They’re the terrible twosome we hate to love, but love nonetheless. As they release their first single, X Factor twins John and Edward talk to Gavan Reilly about life on Planet Jedward
Ask people what they love or hate about John and Edward Grimes and you’ll receive a remarkable diversity of answers. Is it the hair? The hyperactivity? The dress sense? The Southside-cum-Californian accent? The fact there’s two of them?
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s impossible to deny that the rise and rise of John and Edward has been an irresistible sight in the last months. From a gentle lap of rumour in early autumn to an unstoppable flood of Jedmania by November, it’s been a remarkable six months for the 18-year-old Lucan twins, abandoning student anonymity at the Institute to become an all-conquering, pop-cultural über-phenomenon. Jedward are a hurricane: of passion, of enthusiasm, of goodwill, of hate, of publicity, and of enormous eco-suffocating quantities of hairspray.
As they speak to otwo from a London hotel where they’re camped for the night awaiting the broadcast of their slot on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, otwo gets the sense that not even the twins themselves anticipated the whirlwind their lives would become in the last six months.
“We used to run in UCD,” says Edward as otwo introduces itself, recalling their brief return to Belfield when they reunited with members of Dundrum Athletic Club on a week off from The X Factor. “I remember the whole crowd and all the support there…”
His older brother by ten minutes, John, interrupts with the first of infinitely many protracted sentences. “One girl was at the track, and then everyone started texting each other, and then the crowd started to build, and then lots of our friends heard and went running into class and said, ‘Jedward are on the track!’, and loads of people just left class!”
The lads are piqued by mentions of their trip home – one of their few respites from their newfound sequestered lifestyle (their tour manager even answers the phone for otwo’s interview with the words “Hello, Big Brother’s household?”).
Mindful of the Jedwardian propensity to wander off-topic at a half-second’s notice, otwo starts by asking just how wild the leap from obscurity to fame has been. Jedward, immediately, collectively disregard the question. “I think we’re so grateful that we have our first single out,” offers John; “It’s kinda cool because it’s out in Ireland first,” supplements Edward. otwo asks if there’s been anything disappointing about fame – and again, gets the answer to a different question entirely.
“I think it’s mad that, like, twenty years ago, even before we were born… I can’t believe we’re getting to collaborate with Vanilla Ice,” blurts Edward. “It’s like a huge compliment to him [sic] that we’re doing it. We were doing the video on Wednesday and it’s going to be a really, really good music video.”
Sensing that the twins might need prompting to defect from promotional mode, otwo changes tack and offers questions that might be slightly less novel to teenage twins: how does one tell John and Edward apart? “On the show we always used to stand like ‘John and Edward’ anyway, because our names were like, ‘John and Edward’ and it wasn’t ‘Jedward’,” says Edward, somewhat cryptically. “Now that’s Jedward’s stuck and we’re going by Jedward as our name… did I answer that?” Eh, not really.
Luckily John steps in with a more salient answer. “I used to have blonder hair, I have a pointy right ear, my teeth are more crookeder, I have a scar on my nose… I have a scar set on my left eye. I’ve got a scar on my forehead. And that’s it.” In response, Edward reveals a solitary scar on his upper lip.
Having apparently been through more wars than his younger sibling, does John feel short-changed that only his initial has made it into his group’s title? Evidently not. “I think it’s kinda cool, because, like, our fans came up with the name and it’s just the way it worked out, because it’s both John and Edward. My name isn’t that long anyway, it’s only four letters – it couldn’t go, ‘Je-hon-ward’! That’d be a bit weird.”
It is precisely this type of joie de vivre that has allowed the Grimes boys to capture the hearts and imaginations of (some of) the baying public. Initially appearing in The X Factor as the token Irish caricatures, Jedward’s steadfast good humour, stubbornness and patience quickly found favour with the show’s millions of voters who saved the twins week-after-week, coining the name ‘Jedward’ and the chant ‘Jed We Can’ along the way.
Ultimately only Dannii Minogue’s casting vote could send Jedward packing as the judges voted to expend the twins in favour of eventual runner-up Olly Murs.
