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With a potent mix of sound, image and attitude, the musicians on the following pages are ready to rock. WWD takes a closer look.

Skye High

Skye Sweetnam looks like an average teenager. Curled into a black leather chair with her legs tucked under her, she doodles a demonic pixie face on a notepad. She’s in a world of her own, no doubt pretending she’s back in her hometown of Bolton, Ont., bouncing around her bedroom while singing into her “brush-a-fone.”

“You know, when you use your hairbrush like a mike,” she explains of the ritual countless youngsters, whether they admit it or not, indulge in.

For Sweetnam, though, the fantasy is reality. Only 16, she’s already performed for crowds upward of 15,000 as the opener for Britney Spears’ abbreviated Onyx Hotel Tour earlier this year. And on Sept. 21, Capitol will release Sweetnam’s first album, “Noise from the Basement.”

On the spectrum of performing PYTs, Sweetnam is the happy medium between Spears’ oversexed kitten and Avril Lavigne’s abrasively angry sulker. With heavily lined eyes and a blessedly big, pillowy pout, Sweetnam jumps around stage in frilly miniskirts, tight tops and biker boots, singing the tunes she penned with co-writer James Robertson.

She also bills herself as the real deal, musically and personality-wise. Even her marquee-ready name is authentic — Sweetnam is a form of the original Irish Sweetenham, while Skye, she defends firmly on her Web site, is after Scotland’s Isle of Skye.

“I strive for attention,” she says candidly. “I have ever since I was a little kid.” She wrote her first song, “Friends Forever,” with two best pals when she was only nine. Her mother, Deirdre, entered the song in a local contest where the prize was a tidy $1,000. “My friends and I spent more time figuring out how to split the money,” she says. (They didn’t win.)

Around the same time, Sweetnam started pestering her father, Greg, to teach her the piano. Her father works in the rock and gravel business and Sweetnam likes to joke, “He’s in one kind of rock and I’m in another.”

This story first appeared in the September 2, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

She soon enrolled in music classes and was soaking up as much knowledge as she could, from German opera to Frank Zappa to Fiona Apple, taking the time to figure out chord progressions along the way. Sweetnam also began keeping notebooks handy, jotting down daily musings that eventually turned into lyrics that read like a diary.

“This album is mostly about being my age, so you can see how I’ve grown up,” she adds. “At the beginning, it’s about pretending to be a superstar or about bratty everyday things.”

That would explain the song “Billy S.,” in which Sweetnam blasphemes against all that is literary in her flippant nicknaming of William Shakespeare.

“I actually love Shakespeare now,” she says, defending her younger, more naive self. “But the song was about not wanting to do my homework.”

A few tracks later, she tackles another classic: Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.” (And as covers go, her metal-infused version is not half bad.) Even though, when she first heard the original, she asked her manager, “Is this new?” Sweetnam was quick to pick up on Debbie Harry’s inimitable chic.

“She’s such a classic,” she notes of Harry’s signature look. “And if anyone reminds me of her today, it’s Gwen Stefani.

“I love Gwen,” she adds unabashedly, joining the ranks of her fellow teenagers. “She’s fun — funky and still pretty.”

Likewise, Sweetnam works pretty and punk on- and offstage, repeatedly referring to the mix as her split personality. She loves fashion and can recognize a good thing when she sees it — wherever she finds it.

“When I go shopping, I go shopping,” she says, keeping track of looks she likes in her catchall notebook. Anything with a punk motif will catch her eye, especially, say, a bespangled D&G skirt or the chains draped on the lapels of a black Yohji Yamamoto blazer. And, as always is the case with a younger crowd, labels like Marc by Marc Jacobs or Abercrombie & Fitch make an impression.

She frequently visits the local Ontario Value Village thrift stores. “I get the weirdest stuff there for nothing,” she says. “Or I can buy a $2,000 pair of pants at a designer store that my band thinks makes no sense.”

