Seeing a set of twins will never not be something we instinctively think is amazing. It’s people who look alike, hello…amazing! For twins though, it’s just their everyday life. Some play into the whole twin thing matching every aspect of their existence, others though like Leila and Omnia Hegazy felt it was necessary to explore life as individuals instead of as well, one another.
While they both found themselves wanting to do music, each went about it their own way. Call it fate, call it a reaction to circumstances but they started working together in 2016 and became HEGAZY. We talked about how they managed to sew their independent styles into one distinct sound, facing the world post-9/11 as an Arab-American and channeling that through music, and so much more.
Kendra: I’ve talked to a handful of sisters and twins over the years but I think you may be the first who weren’t always working together. Was it apparent growing up that you wanted to be strong individuals before being “the twins?”
HEGAZY: Growing up as a twin means constantly being seen as a unit, and to some degree we were. We shared a bedroom, friends, later an apartment, and now a band. But as kids and young adults, all we wanted was to be treated as individuals because we have very different personalities and abilities, despite the fact that we’re both musicians. We’re so glad that each of us explored our own identities before becoming a band because drawing upon each of our own influences makes us a more well-rounded duo.
Kendra: Because Leila you went one route with R&B and Omnia you were more outspoken with your pop rock in the path you chose. Did you ever think you’d wind up fusing those two worlds?
HEGAZY: Not at the time. Our Dad (and others) constantly told us that we should combine our abilities, and as typical bratty teenagers do, we didn’t listen. We were both very much pursuing our own musical careers up until 2016 when we both hit a wall creatively and felt like we got stuck in a box. Collaborating helped to get us out of a rut and get those creative juices flowing again.
Kendra: When it comes to your upcoming debut, Young, which song do you feel best represents each of you?
Omnia: I wrote our first single “Alive” about leaving a day-job to pursue music, which was the best decision I ever made. This song was about emancipation and breaking free of the capitalist system that says that we should live to make money, rather than follow our passion(s).
Leila: “Smolder” is probably is most reminiscent of the R&B style I wrote in before we became a band (although our music has retained much of this soulful sound). I started writing “Smolder” before we became HEGAZY and we finished writing it together in our early days as a group. A lot of people write love songs about “butterflies” or breakups, but they don’t often write about what happens in long-term relationships when people have been together for years. The last line “will we still have that smolder, or will we just get older” speaks to that experience.
Kendra: Young is going to touch on a lot of things, but I can’t wait to hear your Arab-American millennial perspective come through. Was that inspired by more recent events or does this go back even further?
HEGAZY: Our recent single “Here to Stay” was definitely inspired by the bigotry and xenophobia that is so pervasive in America right now, but we probably couldn’t have written this song without having been treated like “the other” as children. We grew up in Staten Island, New York post-9/11, and that comes with a lot of bullying and casual/not-so-casual racism. Our neighborhood in Staten Island was very white at the time, although this is changing now.
This song is political satire that makes President Trump’s fear-mongering rhetoric sound ridiculous (because it is). We wanted to take the things he’s said about us (immigrants, Muslims, etc.) and reclaim them for ourselves. So yes, we’re coming. In fact, we’re already here. Some of us were even born here. And we aren’t going anywhere. In fact, we’re going to cause “uproar” if/when you try to take away our rights.
Kendra: Who penned the line in “Here to Stay,” “We’re taking something that was once yours” and what exactly is the story behind that because it’s very striking and beautiful all at the same time?
HEGAZY: Thank you! We actually came up with this line together. In the lyric-writing process, we really dug into the reasons why people are so afraid of immigrants. Something that kept coming up was the idea of immigrants “taking” something that should rightfully belong to American-born people (i.e. jobs, resources, even the blanket ideas of “freedom” or the “American dream”).
People are basically afraid that sharing their country with others means they themselves lose something. And that’s certainly what Trump and others have told them. With this line, we wanted the people with these fears to ask to themselves, 1. Is America really yours? Does it really belong to anyone? Important reminder: The USA was created by force and taken from indigenous people. 2. Why does it bother you to see others striving for what you have?
Kendra: What is the last thing that made you feel “Alive?”
Omnia: Performing to a packed house on our birthday in July at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC was an amazing feeling!
Leila: Our last show (also at Rockwood), which was a totally last-minute intimate acoustic show. We had barely any time to promote the gig since we were asked to fill in the week of, and we barely had time to rehearse (plus Omnia was sick). But the room was packed and we had a blast.
Kendra: Once Young drops in February, are you playing shows in and around New York City or will you be heading out on a tour?
HEGAZY: Our EP release show is on release day (February 9th) at Mercury Lounge in NYC. After that is still TBD! But we’d love to take our music across the country and outside of the US in the next year.
Kendra: Say you had to make a mixtape featuring songs that were quite like HEGAZY – a fusion of two genres coming together as one – what five would have to be on it?
Alabama Shakes for their kick-ass dirty guitar sounds.
Emily King for her beautiful old-school songwriting and lush background vocals.
Saint Paul and the Broken Bones for their soulful melodies and infectious grooves.
Destiny’s Child for their rhythmic vocals and dual harmonies.
Lake Street Dive for their uplifting and feel-good soul.