Ever since I reviewed their single – ‘Read All About It’/’An Introvert’s Guide to Partying’ (now available on the Keep Back Ivy Bandcamp https://keepbackivy.bandcamp.com) – Amaku Miru have been a favourite of mine. Andy and Emma’s music was, and continues to be, clever, sometimes witty, thoughtful and exceptionally well put together. A while back I had seen that they had changed their name and I was intrigued as to why. Putting this together gave me an opportunity to do that and you can read the answer to this and other questions later in the piece.
‘Make It Right’ is guitar-y, somewhat out-there guitar-y in places, frankly there is some wonderful guitar work on this track. It sounds (and I have my helpful friend to thank for this, so don’t have a go at me) kind of grunge-y, kind of folky/Americana, and weirdly like later period Pink Floyd. With Emma’s voice, that pure pure tone she has, it’s compelling musically. With words that are so worth taking the time to listen to properly.
Lockdown has meant that bands and artists have been finding new ways to be creative, and Keep Back Ivy are no exception. The video for the single was filmed in a collaboration with a filmmaker Dory Valentine from Brighton, who they have yet to meet in person.
I got the scoop from Andy and Emma on the name change, the song and the video via an emailed interview – in these times of lockdown sometimes you have to admit that face-to-face interviews or Skype aren’t the best way forward – where I posed my usual slightly awkward questions, and they were kind enough to answer them brilliantly.
First up, let’s ask you the obvious question. Why the name change? Is it reflecting that your musical direction has shifted?
Emma: I think everyone’s been doing a bit of reflecting this year and 2020 has really given us the time for it! Our old name meant ‘take it lightly’ in Japanese and was a reminder to not take things so seriously. That being said I’m not sure how appropriate it was for two white people to name their music with.
Andy: In terms of musical direction the change in name isn’t a sign of a major shift. In fact, ‘Make it Right’ is a song that has been a big part of the band for a while and one of our favourites to play live since we wrote it. We were thrown off a lot by the lockdown in terms of creativity and we have both found it hard to write new material over the past few months. We are just starting to throw some new ideas around, inspired by being able to go to the rehearsal space and practice again.
To be honest we have never really had any set idea or dictated direction that our music will take, we just play or write together or separately and bounce ideas off each other. It’s always loosely guitar music with an electronic undercurrent but apart from that we absorb ideas from all over the place and just see what happens.
Is there a story behind the name – Keep Back Ivy – it sounds as though there might be?
E: Sort of. I have an on again off again relationship with anxiety in that it’s mostly under control but sometimes it creeps up on me and I realise I need to do some work to cut it back again. Writing songs has always been part of my way out of bad periods.
What’s your debut release as Keep Back Ivy – ‘Make It Right’ about and what inspired the song?
E: It’s about how we should all be on the same team when it comes to gender equality. There’s no room for hate if we want progress and we should all want to make it right.
A lot of the lyrics I write are about me processing and trying to make sense of the world around me. I wrote ‘Make It Right’ after an experience with other women online who I thought were on the same ‘team’ as me until all of sudden they started shoehorning some really vile, transphobic rhetoric into the conversation. I called them out on it and they turned incredibly nasty. But I knew however an unpleasant experience it was for me, it was nothing compared to what trans and non-binary people must feel, especially with people who pretend they are safe and call themselves feminists when they are not.
The video for the release was filmed during lockdown in a collaboration with a Brighton based filmmaker – Dory Valentine. How did you come to link up with Dory?
E: I already followed Dory on Twitter through friends of friends who are also in bands. Our friends DUCK are on Hell Hath No Fury records and so is Dory’s band, Brazen Hussy. They are heavily involved in music in all ways – photographing and videoing live gigs as well as music videos and their work is gorgeous.
I’m intrigued about the creative process for the video. Did they come up with a set of shots they wanted after you had agreed a concept? Did you end up filming each other under their direction?
E: Yeah – the concept was all Dory. They came up with an idea and originally they were going to come up to Leeds and we were going to shoot a video in The Old Red Bus Station in April……
After a few weeks of mopiness Andy proposed we ask if there was a way to do a video long distance. We gave Dory free rein because we wanted our work to promote theirs and vice versa. Dory re-worked the concept to being about how we are all part of nature and recorded that part from their end and gave us a list of shots they wanted us to get. I had some gear at home but it took us about 5 or 6 days to get the right shots because we struggled to contain the natural light in our living room. Our landlord does not have good curtains and every day we recorded we had to climb up and tape up all the windows. We had to go back and forth with Dory offering solutions where we went wrong and re-doing shots they needed and eventually we got there!
A: Yeah the video shoot was a bit brutal. It’s hard when you are working from home full time to spend all your day off in a dark room especially when it’s sunny outside. As soon as we started getting the shots back from Dory our faith in the project was restored and it all started to come together. We are looking forward to one day actually being able to go and meet and work together in person.
And lastly the old chestnut, feature plans for Keep Back Ivy? I understand you have a couple of singles in the pipeline.
A: It’s an interesting time. We would like nothing more than to be back playing live but it’s hard to say when that will be possible at the moment. We had started to host our own events based around the idea of getting slightly left of centre electronic and guitar based bands and artists together and hosting gigs that we really wanted to see and be a part of. I really hope we can get back to that in the not too distant future.
Although we have been struggling to write during the lockdown period we have been recording a few existing songs which we plan to put out over the next few months. It feels a bit like clearing the decks. Recording the first batch of songs we wrote for the project and starting to write and record more and see where it takes us.
Because we probably won’t be gigging the songs immediately I quite like the idea of writing songs in the recording process and then figuring out how to play them live after. I am also intrigued by the possibility of some collaborations. We have met loads of really talented musicians while we have been gigging and it would be great to work alongside some of them. Have them guest or remix a track or maybe even at some stage to do a couple of gigs with an extended band. Just as an exception though. I prefer being a duo. it’s much easier.
So it sounds as though there’s some really interesting stuff to come from the duo. The events that Andy mentioned are something I would love to see back. I attended one of these and there was an incredible mix of artists, it was a really great way of seeing music that was new to me. and I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. Definitely something to look out for once gigs are back.
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