It’s not easy to identify Latin music sensation siblings Isaac and Nora for an interview. For starters, they live in the pottery city of Quimper, in the part of France that juts out into the Atlantic. Secondly, the time difference between Australia and France means that it is often already time to go to bed.
Viral phenomena often disappear quickly, but Nora and Isaac, now 12 and 15 years old respectively, seem to be playing a longer game. The couple became an internet sensation in 2019, with a YouTube video of them performing a 1930s Cuban classic, Veinte Años, reaching 7.8 million views. Nora was only nine years old at the time; As a native French speaker, she learned Spanish letters phonetically.
Since then, supported by their French-Korean guitarist father Nicolas Restoin, Nora (vocals and ukulele) and Isaac (trumpet and guitar) have delighted audiences in Europe and South America with a repertoire of classic Spanish and Latin American songs. They begin their debut tour of Australia at the end of February.
We’re on a Zoom call early on a Sunday morning. In addition to their native French, Nora and Isaac speak some Spanish and a little English. Nora is almost buried in a large blue wool scarf (it’s 8 degrees in Brittany), and Isaac is sporting a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. Papa Nicolas, who smiles and laughs throughout the interview, appears to help them with his English, which Nora claims to be learning from episodes of Breaking Bad, The Last of Us, and Stranger Things.
“Breaking Bad is my favorite!” she says.
Nicolas explains hastily. “I try to find easy solutions for the children, so they don’t have the feeling of working. “We try to find TV shows that are somewhat addictive… something to get addicted to… what’s the word?”
“Compulsive watching!” says Isaac.
“Yes! Something we got hooked on, but not too much… couch potatoes! Nicolas says with a big smile. “With the subtitles (in French), they learn quickly and get used to the pronunciation. It’s a good way to learn.”
Bright-eyed 16-year-olds learning English with meth cook Jesse Pinkman and hitman Mike Ehrmantraut? What could go wrong?
“I don’t know if we can say, because Nora is only 12 years old,” adds Nicolas. “But we also like the Narcos series. There is a lot of violence and some sex too, but it is in Spanish and English, so it is perfect for us to learn.”
For Nora, the challenge goes beyond language. The Latin songs she sings with such charming directness often speak of the most adult feelings: the Cuban, double-entendre El Cuarto de Tula, for example, is about a young woman whose sexual desire became so intense that she prepared her own bedroom. . She caught fire and called the firefighters. Many others are about love and desire, disappointment and loss.
“But I don’t have a boyfriend!” Nora laughs with wide eyes. “So when I sing, I don’t think about anyone. I (use) my imagination. I work a lot on pronunciation and how to sing the melody with emotion. But I’m single!
So far, Nora and Isaac show no signs of rebellion against the music their parents clearly adore, especially their mother, Catherine, who plays Cuban music at home because it rains a lot in Brittany and the music makes her feel. “more sunny”.
Nora also brightens her day with K-pop. “I like Stray Kids, and two members of the group are from Australia, Felix and Bang Chan,” she says. “I really love them.” Isaac likes metal bands from the 70s and 80s, including AC/DC.
“There is a lot of music in our family,” says Nicolas, French but born in Korea. “Sometimes it can be a little noisy. In one bedroom is K-pop with Nora dancing and in the other is Isaac and his rock. And the mother who is listening to Latin music in the living room.”
For Isaac, Latin music is “a matter of taste.”
“How exactly do you explain why you like a dish?” says Isaac. “You just know that you like it… But I understand the question. “We are from France and we do not have Latin roots in our family.”
As for Nora: “I like the melodies, I like how the original artist sang them,” she says. “I like the emotions that songs convey to me.”
Nora and Isaac’s set for the Australian tour will stick to tried-and-true material from their 2021 album, Latin & Love Studies, including Brazilian composer Luiz Bonfa’s Manhã de Carnaval, Colombian classic Arroz con Coco and Mexican pop song Hasta the root.
But there will also be some songs in English. “We just learned the Violent Femmes song Blister in the Sun,” says Nicolas. “So maybe we’ll play that, more as a joke or something funny during the show because Latin songs are usually very sad. Maybe we’ll play some AC/DC.”
Isaac suddenly tunes in to the conversation. “Yes! I’m a big fan and they’re an Australian band!” His father reflects on it: “I’m sure it’s possible to play an AC/DC hit in a quieter, softer way.”
Nora et Isaac will play at Mona Foma in Hobart on February 23 and 24, and at the Hobart City hall February 25; Sydney’s Factory Theater on February 28; and the Thornbury in Melbourne on February 29