The Irish Electropop Twin Sister Act, ROOUE, Discuss How Their Debut EP, “Juxtaposition,” Channels a Year of Positive and Negative Changes in Their Lives

Since they were three-year-olds, the London-born, Dublin-raised twin sisters Róisín and Lulu have been singing, dancing and performing at home. “Essentially, ROOUE had always existed but was never named,” laughs Róisín as she tells us of the infantile origins of the musical project that they would establish many years down the line.

Lulu agrees and (skipping forward about a decade) adds, “When we were young, when we first started doing music, we would always perform, the two of us, when we were busking and when we used to do volunteer work in hospitals and do a lot of music that way. So, it was always a thing. [Laughs] It’s destined!”

The two seemed cosmically inseparable. Even when they went to BIMM to experience working with other artists, they eventually ended up performing together. “We both studied Vocals, like vocal performance,” says Róisín. “And, to be fair, we were in different classes, the first year, and, in the second year, we got put together again. Yeah, we just can’t get rid of each other!”

While Róisín and Lulu typically wrote songs on guitar and piano (sometimes also incorporating synths and pedals) and their music prioritised folk and rock as a result of the instrumentation of their inception, they also had an interest in electronic music. During their time in college, they began considering it as a route that they could go down. “We always knew that electronic music was on the cards for us,” says Lulu.

 “I remember us being, like… I don’t know how old we were; we were in our teens when James Blake released his album, and I remember listening to that, thinking, ‘That’s it. Oh, shit! That’s amazing. I have to implement that!’” “Yeah,” adds Róisín. “I remember listening to other women in the industry, making electronic music like that, and being like, ‘Oh, my God! I really wanna do that!’”

They began studying how to use digital audio workstations and experimenting with sounds beyond the reach of what was capable on traditional instruments. There were growing pains in this transitional period, such as when the musicians they were working with had difficulties translating aspects of what they had scored on a DAW. But through persistence and working with the right producers and musicians, things began to take shape.

“Still, to this day, we see songwriting as starting with barebones,” says Róisín when describing their writing process. “I wouldn’t say that’s every situation. Sometimes we’re in the studio and we’re with a producer and we just instantly have this synth sound and we’re like, ‘That’s sick. Let’s grow there.’

“But, most of the time – especially when we first started writing – it has always been me on guitar and me on piano, and us writing from that foundation. And I think, taking all of the extra production away, it should still have a really strong, barebone foundation of a song, and I think we’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to do both and see the benefit of writing in both ways.”

Photo by Izzy Elliot
Courtesy of Amplify Agency

Róisín and Lulu have both always possessed a keen interest in pop music but felt that the genre was often looked down upon as “uncool”  and “not very musician-y” by their college peers at the time. Sticking to their convictions, however, they (officially) formed the electropop project ROOUE (a phonetic portmanteau of their names) whilst at BIMM, but were quickly halted in their would-be endeavours.

The end of their time at BIMM and the beginning of their time as ROOUE unfortunately coincided with what would be the beginning of their time in lockdown. “In March –literally the March – 2020, we were planning on releasing our first single,” says Róisín. “And, you know, we kind of had a very different perspective on how to release music [compared to] nowadays, because we were planning on doing a launch single gig as an announcement of our single release.

“And, yeah, COVID just kind of wiped in. At first, we were thinking, ‘OK, we’ll just hold off.’ Like, everyone thought it was going to be two weeks, and then it became a month, and it became to where we were like, ‘We’ve got to just grab it by the balls and just go forward with it,’ because we just couldn’t wait any longer.”

There was a silver lining to be found in this predicament, however. Róisín says, “It was a very difficult time for a lot of people, but it was also a really good time for us; just me and Lu’, working together, completely away from any influences, and meeting a lot of people socially, like on Zoom. So, we managed to message a lot of people, and get meetings with people, and advice from people who would never have the time if it wasn’t for COVID.”

On this point, Lulu adds, “I think we just kind of made the best of it. You know, we turned a room in our house into a studio, we learnt how to write and record remotely with one of the producers we were working with at the time, and I honestly don’t think we would’ve ever had that solid time together to really think about the sound we wanted to begin with. So, we kind of benefitted from it.”

In October 2020, they managed to drop their debut single, “What You Want.” Throughout 2021, three succeeding singles followed: “Flavour” in January, “Bad Blood” in March, and “Dancing Sad” in October. After building a sizeable discography which garnered acclaim from the Irish musical press, ROOUE were finally able to make their live debut. On October 19th, 2021, they became one of the first acts to perform at the then-recently-opened Workman’s Cellar.

“We thought that there was a break in COVID restrictions at the time we booked the gig, but, actually, our luck was so bad,” remembers Lulu. “The night of our gig was when they started a curfew. So, it was, like, we had organised a DJ and stuff to play late into the night, but, actually, as soon as we finished our music, it was like, ‘Alright, you all have to leave!’ […] So, that was a really weird one, but, actually, I think it was kind of iconic because ROOUE started during COVID, so it felt fitting that our first gig still had a bit of that stuff in it.”