But that’s not to say that Sweetnam doesn’t understand the value of a dollar. “On the Britney tour, everyone there had paid $100 and expected a huge show,” she says. “Hopefully, I delivered. I feel like I have to prove myself and I take it very seriously.”

That’s what it all boils down to for Sweetnam — the performance and the audience. “You don’t see the crowd, just hear the roar,” she says of the preshow rush she thrives on.

“The lights go up and it’s like, ‘Here we go.’” Then the reverse fantasy begins. “I find a pocket where I’m comfortable,” she says. “I dream that I’m back in my bedroom, singing into my brush-a-fone.” — Nandini D’Souza

The Sunshine Boys

Who knew foggy Ireland could be home to some of the best California pop around? Well, The Thrills, for one. The five Dublin school friends have mastered the sunny, upbeat sound of the West Coast.

This month, Conor Deasy (vocals), Daniel Ryan (guitar), Padraic McMahon (bass), Kevin Horan (keys) and Ben Carrigan (drums) release their second album, “Let’s Bottle Bohemia” (Virgin). And it’s just as full of the cheerful melodies and lush arrangements as their first, “So Much for the City,” which, when it debuted only last year, had critics hailing them as the new Beach Boys.

Since then, they’ve been on a marathon touring run. When not headlining their own shows, they’ve opened for Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Morrissey. They’ll also open several shows on The Pixies’ much-anticipated American tour this fall. An impressive roster for any band, up-and-coming or not.

For the new album, the band paid direct homage to their California sound by going to one of its pioneers, Van Dyke Parks, who helped The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson write the seminal “Pet Sounds.”

Says Carrigan of Parks’ old-school quirkiness, “He invited us to his house and met us wearing only dungarees, and chain-smoking cigarettes.”

In the studio, adds Deasy, “he was full of a million ideas and told us to take our pick — he wasn’t precious about anything.” In the end, Parks worked a beautiful, unrestrained string arrangement for the album’s last track, “The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing.”

But where Wilson and his cohorts originally sang about holding hands and resting heads on shoulders, Deasy goes for sad-glad songs — cynical stories dressed up in cheery melodies. The catchiest track on “Let’s Bottle Bohemia,” “Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?,” takes a not-so-subtle stab at Hollywood’s adore-’em-and-forget-’em habit. But it’s artfully masked in a boogie beat and swirling dervish of strings, this time arranged by Michel Colombier of Serge Gainsbourg fame. And on “Gate-Crashing,” Deasy exorcises some Catholic guilt, asking, “If I could learn to love you, can you learn to love me? Lust will only get us so far now.”

Coming off all the success from the first album, Deasy says working on the follow-up has been stressful, but he adds, “We’re just going with the momentum.”

And the band is just trying to enjoy themselves. It helps that their bus driver is the colorful, kookie “George from Georgia,” as they refer to him. George from Georgia took the boys gator hunting down South. “You dangle a puppy from a harness over the water and wait for the gator to bite,” explains Carrigan. He quickly assures, however, that “the puppy is pulled up before it can be eaten or hurt.”

In front of the cameras, The Thrills have mastered their look: practiced disinterest, no antics, no smiles. (And they certainly don’t pull the fashion card at all, sticking to a strict uniform of T-shirts, jeans and sneakers.) But off-set, they’re 100 percent jesters, concocting entertaining, if untrue, tales of McMahon’s circus-performing days — supposedly responsible for his deftly turned amateur card tricks — and Horan’s and Ryan’s former careers as child actors.

“I was in the Irish ‘Beverly Hills 90210,’ called ‘Glen Row,’” explains Ryan. (Glen Rowe is the name of their tour manager.)

“For 10 or 12 years, I was on ‘Fair City,’ which is similar to ‘The O.C.,’” says Horan. (“Fair City” is, in fact, an Irish soap.)

“But,” finishes Ryan, who lays on the yarns with a consummate game face, “his character was killed off when he murdered a cousin for sleeping with his wife.” — N.D.

