Canadian twins Ryan and Dan Kowarsky are set to make their mark on the music world with the release of their debut single, Like The Sun, and their self-titled debut album later this month.
The opera-singing pair – whose music is a blend of classical and pop – are the son of a cantor, and have been singing since they were four years old. Caroline Westbrook talks to them about their music and their Jewish backgrounds, and finds out how to tell which is Ryan and which is Dan.
How are you enjoying being in the UK?
Dan: We're absolutely loving it right now. We weren't sure what to expect when we first came over here to a new country, but we've been here on and off for about a year now. We recorded the album in London with a 60 piece orchestra, in Terry Britton's studio – he wrote What's Love Got To Do With It, the Tina Turner song. It was a beautiful studio with vintage equipment, the mixing desk was used by the Rolling Stones and the microphone that we sung the whole album on was Frank Sinatra's microphone.
Do you go back to Canada often?
Ryan: We try to, we're going to be touring Canada in November, and we'll be going back there for about a week. We miss it sometimes but we speak to our family on webcams as much as we possibly can.
How did your involvement in music come about?
Dan: Our father is cantor at Beth Tzedek synagogue in Toronto, which is the largest synagogue in North America, and he also sung Italian opera outside of the synagogue, but we've been singing since we were four years old, we actually have footage on our website of us singing at four years old. We used to sing with our father in the synagogue, he would bring us up and we would do different things, and obviously we were Barmitzvahed there as well. And we used to have Friday night dinners and we would sing at those.
Is your mother musical as well?
Dan: Our mother plays piano so musical talent runs in the family.
Did you sing at your Barmitzvahs?
Dan: Yes, we sang in harmony! It was interesting as they don't usually do that and we wanted to do something different. It was great.
Do you have a particular favourite song to perform?
Ryan: Everything is a little different. We ended up performing 50 songs for the album. Sometimes you pick up an album and you enjoy only two or three songs on it. We wanted people to be able to listen to the album from beginning to end and enjoy it all. It was so important for us to do that, so we recorded 50 songs and narrowed it down to what we believe are the best 12. The other difficult thing is because we come from a classical background, but most kids listen to pop, we did some classical songs, some pop songs and some in between. It was difficult finding the right direction, but eventually we did. We're very proud of it, it's coming out September 24 and we can't wait, we're very excited.
Are you prepared for stardom?
Dan: No, I don't think anyone can be prepared for it! Ryan and I were just sitting here the other day and saying how amazing it all is. I mean how many people get to travel all over the world and perform in so many amazing places. We're very very blessed, we're lucky, and we're just trying to take it all in.
What do you think of the other opera groups such as Il Divo and G4?
Dan: We did a show recently with G4, very nice guys. I think a lot of us groups have done very very well, a lot of them have paved the road for what we're doing right now. I think this kind of thing is now getting more popular, you usually associate classical music with an older audience but now it's reaching all audiences.
Ryan: The album is more pop than classical so it appeals to everyone.
How do we tell you apart?
Ryan: You cannot. We are mirror twins. Dan is left-handed and I am right-handed. Obviously you can't see that though. Recently we were showing our mum pictures from a photoshoot we did for the album cover and the first thing she said was 'why are there so many pictures of
Dan?' So even she cannot tell us apart.
Dan: I think with twins in general when you see identical twins for the first time you wonder how they can look so alike but as you get to know them you start to see the differences. Personality wise we're very different.
Tell us about your Jewish upbringing?
Ryan: I wouldn't say it was Orthodox, more Conservative. We used to obviously go to shul on all the high holydays, we used to have Shabbat dinner every Friday night. We were kosher up until the age of about 13, 14. Even to this day we're not kosher any more but growing up we never ate pork and now we still don't. And we don't eat shellfish or anything like that because it's an uncomfortable feeling. We try to go to shul on high holydays, when we're in town we try to go to synagogue. We have not been to synagogue yet here but we went to a Shabbat dinner here. The great thing about Jews here is when you come here you don't have to know them too well but they still invite you for Shabbat dinner and that's exactly what we did here.
What's the origins of the family name?
Ryan: It's Polish. Our ancestors came from Poland and moved to Toronto.
What's your favourite Jewish holiday and why?
Ryan: I think Purim is probably a favourite, when everybody dresses up. We love kids and we love spending time with them.
Dan: Neither of us has kids yet but we have nieces and nephews.
How do Jewish girls in Canada compare to British Jewish girls?
Ryan: Interesting! Jewish girls around the world are unbelievable. It's hard to say, we haven't really been out so much here, we haven't had so much of a chance to find out, but we hope to soon.
What's your favourite Jewish joke?
Ryan: You know, it's not really a joke, but we love the 2000 Year-Old Man, the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner thing. We absolutely love it, we listen to it all the time. We have it on our iPods. Even though we've heard the whole thing so many times it's still hilarious.