A group of young Kiwi musicians living with Tourette Syndrome are using music to help destigmatise the disorder.

Aliens is the first single released by The Lunatics, a band formed this year by five young people with Tourette's, aged 13-21, from across the country.

"We are not aliens, we are just people," said vocalist Analise Twemlow, 14, of Christchurch, who co-wrote the lyrics with fellow singer Ava Thornley, 14, of Invercargill.

The song is about how the musicians feel the world views them and their tics, or involuntary vocalisations and movements.


"No matter how quirky we are, we want people to be more themselves around us. When other people are relaxed it helps us relax, too."

Tourette Syndrome is a genetic neurological disorder characterised by repetitive, involuntary vocalisations and movements. Swearing, or coprolalia, is the best-known tic, although this is very rare.

The Lunatics performed the song for the first time together at the We Are One concert in Auckland in April, alongside acts including Dave Dobbyn, and recorded it over the following two days.

Analise and Ava were joined by musicians Ethan Downey-Parish, 21, from Auckland, Connor Zampese, 15, from Hamilton and Hannah Allen, 13, from Matamata.

They all met at Camp Twitch over the past few years, a holiday camp run by the Tourette's Association of New Zealand.

Analise, a student at Lincoln High School, has been singing much of her life, but has been really getting into writing music over the past two years.

"Music is like a gateway, it is really calming. When I perform and sing I don't tic. And that relief of not having to worry, and my brain being able to focus on something other than Tourette's, it just feels really good."

It was quite special to share the stage with others who share similar experiences.

"We all go through the same thing, know what it is like. When we are all together, we are more relaxed."

Guitarist and bassist Downey-Parish has been playing music since he was 10.

"Listening to music, performing and writing takes my mind off things, so the thought of having a tic is not there."

He had more experience than the others in the band, and was able to help them relax before their performance.

"Playing for me is alright, but some of the others were a bit nervous before we performed, and were ticcing. But once we were on stage, everyone was great.

"It is really cool to be able to collaborate with the others, as we all met through having Tourette's, and for all of us to be on that stage, knowing what those lyrics mean."

Tourette's Association of New Zealand director Robyn Twemlow, Analise's mother, said very few young people were diagnosed with Tourette's.

About 30 young people were diagnosed in Christchurch, 20 in Auckland, and others scattered around the country, she said. About 267 people were involved in the association, young and old.

"This can make it quite hard for them to do things like form bands. Music is quite therapeutic, emotive and sends off feel-good hormones. They don't tic when they are on stage."

The Lunatics met Dave Dobbyn at the We Are One concert in Auckland. Left to right are Hannah Allen, Analise Twemlow, Dobbyn, Ava Thornley and Ethan Downey-Parish. Photo / Supplied
The Lunatics met Dave Dobbyn at the We Are One concert in Auckland. Left to right are Hannah Allen, Analise Twemlow, Dobbyn, Ava Thornley and Ethan Downey-Parish. Photo / Supplied

Tourette's was relatively common in mild forms, but to get a diagnosis was quite rare.

"A tic is anything that comes out involuntarily, it could be a small movement, or sound. Many people have them, but for most people it does not impact on their life enough to get a diagnosis.

"Swearing is the most out-there one, but only about 10 per cent of those with Tourette's have it, most just make noises and repeat words."

The Lunatics have several more gigs lined up this year, and are hoping to be able to play at Christmas in the Park in Auckland.

Their single has been released as part of the inaugural awareness week from June 18-23, and is the association's major fundraising event for the year.

The single can be found on Spotify and iTunes.