Double Vision

In the grand tradition of The Beach Boys’ Wilson brothers, The Everly Brothers and, yes, even The Pointer Sisters, comes The Pierces — siblings who are ready to take on the music world.

With a genetic tie that grants their voices a super-smooth blend, Allison, 29, and Catherine, 26, meet their audiences with their harmonies, a guitar and tales of heartbreak.

The spotlight is nothing new for the Birmingham, Ala.-born sisters, who as teenagers faced audiences in toe shoes and tutus as professional ballerinas. An injury steered them away from ballet and toward music and, a few years ago, a migration to New York’s East Village. Next month, they release “Light of the Moon” (Universal), an album that explores the intricacies of personal relationships.

“One of the most important things in life is learning to deal with people you love,” says Catherine. “It’s a constant battle.”

She should know, having to no doubt battle the legion of groupies who swarm her boyfriend, Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes. She’s hesitant to mention him by name, saying only, “My boyfriend’s in music and sometimes gives us pointers on lyrics.”

On the musical side, Allison describes the album as “fairly mainstream and pop sounding,” adding, “At heart, our music’s a little bit more raw and folky.”

The sisters’ attitude toward style is also a little more bare-bones than that of some pop divas. The two are more likely to be found digging their way through thrift stores than tony boutiques to craft a look that Allison describes as “a little bit retro with splashes of modern.”

“Anywhere from the Sixties to the early Eighties,” adds Catherine of their target decades. “After that, it all went downhill.” In addition to a discerning eye for vintage, the songstress also makes use of scissors and safety pins in the interest of fashion. “I rework my wardrobe constantly,” she says.

“If you want to look cool, then you have to be really creative,” notes Allison, of dressing on a shoestring budget. She’s looking forward to a tour of the Southeast this fall partially for the fertile hunting grounds in secondhand shops there.

“We’ll replenish our wardrobe for $100,” she says.

As young and pretty proto-stars, The Pierces try to keep their public image as close to their personal style as possible, resisting the proddings of stylists who want them to appear a certain way.

“You want to look sexy and beautiful,” says Catherine. “But you don’t want to look like the stereotypical pop tart.”

When trying on an outfit, Catherine sometimes asks herself, “Is this too Britney?”

So whom among the fashionable set do the Pierce sisters admire? “I really like the way Kirsten Dunst…” begins Catherine, when Allison chimes in, “I was just about to say Kirsten Dunst.” Clearly, the sister connection runs deep as the two often complete each other’s sentences and seem to think in tandem on most things, including Dunst’s look.

“She’s stylish, but it doesn’t look like she tries too hard,” says Catherine, while her sister adds that it’s “sexy without being obscene.” Sort of, it would seem, like themselves. — Evan Clark

The Smooth Talker

“Rappers can’t be happy,” says hip-hop artist Jin, the grin slipping off his face just in time for the next flashbulb during a photo shoot. The flash pops, and his posed scowl melts into a smile. “Naw,” he says. “I’m happy. I’m a happy rapper.”

As he should be. The charming 22-year-old Miami native, born Jin Au-Yeung, has fans worldwide, and hasn’t even released his first full-length album yet. But that will change on Oct. 19, when “The Rest Is History” (Ruff Ryders/Virgin) finally debuts.

While his fans have been anticipating this record for some time, Jin’s wait started years ago. Born a first-generation Chinese-American, the rapper hardly fits the typical hip-hop bad-boy image. Nevertheless, he began his quick-witted word duels in junior high and continued refining them when he relocated to Queens, N.Y., where his family moved from Miami nearly three years ago.

After peddling self-recorded CDs and freestyle rapping on the streets of Manhattan, Jin finally nabbed a spot battling on BET’s “106 & Park” Freestyle Fridays competition. By the time he took his seventh straight win on the show, he already had signed with hip-hop label Ruff Ryders — the first Asian-American to do so — and later scored the role of Jimmy, the mechanic, in last year’s

“2 Fast 2 Furious,” starring with Paul Walker and Tyrese.

