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Indo-American Sister Duo LULLANAS Drop Debut EP ‘Before Everything Got Real’

Twin sisters Nishita and Atisha Lulla talk about recording a previous single in Mumbai, the country-folk influence and more

Anurag Tagat May 08, 2020

Pennsylvania-based Indian-American duo LULLANAS - Nishita and Atisha Lulla (from left). Photo: Lenne Chai

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On the cover photo of their debut EP Before Everything Got Real, LULLANAS’ Nishita and Atisha Lulla don cowboy hats and denim jackets, so if you’re looking for a sign of their ‘Indianness,’ it’s not really on the cover or in the music. And rightfully so, considering the twin singer-songwriter duo offer easygoing Americana and country folk tunes across five tracks.

Philadelphia-based Nishita says over email, “Our parents are from India but we were born and raised in the U.S.. It did initially cross our minds to add some Indian elements into our songs, but deep down we knew it wouldn’t feel natural for us.” Growing up around Indian music and Indian movies as well, it was family road trip music soundtracked by Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Eric Clapton and more that stuck with the Pennsylvanian siblings. By 2012, in the midst of internships in New York City, the duo began writing songs and released “Don’t Say” in 2015, which notched up over a million Spotify streams for its evocative yet simple told-you-so folk-pop heartbreaker.

The song is what strengthened LULLANAS’ connection to India, considering it was recorded at Mumbai’s erstwhile Cotton Press Studios in early 2014. The sisters were on a trip to India to meet their grandmother in Mumbai and recorded with Mumbai indie musicians including drummer-producer Jehangir Jehangir, singer-songwriter Tejas and bassist Stuart DaCosta. Nishita adds, “All this music magic wouldn’t have happened without our cousin Krish Makhija [Mumbai-based cinematographer]. We found our folk roots where our folks had theirs.” As is the case for most family visits, Atisha jokes about how they were in fact also clubbing in a family wedding in New Delhi and a visit to Jaipur and Agra. “It was definitely a trip to remember,” she says.

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Watch the video for “Memphis” below. 

It took three years of gigging and establishing themselves as musicians before heading into the studio in 2019. Before Everything Got Real – released via music label Nettwerk on April 24th – brings together familiar country music arrangements and expert production from Peter Katis, whose credits include bands such as The National, Death Cab for Cutie and Kurt Vile. LULLANAS’ lyrics draw from childhood nostalgia, whether it’s about lost love, friendships and forgotten feelings. What is it like getting nostalgic about childhood when you’re still in your twenties? Atisha says, “When you are young, you wish to be older and when you are older, you wish you could turn back time. That’s just how it is, and when writing these tracks we were really pulling from that universal feeling.”

There’s three music videos out for Before Everything Got Real that were created while in quarantine. The pleasant “Pennsylvania Skies” had a video created by Italian illustrator and animator Deborah Azzarone during the country’s difficult fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Nishita says, “We got in touch with her around the time of Italy’s lockdown. She used her days inside to bring our thoughts and illustrations to life and we are so thankful for that. We were all happy to make light out of a not so light situation together.”

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As for their own situation, in a show of true sibling togetherness, Atisha notes that they’re lucky “to be stuck through this thing together.” There’s ups and downs, admittedly, but the duo will be making more music that might just see a change in style. Atisha adds, “Now that we are getting further and further into our musical journey, I believe we just hit the surface of our sound. We are so excited to keep writing, growing, creating. I wouldn’t box us into this sound just yet.”

Listen to ‘Before Everything Got Real’ EP below. Stream on more platforms here.

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