Ivan Ink ‘N’ Isa ‘N’ Interview.
Ivan Ink ‘N’ Isa is the new big beat/acoustic/shoegazey collaboration from Ollie Briggs (Ivan Ink ‘N’ Pen) and Isabella Summers (the machine from Florence & The Machine). They both have a lot to say so we chatted to them separately just after they finished a live video session, and learnt a bit about potential forest fires in squats and the Transformer style electrocution of Ivan Ink ‘N’ Pen.
Hey, how are you? How was the session?
It was cold! They made us sit in the courtyard and it was freezing. We played two songs acoustically so it was fun, but it was cold.
Tell me a bit about the beginning of the whole project.
I can’t remember the exact details but it was something along the lines of Oli being a singer and me being a hip hop producer, and me trying to make songs for him. Yeah, I can’t really remember, but it was basically him bringing me bits of songs and me being like ‘leave it with me’ and putting massive hip hop beats on it and strings and stuff, then turning them in to proper songs.
Cool, because I saw somewhere that you guys met in a co-op?
Oh yeah, vaguely. There used to be a wowow squat that Matthew Stone started – there were a few of them before the co-op, but because we were all living in a house on Lordship Lane he started this !WOWOW! thing and then we ended up having a massive squat in Peckham which has since been torn down, but yeah, we sort of met at the wowow house.
Were there a load of creative juices flowing round there?
Yeah it was amazing – because it was so huge it had a nightclub on one floor, a gym on one floor (complete with 80s gym photos and pictures of steroid’ed people) and a sunbed that actually worked if you kept feeding it 50p’s.
Cool, so you could practise then go get a tan?
Yeah exactly! But I got properly hooked on the running machine for a bit. Yeah that place was cool; they had a gallery space downstairs where they used to put on !WOWOW! parties, and I remember one time we built a forest out of old christmas trees, and when the police tried to shut the party down the main thing they were concerned about was the inside forest catching on fire – but they couldn’t stop the party because the nightclub was so massive, so it ended up with a long line of us passing christmas trees out of the door.
That sounds a lot more successful than some recent squat parties. The one I was meant to go to on new years got shut down like half an hour before it was supposed to start – what did you do for new years?
Well, I was at Jay Z’s party in Las Vegas, which was pretty rad.
Was that something to do with Florence & The Machine?
Yeah, we played at the opening of a new nightclub on the strip in Vegas, then Jay Z had his party with Coldplay so we went to that and had a little after-party, it was very crazy.
How are you feeling about playing small shows again with Ivan Ink ‘N Isa after playing to Jay Z?
Yeah it’s a weird thought, going to play the barfly.
You do have another band who’ve been playing small venues right?
The Life The Love and the Grateful yeah, we’ve had a few gigs in some small venues and it’s really weird! It’s so much scarier when it’s a new thing. Florence is such a support mechanism so it’s weird being on stage with other people, but I think this thing with Oli is going to be really cool because it means I can play my MP3s and beats and stuff, which I’ve always loved, and the sound that we’ve been rehearsing sounds really cool.
Yeah, do you feel like you have more creative input in this than in Florence?
I guess so yeah – I mean the songs were already finished before we talked about doing a live show, but there’s all the techy stuff that you have to go through if you’re trying to play MP3s and play to a click and stuff, so actually I found myself having to be a little more technical, but it’s good!
Have you got a bit of time off from everything else to put your whole time in to this project?
Kind of, I do want to get in to the studio and get a bit of writing underway – I’ve got two songs to finish with Florence, and me and Oli have worked out a cover I’d like to completely produce.
What cover’s that, or is it a secret?
I don’t think it’s a secret, we’re doing ‘Frances Farmer will have her revenge on Seattle’ by Nirvana. It sounds really cool how we’ve rehearsed it with big beats over it and stuff.
Have you ever produced anything for MCs?
Yeah, deffo! Well, I did something with Jehst, and I did a track with Farma G from Taskforce once. I also did a whole EP with Kashmere the Iguana Man who was signed to Lowlife when UK hip hop was UK hip hop! So yeah, I’ve done a few tracks. I do have something potentially coming up that I won’t say because it’s not confirmed, but I guess the dream would be to do something with someone like Drake, that would be amazing. I really want to work with Rick Rubin as well.
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How was your experience of the session today? Cold too?
Yeah cold, cold fingers – but it was good, just in and out, hardly got our breath back.
Tell me a bit about Ivan Ink ‘N Pen and why you wanted to bring Isa in.
OK, well Ivan Ink ‘N Pen started out as a solo project, it still is a solo project actually, and I was keen on working with other people. The idea was to record with four people on different EPs but that never really materialised, but working with Isa was one of the early projects I started.
And you’re self-releasing it?
Yeah I started a label, Brink Records, to put it out.
Is it purely to put this out or is there anyone else who you’d like to work with?
Yeah, well to put my own stuff out generally. I’ve thought about putting other people’s stuff out in the future but for now it’s primarily to get my own music out there. It’s a good platform to have as a musician in the future as well.
The video for Standing on a Hill is amazing, what’s the story behind that?
It was a friend of mine, Lewis White, who did the video and we went to him because we thought animation would work well with the music and the colourful sounds in the song and I knew he was great at that. He started work on the animation when it was going to be animated characters of me and Isa, but we thought it might be good to have us in the video so we did a load of green screen instead, and yeah it was a lot of fun.
I was just talking to Isa about it briefly, but how was the writing process for you?
Well it was quite an early stage of the Ivan Ink ‘N’ Pen thing and the first thing I did was Silver or Lead (the fourth song on the EP). I put it down acoustically and sent it to her because she’d said that she wanted to do something together. She got the recording and sort of took it in to her own hands, and the next time I went to the studio she’d put these beats and all these sounds on it, so it was pretty exciting for me – it can be nice for someone else to take it out of your hands and lead it in to another direction.
Yeah I can imagine it sounded a lot different before, were you shocked when you first heard it at all?
Yeah but in a great way – I found it hard to finish songs at that point so for me it was great that someone would come along and be like ‘yeah this is good, but it needs this,’ and obviously sonically it takes it to completely different level.
You’ve had other projects on the go before as well right? Didn’t you tour with UNKLE?
No actually it was the spin off from UNKLE; Rich File from UNKLE’s band We Fell To Earth, and yeah I toured with them and The Big Pink, which was great. The whole experience gave me a real taste for touring; even though it was just a ten day UK tour I was completely sold. Rich is a great person to work with as well, his production skills etc really rubbed off on me, and using electronic instruments with him was a really important development for me as a musician.
Was that something you’d never really thought about incorporating in to your music before?
I guess so, but the more I got involved with his stuff the more I could see that it was possible. I mean my new stuff is pretty band oriented, but we’re starting to get synths involved. I love Bowie’s record ‘Low’. You know that kind of live band sound with really cool synths, I love that mix.
Yeah there’s a few people coming out doing that sort of thing at the moment.
Yeah, Isa likes to make things really big and I suppose at some level I’m quite an introspective song writer so that mix can really work I think.
And you’re looking forward to the first Ivan Ink ‘N’ Isa show I assume?
Yeah definitely. It’s really coming together in rehearsal, because in the whole recording process you’re getting all these ideas then condensing them down in to this sort of file, and now we’re deconstructing it again; taking all the parts and sticking them in the sampler, which is really quite an exciting process.
Go see Ivan Ink ‘N’ Isa’s first performance this Friday at the Camden Barfly and buy their EP when it comes out on February 7th.