After maintaining parallel careers as solo artists in seemingly opposite genres, twin sisters Leila and Omnia Hegazy found each other again, musically, in 2012. Leila fronted herself as a vocally driven R&B artist, whilst Omnia went down the route of rebellious pop rock.
Born in San Diego, California, to a Brooklyn-Italian mother and an Egyptian father, the twins grew up in Staten Island, New York. At eleven years old they wrote their first song together. When they moved in together in 2013, they continued to write their own songs; “But eventually, our songs started to sound alike”, they began. “Our styles met in the middle but it was only after our father passed away in late 2015 that we decided to become a duo. Though he loved our individual songs, he always said that we were more powerful together”.
New York City has a hustle like no other. “It pushes you to reach your full potential”, the sisters said, “because there’s always someone better than you”. Staten Island offered a more suburban environment, while New York is known be diverse. “We definitely grew up feeling like ‘the other’, and this influenced us a lot”, they said speaking of the opportunity in their surroundings.
“We were in middle school when 9/11 happened and we experienced a lot of pushback for being Muslim and of Middle Eastern descent in a mostly white school. Even though we were half Italian. It’s no coincidence that we started writing music and performing around that time. It was hard standing out at school, but on stage, standing out was okay. It was a good thing. As we got older, we started spending more time in Manhattan, surrounded by creative people of different backgrounds. This was a godsend”.
It’s inevitable that you’re wondering the same thing as I did, do they have that ‘twin thing’? “Twins are definitely closer that ordinary siblings”, they replied. “People are always a little disappointed to find out that we can’t read each other’s minds or do any of that psychic stuff. But we are painfully close. There are no secrets and there’s no filter either; compromise is something we are always working on”. Leila and Omnia begin writing separately. Once an idea is conceived though, one brings it to the other for feedback. And very often, one finishes what the other has started; “This can be a brutal process, because we don’t always see eye to eye. It takes a lot of compromise to be a duo, but we know that our music is better for it”.
Early this year, Hegazy are releasing their debut EP, and it goes without saying that it’s the product of blood, sweat and tears. “Our producer, Jon Seale of Mason Jar Music, did an amazing job of bringing our ideas to life”, they added. “We made him a Spotify playlist of what inspires us and what we wanted our record to sound like. The results exceeded our expectations. This EP is our first statement to the world and we think if represents both of us equally”.
The title, ‘Young’, is a nod towards the overarching theme of coming-of-age. Their first single, ‘Alive’, is about quitting day jobs to pursue music; “It meant abandoning the idea of success that society sold to us as children”. Their recent single, ‘Here To Stay’, is about xenophobia and fits with the theme of youth; “While it speaks to widespread bigotry in American politics right now we couldn’t have written this song without having experienced bigotry as children. This EP is about growing up in post-9/11 America as Egyptian-Italian-Muslim-American millennials with big dreams”.
“Each song investigates different aspects of youth and getting older”, they replied as I asked if there’s a flowing narrative throughout the EP. “We explore financial uncertainty, young love and falling out of love. We talk about finding purpose and pursuing dreams, despite societal challenges. It’s not necessarily a story from beginning to end. But more of a look at our coming-of-age from different perspectives”.
In their own words, Hegazy are female artists pursuing music in a male dominated industry. “This means we are facing obstacles that are often invisible to our male counterparts”, they said. “Writing from a female perspective happens naturally because we are living these experiences each and every day. It’s impossible to be a woman in the industry without constantly behind reminded that you’re female. But we are not afraid to speak out and address this is in our music”.
Being present is everything. “Our Dad always urged us to join forces”, they continued. “This was probably the best advice anyone could have given us. His favourite saying was also ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’. We try to remember this all the time”.
Inspiration requires being present too, and scrolling is the direct opposite of this; “Honestly, it helps to stay off of social media. The digital age makes it very hard to be in the moment without becoming distracted. Putting your phone in another room is super helpful when you’re trying to get into a creative zone. We’ve learnt that everything takes longer than you think it will. Even if you are perfectly on your game, unforeseeable circumstances will arise. Art takes time and a lot of money to make. Knowing that our hard work can lead to doing what we love for a living keeps us pushing forward”.