When a former IU Jacobs School of Music student taught her two daughters to sing and play music together, a power sister duo emerged.
On Saturday, the folk-alternative sister duo Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz performed at the 20th anniversary of Bloomington’s Lotus World Music and Arts Festival.
Lily and Madeleine were raised in Indianapolis where their mother taught them to sing and play piano at a young age. Madeleine now lives in Bloomington, as she followed in her mother’s footsteps and is a freshman at IU.
“Our mother sang a lot in high school and in college here at IU,” Madeleine said. “She knew piano and guitar as well, so she just loved music her whole life and taught us to love music as well.”
Madeleine said that is why music has naturally and always been a part of her life.
“People are born with different talents,” Madeleine said. “I was never very athletic, but I always loved music and have always been able to sing. I continued to do this as I grew up, and my mom supported both of us and helped us to develop our skills.”
Besides singing, Madeleine, 18, plays the piano and Lily, 16, plays the piano, guitar, ukulele and banjo.
The girls were raised on music including the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. These bands influenced their style and sound.
As for modern-day musicians, Lily said she and her sister have often been compared to other folk-alternative sister duos like First Aid Kit and Tegan and Sara.
“We love Tegan and Sara and First Aid Kit, so it’s an honor to be compared to them,” Lily said. “I think we differ from them in that we can’t create their sound. It’s hard to write a song that sounds like Tegan and Sara without ending up with a song that sounds like Lily and Madeleine. It’s just natural for us to be how we are.”
Lily and Madeleine gained popularity after releasing a video on YouTube of their first original song “In the Middle,” which now has more than 300,000 views.
The video for “In the Middle,” done entirely unplugged in black and white has no added instrumentation or flare.
“We didn’t want to sugarcoat it or make it seem like it’s something that it’s not,” Madeleine said. “We wanted to keep our music as it is — no gimmicks.”
Because of this instant success, the girls sold out the first two live shows of their career.
After receiving tremendous feedback from YouTube audiences, Lily and Madeleine were signed onto Asthmatic Kitty Records, an independent label co-founded by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.
“Madge (Madeleine) and I have been obsessed with Sufjan for years, so we were absolutely freaking out when we got the call from our manager that he wanted to sign us,” Lily said. “We’re so lucky to have been taken under the wing of Asthmatic Kitty.”
Lily and Madeleine released their first EP called “The Weight of the Globe” in January, produced by Paul Mahern with the song-writing help of Kenny Childers from Gentlemen Caller.
Many of the songs in Lily and Madeleine’s EP discuss the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Because of their age, the sisters said they struggle to find balance between school, their music and their relationships.
“We’re trying to go about it one day at a time,” Madeleine said. “At times, yeah, it freaks me out and makes me feel uncertain. It’s so normal for kids at my age to be in college and just study, get a degree, get a job and that’s your life.
“Lily and I are taking a different route, and at times it can be a little odd for us. It’s important for me to continue my education now, but I hope that in the future I can dedicate all my time to my music.”
The sisters are planning to release their first full self-titled debut album Oct. 29.
“The new album focuses on many different emotions,” Madeleine said. “Some people say the EP is kind of sad. I don’t want to seem dark, but at the time we wrote it, it just happened to be that a lot of my influences were kind of sad.”
But Madeleine said the album isn’t all so dark.
“It has a lot to do with the opportunity we received and how amazing our career has been so far,” she said. “It’s more positive lyrically. Lily and I were also a lot more involved with the production side.
“We had some experience with the EP and still don’t know how to fully produce an album on our own, but we went into the studio knowing what we wanted it to sound like.”
Lily and Madeleine have upcoming tours in New York and Chicago, and will be traveling to London, Berlin and Paris in October for their first time performing abroad.
“I’m not familiar with the music audiences in Europe, so it will be cool to see how people react and just to share our music with another part of the world,” Madeleine said.
As opposed to performances in major cities around the U.S. and performing abroad, Madeleine said they enjoy performing locally at places like Lotus Fest.
“We like playing local shows because it’s the scene where we grew up,” she said. “We’re really excited to go to other big places, but there’s something about being local. It’s familiar and comforting.”
Follow reporter Alexandra Mahoney on Twitter @Al_Mahone.
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