Ivy & Gold EP launch at the Sebright Arms: Like London Grammar without the attitude
Arriving half an hour late to a bustling East end pub to interview Ivy & Gold, the electro-pop two-piece hailed as “the next London Grammar”, the visual comparison between each outfit’s lead vocalist is strikingly apparent. With matching tumbling elbow-length blonde hair and bird-like petite frames, angel-voiced frontwomen Rachel Wilkinson of Ivy & Gold and Hannah Reid of London Grammar could be sisters. Both are well spoken, startlingly attractive and project soaring voices capable of moving the burliest of Eastenders to tears. But that’s where the similarities end.
“Oh god, don’t worry about being late. I’m so sorry, I’ve made a bit of a mess of the stage, it looks like Valentine’s Day up here!”. Jumping catlike onto a rose petal-strewn stage, scattered with candles, Hertfordshire-born model, actress and dancer Wilkinson is a modest and humble delight to interview; a breath of fresh air by contrast to London Grammar’s Reid, who recently came under fire for her pretentiousness at gigs.
Wilkinson is joined by Shropshire-born James Davies, an unassuming but friendly chap who began his foray into music production through a commercial music course in London. He admits he’s more of a management and synchronisation producer than traditional musician. When he and self-trained Wilkinson first met at a mutual friend’s BBQ two years ago he had to learn the piano from scratch in six months. Davies’ function in the band is primarily to musically facilitate Wilkinson, using synths, keyboard and samples to help project her ethereal voice.
Ivy & Gold is a reference to the Bombay Bicycle Club song of the same name, a quick name-change from Emperors after the discovery it was already taken by an Australian band. Wilkinson and Davies co-write the lyrics, though Wilkinson is currently studying creative writing at Goldsmith’s University to help expand her literary range. She’s currently embarking on her first novel. “It took us about a year to find our sound. We made lots of bad songs” admits Wilkinson.
Ivy & Gold’s frontwoman is genuinely interested in everything and likes to ask questions; she has a naïve aura of inquisitiveness that, coupled with her piecing blue searching eyes, at times makes me feel as though she is the one who is doing the interview. “I love everything you’re wearing, tell me, where’s it all from?”
The gig itself is a small and intimate affair in the basement of trendy Hackney waterhole the Sebright Arms. The room is comfortably full and attendees remain captivated by Wilkinson from the opening beat of the first sample, who exudes an onstage energy that belies her waif-like frame. Stand out tracks include The Town – for which Ivy & Gold recently shot a Venetian-themed video for – the soaring Not Had Enough and Smoke and Mirrors.
Davies plays keyboard and deftly queues the samples, as well as manning a MacBook full of loops. An echo effect added to most of the songs works sometimes, but becomes irritating after a few tracks. Wilkinson’s voice is strong enough to carry without it.
The emotion behind Wilkinson’s clear, strong vocals is prevalent throughout her performance, her pretty face twisted into grimaces (or as she refers to them, snarls) throughout closing ballad Love Is a Sacrifice. The set finishes with a coquettish Wilkinson inquiring if we’d like to hear an unheard acoustic track called In the Night, which finishes to rapturous applause. The London-based two piece may garner comparisons to London Grammar now; let’s hope their rise to fame comes as swiftly as their forerunners’.
Who are your primary musical influences?
James: Kate Bush. Ray uses the same range of her voice that Kate does.
Rachel: Everyone says London Grammar! We love them, I love her voice, but when we started our music I’d never heard of them before. So when I heard them I thought, oh God this is quite similar, but I think we are actually quite different. We’re a bit more upbeat, a poppy edge.
J: I’d say they are definitely an influence now.
A lot of electro-pop bands are now collaborating with DJs, for example London Grammar and Disclosure, is that a route you’d like to take?
J: Definitely, it’s a winning formula. There are a lot of producer/vocalist duos right now. House music is massive at the moment; all the number ones are House led. So we’d like to couple tracks with different styles and voices, a bit more textured and different.
What’s your favourite track on the EP?
J: Love Is a Sacrifice – it has a summer festival feel to it. Definitely a summer tune, there could be a few remixes to that!
What’s the story behind your track Ghosts?
R: I actually wrote Ghosts about a ghost, after my Dad saw one in our really old Victorian house – a doctor. And the funny thing is he really doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. My sister won’t even stay over at the house anymore!
What inspired you to write track Not Had Enough?
R: I took inspiration from a friend who was in a particularly bad, emotionally difficult relationship. It was this guy who she really loved but treated her like crap, but she still stayed with him even though he wasn’t right for her. I said to her, why do you put up with it and she said “I’ve not had enough.” I think we’ve all been in that kind of relationship.
What was the thinking behind The Town music video?
R: It’s a kind of Alice in Wonderland maze theme, with masks. Our video director came up with it, but it was seriously hard work to do on a budget. We were lucky that the professional dancers Neon Ballet agreed to dance for free so they could use it as promotional material for their company and we just paid their expenses. They added a lot to the video.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
J: Hopefully doing this and making some money! And travel around the world with it.
R: Yes, I’d like to go to America. It’s basically making money about doing something you love; I just want to sing to people and for them to enjoy it.
J: It’d be cool to be massive, but we’d like to make enough money to just keep doing it.
When will your full album be out?
R: At the end of the year there’ll be an album followed by a Christmas single, X Factor style but less cheesy! I think we’ll look to Coldplay, Hurts and Greg Lake for that track.
J: We’ve written a load of material for the album and we will choose the best of those tracks.
Photos: Helle Gylling
Ivy & Gold’s second EP will be out in July, with a third planned for October. Catch them at The Farm Festival. For further information visit here.