One of the biggest leaps of faith a musician can take is a name change. Sisters Melissa and Jessica Labbadia's reincarnation as Ruumer means an entirely new sounds and artistic direction. The duo has already seen success on the dance charts under the name L2 with songs like "Boys or Girls" and "Insomnia." Their name change to Ruumer comes with a shift to a power pop-infused sound as well as a feminist message highlighted in their new track "HEELS." The Labbadias started singing together as preteens in theater and have fought their way in the music industry together as sisters.
We sat down with Ruumer and talked about their new creative mindset, working in the industry as women and making music with a sibling.
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What prompted your change as L2 to Ruumer? And what kind of musical shift are you making?
Jessica: With L2, we started with rock and then we moved to dance. With Ruumer, it was such a departure from L2. That's why we changed the name and relaunched and everything.
Melissa: It kind of shifted to less dance which we primarily were known for as L2, like the Billboard dance charts and all that, and more indie pop. It's a little bit of an urban influence especially with 'Heels' that just came out. We didn't want to try to call it the same thing. When we were working in the studio, we were working with a producer Smarter Child, he's amazing. As we were listening back to the songs, we were like this doesn't sound like L2, this sounds like something different. We matured sonically and as people, so it made sense.
How did you land on the name Ruumer?
Jessica: We had been discussing names and throwing out ideas and were just like we know we want to change the name, but it has to be right. We weren't going to just come up with anything. One day I was online and came across the name Ruumer, and apparently it means gypsy. And we always identified with being gypsies.
Melissa: And we've been back and forth between LA and New York. We grew up in Connecticut. We like to experience different places, so it kind of resonated with us and also with the sound. So, we were like that's perfect. And we added in another U for the two of us. And were like, 'okay that's kind of cool.' 'Dude, I kind of like it, it's kind of different'. It's also easy to say. There's two of us, but we don't want to come up with like a weird band name. Ruumer is mysterious, you don't know if there's one, you don't know if there's two.
What was your very first introduction to music?
Melissa: We both grew up doing musical theater our entire lives. When we were kids, we were always singing around the house, doing theater together. Then, when Jess was 12 and I was 15, we were commuting in and out of the city to work with a vocal coach here because we grew up in Connecticut. She was like, "You guys have really great pop voices. Have you ever thought about recording?" We were like, "Yeah, of course." We didn't know how to go into doing that when were that young, so she set us up with a producer who's actually her husband.
Jessica: We got into the studio. We were so young, we didn't really know what was going on, but it was the most amazing experience. We started writing our own material with him and it was this feeling that was amazing. We were like, "This is right."
Melissa: From doing theater, we always loved singing. But when we got into the studio, we were like, "This is what we want to do."
Jessica: It's a different self-expression, it's coming from you as opposed to playing a different person.
How has your writing process evolved from those early years to now?
Jessica: When we first started, we had a live band. Everything was pretty acoustic, raw. As we evolved, we started incorporating tracks into our live performance.
Melissa: And working more with the producers, the music part of it. Whereas before, we would write with just an acoustic guitar or we would write with just playing piano. Then when we started getting more into Ruumer and our new stuff, creating a real sound, saying "we like that sound" or "we want this drum in there" or "we want that in there." And just being part of the whole process and how we wanted everything to sound. Just being really hands on, not just with the lyrics and melodies, but with the music aspect as well.
How did you come up with the idea of "Heels"?
Jessica: We've always been huge feminists and big on female empowerment. Heels are a stereotypical symbol of femininity. We wanted to throw the wrench in the stigma of girls can't be tough, can't be strong. So, we used heels as that symbol of "we're doing badass things in our heels." It's just a fun idea.
Melissa: We feel like it's really relevant in what's going on today and in the world, just wanting to put out something that's empowering for women but also fun, not so serious. We love it. And then, it opens up the topic to discuss certain things.
What is it like working together as sisters?
Jessica: We've always grown up really close. We've always been best friends. Of course, we have our little fights, things like that. But I think, there's a certain chemistry between us. When we're performing, we can read each other's minds a little bit and feed off that.
Melissa: And also, there was never a question of whether we want to do this by ourselves. It was always the thing that we did together. It's only us two and our parents in our family. We don't have any other siblings, so it was always just the both of us singing together. Even when we did any sort of acting things, we always did it together. It's just amazing to have both of us have the same passion and the same love and creativity. I think we both bring something a little bit different to the table. She plays piano and is a little bit on the musical side, and I'm a little bit on the writing and lyrical side. So, she can hear different things. When we get a mix back, I'm like, "You need to listen to it, see what sticks out." That's her thing. For me, it's more so the lyric aspect. So, it's cool to have two people that can bring something different, but also very unique because we are sisters and we do have that chemistry.
