B*Witched look back: ‘We can still do the dance moves – maybe not the bouncy ones’

The 90s pop sensations talk friendship, fame and double denim

B*Witched in 1998 and 2022. Later photograph: Simon Webb/The Guardian. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and makeup: Bekki Mitchell. Makeup assistant: Cleo Lowe. Hair assistants: Chloe Oaks, Sophie Gorman. Archive photograph: Alamy

Lindsay Armaou, Sinéad O’Carroll and twin sisters Keavy and Edele Lynch are B*Witched – the denim-clad Irish pop group that topped charts with C’est la Vie, To You I Belong and Rollercoaster in the late 1990s. Having sold more than 3m records and toured with Britney Spears and ‘NSync, they were dropped in 2002, but reunited for a reunion tour in 2012. Their podcast, Starting Over with B*Witched, is available now.

Lindsay (centre, right)

We were really happy promoting C’est la Vie before it was a hit. I’m struck by the innocence of it all; it looks such clean fun. I was 20, but a very young 20.

Denim was a big thing for us. We couldn’t do our dance routines in anything but sensible shoes, and denim was easy to wear, wash and style. Our whole look was never about sex appeal. It was about accessibility, being relatable and reflecting that we were the girls next door.

When we were first signed, we lived in this little house together in Egham, Surrey. We’d been doing the groundwork for months – touring under-18 nightclubs and performing in school assemblies in the mornings. We’d head to the launderette in our matching bomber jackets in the afternoons and come back to call our manager and ask: “When are things going to take off?” She’d say: “Just you wait … your feet will not touch the ground. You’ll be begging me for a day off.” She was right. The single came out, and the next time we walked to the launderette we were recognised left, right and centre.

Getting dropped was a shock. I was going through the loss of my mother at the time, so my career was secondary to what was happening personally. The realisation didn’t come until a few years later. At that point, I started picking up the pieces.

Nowadays the dynamic is so different. We are all mothers and have so much empathy – there is nothing these women haven’t been through with me. There’s massive respect and I feel incredibly lucky to have them in my life. We can still do the dance moves – definitely not that bouncy extreme, but we’ve still got it.

Sinéad (centre, left)

I wasn’t blond before I joined B*Witched. I was the fairest skinned and had the lightest eyebrows, so they dyed my hair. I felt I might look better if I stayed dark, but I trusted them and thought: “Well, these are professionals, let them do their job.”

I was six years older than the girls and had already lived away from home, so was more equipped for the group in some ways, but I still found fame overwhelming. Especially when fans turned up at the airport. I would always ask: “How old are you? Do your parents know you’re here?” My main thought was: “Oh my God, what world have I stepped into?”

Me and Edele clicked. We had this intense friendship from the get-go. There were little explosions, because it was such a deep connection, with love and respect as well. If we had a day off, I’d want to go for a coffee on my own but the girls all wanted to stay together. I’d think: “But we’re together all the time!”

After the group ended, I needed to find myself. I felt guilty, but the only answer was to have a break. That resulted in a few years of not speaking much. I’m so glad I got a second chance.

Keavy (bottom)

Around the time this was taken, we had found a piece of paper describing what our manager wanted from us. The words next to my name said: “Elfin ragamuffin urchin.” The dodgy bob was not my choice. I remember getting it cut and thinking: “I really don’t like this.”

At the start, we had no idea how we’d get anywhere and we were pretty innocent. We’d hang out at our local dance centre and people would say: “What are you guys rehearsing for?” And our answer would genuinely be: “We’re rehearsing for our dreams!” I remember trying to cook a pasta bake in our house in Egham, but we didn’t even put any sauce in it. It was just burned, dried crunchy pasta.

I started to have a breakdown before the second album. It was just the continuous want of people needing a piece of you from the moment you woke up. It should have been a brilliant time but anytime someone said something like, “Gosh, you’re getting a tan, you look lovely”, I’d just think, “So? What are you even saying that to me for?” I didn’t understand what was happening to my brain but I kept going.

At one point, we were in Switzerland and about to do an interview. I rang Edele in her hotel room. She was like: “What’s wrong?” I said: “I can’t continue.” She immediately got the record company on the phone and told them I was going home and needed some time off. That saved me for a while. Then, of course, we were dropped and I had no idea what I was supposed to do. My sister and I were inseparable growing up, and it wasn’t until we were 26 that we went our different ways. That was really strange and actually quite frightening.

These days, I love being back with the girls. Back then, because we got a No 1 with our debut single, it got more stressful trying to hit the top spot with every new release. This time, it’s all about nostalgia, a walk down memory lane. It’s brilliant.

Edele (top)

We’re all on the same stool and I’m on the back of it, perched. I suppose the photographer wanted to show our togetherness. Nowadays we sit over each other instinctively.

[Producer] Ray Hedges watched us closely and gave us roles – Keavy was the “mischievous one”, Lindsey was the “bubbly cute one”, Sinéad would have been “sophisticated”. I was lucky in that I was left to my own devices. I had a very strong sense of self and if I didn’t like something, I’d say it. These days I’m more diplomatic. There were times when I said stuff I probably didn’t need to.

When C’est la Vie went to No 1, we couldn’t even compute it. Sony put a big party on and there was a massive screen playing the video. They gave us Prada bags. I thought: “That’s an ugly bag, what’s that?” I went to give it to my friend Peggy Anne and she said: “Any idea what they’re giving you there? It’s probably about £1,000.” So I decided to keep it.

Watching Keavy have her breakdown was the biggest low for me, way worse than getting dropped. I wanted to go home with her, but I needed to hold the fort as we were promoting [1999 single] Jesse Hold On. I was so glad that I was given the room to be strong and stand up for her when I needed to. There was a bit of worry from the label – “What are the press going to say?” – but health comes first. My sister is the best gift I’ve ever been given.

The dynamic is really good now – we are healthy and get on really well. On stage, we see each other more than we did then, too. We were known for our dance routines but were quite robotic. We’d knuckle down and afterwards say: “That was great. How was it for you?” Now we clock each other and enjoy it.


Harriet Gibsone

The GuardianTramp

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