Houston favorites with a new record and nationwide tour, the Rankin Twins are sexy survivors.
Amy and April Rankin of the Rankin Twins have quickly become favorites across Texas for their anthemic takes on Lone Star country music, radiant personalities and sultry good looks. But their most laudable quality may be unknown to many of their fans: They’re survivors, having overcome Amy’s 2008 brain tumor, an illness that threatened to derail everything for the Texas Top 50 duo.
The identical twins grew up in Portland, a small town just over the Nueces Bay bridge from Corpus Christi. Although they were always musicians at heart, they forwent the school band in favor of sports and other extracurriculars. On the side, listening to music, and performing in whatever venues they could scare up, was a big part of their lives. “Our mom was super shy as a kid so she didn’t want us to be,” says the petite and pretty Amy. “We danced, cheered, sang, did talent shows.”
The two eventually earned bachelor’s degrees from Texas A&M—Amy in marketing and April in agricultural development—and moved to Dallas to do the 9-to-5 thing. Though successful, the grind wasn’t for them. So in 2008, the sisters, who turn 31 this month, formed a group, recruiting band members to join guitarist and vocalist Amy, who often tackles the honest and strong lyrics, and singer and percussionist April, who has a gift for pop-friendly melodies.
In the fall of that year, however, their dreams were put on hold when Amy underwent two dangerous surgeries to remove a brain tumor. “I took the tumor thing with a ‘bring it on’ attitude,” says Amy. “I was completely positive about it.”
Soon after, Amy and April hit the Austin area, where they live today. The two have day jobs, as co-owners of Twinty Photography, a family and wedding portraits biz. And a few months back, Moonshine and Maybes—the twins’ “first big-girl album,” as Amy puts it—was released. A nationwide tour is in full swing; when it ends early next month, the Rankins, who play locally at such venues as Firehouse Saloon and Goode’s Armadillo Palace, will stir H-Town back into their regular rotation of Texas cities.
Amy, who’s single, recently moved in with April and April’s new husband Keith, where the women write their muscular but breezy numbers that encourage dancing. “Jezebel” commands attention for its boot-shuffling tempo, for example, while the Southern-rocking, fiddle-fronted “Swagger” is tailor-made for girls’ night out. It’s powerful and upbeat stuff, very much like the artists who make it. “The music has been really positive,” says Amy, “and focused on moving on, and not on the past.”