Jessica: I think that there's a certain honesty as well. There's no filter, which can be a bad thing, but it's kind of a blessing in disguise because that's kind of how you push each other and make each other better. And I think that's really beneficial for the music as well. You don't have to worry about hurting someone's feelings or putting something the wrong way. "Oh, you sounded bad on that take, do it again. You could do better." We know each other so well. It's just like, "Do it again, you can definitely do that better." With bandmates there's kind of a weird rivalry, and we've never had that. We always know who's going to sing what. "Oh, that's better for your voice" or "That's better for my voice" or "Let's sing this together." It's not like we're fighting for the spotlight. We're both in a team.
What do you hope listeners take away from your music as Ruumer?
Jessica: For the people who have been following us since we first started, I think it's cool for them to kind of see the transition from teenagers to adults and listen to our music and the things we've gone through from when we were young till now. For the new people, to kind of just resonate with us and the message and what we stand for and relate to us. What they're going through is probably things we've been through as well.
What have been the biggest challenges to you in the music industry?
Melissa: I'd think the both of us would probably say it's kind of the rejection and pushing past that. Not everyone's going to like what you put out. We've been doing this for over 10 years now, together. Over the years, we have come to realize that music is very subjective. Someone can love it. Someone can hate it. Just pushing through that and continuing to persevere with that.
Jessica: There comes a time where you feel like I don't know if I can do this anymore. This is really tough. I think that the people that push through the wall that hits them, I think that's when stuff just blows up, just pushing yourself as far as you can go.
Melissa: And continuing to be creative and be in the studio, that's really what we love. Just continuing to remind yourself why you started in the first place. I also think as females, there are more difficulties being in the industry.
Jessica: It is a male-dominated industry, so it's tough navigating your way through. Okay, is this appropriate? Is this inappropriate? How do you handle inappropriate situations if someone's hitting on you?
Melissa: Like is this producer calling me in for a meeting or are they just wanting... It's good sometimes that there's two of us because sometimes they're just like, "Just Jessica, come. Or just Melissa, come." We're like, "No, that's okay." I feel like a lot of females in the industry go through that unfortunately because it is predominately men.
How would you describe your relationship with your fans?
Jessica: We do talk to them through messages and Twitter.
Melissa: Also when we do live shows, connecting with them whether it be before or after the show. It's predominately girls I'd say that are fans. Some of these girls have been following us for years, so it's really cool to build relationships too.
Jessica: We grow up and we see them grow up too. It's pretty cool to see that. It's really important to establish that relationship, an open relationship with your fans. They can come to talk to you. The live shows that we do, we like to spend time sticking around and saying hi to people, talking to people. I think the facetime is really important.
Melissa: Now, with Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, it's really cool because you can have all these different ways to talk with them. Even on stories on Instagram and the lives, it's cool they get to see more of what we're doing and keep up with us.
Do you have a dream collaboration, either in the studio or onstage?
Melissa: We have a lot of those. As far as Ruumer right now and our project, we would die to work with or have a feature with G-Eazy. He's killing it right now on everyone's songs and his own songs and features. Chainsmokers, obviously to do a song with them would be crazy.
Jessica: We've always loved Lady Gaga. We think she's incredibly talented. We saw her live and get on the piano. She's amazing and her voice! Dancing and singing, everything. She's a triple threat. To do like a live performance with her or something would be a dream. We could even go back to Pat Benatar and people like that. We're obsessed with that.
What can your fans expect from your music in the future?
Melissa: We have been in the studio a lot, working on new stuff. We have new Ruumer songs and they could expect a new single in the summer. We'll be putting a new song out. We're really excited to keep putting out new music for our fans and for everyone to hear and probably a visual as well to go along with it. More remixes because we just did put out a remix of "Heels" with Instant Karma. They're also a duo. We thought that it was awesome that we collaborated with them, bring more female empowerment to the song. Just expect a new single in the summer which we can't wait to put out.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Jessica: If you're starting out at the very, very beginning, just getting yourself to the studio recording, and experience that whole new world. For people who have been in the business already, keep pushing yourself, keep evolving as an artist and a person and a writer.
Melissa: I would say the same thing, just really getting into the studio and trying to perform live. If you are one of those artists that just performs live, I would say get into the studio ASAP. Even friends that we've had through theater, some will go into the studio. Even though they're amazing live, sometimes they'll go in the studio and say, "I don't like it." It's totally different. When you're performing live, it's instant gratification. You get those people right away to react. In the studio, it's a more intimate experience.
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