WHEN siblings Ella and Jesse Hooper announced in 2016 that they were reforming Killing Heidi to celebrate the band's 20th anniversary, they understood it couldn't be like before.
The late '90s and early 2000s were the indie-pop band's commercial prime when Mascara hit No.1 and they released another four top-20 singles in Weir, Live Without Out, Outside Of Me and I Am.
Anybody that's ever seen the band's famous 2001 Sydney Big Day Out performance knows Killing Heidi operated at a frantic pace. But it wasn't always slick.
The second coming of Killing Heidi might not have produced any new material, but both Ella and Jesse Hooper have returned far more capable performers.
At the inaugural Scene & Heard music festival in Newcastle in 2018 they delivered arguably the most exciting set of the day, which is high praise given the line-up also included The Living End, Spiderbait and Something For Kate.
"Jesse and I were like, 'if we come back, it has to be better'," Ella Hooper says of Killing Heidi's 2016 reformation. "We wanted it to be better. That was actually part of the motivation for doing any shows.
"Not for anyone else, but our own satisfaction."
It was definitely overwhelming, so you tended to go straight to 11. You'd crank everything up to 11 and go, 'oh my god, I can't believe this is happening.'Ella Hooper on Killing Heidi's early live shows
Hooper's varied solo career and expansion into TV and radio since Killing Heidi's initial hiatus in 2006 have kept her constantly working and evolving.
Experience has also been key. When Killing Heidi broke through with Weir in 1999, Hooper was just 16. Now 38, she's a 25-year veteran of the music industry.
"It was definitely overwhelming, so you tended to go straight to 11," Hooper says of performing with Killing Heidi when their first album Reflector went four times platinum in 2000.
"You crank everything up to 11 and go, 'oh my god, I can't believe this is happening.'
"It's high energy, but as you get older you learn to use the light and shade a bit more and you get more polished skills just by virtue of doing it and doing it.
"That's the funny thing, not everyone may know I kept going 100 per cent full-time after Killing Heidi, it's just all the bands and records I did after that didn't hit the mainstream.
"It's fine with me when they come back and go, "Jesus, she's really good now'."
These days Hooper describes Killing Heidi as among her "top three" career priorities.
The other two would be her new Southern Austereo-produced music podcast Front & Centre and her forthcoming second solo album.
Jesse Hooper is also busy with a young family and working as the Head of Music Performance at Collarts, a multimedia arts college in Melbourne.
Since COVID Killing Heidi have only played major events such as the recent By The C festival in St Kilda and the Red Hot Summer Tour alongside the likes of Hunters & Collectors, The Living End, Icehouse and The Baby Animals.
Later this year they'll return to Newcastle for the third Scene & Heard festival on November 7. Other acts on the bill include Grinspoon, Regurgitator, Rat Cat, Frenzal Rhomb, Cog, Custard and Caligula.
"It's been a very good story coming back and building it up again to where it is now," Hooper says. "Jesse and I are really stoked and proud and busy. So it's nice to be in this position where we'll only do a gig if it's Scene & Heard.
"We don't really want to slog it out in the pubs because we have jobs and he has a young family, so it feels like something we do for the right people, the right place and for the right price."
Hooper says the vibe backstage at these nostalgia festivals is completely different to the Big Day Out and Homebake of the early 2000s.
"When you're all starting out you're all watching your turf a bit more and you're not as confident in the convictions of what you're doing versus what other people were doing," she says.
"I know I wasn't. I would be like, 'I wonder if we could be a bit more like that, or maybe if we were more like Magic Dirt or more like Spiderbait'.
"I knew we were nothing like those bands anyway, so what's the point in comparing?
"As I've grown up and stuck around I've realised we're here to provide something different and to be confident in providing those differences and own them."
Hooper is preparing to provide something different with her solo career. She's several weeks away from completing the recording of a new album she describes as Americana.
The songs were written last year during lockdown after Hooper returned to her hometown of Violet Town in central northern Victoria in late 2019 to be close to her mother.
"I went home to the country in Violet Town and that's always been a really creative place for me," she says.
"As soon as I get there I feel like picking up a guitar or putting pen to paper. I had a lot of time to do that."
Killing Heidi play Scene & Heard festival on November 7 at Wickham Park. Tickets are available from oztix.com.au.
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