Being a college-age student brings with it certain expectations: do your homework, get good grades, be social, make friends with the right people. And then there’s the expectations of being a young female college student, one who also happens to be a signed recording artist — no doubt, adding complications.
Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz, of the group Lily & Madeleine, are well-versed in these expectations by now. After releasing two full-length albums and a few EPs, the two will release their third album in three years this Friday (Feb. 26th). And at the young age of 19 and 21 respectively, the duo’s early success has kept listeners' hopes high for the upcoming album. The new record, titled Keep it Together, deals with these anticipations largely by departing from them, both lyrically and musically.
But behind the music lies other layers of expectations, ones more personal and human. They fill the lyrics of each track on Keep it Together, creating a sea of projected hopes and fears. The album’s name comes from a lyric in the first track, Not Gonna. Despite drawing inspiration from separate backgrounds, the sisters ended up landing on the same theme for the album.
"When I wrote that line, I think I meant it to go along with keeping my emotions in check in order to be respected. But Madeleine had a different impression, as in keeping it together as sisters, or as a band,” says Lily.
“Yeah, I also think you can interpret it as being a young person, keeping it all together by being professional in order to be taken seriously. It just seemed to work in a lot of different ways,” Madeleine adds.
Being professional, keeping emotions in check, taking college courses on the side, recording an album — that’s a tall order for anyone, regardless of age. But Lily and Madeleine take on the challenge, not by being overwhelmed, but by placing it in perspective.
The album title is as much a declaration as it is a reminder to themselves.
"I feel like this album is the most personal and true to us. With the past couple albums, it’s been a lot of wistful, imagined situations. This is the most true to our lives,” says Lily.
Lily & Madeleine's new album Keep it Together hits shelves this week.
As emerging young artists in the music industry, they have plenty of material to draw from when it comes to contemplation. In tracks like Not Gonna, the sisters recount their own pasts of encountering stereotypes of inexperience, youth and gender.
"I think that line (from Not Gonna), ‘everyone’s expecting me to say I’m sorry but I’m not,’ is about being so young in the music industry and learning about the industry as we go. There are often times I feel like I need to apologize for my lack of knowledge, but we’re still learning and doing our best with what we have,” says Madeleine.
Sisters though they are, she and Lily draw from their own unique experiences. As collaborative songwriters, the duo interprets the writing through different lenses, colored by different conversations, relationships and memories. For this album, the sisters even wrote most of it separately before coming together to finish the tracks.
But somehow, they always end up in the same place thematically, revealing one of the most remarkable feats of Keep it Together: The layers of meaning welcome different interpretations.
For Lily, Not Gonna refers to the experience of balancing a growing career with other responsibilities.
"I feel like there is a fine line between being professional but also not being arrogant ... like acting like what we’re doing is more important than being in school,” she says. “I feel pressure there, like I have to alter the conversation based on who I’m talking to. It’s exhausting.”
Her voice trails slightly at the last phrase. It’s not hard to imagine having to constantly tailor a conversation to different audiences. But more so than previous releases, Lily & Madeleine (as a musical group) seem to be going for quite the opposite effect. Keeping it Together doesn’t try to change its tone for any audience.
This resilient independence runs deep within the duo, starting first with their experiences as young women. As Madeleine reflects in her online artist bio, "Women, and young women especially, are multifaceted, yet are often trapped in certain roles ... Lily and I started making music when we were teenagers, but we're adults now and we're thinking about the future. I don't want to be afraid of my future because I'm a young woman. I want to do my best to be my best and create kick-ass art without hesitation."
The singing sisters kick off their new tour at Old National Centre Saturday.
Musically, the sisters aren't trying to cater to anyone either. Some have worried about the group departing too far from their folk roots, but Lily seems unconcerned.
"I don’t feel like it’s intentionally trying to get away from folk," she explains. “It’s more that I don’t listen to it much anymore, and this is just naturally the direction we are going in."
“This album is very personal,” adds Madeleine. “I noticed that in our last work we used a lot of metaphors, but this album doesn’t have that as much. It’s a natural progression of our style and work. We just want to let listeners know that this is a step forward for us and where we are going. People are worried we're losing our folk style, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. It’s just a new direction we are heading in and I’m really stoked about it.”
Despite being novel, the “direction” in which Lily & Madeleine are headed is made natural by their own confidence, as women and musicians. Rather than exceeding the expectations placed on them, these sisters are setting their own.
Lily & Madeleine will be starting their tour with an album release show this Saturday (Feb. 27 th ) at the Deluxe at Old National Centre. Tickets available here.