If we flash back to the early Noughties, Ella Hooper was the baby face of multi-platinum, ARIA award-winning, pop/punk group Killing Heidi, the Australian band that made dreadlocks, heavyset eyeliner, crop tops and piercings an impressive fashion statement. Ten years later, Ella has grown up a lot, and she wants you to know it. Along with brother, Jesse, the duo have formed The Verses – a mature, adventurous and personal music venture that marries the duo’s contemporary singer/songwriter sensibilities with a broad range of musical influences integral to their upbringing. One thing’s for sure about this revised outfit: it’s definitely a departure from the grunge-like urge of Killing Heidi.
“With Killing Heidi, I think I was rebelling against good taste,” says Ella. “I wanted it to be big and loud and brash. I was 15, and that is how you want things to be at the time. I have no regrets, absolutely no regrets, but I am so much more experienced now. I’m fundamentally the same person but I’m a lot more in touch.”
The Verses debut LP, aptly titled ‘Seasons’, is one that mixes the melancholy of Fleetwood Mac, the trippy mojo of Tom Petty, and the subtle folk-rock of The Faces, but with an injection of she’ll-be-right-mate that is unmistakably Australian. The record projects a roots-rock sound with alt-country balladry that is vulnerable and resilient, melodic and narrative-like.
“The songs are the first consideration and that’s what I think it was about with the bands we were influenced by. The songs tell a story and the lyrics mean something; it’s not just rhyming couplets, and that’s what we’d like to bring back… In my mind, there’s this character, a girl who’s breaking away from her past, going from the country to the city, falling in love, getting into scrapes. ‘Seasons’ is a metaphor for that cycle.”
Ella and Jesse worked on the LP with what they call the ‘Dream Team’, which consisted of producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney) and a credible band of musicians including players from Elvis Costello’s rhythm section and Jackson Browne’s right-hand guitar man.
Ella says the album is a rediscovery and evolution of their musical selves and a vintage approach to sound recording, focusing on organics and authenticity, memorable melodies, honest songwriting and captivating lyricism. Opening track ‘Still Come Around’ is a story about carefree city nights whilst ‘Teeth’ is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the man-eater and the man-eaten which contrasts greatly to ‘Winter’, a beautiful track that Ella and Jesse insist encapsulates the soul of the entire album.
Says Ella – in poetic fashion, of course – “Musically, if Option A is the highly produced, highly slick pop music that isn’t really working for you, then we’re Option B. I truly believe pop music can be way more organic, authentic, emotional and real. That’s how I see The Verses.”
‘Seasons’ is out on August 13 through Warner Music.