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On the strength of two strong rock anthem singles and the group's vivacious dreadlocked teenage female singer, Killing Heidi emerged as the act dominating the Australian sales charts at the turn of the new Millennium. Like every "overnight sensation," Killing Heidi arrived with an important gestation period.
Singer Ella Hooper and her guitar-playing older brother Jessie grew up in the small Violet Town (population approximately 2,000), a good day's drive from both Melbourne and Sydney. They spent their formative years listening to their drama and music teacher parents' record collections (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell). The local radio offered few meaningful alternatives. As adolescence set in the national government-run youth network, Triple J had arrived in the area, exposing Ella and Jessie Hooper to a world of new sounds. Jessie discovered Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Ella gravitated towards Hole and Veruca Salt. American Thighs was the first CD she bought.
Brother and sister started jamming at home, and in 1996, the pair played an acoustic gig on the city lawns at the Violet Town arts festival. Ella was 13, Jessie 15. Their performance, including two songs Ella had written, made an impression on a local studio owner who offered the Hoopers free studio time. With school friends acting as rhythm section, they recorded those originals and submitted the results in a Triple J-sponsored competition seeking to unearth new talent. They won their section.
With their song "Kettle" gaining national (non-commercial) Triple J airplay, Ella and Jessie juggled with attending school and beginning to play serious gigs. Producer Paul Kosky was inspired by hearing "Kettle" on the radio to check out the group at an outdoor festival. Working on records by Clouds, Kate Ceberano, and Crowded House (Woodface), Kosky had become frustrated with watching the music leave his studio and disappear in the hands of record companies. He wanted to find an act to manage as well as produce. He decided on Killing Heidi.
The first mainstream single didn't appear until August of 1999. By then the experienced rhythm section of Adam Pedretti on drums and Warren Jenkin on bass had been installed, months had been spent developing the music in the studio, and the band had been signed to Roadshow Music, the independent Australian home of Savage Garden. That first single, "Weir" (a tale of life after high school), was still charting nationally three months later when the second single, "Mascara" (about self-image), leapfrogged it into the national number one position, which "Mascara" held four weeks. The debut album Reflector entered the chart at number one and went double platinum in Australia.