Hailing from Violet Town, Victoria, Killing Heidi is an Australian rock band that made huge waves during the 90s. Initially formed as a folk-pop duo by siblings Ella (lead vocals/backing vocals) and Jesse Hooper (guitar/backing vocals), the band went on to release three studio albums, of which Reflector reached Number 1 on the ARIA Albums Charts. With titles like ‘Mascara,’ ‘Outside of Me,’ ‘I Am,’ ‘Weir,’ and ‘Live Without It’ leading the way, they quickly amassed a cult-like following that had fans swarming in droves to see them play live.
The 2000 ARIA Music Awards saw Killing Heidi reap their rewards, nominated in seven categories, and taking home four awards: Album of the Year, Best Group, Breakthrough Artist – Album, and Best Rock Album for Reflector. They were on a high, and it was a ride no one wanted to get off, but all things must come to an end. In 2006, the group disbanded, with Ella and Jesse stepping into a lower profile and performing as an acoustic folk duo known as The Verses. Ella also had time to venture into the solo performer spectrum, showing she is more than capable of standing on her own two feet away from the Killing Heidi brand.
In 2016, it was announced that the band would be reuniting to celebrate their 20th Anniversary, complete with a tour. I was lucky enough to catch up with Jesse Hooper, and discuss everything Killing Heidi – their highs, their hiatus, and most importantly their upcoming tour. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to kick things off without welcoming them back onto the scene, and asking how it feels to have returned. “Great! We are having such a fun time!”
Killing Heidi’s hiatus spanned a ten year period, leaving fans wondering whether they’d ever see the rockers return to the stage again. Hooper explained “I think I always thought we would play again, but I didn’t know when, where or why we would! Now we are playing again, it kind of feels like we never stopped… in a good way!”
The Verses is the side-project that the sibling duo both dedicated their time to once Killing Heidi went their separate ways. Hooper opened up on their drive to do something different, breaking away from the Killing Heidi label. “We loved working on The Verses for a few reasons,” Hooper explained. “Stylistically it was liberating to write and play a different genre, also working with different players and collaborators. I think the more people you play with as musicians, the better your skills get.” Hooper continues to talk about how although smaller in size, The Verses provided some of the biggest opportunities of their careers. “We did play some smaller venues with The Verses, but we also played some of the biggest in our careers, including supporting Fleetwood Mac in their Australian stadium tour in 2010, which was a massive career highlight.”
Hooper continued with opening up on his relationship with his sister, Ella, be it professional, personal or otherwise. “Yeah we have a very close relationship as siblings, writers, performers and business partners. Sometimes you can have a difference of opinion in one of these dynamics, but we always maintain a respect and love that can overcome (most) issues.” He continues, “There is a unique bond that we have, that reflects being together in so many parts of each other’s lives, both creatively, professionally and personally, but it’s something we really value. And I think it enhances everything we do.”
Shifting attention back to the reforming of Killing Heidi, there were a few questions the fans had on their minds, namely whether they found it a seamless transition back onto the scene, or whether “ring rust” held them back a bit. Hooper explains, “It felt like it was just under the surface, so to speak. After a few rehearsals things felt pretty rockin’.” He continued to say that, “I think we have enhanced what we used to do with an extra layer of musicianship that we have developed doing other projects, so it’s like Killing Heidi version 2.0.”
James Gilligan (bass/violin/backing vocals) and Lena Douglas (keyboards/backing vocals) both came on board for the reunion tour, and Hooper quickly commented on their addition to the band, “Yeah, they felt right from the first jam. They both brought a high level of fun and musicianship to the band dynamic.”
With Killing Heidi reuniting for their 20th Anniversary Tour, one question that plagued my mind was whether this was the only factor in their returning, or whether there were other influences that drove them. Hooper opened up on the topic, explaining, “We had such fun doing the national tour in June that we decided to look at doing more shows. We really are just seeing how much fun we have performing and letting that decide what we do, and how much more we commit to.” He continued, “We really feel like we are playing these songs better than we ever did, and people are still connecting to these songs they love that we wrote, which is something we treasure and revel in. Most of the tour sold out so that encouraged us to look at doing more too.”
Having maintained somewhat of a die hard following regardless of disappearing for ten years, Hooper details what Killing Heidi have in store for those who venture down to catch a glimpse of them performing once again. “Well, it’s kinda like a nostalgic, retrospective party in one way, as almost every song we play is a single that people know from the radio!” Hooper exclaims. “At the same time it’s a high octane rock show, jumping around going off, but also has a few really intimate quiet moments where we break it right down to just Ella and I on acoustic. It’s so much fun!” The main point he wanted to get across was, “we want people who come to have an amazing time, and we put everything we have into the show.”
It’s obvious that they’re not the youthful, energetic group that they once were, so it’s obviously something that’s going to be on everyone’s mind: was it a struggle performing their tracks from the past now that they’ve matured, or was it a simple transition to slip back within their younger selves? Hooper explains, “Surprisingly easy! It helps that the songs are so familiar to the audiences, as soon as we start the opening riffs of ‘Weir,’ ‘Mascara,’ ‘I Am’ or ‘Superman,’ it’s like we are back in 2000!”
Coming to the conclusion of our session, it’d be remiss if I didn’t ask Hooper one last question, one that all Killing Heidi fans would be dying to know the answer to: Is this the return of Killing Heidi to the music industry? Hooper gave an answer that will have Killing Heidi fans worldwide on the edge of their seats. “At this stage we are loving playing live, but never say never!”
Nostalgia is the backbone of the rollercoaster ride that Killing Heidi is currently undertaking, and it’s only going to get heavier as the ride continues. Will it grow into something much bigger? Only time will tell, however let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that Killing Heidi are back together again!