22 April, 2009
It's a very romantic feeling whenever I go abroad, and I continue to feed this
complete addiction with the silliest of experiences. But you have to wonder, if
you suddenly fell in love in such a faraway place, what will keep that flame
Strong feelings and a constant bond are the answer for the dandy indie pop with
dance duo Sugarbeach, comprised of Marlee and Tully, two women who
fell in love in Sydney, Australia. As much as I want to assume that music was
the factor that brought them together, that'd be the most incorrect statement
one could assume. You could say their relationship enriches the music they
produce, which will probably explain the eclectic mish-mash of normally
So, what do I know about Australia from my adventures? Well, "XXXX" is a beer,
you could commute by ferry to work in Brisbane and Sydney, and... well, this
stuff is for another time.
PHIL: You're an Australian/Canadian duo. How did you two meet with the
Pacific Ocean in the middle of everything?
MARLEE: I moved to Sydney, Australia to be in another relationship.
Tully and her husband were among some of the first people I met there. I felt
an instant connection with her and five years later when our respective
relationships had ended we realized we had strong feelings for each other.
Within a year we'd moved back to my hometown, Vancouver, wrote "I Just Love
Girls", started Sugarbeach and then got married.
PHIL: What got you into music in general?
MARLEE: My brother and sister were already in the music business in a
big way... albums, a TV series in Canada and touring, so when I was 14, I
joined them. They were also great songwriters so while we were performing I
learned what made songs work by watching the crowds reactions. Our house was
always filled with musicians. I have great memories of David Foster sitting
at our old upright playing something new he'd written. I wrote my first song
at about 8 years old... I think I borrowed the chord progression to "MacArthur
Park" and made up some "love" lyrics about a relationship I was at least ten
years too young to experience.
TULLY: My family are all musicians and we loved to jam. My dad
preferred to entertain at parties on the piano rather than socialize. I wanted
to play as well as him so I taught myself the music he was playing by
practicing three hours a day after class... picking up one piece of music
after the other, struggling through it and then moving on through the pile.
PHIL: What kind of obstacles have you encountered in your career so far?
MARLEE: In the early part of my career my biggest obstacle was myself
and my decision to pretend that I was straight. The fear of being found out to
be gay held me back from taking many opportunities that may have placed me and
my personal life under scrutiny.
As Sugarbeach we certainly have alternative content in our songs which can be
an advantage as we are unique but also an obstacle because not everyone is
comfortable with women singing to women "yet". Until Katy Perry revealed that
"she kissed a girl and liked it" the lesbian lyric references on radio were
We discovered there was some opposition to our music when a mother in
Charlotte, North Carolina told us after we performed, that our website was
blocked in her son's school in Erie, Pennsylvania! Hey we're just out there
promoting love... it doesn't make much sense to us.
PHIL: How is your music created? Who writes and who composes the music?
TULLY: Well one of gets an idea about a topic. We talk about it, write
notes. Marlee gets a lot of her lyric ideas while driving, so she brings back
a dictaphone full of barely audible lines and barely readable scribbles on the
insides of fruit bar wrappers. It somehow all comes together after exchanging
ideas on melodies, how soon we get to the hook and does this one need a bridge.
PHIL: Do you both seriously "Just Love Girls"? I kind of agree to that
MARLEE: Hmmm... well I have been open to loving both sexes throughout
the early part of my life but there came a point when I had to stop denying
that my emotional and physical connection with women was so much stronger.
People often refer to that feeling as "coming home"... it's a sense of
everything finally being right so... yep you could say "I Just Love Girls".
TULLY: I had only been in relationships with men until I met Marlee, so
that's a "No" for me. I only love Marlee.
MARLEE: ...what can I say... when you've got it...
Phillip Hong is a presenter on Centre Street, our current affairs programme
featuring alternative stories and interviews.