit www.culturenight.ie to view the full programme of nationwide events.