At only 21 and 20 years old respectively, Chloe and Halle, the sister singing duo signed to Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment, have an almost preternatural poise and polish. You see it in on-camera interviews, their big smiles never breaking, or when they’re singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, their harmonies as sweeping and pristine as harmonies can be. Even in the homemade YouTube covers which made them Internet-famous as adolescents — a cover of Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” (a song, interestingly enough, about the demands on young women to be flawless) caught the attention of Queen B and got them signed in 2015 in the first place — they have a peaceful and almost uncannily seasoned presence.

This seeming perfection has made them into major role models to young fans, and one of them into a future megastar fronting the massive Disney machine, as the younger Halle takes the lead role of Ariel in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid expected out in 2021. They’ve had real world ambitions for the entirety of their teen years, starting their YouTube channel when Chloe was 13 and Halle 11, criss-crossing the country multiple times as the opening act for their mentor Bey, and dabbling in acting, with roles on Kenya Barris’ sitcom Grown-ish.

But beyond the sheen they’ve developed, it’s nice to hear, on a quarantine Zoom call one Friday morning, that they are more steadfastly committed — even dogged — about their craft than they are the presentation. They write, arrange, and produce much of their own music in their home studio in Los Angeles. While their sophomore album, Ungodly Hour, features guestwork by super-producers Scott Storch and Mike WiLL Made-It, the sisters executive produced the whole thing, and still brought unfinished collaborative tracks home from sessions to tighten them up in their own way, on their own computer software.

Though their debut, The Kids Are Alright — an unlikely but satisfying cross between SZA and Björk — hinted at this artistry, Ungodly Hour is the true breakthrough. It’s a grown-up album in a number of ways, with lyrics about hook-ups, break-ups, and mess-ups. But it’s also just undeniably and straightforwardly cool. In the choreography-heavy video for the excellent “Do It,” their astonishing maturity begins to look more like bravado. They mine sounds from late-’90s R&B, recalling forebears like Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, TLC, and Blaque, but have come up with something refreshing and personal. There are no lags on Ungodly Hour, no saccharine ballads or misplaced attempts at massive over-the-top pop — just easily enjoyable bops with silky harmonies and relatable themes. That’s an achievement for an artist of any age.

In conversation, they are, yes, incredibly composed, but also engaged and interested in talking about a range of subjects, from 808s and Atlanta to politics and pain. Here, the two sisters offer a little glimpse into their lives — and how they got to be so on top of everything to begin with.

Note: This interview occurred after the death of George Floyd but before demonstrations surrounding the killing fully heated up across the country, and the sisters have since delayed the release of the album from the original June 5 to this Friday, June 12. At the bottom of this Q&A, we’ve included some questions and answers the two responded to by email this week concerning moving the release date and their solidarity with the protestors.

Chloe (left) Dress OTTOLINGER / Shoes AREA Halle (right) Top and Bottom OTTOLINGER / Shoes NIKE / Sunglasses CHRISHABANA
Chloe (left) Dress OTTOLINGER / Shoes AREA Halle (right) Top and Bottom OTTOLINGER / Shoes NIKE / Sunglasses CHRISHABANA
Have you been quarantining together?
Halle: We are quarantining together in Los Angeles. We’re in our family home, so it’s really nice to all be together.

Chloe: I think, you know, with any family being in close spaces, you all have to relearn each other. You can’t, like, escape and go to your own corner.

H: We’re learning more every single day in quarantine what not to do [laughs]. We know the trigger points for both of us. We both love to get our feelings out, so once we do that, I think it’s good.

Let’s get into the album: In the past, your music has had an innocence about it, but this album is pretty grown.
C: You know, with anything in life, we never like to force it. Halle just turned 20. I’ll be 22 in July. Naturally, the music will just grow with that. We’re sharing our experiences, sharing what we’re going through, whether it’s heartbreak or falling in love or our insecurities — what makes us tick. People only really know us as, like, little sweet angels and all of that. And everyone is multi-layered.

“Busy Boy” is about a guy who sleeps around and sends you unsolicited late night photos of, well, a very particular body part of his. Are lines like this born from real life?
H: Absolutely. All the songs on the album are pulled from real-life experiences, real-life relationships. And for “Busy Boy,” everyone can relate to knowing this guy who is just so hot, he is just A+ everywhere. But everyone knows him as a player. They know he jumps around from girl to girl. It was funny to talk about that because in our little girl group [of friends], sometimes we do find that one dude who has tried to talk to all of us. And we laugh about it and we kiki about it.

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