 “Some of that COVID-ness in it,” adds Róisín before continuing, “It was so fun, like. I think we really, really enjoy the live side of things, so, as I said before, that’s how we wanted to start off our ROOUE releases, was to just jump straight into gigging – and that was very much our intention – and having to see the music industry in a different light and different perspective was a huge asset to us, as well, just to learn a little bit about how to do social media marketing and all that boring stuff.

“But it meant that when we got to doing the gigs, we were so excited and it was so much more special. So, that headline show, we had such a great reception, like people coming and seeing who had never heard our music live, and we had never heard our music live! So, it was kind of a shocking experience! We were like, “D’ya know what? I’ve never heard that, either! That’s great! That’s what it sounds like with live drums? Oh, my God!’”

In 2022, they would release two more singles – “Orbit” in April and “Better Off” in November – before returning almost a year later, with “so bad” in October 2023. “so bad” would be the first track released from ROOUE’s then-upcoming EP, Juxtaposition, which was released last Friday on the date of publication.

As the EP’s title and the paratextual imagery of Róisín and Lulu portioned by different sides of a mirror may suggest, differences are a thematic throughline which runs throughout the record. “It’s been a real fun experience for us, and it’s kind of funny because the first song we wrote for the EP, we didn’t know it was going to be for the EP,” explains Róisín.

“And then we wrote another song, and we were like, ‘OK, we’re kind of seeing this massive correlation in the way that we perceive the world,’ which is that you may have the worst day ever but the juxtaposition of being like, ‘But that’s also what made me who I am,’ and this tie began to be quite apparent to us.”

As they pulled at this thread, it began to unravel deeper and broader concepts. Róisín continues, “We just started to notice all the similarities that [are] in our whole lives and our relationship. Like, we are a juxtaposition of one another – we’re so [similar] but so different – and then, also, the serendipitous perspective of the fact that we were born into making music together, just completely by accident, as best friends and twins. Like, imagine, Lu’, if you couldn’t sing. What would I do?!”

Another element which influenced the EP was the sisters’ recent life changes. On this, Lulu says, “At the beginning, when we started writing Juxtaposition with the concept in our head, we were going through quite a difficult time and we had decided to pack up our lives and go to London for a fresh start. And I think we created that hills and falls of life in that time, and we kind of accidentally, on purpose, serendipitously wrote such random songs at the times that we were feeling each emotion…”

“And they all made sense together,” adds Róisín. “And they all made sense together to us” concurs Lulu, before continuing, “so, we thought, actually, there was not a better way of explaining how we were feeling at the time but, also, our relationship. For our first-ever EP, it kind of just clicked. [Laughs].”

Balancing the highs (such as having your twin as your best friend as you traverse life, and moving to a new place and enjoying the new opportunities afforded by that) to the lows (such as sour relationships, and bereavement) of life, Juxtaposition is a document of the last two years of Róisín and Lulu’s lives. We asked them if they purposely waited until becoming more established and confident in their sound before considering releasing an EP.

“I think that every single that we had released in the past was kind of the way that we had been feeling about our sound at the time,” replies Róisín. “And I think we got to a stage where we really wanted to be in a position where we felt very confident where we were moving, sonically, and feeling very clear about who we are as artists…” “…and as people,” adds Lulu. “…and as individuals,” continues Róisín.

“And I think that when you release a body of work – personally, anyways – I wanted it to be something that I could look back on and say, ‘That’s the strongest work that we put together.’” “A representation of who we are as artists,” adjoins Lulu to Róisín’s comment, “and I think we took that amount of time to feel like we had earned that title of an artist.” “Even to believe that in ourselves,” finishes Róisín.

While some of the subjects brought up on the EP were difficult to face in its creation, ultimately both sisters feel it was worth the discomfort. “Without being [glib], you have to say, ‘Fuck it! It’s my life, my experiences, and I want to express that to whoever may have felt that emotion before’,’” says Lulu. “They can listen to it and actually relate and feel that they’re not alone with it, and I think that’s what I like as a consumer.” “But it is scary,” admits Róisín. “It definitely takes a bit of balls, but it’s the best type of music, to feel like you’re letting things go.”

For the rest of the year, ROOUE will be performing some (yet-to-be-announced) headlining shows and now that they have broken the seal off making EPs, they seem to have caught a bug for it. “There’s a lot more music!” says Lulu. “We’ve already written a lot of music! We’re ready to start moving on! “Yeah, everyone’s gonna be so sick of us because we have so many things lined up and ready to go!’ says Róisín. “Once we’ve made one EP, seven are on their way!”

ROOUE’s debut EP, Juxtaposition, is out now on all streaming platforms. You can keep up with ROOUE on their Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Tune into today’s episode of
POSTBURNOUT.COM Interviews… on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music Podcasts at 17:00 (IST) to hear this article’s interview in full where we go into further depth on all things discussed, as well as discuss some specific tracks on the EP, how the sisters adapt their music to different settings, what working with producers brings to their music, when they were roommates with Pastiche who features on the EP, and much more.

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