With success has come another battle of different sorts, however. Strains of Cantonese lilt through Jin’s first of two singles, “Learn Chinese” (released last year), commingling sounds of the MC’s heritage with his primarily playful hip-hop. This combination echoes throughout the album and has led to accusations that the artist is using his race as a gimmick.

“It’s such a thin line to walk for me, because [my heritage] is not something I’m ashamed of,” he says. “I’m proud of it, and I think that’s what part of the hip-hop culture is about — representing who you really are.

“And I just happen to be — shh, don’t tell anybody — Chinese!” he laughs.

It’s difficult to stay lighthearted with so many critics analyzing his every move, but Jin keeps a steady head. “If I was a wack Asian rapper, there wouldn’t be all this fuss, [but] I didn’t b.s. my way through it. I didn’t pay anybody off,” he says. “So that’s what gets me by — I just look back on what I know I’ve accomplished already, and it pretty much just eliminates all of that doubt.”

At the other end of the stick, he’s found that some folks, ahem, overembrace his heritage. In the beginning, he explains, “[stylists] all had a certain idea that everything I wore had to be Asian-related. The only thing I can do is just laugh it off. I’m all for representing my culture, but it’s a thin line.”

Instead, he prefers baggy jeans and sweats, hats, headbands and, well, that’s about it. Not exactly label-centric, he admits: “I like to keep it real simple.” He then pauses and adds, “Well, you know those things that cowboys wear with the two strings — what are those called?” Bolo ties. “Those are cool. I might have to introduce those to the rap thing.”

Now that’s a happy rapper. — Lisa Kelly

Triple Threat

Everything about The Mooney Suzuki is big — big sound, big personalities and, seeing lead singer Sammy James Jr.’s voluminous muttonchops, big hair.

A favorite on New York’s grungy garage scene for the past few years, James, drummer Augie Wilson and guitarist Graham Tyler just released their third album, “Alive & Amplified” (Columbia). And to take their raw rock sound to the next big, big level, they teamed up with megaproducers

The Matrix, who famously masterminded Liz Phair’s mainstream pop makeover and Avril Lavigne’s career-launching “Sk8ter Boi.”

Strange bedfellows, indeed, for an all-rock, all-the-time band. “We were hanging with Avril and said, ‘Girlfriend, your album is so f—ing fresh,’ so we called up The Matrix and were like, ‘Yo,’” jokes James of how it all came to pass.

Some garage purists have cried “sellout” at the collaboration with such slick producers. However, the album is still packed with The Mooney Suzuki’s signature sweaty, sexed-up rock anthems that riff on everyone from Kiss and Jimi Hendrix to the New York Dolls — it’s just a little bit more polished.

But when it’s live The Mooney Suzuki really comes into its own. Onstage, the band is fantastically hyperactive, muscling through shows with seemingly nuclear-powered energy. The crowd pumps its collective fist as James thrashes around, Wilson shreds the drums and Tyler pulls off some freakishly flexible bends without missing a single power chord.

That sort of energy translates in person, too, where the guys play off each other like ironic frat brothers. Asked to sum up their styles, Wilson says, “I’m Sporty Mooney.”

But taking stock of Wilson’s predisposition for natty three-piece suits, fedoras and scarves, James says, “No, he has more of a post-war, elegant fascist style.”

In his own rhythmic patter, Tyler says of James, “Sam’s a kung-fu hippie from gangster city.”

“And Tyler’s got a Renaissance fairy look,” Wilson concludes.

They play the image game with cheeky aplomb, especially James. “Porcelainize my blemishes,” he says to a makeup artist. He also takes advantage of arriving at a shoot before Wilson and Tyler. “I want to get to some of the shirts before the guys get here,” he says, rifling through a rack of vintage looks, including a leather biker vest from secondhand treasure trove What Comes Around Goes Around. Turns out, he had contemplated buying the vest a while back, but for the steep price, he says, “I could buy a guitar,” setting his priorities straight. Otherwise, he buys 90 percent of his clothes on eBay.

