I am happy to present my last interview of 2021, with an extremely new and upcoming artist. Infact, he is so new, that his debut single The Drugs Are Running Out releases this week. This is also the very first time that I am interviewing an artist who is at the very beginning of their solo music career, and it is an honour. Read on to learn more about upcoming MMIV!
How did your journey into music begin and what inspired you to become a musician?
I grew up around music to a certain extent. Having two Irish parents there were always parties happening where people would end up singing and playing instruments at the end of the night, you in your pyjamas or something. But my brother was a lot older than me and he was in and roady-ing for a lot of bands for years, so I was privy to all that growing up. I played the drums until I was about fourteen, and I was going to take drama as my art-y subject at school until a new teacher joined at the last minute who I didn’t really like. I decided to take music on a whim and needed to learn an instrument I could ‘compose’ on, so picked up and started fiddling with one of the guitars around the house around then. I had always written books, stories, jokes and comics and stuff, but about that time I was really obsessed with the indie/pop fusion music that was coming out of the UK, particularly the 1975. I liked how it married everyday occurrences to the grandness of music. I wrote my first song when I was about 15, dropped all other creative pursuits and have since then just sort of been lying in wait – until I felt I was the right age and had the right material.
I read that you were previously in a band and decided to go solo. How has this transition been for you?
I actually used to be in a band with Jasper from Lucky Iris! Which I loved, because in contrast to me he was very calm, patient and studious when it came to music, while I was very much self-taught and a bit hyper… especially then. I would try and impress him with fancy chords and ask for advice while writing. That’s the best thing about being in a band, if you find the right people they can fill in your gaps and the music can take on a kind of unique collaborative character from that mix of people. That’s the magic of certain groups. But on the other hand, if you don’t find the right people the opposite is often true and the music can suffer. I was the sole songwriter in my old band, which was still called MMIV, so while the world has been in lockdown there didn’t feel like much of a transition at all. The difference has been in seeking out the perfect producer – as I spent a long time doing with George – who can lend that ear for advice and bring things to life, rather than your bandmates. I’ve kept the band name as I would like for the project to turn into a band again and start performing live, that’s the dream really, and performing acoustically has certainly not been the same, especially when performing songs that could be a lot more.
You have a new single releasing at the beginning of December. Can you share some details about it?
Yeah! The Drugs Are Running Out was written around the summer of 2020, when things were semi-open again for the first time. I was about to leave my hometown permanently to pursue music, and was spending a lot of time with my old friends before I left. One night we listened to All My Friends by LCD Soundsystem, and I basically reworked it the next afternoon. It’s a tribute to that song in a way, taking on a lot of its themes about aging and partying, and reworking some of its lyrics. Particularly the titular line, and there’s a real LCD reference in the drums as well for those who like that band.
I started making a demo for it on a laptop, which I had to sell in order to buy a better laptop strong enough to finish it. That took me months as I didn’t really know what I was doing. Then I waited for a few more months trying to find the right producer. After hearing Frame of Reference by the Drug Store Romeos, I emailed George Murphy on a saturday night because I thought it sounded amazing. We were in the studio maybe a month later at a price I could just about afford from lockdown saving and we recorded it in a day and a half. Afterwards we blared it on repeat and drank to toast what we thought was some decent work!
Which artists have inspired you/do you enjoy listening to?
I’ve already mentioned LCD Soundsystem and The 1975, and I love all that artsy dance music, Talking Heads being the top of that pile probably. But I spend a lot of time listening to quite traditional songwriters. I’ve been in the top 0.5% of Beatles listeners on Spotify for a few years now. I’m slightly obsessed with the Beatles, along with Bob Dylan and those other 60s heroes. Most of my favourite modern artists are women, I feel like Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift to name a few are keeping that whole traditional songwriting thing alive and evolving – along with great artists here in the UK and Ireland, Declan McKenna, Sam Fender, Fontaines. But then there is hip hop, which I try to ignore sometimes because it’s too cool and relevant it makes me wonder what I’m doing. Listening to Dave or Kanye West can cause you to question the path of indie music …but we persevere. I also love Pavement.
What is your overall sound and vibe as an artist?
I don’t know yet. I think a lot of your sound and vibe comes from the sound of your voice and your vibe as a lyricist, that’s often the link between songs in a more modern and genreless world. But beyond that, The Drugs Are Running Out is a big indie pop tune that’s a bit happy and a bit sad. A bit dance and a bit guitars. I have lots of those up my sleeve, but I would want to get some funding together before I tackle one of the next big pop songs in the catalogue. There’s a lot of left hooks I want to throw out there: folk songs, piano ballads, scrappier band songs. So we’ll have to see how it slots together as it comes out. However, al the songs will be hooky, melodic and feature my slightly lazy voice.
Any details on your forthcoming projects?
It’s not set in stone, but I am hoping to throw together a few supplementary tracks for this single, to show a different side of my sound before the next ‘big’ release. Particularly there’s an acoustic track I am hoping to get recorded soon which is very different to The Drugs Are Running Out, and I’m excited to get out there. I’ll be sure to send it your way ahead of time whatever it is Jemma, thanks for sending these questions over!
Thanks so much MMIV for your time and for letting us Get to Know you better! All the very best for the release of your debut single. You can follow MMIV on all the usual social media platforms.