The Kinks, the Gallaghers, Jackson 5, and now, Southern. Thom and Lucy Southern of the Belfast duo join the ranks of bands made up of siblings, suggesting that music really is in their blood. As I catch up with the pair in their dressing room at the O2 Academy, you can instantly tell it makes for a durable working relationship. They talk with enthusiasm about how they began, interrupting and overlapping one another as their ideas flow together, in the same way as their music.
“We started writing together when I was fifteen and Thom was sixteen.” Lucy tells me. “So, from there we went through folk and in the last few years we’ve gone through a lot of blues influences and it’s got to a stage now where we know where we want to be and we know what our sound is, and it is kind of…” She pauses.
“But we’re not trying to pigeon-hole ourselves into one category of music.” Thom interjects. “There are so many British bands that are releasing albums at the minute where every song just sounds like the big ‘hit’. No one actually really cares about the album anymore. Whereas we’ve really gone out of our way to write a whole load of songs and choose the best ones so that the whole record has a theme.”
Being brother and sister clearly gives Southern an advantage when it comes to collaborative song-writing, “We used to just sit together with an acoustic guitar and write, but now we’ve grown up we follow our own styles and then ask the other what they think.”
“We’re a bit lucky in a way as writers because if something’s shit we can just ask,” adds Lucy. “We say to each other ‘what do you think of this song?’ and she’ll be like, ‘I think you shouldn’t say that in the second verse and I’ll be like ‘really?’ And she says ‘err, yeah don’t say that…’” says Thom, laughing. “My songs are mostly fictional, I steal a scene from a movie or a book and write a song about it, while Lucy’s are more personal.”
I ask whether commercial appeal or pressure from their label has any bearing on their writing process. “We do think about it, because our songs get played on Radio 1, and there is a quota to fill these days,” Lucy admits. “We don’t want to be too alternative…”
“Yeah, but then once we actually started working with Mark Rankin [whose previous credits include Adele and Bombay Bicycle Club]. He’s just so amazing at what he does; he’s able to get this really lo-fi sound that’s also really modern at the same time. He’s brought a Twenty-first Century sound to our most rootsy songs. We’re lucky because our label’s been really cool about everything” Thom smiles.
Southern seem still to be in the early stages of their success, enthusiastically powering through their first headline UK tour. The excitement of this has clearly not lost its novelty. “I think once you get into that world of the music industry, I feel like I couldn’t go back into the real world,” Lucy comments.
I’m lucky to meet Southern in this point of their success, still grounded and humble, having fun at every step of the way, taking everything with a refreshing dose of humour and originality.