Tyler, who also shops chez eBay, shows up with a cool brown leather belt he stole from his mother’s closet and a cowboy-style leather vest, while Wilson works his debonair motif.

“We are handsome gentlemen,” says Tyler, taking note of the scene.

“We do seem to love fashion,” adds James. “We burn calories just looking good.” — N.D.

Found in Translation

Like cheerleaders surrounding a chess champ, in New York, Utada’s entourage of five — two all-purpose assistants, the American and Japanese record label reps and her Japanese manager — appears out of context. This is perhaps because the 21-year-old has yet to register a blip on the fickle radar of American pop music.

However, the trappings of celebrity are anything but show. In Japan, the New York native’s second home, Utada Hikaru is already a pop princess. Her 1999 debut album, “First Love,” released when she was 16, set sales records in Japan and has since gone on to sell more than 10 million copies. (To give those numbers an American perspective,

consider Britney Spears, whose debut album was also released in 1999 and has sold approximately 14 million copies.) And like any pop star worth her salt, there’s been some scandal. In 2002, at the age of 19, she married the director of her music videos, a man 15 years her senior.

Now, still married and taking a break from pursuing a degree in biology from Columbia University, Utada has her sights set on making it big in America. Her first English album, “Exodus” (Island), is scheduled to hit shelves Oct. 5.

“This is more intensely me,” says Utada of the album. “It was more difficult and challenging, in the sense that I could do anything I wanted. I mean, in Japan, I did new things, but I tried to keep it within the boundaries of J-pop,” or Japanese pop music, which tends to be rooted in jazz.

Teaming up with producer Timbaland, whose unique style has created hits for Missy Elliott, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, was a step in the right direction. “We worked on three songs together over a week in Miami,” says Utada.

Running the pop gauntlet has also given Utada an education on her personal style. “After working in this kind of business for a long time, I’ve tried on so many different kinds of outfits and worked with so many stylists. It’s really taught me what I do look good in or what I don’t look good in.”

So what does Utada prefer? “I don’t like things that are feminine,” she says, and adds, “I really have a lot more fun when I buy a lot of cheap stuff.”

Consequently, when it comes to shopping, Utada is more likely to be found combing her way through the men’s clothing bin at a thrift shop than at a Madison Avenue boutique.

“It’s about what reflects your character,” she explains. “If something you wear doesn’t match your character, it looks really off.” — Ross Tucker

The Torch Bearer

Keren Ann brushes her jagged chestnut bangs from her oval eyes, looks down and says, “Yeah, it’s OK to cry.”

She’s not referring to the moment at hand or a particularly sad recollection from the past, but to music in general. Because for her, she’d rather a tune make you tear up, or even better, openly weep, than go in one ear and out the other with little emotional effect. She explains, “I can’t stand music that leaves me numb.”

It’s not surprising, then, that the French chanteuse’s recently released “Not Going Anywhere” (Metro Blue) beckons its listeners to get in touch with their softer side through its wistful lyrics, jaunty string arrangements and woozy, jazzy horns.

What is surprising is that the Victoires de la Musique’s twice-nominated best artist abandoned her sexy mother tongue for this new collection, which marks her debut Stateside, following 2000’s “La Biographie de Luka Philipsen” and 2002’s “La Disparation.” In light of the soured romance between France and America over participation in the Iraq war, one might wonder if this was the 30-year-old’s way of smoothing the transition. No, she asserts, laughing, “Politics is not a part of my preoccupation. I just needed a new physical form. I get bored very easily.”

The same is true for Keren Ann when it comes to style. The petite beauty, born of a Javanese-Dutch mother and a Russian-Israeli father, says she mostly kicks around in a favorite pair of roughed-up Harley-Davidson boots and worn-in jeans, but she loves dressing up as well.

“It’s like going to a tea salon and choosing between green tea, vanilla tea or black tea. It depends on your mood. And clothing has a lot to do with mood.”

