It was simply love at first note. In 2005, when iconic Kiwi singers Suzanne Lynch, Jackie Clarke and Tina Cross were fatefully brought together to perform in charity concerts for survivors of the Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand, they knew instantly there was magic between them.
"We met by accident and skyrockets went off," explains Jackie. "We thought we had to do something more together."
So, over several cups of coffee, the idea for a vocal group was formed. Band names were thrown about until someone noted, "Well, we're ladies doing killer songs…" and The Lady Killers was born!
Now the sensational songbirds are celebrating 16 sweet years of singing together with a birthday concert in Auckland this month and a newly-released single Just One Look.
As entertaining off the stage as on it, the trio gathers for the Weekly photoshoot, oohing and aahing over the clothes – before one steals another one's outfit – while having each other in stitches talking about wardrobe requests and sharing tales of emergency toilet stops. It's obvious what goes on tour, does definitely not stay on tour.
"One thing I've learned over 16 years, is you have to be very careful about telling Jackie if you are in any sort of embarrassing strife," laughs Tina, 62.
"We had a Waitangi concert eight years ago and I was flying from Wellington to Whangārei on the day of the show. I was running late and wanted to go to the loo, but didn't have time. So I got on the flight by the skin of my teeth and after take-off asked the flight attendant where the toilets were.
She replied, 'There are no toilets on this plane.' So for an hour and 10 minutes I just about died," she recalls.
"Well, I made the fatal mistake of telling Jackie, who made a meal of it and the theme of the show that night was, of course, my predicament."
Light-hearted ribbing comes with the territory of sharing the spotlight with your mates, and they all feel "extremely lucky" to share a similar work ethic and a genuine friendship.
"We've always got each other's backs," says Jackie, 55, with the others nodding in agreement.
"Tina and I both lost our mothers last year during Covid, we've watched each other's kids grow up and now grandbabies are being born, and don't get me started on the never-ending story of menopause!
"In any woman's life, there's always dramas going on, but singing together is like an oasis from real life."
For 70-year-old Suzanne, who spent her teenage years on prime-time TV shows C'mon and Happen Inn with her sister Judy as pop duo The Chicks, this is the longest time she's ever spent in one band.
"I thought about retiring at the end of last year, but I couldn't – I'm having too much fun and I'm busier than I've ever been!"
Along with being a vocal coach, Suzanne works for a company called Operatunity, performing lunchtime concerts nationwide for senior citizens – "So when I perform with them, I'm in my element!" she jokes.
She's currently learning to sing Jump by American rock band Van Halen, but admits her four grandchildren are still too young to appreciate their grandma being a bit of a rock star.
"I'll say, 'Grandma is going to go and sing in a show tonight!' And my 6-year-old granddaughter Lily will reply, 'Oh. Well, are you going to wear sequins?'"
Jackie adds, "Honestly, with Suzy, nothing stops her from singing. She will always turn up and give an amazing performance, even with concussion.
"We had a gig on a fancy cruise ship, the MS Queen Elizabeth, travelling from Tahiti to Australia. We were getting off the stage after our early show and there was a weird low concrete loading dock that Suzy smashed her head into. So she did the whole second show totally concussed and had to lie in a dark room for two weeks afterwards!"
Tina didn't come away unscathed, either. She had a fall while on the ship too, and had to have a hip replacement earlier this year to rectify the ongoing pain it caused.
"Suzy and Jackie are the hardest-working people. In this industry, that's how you keep your edge," says Tina of Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kuri and Ngāti Porou descent, who is also currently rehearsing for Wicked The Musical, where she plays "old bag" Madame Morrible.
She had briefly met the other women years ago when Suzanne did backing vocals for her second album in 1980, then crossed paths with Jackie when they appeared in a Lotto ad together.
"I've learned that age has nothing to do with longevity in this business – it's about attitude!" she adds.
And even though they work in an industry that is notoriously youth-focused, Tina no longer feels the need to lie about her age.
"Just because some media tell people you have to be young to be relevant, we know different. We know we have an audience. We live for music and we carry on," enthuses Tina.
"Why would we stop?" points out Jackie, who started singing at age 17 in indie synthesiser band Marching Orders, and has gone on to sing with Kiwi stars such as Annie Crummer, Dave Dobbyn and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
"The music industry is completely ageist," says the mum of sons Stan, 21, and Ernie, 18. "There's this idea that you have to put yourself out to pasture at a certain age, as if we're taking up someone else's space."
Despite this, the trio reckon they'll still be singing "in full glam until we're 100".
"It doesn't matter how stink the dressing room is – if there even is one! Once we get on stage together, it's heaven. We sing with all sorts of other people for other jobs, but when we come back together, our favourite saying is: "They don't know what we're used to!" says Jackie in a posh British accent.
"I never dreamed I'd be in a band with Tina Cross, who I grew up watching on Ready to Roll, and Suzanne, who is pop royalty. I still pinch myself! Singing together feels like home."
• The Lady Killers are celebrating their sweet 16th in style, with a birthday bash on Saturday, July 10 in Auckland. For tickets, visit theladykillers.co.nz