To know me is to know my inability to fib, to know my scorn of sycophants. I don't do polite for polite sake when it comes to opining on any given subject. Rude: never. Honest: always. So, I'll be honest folks. iMMa should not be my cup of tea. I tend to gravitate towards a more low-fi sound, a more low-fi aesthetic. Skunk Anansie, Garbage et al have never been my bag - that's not to say I think they are crap. It's just not my thing.
So, when I went to see iMMa play live last week, I expected to leave the show nonchalant. Nonplussed. Apathetic. Well holy shitola: imagine my surprise when I turned out to be... impressed. First of all, this girl has a VOICE. I can only describe her vocal as utterly flawless. (Jealous). Secondly, she has an on-stage presence that is so natural, so genuine that one cannot help but be engaged. Lastly, this unfeasibly lovely young lady has a refreshing and enormously endearing level of self-belief and determination that manages to never appear arrogant or earnest. Personal musical taste aside, one cannot argue with how incredibly, ridiculously, stupendously talented this girl is. If this genre of music IS your kind of thing, then iMMa is basically your wet dream. Metaphorically of course. Here at The Girls Are, we always applaud those who have sufficient knackers to DO rather than merely talk about. I spoke to iMMa to find out more...
iMMa - thanks for talking to The Girls Are....
Is this all you've ever wanted to do?
i: Hey! No, when I was younger I wanted to be a ballet dancer, then a horse racing jockey and then at the ripe age of 16 decided that singing was what I wanted to do more than anything! But it took me a while to figure out what genre - as I loved so many different styles!
You've had a busy year touring as Mika's backing singer - how does it feel to concentrate on your own material again?
i: I love singing with Mika and playing to his amazing audiences, but there is something really special about singing something that comes from you. I love my music and I love my boys in the band and get a really raw feel with us all playing our hearts out. I miss writing, since being on the road with Mika, I haven't written as much as I would like to, but whenever lyrics pop into my head I write them down on whatever is handy (generally after a long flight, when I'm going slightly delirious).
You still write and play with ex-band member Jonas Jalhay and yet iMMa is very much your project: do you feel more comfortable being out there 'on your own' or do you miss being part of a 'band'?
i: It's weird being a "solo" artist since I play with a band on stage and we all hang out together, so from that aspect it still feels very much like a band. The first time I really noticed the difference was on my first photo shoot. It was so strange to be doing shots without the guys, I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious. When you're in a band you feel invincible, there's a real camaraderie, but on your own you have to muster up that feeling, which can sometimes be tricky!! But am settling into it a lot more now!
Describe your songwriting process.
i: Well it kind of depends on the song, but generally myself, Jonas or Kate (KillaK, another girl I write with) come up with a riff or line and we jam round ideas together, until we have the final song. Writing is a deeply personal process for me, it's strange; I will sing on a stage in front of countless people and be fine, but when it comes to writing I am still very insecure about it. Tears generally make an appearance, but I get through it! After it's done I am not overly critical and I sit with the song and rarely change it. (Although I have been known to completely re-write the lyrics of a song twenty minutes before recording them (God Send - track 8 on album)!!)
Everything you are currently doing is self-funded: do you feel this affords you more freedom as an artist?
i: Yes and no. In one aspect you have more freedom since you are your own boss and you get the final say and complete creative control, but on the other hand life does take over and you need to earn a living, pay bills, rent, feed your shopping habit........cough cough... and pay for your album, rehearsals, gigs, flights, etc....Whereas if you have a label behind you, they give you an advance so that you don't have to work and can purely become, "the artiste", at the expense, usually, of some creative control.I have loved seeing my project develop. My manager Laura and I have learnt so much on the way as we have done literally everything ourselves. From writing the songs in a room to seeing it on Spotify, you really feel like you have achieved something. It's a great feeling and I wouldn't change it for the world!
You've said that your performances are a genuine reaction to how you're feeling in the moment: in an era rife with hyper-styled and considered artists, do you feel there is a need to get back to basics in terms of performance?
i: No I don't, I think that performance has evolved and you may get super styled pop artists that have been choreographed to the nines, but you also get those gutsy raw performers too. I think people pay good money to see acts, they wanna see a show and if great singers or certain manufactured artists are not natural performers, then why not turn to choreographed moves and props? At the moment the music industry relies heavily on live performances for income, the element of performance has never been so important.
Personally I prefer seeing something more real. When you see an artist totally stripped of all props and choreography, it makes them more human. I don't think there is anything more beautiful than seeing somebody in a state of raw emotion.
You have a very distinctive vocal: at times you can sound like a blues artist, at others you remind me of Kate Bush. Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
i: My musical influences vary; when I grew up I listened to Carly Simon - I love her great low range and her song writing is magical, it really paints a picture. I listened a lot to The Beatles and the big Soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan. Later on in life I had and still have huge respect for Skin from Skunk Anansie. Her vocal strength is amazing and I think I developed my big range by singing along to Skunk songs!
Given the recent influx of male indie bands, and female pop stars, where do you see yourself fitting into the current musical landscape?
i: I am neither indie nor pop and I think the market that I am trying to slot into is smaller and more underground and, as a result, more unpredictable. Having said that, music is constantly evolving and there is plenty of space for a female rock artist to create her own niche.
Do you feel women are under-represented in the music industry? What importance, if any, does your gender play in your identity as a performer?
i: There are more and more strong female artists now than ever before in the music industry, whether it be in terms of their performance, production or every aspect of their career. I don't think women nowadays have to compromise artistically as much as they may have done in the past. Personally I don't feel restricted as a woman on stage and I don't feel the need to use my sexuality to appeal to the audience. At the end of the day I am on stage to perform my music - I don't think too much about the rest!!
And now for some questions we ask everyone....
Which current bands do you rate?
5 artists/bands I rate - so tricky......
Biffy Clyro, Regina Spektor, Skunk Anansie, Queens of the Stone Age, Amy Studt.
Describe your sound in 5 words...
Strong, Vulnerable, Melodic, Honest, ROCKIN!!
What are your guilty musical pleasures?
Definitely Disney - O my God, I love Disney, whenever I'm feeling down put on a Disney song get a kazoo and play them - I'm telling you..... AMAZING!! Fuck Prozac; Disney songs and a kazoo is all you need!!!
What the world needs now is....
More iMMa.....obviously........ or er....World Peace?
Sell more albums. Write more songs. Record songs. Play my little heart out. Sell more albums. Write more songs. Record songs. Play my little heart out. Sell more albums. Write more songs. Record songs. Play my little heart out.
You are headlining your dream, all-star tour: who would your tourmates be?
Skunk Anansie, Sevendust, Biffy Clyro, Marylin Manson.
Poison Eyes filmed at Brighton Concorde 2 back in April 2009.
Poision Eyes features on iMMa's debut album 'The Clue's in the Title' which is available through iTunes and her two websites: