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Best of Indy: Hoosier Collaboration
Bloomington-based music producer Paul Mahern first encountered a YouTube video of Indy teenagers Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz singing “In the Middle” in early 2012. “I probably watched it 20 times in a row,” he recalls. And Mahern wasn’t alone in his admiration. Soon, the sisters were fielding calls from Vogue and The New York Times. Their self-titled debut album, released in October, stands as a testament not only to the girls’ enormous talents, but also to those of their numerous Hoosier collaborators:
Lily & Madeleine
“We never intended to be discovered,” 19-year-old Madeleine insists. It may sound like false modesty, but the sisters’ actions bear it out. Instead of waiting for a call from a major label, they signed with local indie Asthmatic Kitty. And in enlisting Indiana music-scene veterans like Mahern and songwriter Kenny Childers, the girls stayed true to their Hoosier roots. “Paul was the most influential person in the whole project,” Madeleine says. “He helped us figure out our sound.”
You might think fancy digital effects were employed to create the translucent image of the girls on the album cover, but Indy photographer Stacy Newgent just used a vintage Polaroid camera and double-exposed the film. The result is a striking portrait of L&M blended together, an elegant symbol of their harmonies. “Their voices are so hauntingly beautiful,” Newgent says. “I didn’t want anything over-stylized.”
In 1996, Kenny Childers was a member of The Mysteries of Life, a local rock band that enjoyed a brush with major-label success. But L&M, he says, “has more potential than anything I’ve ever been involved with.” The sisters enlisted Childers to help write original songs. “I didn’t have to make it specific to their high-school experiences,” he says. “They’re capable of expressing so much more than that.”
Producer and engineer
Mahern began his music career at age 16 as the singer of the Indy punk band Zero Boys. Over the years, he has worked with rock veterans like Iggy Pop and John Mellencamp. Yet nothing has knocked him off his feet quite like L&M. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a room with anything more spectacular than hearing them sing,” he says. As the producer of their new album, Mahern took a decidedly hands-off approach. “We knew going in that it was going to be much easier to f— it up than to make it better,” he says. “I said at the start, ‘We just have to not mess this up.’”
Though not a Hoosier by birth, Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis spent his formative years as a graduate student at IU. When he first heard L&M sing, it brought memories of those days rushing back. “In a way, the liner notes are a love letter to Southern Indiana,” he says. DeCurtis has penned liner notes for legends like Eric Clapton and John Lennon. Yet he had no qualms about singing the praises of two teenage girls, whose harmonies, he writes, “sound effortless, two distinct expressions of the same emotion. It’s a sound only blood relations can deliver.”
This article appeared in the December 2013 issue.