In 2000, Australian rockers Killing Heidi unexpectedly took center stage when the band's first album entered the charts at number one. Reflector sold over 350,000 copies and achieved platinum status in Australia, placing the band at the forefront of a busy alternative music scene. Following a second album that went gold, however, Killing Heidi struggled with internal tensions and eventually decided to take a hiatus from performing, leading fans and music insiders to wonder if the band had achieved too much too fast. But far from being finished, Killing Heidi reemerged in 2004 with a hard-won independence and a new sound.
Killing Heidi formed from the nucleus of brother and sister Jesse and Ella Hooper in the mid-1990s in Violet Town, Australia. "We had a lot of free time growing up and [we] started playing instruments around the house," the Hoopers told Teen FX. "We did not have any formal training. It was more of a hobby and self taught." Living in an isolated region also helped build their creativity. "I couldn't go to friends' places after school 'cos they lived too far away," Ella Hooper told Tracy Ibrahim in Instinct, "so I had to do a lot of imaginary, creative stuff." The Hoopers' development was also aided by their parents' unorthodox views. "We weren't treated like kids when I was growing up," Ella told Ibrahim. "We'd talk to our parents' friends—teachers and philosopher types, and I really got into it all when I was about eight."
The Hoopers started performing when Ella was only 13 and Jesse 15. Shortly after a performance at the Violet Town Art Festival in 1996, the duo was invited by Jamie Durrant of Bent Records to use his recording studio. After cutting demonstration records, the two teenagers entered their recordings and won a Triple J Unearthed competition in Victoria with "Kettle." The future band chose its name by making two lists, one of hard words, one of soft words. Choosing one word from each list, the young Australian band was christened Killing Heidi.
Killing Heidi's first real break came when producer-manager Paul Kosky became interested in the band. He had worked as a producer with Crowded House and Rage Against the Machine, but he disliked how management treated bands once they had left the recording studio. After seeing a live performance of Killing Heidi, he became the group's manager and producer, working closely with the band to perfect its songs and style over a two-year period. Kosky arranged a record deal with Roadshow Music and added bassist Warren Jenkin and drummer Adam Pedretti to complete the lineup in 1999.
After two years of honing its chops, Killing Heidi entered the studio to cut its first album in 1999. To build momentum, the band issued two singles, "Weir" and "Mascara," the first rising to number six in Australia, the second to number one in January of 2000. That same year, Roadshow Music released Reflector, and Killing Heidi's debut entered the charts at number one, where it remained for three weeks. Two more singles were issued, "Live Without It" and "Superman Supergirl," and Reflector eventually achieved platinum status five times. The band was also successful in New Zealand, with Reflector reaching number 19 on the charts. Killing Heidi's momentum continued to build throughout 2000, a year topped off when Reflector won four Australian Record Industry Association awards in the fall.
Killing Heidi's success and hard work came to a sudden halt in 2001. While they were at work producing a follow-up album, a cyst was found on Ella Hooper's vocal chords. The band quit recording while she underwent an operation to remove the cyst, and although the operation was successful, her recovery was very slow. Eventually Killing Heidi returned to the studio and completed Present, which was released on Sony in 2002. Present, however, was a slow starter, and while the album eventually sold enough copies to reach gold status, it lagged far behind the success of Reflector. Two singles, "Heavensent" and "Outside of Me," rose to numbers 28 and 12 respectively on the charts.
Although the slow reception for Present was a setback, it was a setback that had been overcome by many bands in the past. Behind the scenes, however, internal tensions erupted between Killing Heidi and manager Kosky over the future direction of the band. Eventually Kosky left and the band took a temporary hiatus, leading many fans to believe that the group had broken up. In one sense, the young band had felt overwhelmed by its early success. "Sometimes it's good though to lay low for a while—it's not cool when bands are pushed into people's faces—that has some sort of overkill quality," Jesse Hooper told Thread. Despite the difficulties, Killing Heidi persevered, and in 2003 the band set up a recording studio in a San Fernando Valley home to work on its next album.
For the Record …
Members include: Ella Hooper, vocals; Jesse Hooper, guitar; Warren Jenkin, bass; Adam Pedretti, drums.
Hooper siblings began performing in Violet Town, Australia, mid-1990s; after forming Killing Heidi, released Reflector, 2000; Present, 2002; departed from original management and embarked on temporary hiatus; issued Killing Heidi, 2004; indefinite hiatus, beginning in 2006.
Awards: Four Australian Record Industry Association Awards, 2000.
A New Sound
A rejuvenated Killing Heidi returned to the public arena in 2004 with a new album and a new sound. In interviews the band expressed dissatisfaction with past restrictions that had left the band too little room to grow. Upon the band's return, Killing Heidi was determined to call the shots. "It was essential for us to develop a sound and have more creative control," Jesse Hooper told Thread. "We have more of a sense of ownership over this album." The title of the new album, Killing Heidi, was indicative of the band's belief that this was the first album that truly represented the band's potential. Two singles were released in 2004, "I Am," which rose to number 16 on the charts, and "Calm Down," which rose to number 23. Killing Heidi followed in the footsteps of its predecessor, achieving gold status in Australia.
Killing Heidi's return to the limelight was short-lived. In 2006 the band experienced further setbacks, halting the progress it had made since its 2004 release. The group left Sony BMG in 2005 and began working on a new album, reportedly almost finished in early 2006. But by late summer of 2007 the album had failed to surface, once again leading to speculation over the group's future. While Killing Heidi put these rumors to rest with a post on its website, the posting nonetheless left the band's immediate status in limbo: "We are taking a break from killing heidi (sic) for a while but do not see this as a break up! It is us needing to try something else for a little while cos its all we've done for 9 years now." In the interim, the Hoopers also returned to performing as a duo and worked on other projects.
Reflector, Roadshow, 2000.
Present, Sony, 2002.
Killing Heidi, Sony, 2004.
"Ella and Jesse of Killing Heidi," Teen FX,http://www.teenfx.com (July 17, 2007).
"An Interview With Ella Hooper From Killing Heidi," Well Women,http://www.wch.org.au/wellwomens (July 17, 2007).
Killing Heidi Official Website, http://www.home.iprimus.com.au (July 17, 2007).
"Killing Heidi's Jesse Hooper," Thread,http://www.thread.co.nz (July 17, 2007).
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
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