We’ve been through it all,” says Lisa Origliasso, one half of the Australian electro-pop duo The Veronicas. “We’ve felt everything there is to feel as far as highs and lows in career success — and in life as well, especially these last few years. We know what it means to give up everything for your dream to pursue music and to perform until you cannot stand anymore. As with Lady Gaga and David Bowie, the Origliasso twins — Lisa and Jessica — are better known by their alter egos. Since 2015, they’ve been known to the world as the brash, fearless Veronicas — personas that are, they say, the antithesis of who they truly are.
On their most recent album, “Godzilla”, released in May, they reveal the fury and falsehoods that have been projected onto them and the toll it has taken. This year, following a seven-year hiatus since their self-titled third album, the sisters have mastered two full-length albums, launched a sustainability and wellness brand called Planted and created a limited-edition fashion line with the Queensland brand. Jagger & Stone. For 10 years, Jessica and Lisa have divided their time between Australia and the United States; they’re home now, ostensibly to prepare for a national tour in June, but also to be with their mother, Colleen, whose mental and physical health are worsening due to a degenerative illness.
When T Australia speaks to The Veronicas, Jessica is quarantining at a hotel in Sydney and Lisa is at home, near Brisbane. They are not at all the rambunctious, mouthy Veronicas who appear on stage and in their music videos. Rather, Jessica and Lisa, 36, are thoughtful and articulate, and they intuitively know when to break into each other’s sentences to finish the other’s thought or make a suggestion. They share a kind of musical language, their sound often created without effort or even discussion. “We’re twins, we understand each other, and music is something which we share,” Lisa says. “It’s a very symbiotic relationship, a very mutual and intrinsic relationship that we have with music together.”
In 2005, the sisters’ debut album rocketed the then-teenage twins into the ARIA Albums Chart and introduced Australia to the charismatic hitmakers. Since then, they’ve had to grow up in the glare of tabloids and cameras. Media reportage of their lives has titillated the public with real and speculated stories about romantic partners, tattoos, a topless performance and fights and splits. The gossip is all projection, Jessica says. The media, fans and music industry have turned the twins into monsters, a concept they explore in their two new concept albums, “Godzilla” and “Human” (available from July 2 through Sony Music).
“‘Godzilla’ was an idea that we had previously started, then we finished up in quarantine,” Jessica says. “Oftentimes, our subconscious creates a narrative. that we aren’t even necessarily aware of until later. Music tends to be kind of psychic. ‘Godzilla’ is the concept of something that’s larger than life, that’s viewed or perceived in a particular way, and the reality around that is almost irrelevant.” Having antithetical alter egos has its advantages, Jessica says. “It’s easy for us to separate the people off the stage to who we become when we’re The Veronicas. It’s like light and shadow. It’s an outlet to create something that is beyond the human.” The constructed identities also give them a way to escape the reality of their mother’s illness and, for Jessica, the ache of romantic breakups over the past few years.
“Interviews, photoshoots, music videos — everything that you create as a performer versus who you are as a human being or as a songwriter — often sits in juxtaposition,” Lisa explains. “We’ve created these characters to step into to be able to exist in entertainment for 16 years, and even the psychology behind that is infinitely fascinating. We grew up in theatre, we grew up being able to create worlds for us to step into and be inspired. But at the heart of our song writing it’s usually, almost always, motivated from this very deep, vulnerable space that is very close to our hearts.”
Take, for example, the lyrics to “Think of Me” on “Human”, written in the wake of Jessica’s painful 2018 breakup with the actor and model Ruby Rose: “Do you miss me in your sheets? / Do you miss me in your bed? / The way we talk all night, the way I give you head? / Do you think that she’s the one or do you just pretend?” Months after that breakup, which came after a much publicised 10-year on-off relationship, Jessica began dating Kai Carlton, a musician based in the US. They parted last year, which Jessica shared on her social media, writing: “I wish to put this behind me.”
Both twins have embraced social media as a way to connect with fans; of course, as with all social media, the pages are a curation, and it could be argued that their social media presence is no more real than their alter egos. Happy images of Rose, Carlton and Colleen are sometimes followed a week later with reports of a breakup or news that their mother’s illness is worsening. Recently, Lisa shared a video on Instagram of herself and Colleen, 73, in which she lovingly brushes hair from her mother’s face. Colleen’s diagnosis is progressive supranuclear palsy, which can cause the deterioration of thought, speech and movement.
The twins are ambassadors for Dementia Australia and while they have spoken about their mother for National Carers Week and International Women’s Day, they’ve stated that further details are private. Her declining health led them to cancel shows in Sydney last year and return to Brisbane to be with her. They say the matriarch of their family is their biggest champion. “Our family was very supportive and grounding very early on when we were experiencing success,” Jessica says. “The people we’ve always surrounded ourselves with have kept us very much on this plane. You can be on top of the world one minute and then nobody could care less the next, so I think it’s your duty and responsibility to take care of yourself and not get carried away with the illusion of fame and celebrity and ego.” Lisa continues: “We have different interests, and you can’t live and breathe The Veronicas 24/7. Nobody gets to have a say in Jessica and Lisa — that’s your relationship with you — but our alter egos are not necessarily our creation anymore. That makes it easier to step away from it.”
One of those interests is sustainability. Earlier this year, the Origliassos announced the launch of their health, wellness and sustainability brand, Planted. Lisa’s husband since 2018, the actor Logan Huffman, is a partner in the business, contributing his skills as a horticulturalist. “We wanted to create a company that we haven’t necessarily seen reflected in Australia,” Lisa says. “With so much travel and, obviously, performing and touring, we have to be so healthy, it made sense to put what we’ve learnt into business. We’re developing supplements, tools for sustainability and encouraging our community to grow their own food and learn about biodiversity.” Their focus on supplements and diet comes five years after Jessica was accused of promoting anorexia by sharing images on Instagram in which she appeared worryingly thin. The twins were hurt and defensive at the time, claiming they were being shamed for their naturally lean physiques. How their supplements and health advice will be received by the market is yet to be seen.
The Origliassos’ primary interest, though, remains their music. “We started in musical theatre when we were five years old,” Jessica says. “Music was in our household, it was in our blood from a very young age. We learnt to play at festivals and record music. We wrote our first song at 10 because our dad used to write songs about us on guitar and we thought it was so magical.” Whatever their critics have to say, the sisters have forged their own path over 16 years in a competitive, misogynistic industry and they’ve continued to release popular albums and perform sell-out tours. Most importantly, their family knows the sacrifices they’ve made and when they return home, they are not The Veronicas but — as ever — the very human Lisa and Jessica.