Indie-folk singer/songwriter IAKO draws heavily on the contrast between London’s frenetic pace and the languorous Venetian environment. We spoke to IAKO following the release of his debut EP Queen Of Balance.
I’m keen on expressing an idea of movement, and I make use of constantly shifting dynamics in order to convey that.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what were you doing before IAKO?
I’ve been studying literature for most of my life - specifically Greek and Latin. It’s something I’ve always been into, and for a long time I thought of pursuing some sort of academic career. I went to uni for a year back in Venice where I was studying literature of all sorts, never even really thought of music as a feasible pathway, always been on the side. I did start to feel quite unsatisfied though, as that kind of career doesn’t really allow you to express your creativity.
I decided I wanted to really get out of my comfort zone and throw myself into a new challenge, something that would need a creative vision on various aspects. I used to gig a solo act, in order to gain confidence and familiarise with the music scene in London, and it was only after a couple years that I started IAKO, which I see more as an all-round artistic project.
Who do you take inspiration from?
I’m a big fan of imagery - both in lyrics and music. I’ve been listening to a lot of female singer-songwriters such as Lisa Hannigan, Agnes Obel, Laura Marling, Marika Hackman, etc. in the past few years, as well as minimal piano composers such as Yann Tiersen, and Erik Satie. I’d say these two musical worlds are the ones I’ve drawn inspiration from for this record.
Why the name IAKO?
My actual first name is Jacopo ( pronounced eeacopo ), but in an English-speaking country everyone reads it as J so I always wanted to change that. I went through a period where I would change my stage name every week, always swapping letters from my name. I eventually came up with IAKO and it felt like something quite evocative, so I thought it would go well with my music. I also thought I was making it easier to pronounce, but turns out it’s not which it’s quite funny.
How would you describe your musical style?
Is baroque-folk a thing? Either way, I think that’s how I would describe it. I like the idea of creating an atmosphere, a sort of storyline to be used throughout my records and performances. I play a lot on imagery, often referring to nature and to water in particular; I’m keen on expressing an idea of movement, and I make use of constantly shifting dynamics in order to convey that.
In what way is your live show evolving?
I’m looking at implementing synths into my playing. I still want the sounds to have quite an organic feel, but I want to be able to tweak them on-the-go and to have a bit more freedom in terms of musical directions when on stage. I’m also planning to make some changes to my band set-up, possibly incorporating an SPDSX triggering samples and adding other sound effects.
Can you remember your first live gig? How did it go?
Absolutely terrible! I opened a little show for a friend of mine, I was playing one of my originals and a cover of Ed Sheeran. I was incredibly nervous and I remember dropping my guitar pick on the floor cause I was shaking. Awkward.
Tell us about your new single ‘Queen of Balance’. What’s it about?
I went through a terrible period at this time last year which forced me to put music and all projects aside for quite a long time. Towards June, when I was finally getting better, I sat down and decided that I really wanted to express those moments and personal experiences in my music. ‘Queen of Balance’ is the first song that came out. It’s about a relationship of course, but it’s mainly a reflection on my personality, role and perception of that relationship.
When did you write it and where did you record it?
I’d say between March and April of last year. It took a while to get to its final form, although I had the chorus down from the very beginning. I recorded it in Naples, at my mate’s studio. I was there for two weeks with the whole band, it’s been an incredible experience. I think we went through the whole spectrum of human emotions during those two weeks.
How does ‘Queen of Balance’ build on your style?
It’s a very intimate song. I think I managed to express my emotions of the time quite well in that tune. I’ve been fascinated by exploring the idea of vulnerability in my music for a long time, and I think Queen Of Balance makes sense from that perspective.
Where can we see you live in 2018?
I’m playing a gig on Saturday, May 26th at The Finsbury, in North London. I’ve played there with my band a few times and I have really good memories from there so I’m really excited for it.
Finally, if you could wish for one thing to happen to for you this year, what would it be?
I’m experimenting a lot with new sounds - I got more and more into electronic music lately so I’m trying to combine the vibe of this record with different soundscapes; I’m constantly looking for a new challenge so I would say probably being able to release at least one single and playing a few gigs incorporating the new set-up.
Listen to ‘Queen of Balance’ on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates go to iakomusic.com.