Don’t expect Keren Ann to stray too far from her everyday relaxed look, however. At a recent outdoor show in France, she donned an elegant gown, but opted out of footwear in favor of bare feet. “It was this windy outdoor venue,” she explains, “and it was fun to just take off the shoes.”

While she says many designers are beginning to send her an array of looks to choose from, she insists her favorite places to dig up clothes are vintage boutiques. She seems to gravitate not only toward the style of vintage clothes, but also to the stories they tell. And no wonder. “Music has moved me so much,” she explains, “that I need other things to move me just as much.”

Being moved and escaping boredom shouldn’t be much of a problem for Keren Ann now that she is in New York strumming out her melodies in concert to promote “Not Going Anywhere.” As she explains, with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, “It’s always the first time when it comes to a new audience.” — Jennifer Hirshlag

Revenge of the Nerds

Amid all the gritty post-punk Sturm und Drang emanating from New York City venues these days, a chirpy, downright happy sound can be heard. It’s coming from the local indie-pop darlings of Palomar, who just released their third album, “Palomar III: Revenge of Palomar” (Self Starter).

Long a critics’ favorite, the band — guitarists Rachel Warren and Christina Prostano, bassist Sarah Brockett and drummer Dale Miller — is slowly starting to get the mass recognition it deserves for its smarty-pants songs. At a show earlier this year, it even had a brush with fame that warranted a boldfaced Page Six blurb.

OK, so Monica Lewinsky doesn’t necessarily register high on the celeb wattage meter, but she is well outside the hip-to-be-square crowd that usually haunts Palomar’s shows. Lewinsky liked the music so much, she bought the band’s last CD. “She left the change for us,” deadpans Prostano.

The bandmates aren’t really the name-dropping types, though. It takes a little prodding to get them to dish on their connection to The Strokes. Apparently, Palomar’s former bassist — who left the band amicably before Brockett stepped in — dated Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture, and he and bandmate Albert Hammond Jr. sang on Palomar’s first two albums, handily titled “Palomar I” and “Palomar II.” In turn, Palomar opened for The Strokes last year.

“Curiously,” Prostano wryly notes, “they weren’t available for ‘Palomar III.’”

So in lieu of name-dropping, what’s the master plan for making it big? “One fashion photo shoot at a time,” jokes Prostano. “We’re going for subtle infiltration.”

Prostano, who attended a tony Connecticut Catholic high school, gamely slips back into pseudo prep-school uniform for this shoot. But onstage, it’s a different story for the three ladies, who eschew high style in favor of tanks, jeans, skirts or anything that moves and breathes easily. “We need to be able to work,” says Brockett.

“We wore fancy shoes once,” adds Warren, referring to pointy-toed heels, “and that didn’t work out too well.” She says they actually played badly because they were so uncomfortable.

As the sole lad in the group, Miller gets picked on when it comes to style, especially since he generally sticks to a strict palette of monotone gray, white or black T-shirts. The girls bully him into donning something a little bit livelier on this day; otherwise, he says, he wears “whatever’s been lying on my floor.”

Offstage, their do-it-yourself attitude is a little bit geeky — well, geeky in that cool, Brooklyn-brewed way. Prostano refers to their look as “sassy Old Navy.” It’s no surprise, then, that they’re vintage addicts and shop at Brooklyn’s Beacon’s Closet, or that they count Marc by Marc Jacobs as one of their favorite lines. But when you’re young, cute and into that vintage thing, who doesn’t? — N.D.

The Grime Minister

She may be clad in Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and rare Adidas finds, but 21-year-old British rapper Shystie refuses to disappear into the sea of MTV midriffs. “I’m not one of those girls who runs around in a little skirt, a bra top and high heels,” says the artist, who’s on the forefront of the emerging “grime” music scene, a tirade of rapid-fire rapping that is fast becoming the U.K.’s answer to hip-hop. “On MTV, I don’t think you see a lot of people who dress like I do. It’s street, but a nice kind of street — a bit feminine.”

