Lismore is a sleepy town, but that doesn’t mean that it raises sleepy musicians. No Frills Twins are the latest export from this corner of the far NSW North Coast, coming in the wake of greats such as Grinspoon (Lismore) Iggy Azalea (Mullumbimby) and In Hearts Wake (Byron Bay).
They’ve built a huge presence on YouTube into something pretty incredible. Dubbed the next Veronicas by many, identical twins Arna and Vanessa Rogers are colourful and eccentric, and their music is even more catchy. With a deep and original sound, their unique take on pop is reflective of their left-of-centre perspective on creativity and identity, celebrating the best on all ends of the spectrum.
When I sit down with the pair in the lobby of Universal’s HQ, I was prepared to meet two girls, busy on the run and remaining as low key as possible, given the rapidly growing attention their music is receiving. Jeez was I mistaken; enormous shoes, coordinated pink and blue metallic skirts and diamante chokers awaited me alongside the warmest of smiles and gushing apologies for their slight tardiness (they’d been performing a few levels up).
No Frills Twins was born from a bedroom project, covering well-known pop hits on YouTube, but rinsing them with their own stain of dark and brooding melody – a sound quite unlike that which you can quite put your finger on. The girls shrug in unison at the idea that the suggestion of their closeness is unusual. “I kind of feel like our relationship is a marriage without the romance,” explains Vanessa. “I feel like we are an old couple, we support each other through life. I’ll pick up anything she drops; we both complement each other. I feel like I’ve found my soul mate in the world and that scares me because how am I ever meant to find anyone better than you, how am I meant to get married when I’m so content with her company?
“It’s such a blessing but also something that we will have to overcome and maybe struggle with. It might hinder us a little bit with developing other connections. We are also very different from each other personality-wise as well. [Arna] is a very sweet little angel who loves helping people and showing kindness and quite girly and motherly. I’m a bit more tough and protective of the people that I love and intellectual and a bit more assertive. A bit more business minded… She’s the melody in our marriage and I’m the lyricist.”
Back to Lismore, the girls have just wrapped up their music video for single Love Me Tender and it’s a production with vision far beyond the idyllic surrounds of the hinterland. Think smoke, burnouts and attitude that sums exactly what No Frills Twins are all about – not giving two fucks, and doing it with an air of love and passion which you just can’t resist. “All of the locations were where we live. The message behind the video clip was meant to be girl power and girl-empowering. Although the song expresses a want for the guy you like to like you and feel the same way, that doesn’t mean that he has to affirm your worth or your value… You can still be strong, and you don’t have to lose your power or sense of self in the relationship. It’s important to have healthy relationships and to love and be loved tenderly,” says Arna.
They’re women with a big voice and bigger hearts, never forgetting their hometown and committed to a conversation beyond pop. “We think that our town helped shape us a lot; shape who we are and how out there we are because we were always so supported and encouraged,” Arna enthuses. “We haven’t yet moved away from home, we were born there and our lives still very much revolve around that area. When we are at home we go to all the local op shops and stock up on cheap thrills that we find. And the town in general is very arts-focused and we think that just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean that you can’t make it [to the mainstream]… We literally accessed it from our bedroom on a YouTube channel, you can be from anywhere and you can do anything, don’t hold back and stop living your dreams. Dream big.”
The YouTube beginnings are an interesting catalyst to a discussion centred on their eclectic image – it’s far from subtle and comes with its own challenges. No Frills Twins are fast becoming what could be the Lady Gaga-esque performative presence in Australian music. “I think people should always dress to please themselves and dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident and perhaps being a little left-of-centre is our comfort zone,” muses Arna. “When it’s something more colourful or girly you can be rest assured that it was Vanessa, but mainly [Vanessa] takes control or the lead and picks outfit ideas and [I] might help to add trimmings or accessories. It’s never one of us making the decisions.”
But does this attract negative attention? You bet it does, but Arna and Vanessa are prepared for anything the internet throws at them, expressing that the bright colours and short skirts are very much for them and their creativity. “When we used to have our bolder eyebrows, we used to receive quite a lot of hate and we noticed that it was mainly from men rather than women. Men were really vocal about the fact that we weren’t sexually pleasing or conventionally beautiful. We’d get comments saying things like ‘If you took this away or did this differently or changed this then you guys would actually be hot,'” Arna reveals. “It’s really surprising the overwhelming amount of males who were trying to give fashion advice on how to be more sexy for them, which is weird because we weren’t ever dressing for them. We wouldn’t dress for anyone, especially not men.” No Frills Twins are speaking for women everywhere in music when they take charge of their image, their music and their gaze upon the industry and for that, we can all be grateful.
No Frills Twins are speaking for women everywhere in music when they take charge of their image, their music and their gaze upon the industry and for that, we can all be grateful.
Currently touring with powerhouse group Sheppard, the girls are humble, expressing their gratitude for the opportunity, but it can surely only be a matter of time before they are headlining themselves. With new music on the way, Love Me Tender is only the beginning.
10 June, The Croxton, Melbourne
11 June, Metro Theatre, Sydney