But how disappointing was it, having reached the final six, not to win outright? Edward offers a sage thought. “I feel like, me and John… we do what we want to do. If we’d stayed in the show longer, we would have done even more, [but] I feel like we’ve progressed as singers and performers. We’ve done 70 shows of our own since the show ended; we’ve got to meet loads of our fans. Our fanbase is getting bigger and bigger.”
Not everyone is on the Grimes’ side, however. Their juvenile humour and inability to dance infuriated many who saw their presence in The X Factor as detrimental to the chances of other, more apparently talented acts – especially after the boys eliminated the undeniably more talented Lucie Evans thanks to a rare moment of pity from Simon Cowell. It is striking that the twins are at their most profound when discussing the downsides to fame and the desire of their ‘haters’ to see them fail.
“I think when we went into the programme we knew that people were going to have a personal opinion of me and Edward,” explains John. “We’re cool with people who don’t like, or who hate or criticise us. It’s good if you’ve made an impression and everyone has an opinion of you because with a lot of people it’s ‘they’re amazing’ and people can’t say that they’re not. People have a choice with me and Edward… It’s cool that they can come out openly and say, ‘I hate John and Edward’. They’re promoting us in a way.”
Somewhat inevitably, this moment of genuine insight – leaving otwo in no doubt that the twins have been personally impacted upon by public criticism – proves to be a mere interlude in the madcap pinball minds of the excitable Dubs. otwo poses a quandary: what would Jedward have done if only one of them had been wanted for The X Factor? Both twins laugh. “I dunno! We wouldn’t have done it! That’d be a bit weird,” contemplates Edward. “We’re together. We wouldn’t have done it without each other.”
John interrupts. “Do you go to college in UCD?” Eh… yes. “How old are you?” 23. “Oh cool.” Baffled but unbowed, otwo broaches the subject of college. Given their experience and evident affinity to Belfield, might we someday see Jedward in UCD as students? “Yeah, we were gonna go to UCD…” offers John. “…Or something like that. A college like that.” Edward disagrees. “I always wanted to go to Trinity, or do running over in America in one of those colleges. One of those Ivy League schools.”
Quick as a flash, Jedward return to commercial mode. otwo elects to indulge them as they grow excited at thoughts of their impending single release – a mashup of ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘Ice Ice Baby’, featuring Vanilla Ice. “It comes out on the 12th of February on physical release, and it’s not like a normal single, it’s like an album case!” enthuses John, “and it comes with a poster – it comes with a double-sided poster – and it comes with the lyrics. And then there’s the actual CD.”
As the clock ticks on and the pre-determined hanging-up time approaches, otwo sneaks a prerequisite question: just how is the Jedward Quiff™ achieved? “Sometimes people who do our hair back-comb, get a clear brush and hairspray and just put it together,” John recounts. “You could just get a tech-styling paste or a wax and just put it all through it and say you’re in a rush. But if you want to get a real polished, slick look, you have to do it with a hairdryer. You know how most people need a hair stylist to do their hair? We’re low maintenance, we’re able to do it ourselves.”
Before the interview ends, there are three final questions. The boys regularly tweet to Taylor Swift: do they fancy her? “Yeah, she’s pretty cool,” says John sheepishly. What words of wisdom can Jedward offer UCD students? “Tell them to relax with their exams,” says Edward, plugging, “Don’t be ‘Under Pressure’.”
Finally, what would life be like on Planet Jedward? Grimes the Younger concludes: “It’s not, like, literally a planet… it’s a lifestyle. I think it’d be a really cool place.” Maybe when they’re rich and famous, they could acquire an extra-terrestrial plot? “Just buy it… A mark on the moon, or something. Th en everyone can see it from Earth.” With the enthusiasm in his voice as he says it, otwo senses that it might not be so crazy to believe him. Th ere could one day be a giant blond quiff in the sky, watching from above – such is the power of Planet Jedward.
Jedward’s single, ‘Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby)’ featuring Vanilla Ice, is available for download now.