It’s this bit of femininity — or feminism, that is — that led to her big break in the male-dominated domain of grime. In “I Love You,” she penned a retort to U.K. rapper Dizzee Rascal’s “I Luv U,” and although not officially released, the single made waves on underground pirate radio stations and led to prime-time slots on the BBC’s Radio One.

And with the July release of her debut album, “Diamond in the Dirt” (Polydor/Universal) — for which most of the lyrics were written in text on her mobile phone — Shystie is intending to take the music world one step at a time. For now, that means she is sticking to her home turf. “I’d describe my music as very British,” she says. “And it’s this arena that I’m concentrating on at the moment. I’m not trying to break into the U.S., yet. It’ll always be there — when I’m ready.” — Nina Jones

The Belladonnas

Paola and Chiara Iezzi are sisters who are as different from one another as fire is to ice. While Paola, 29, is a sensual brunette, Chiara, 30, is a blonde, blue-eyed diva.

It is perhaps this contrast that has ignited their singing and songwriting team Paola&Chiara, which hit it big in 1997 when they went from performing in Milan’s smoky bars to appearing in Italy’s huge Festival di Sanremo.

Now the duo is riding the wave of success from the spring release of “Blu” (Sony Music Italia). The album, which the musicians say was inspired by the color of the ocean, the blue light of the dance floors and a “blues” emotional state, quickly climbed Italy’s charts this summer, with its title track leading the way. The electronic sounds on the CD were inspired by bands like N.E.R.D., and marked an evolution from Paola&Chiara’s early Irish folk-rock sound.

The two have also undergone an evolution in their fashion sense. Growing up in Milan, they were like twins, wearing the same clothes. As their musical talent grew, however, so did their taste for high style. In 2002, in conjunction with the release of their third album, “Festival,” Paola and Chiara joined forces with Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. “We immediately fell in love with their collection, and since then, we haven’t stopped wearing their clothes, either on the stage or in our personal lives,” says Chiara.

But Paola and Chiara don’t intend to stop there. “Fashion and music are our passions,” says Paola. “We have lots of ideas, from lingerie to clothes and accessories. In fact, we have already designed some T-shirts and slips for the last tour, also on sale on our Web site.”

Should Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen be forewarned? Not for now. Although the sisters say they would love to live in America for a while, they admit it’s a hard target for Italian singers, but add, “We say hard, but not impossible.” — Chiara Hughes

Das Post-Punk

She sings in German and even talks about how much she likes living in Germany. In a country in which anything resembling patriotism is viewed with skepticism, if not horror, this is a brave move indeed and not generally the best prerequisite for international stardom.

Not that Mieze, who refuses to share her real name, cares. The 25-year-old lead singer of the five-member electro-pop band Mia, currently touring in support of its sophomore effort, “Stille Poste” (R.O.T.), has an attitude every bit as tough as her post-punk image would suggest.

Mieze says the top priority in her career is the music, but she adds that the importance of her image doesn’t fall far behind. To wit, the group itself decides every aspect of its presentation, including outfits for the current tour. Mieze even made the cotton dress she alternates onstage with looks designed by Berlin duo Maison Anti.

Like many cool Berlin girls, Mieze’s style is rooted in the Eighties. She says she tries to follow her mother’s advice of sticking to three colors, especially black and white with maybe a gold belt or gold shoes. She also likes to keep it sexy and feminine — provided she can still jump around when it comes time to put on a show.

As the only girl in the band, she says she tries to win the boys over to her vision of what to wear, although she’s not always convinced they get it. What she prefers more is acting as unofficial style consultant for friends. She explains, “I like helping them show the best of what is inside on the outside.”

Americans, meanwhile, who might want to get a look at or listen to Mieze, may have to rack up some frequent-flyer miles. While Mieze says Mia would love to bring its boppy hooks to the U.S. someday, for now the band is concentrating on growing its fan base in Germany as well as in France, the Benelux countries, England and Japan. — Damien McGuinness