IT’S been a long time coming – and it almost didn’t happen at all – but The Pierces are finally on something of a roll.
Alabama-raised sisters who did some crucial growing up in the Big Apple, it took a member of Coldplay to end the shortest break-up in music history.
Ten years without a major breakthrough Allison and Catherine Pierce had run out of steam and were calling it quits.
That was until the next day Guy Berryman, the bass player from Coldplay, called with an offer they could refuse.
While they turned down the offer to support the British band on a US tour – they later opened for them at London’s iTunes festival – they took up one of Guy co-producing along with Grammy winner Rik Simpson their fourth and best-received album yet.
Then again, none of this might have happened had the sisters followed their first calling, that of the ballet bar.
“We just got sick of it,” says Allison, who danced professionally out of high school for a year while her blonde sister performed with companies all over the world.
“It’s just a really hard life, hard on your mind and your body. We decided we wanted to quit ballet and start a band. I think we’d always had that in the back of our minds.”
That said, the pointe shoes did teach the pair the discipline of hard work and being away from home.
“It’s a difficult and emotional journey. Now we just feel like we’ve got into a flow and it’s easy. There are some moments when it’s hard and stressful but it just feels much easier now.”
Not least as breakthrough album You & I has put more friendly faces in front of the stage and even more listening to their music. There’s even been demand for their cooking skills on shows such as Something For The Weekend.
It may have taken four albums for people to “get” The Pierces’ blend of emotive acoustic rock and drivetime melodies, but Allison is stoical.
“It was very frustrating but at the same time Catherine and I knew it was what we wanted to be doing and we felt like it was what we were supposed to be doing.
“It does feel like a breakthrough but because of all the experience we’ve had it just kind of rolls off our back. It feels different than it would have when we were younger.”
The first album was out in 2000 and it appears a mixture of belief and sisterly bonding has sustained their mission. Each has effectively had their best friend with them throughout, including the upheaval to New York which seemed to put the magnifying glass on what the sisters were doing or, at least, trying to achieve.
“Yeah, we can’t imagine it being any other way,” Allison says of their sibling union “If we were doing it by ourselves it would be so lonely. So it’s nice to have her here all the time. That way you just feel at home wherever you are.
“And living in New York changed us. We were so sheltered in Alabama, down south. We finally grew up when we moved to New York. That can’t help but change your music and your inspiration just because your experience is so different.”
Arguably the location of their childhood was crucial, however, not to mention the type of household they were raised in.
With their dad a jobbing musician and the house often filled with the sound of Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel, it seems there was something of an inevitability about what they ended up doing.
“I think so,” says Allison. “Our parents would have been happy with anything we chose to do.
“They were always supportive and wanted us to do what we wanted, but their influence was pretty strong and leaning towards the arts and being creative. It was just what you did in our household. The way it was.”
And being sisters, even with a two-year age difference, Allison admits there’s a closeness that makes music-making a more intuitive process.
“We do have that telepathy. We just know what the other is thinking when we’re singing. I know where’s she’s gonna go with a certain note, how long she’s going to hold the note. I know when she’s going to take a breath, instinctively.
“We are similar, we say a lot of the same things, even like the same clothes and music, but on a deeper level I think we’re pretty different. You’d have to ask people that are close to us.”
For now, whatever the reason, You & I has given The Pierces the shot in the arm they were craving, which extends to them working with a label aiming to sell them back to their native US market.
“We saw that our second record is £100 on Amazon used. That was pretty crazy,” says Allison, who is at a slight loss to explain why we’ve suddenly woken up to what The Pierces have to offer.
“You never know. Partly we think the stars have aligned and maybe it’s also because we never really had a big label promoting it, that really spent time and money, that were really excited about it.
“If we’d had that with the last record more people would have heard of it.”
Either way, it means the sisters play their first show in Sheffield next Friday – the first date of their biggest UK tour yet – ahead of Kissing You Goodbye becoming the next single.
Expect to hear that and a selective sprinkling of older songs they’ve kept alive on the road.
“We actually don’t have an official setlist yet. We’ll probably sing a couple from the last record but we may not go much deeper than that,” adds Allison, trying to remember if she and Catherine have ventured to South Yorkshire before. “I’m pretty sure we’ve never been to Sheffield... but hopefully that’ll be the best.”