Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Friendly Chat With... Emmy The Great

Emmy The Great describes herself as a "roller-waitress, shopgirl and singer songwanker". The first bit's true, as we'll see. The second part works out - there's a link to her place of work from her website. The third? Well, the wording you can decide for yourself, but as we've enthused in our Truck review and since there's a lyrical acumen and confidence that marks her well ahead of the current set of female acoustic guitar toters. And the vast majority of the men, come to think of it. With all that in mind...

So, how did you get this far?
Is this a philosophical question or is it just for people who want to start out playing gigs? I'm gonna go for the second just because it's easier. I made a demo on GarageBand of just me playing guitar and singing at the same time. Then I sent loads and loads of 4-track demos to promoters (not labels or magazines) and then I played a mad amount of gigs and then people started offering me better gigs and then along came Colin and Sean from Drowned In Sound, and they started telling some fibs about how everyone was talking about me, and soon enough people did start talking about me. The other thing that happened was Jeremy told someone that there was a buzz about me, and it spread. It's pretty funny. I also wrote an review about there being buzz about him around the same time. It's all very cynical.

Hackeneyed question alert - words or music first?
When listening, it's words first. I think it's because my interest in songs came from an interest in literature, rather than the musical side. Since being involved in music I've come to appreciate things like structure and melody a lot more though, and now that i've had a hand in production I can't listen to anything uncritically. It's a nightmare! It's like instead of turning off the radio when Paris Hilton comes on, I'm sat there with my ear against the speaker going "ooh it's really clever how they're masking her voice.." With writing though it's usually a combination of the two, the first line of the song along with an idea for a melody, and then I sit down and the rest follows. It's not that easy though. There's a lot of agonising in between the two stages.

What's the advantage to a solo acoustic-based singer of having some backing over going it alone?
It beats sitting by yourself in soundcheck while the other bands bask in witty camaraderie. And it also fills out the parts in the set where the song alone isn't enough to sustain. I don't have a band at the moment though. I could really do with one. Do you know any male singing violinists? Or just male vocalists?

You've been lumped in with anti-folk in the past - is/was there anything actually to that scene?
I really admire the American anti-folk artists, how they existed as a genuine reaction to the stuffy New York folk clubs. And I think they really opened up ideas about song-writing and did something new in a time when its really difficult to do something new. However the UK antifolk seems to me the exact opposite of this, they seem to be just looking back at what the Americans did and trying to copy it. Which isn't to say there aren't some great artists in the UK anti-folk scene, like the Bobby McGees, but I don't see why they need to call themselves that. They're just a good band. Talking of anti-folk, if you haven't heard Diane Cluck then you have to sort that out!

Viva Cake - what's that, then?
Viva Cake is a night my friends put on, which I rollerwaitress at. We bake for weeks and then on the day serve unlimited free tea and cake to anyone who comes. There's also dance lessons and a nail bar, raffles, rock and roll DJ's and bands like Vincent Vincent and the Villains. It's like a haven to us. I always feel safe with my apron on. Actually we're extending the night to a magazine now. I'm in charge of the gardening and music section. Next week I'm making sock puppets with the Mules! I don't know what to do about gardening though, most of my plants die.

What did you grow up listening to, and what have you been liking recently?
I went to a Chinese school, so if I wanted English music there was some Elton John or Michael Bolton and that was it. When I got to about 12 though I discovered Weezer. I was so in love with Rivers Cuomo, I couldn't believe how badly Pinkerton was trashed. It's one of the best albums of all time, but apparently all the criticism broke his spirit and he never wrote the same again. I liked the Green Album though. The last one made me cry, it was so rubbish. I can't believe we're not getting married. I also liked Blur when I was young. I see Graham Coxon in Camden so often that I dream about him sometimes. Ii'm worried one day I'll walk up to him and start talking. Yesterday I hugged someone thinking I knew them and it turned out she had served me coffee once at Fresh And Wild. Recently I've been listening to Diane Cluck. Just Diane Cluck. There needs be no other.

What are your future plans?
I don't know. I'm coming out of a freaky writer's block at the moment so until that is over there are no plans. I am working on the magazine though, and I've applied to Goldsmiths to do English. I know there'll be an album in the future, but I won't even be recording that until next year. I'm putting out a single with Moshi Moshi soon, probably a double A-side of Edward Is Dedward and Atoms.

Many thanks to Emmy, who has asked us to emphasise that she's serious about looking for band members (to quote from her Myspace blog, "Still looking for a male vocalist, living in London or thereabouts, available for at least three gigs a month, if possible able to play an instrument, ideally a stringed instrument") - contact her, or just enjoy her output, via her website and Myspace. Debut 7" Secret Circus on Fear And Records/Drowned In Sound might still be available somewhere and it should be downloadable from your local indie label-friendly service. Photo 'borrowed' from Andrew Kendall.


if said...

I was going to see her and Bat For Lashes last weekend but it turned out that someone had got things mixed up and they were only playing in Manchester. Bu anyway, I really like what I've heard and thanks for bringing her to my attention!
Viva Cake sounds fun, too.

Dead Kenny said...

Thanks, Simon. I've booked myself some singing lessons already.

The Daily Growl said...

Nice one on the Emmy interview mate. Good news about the 7 on Moshi Moshi.

Anonymous said...

Emmy the Great hasn't got a clue what she's talking about with regards to UK Antifolk. True there are/were a lot of american impersonators in the early days but most of them along with the likes of Emmy have been whittled out into their own boring little middle of the road song writers sewer especially down here in Brighton. If you don't know what your talking about Emmy, best to keep your mouth shut!

Simon said...

Excuse me, can you have your minor genre flamewars elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

Simon you wouldn't know a flame if it burnt you in the ass. I left a comment Unabridged (v 1.0.1) -

com‧ment  /ˈkɒmɛnt/ Pronunciation Key -


1. a remark, observation, or criticism: a comment about the weather.
2. gossip; talk: His frequent absences gave rise to comment.
3. a criticism or interpretation, often by implication or suggestion: The play is a comment on modern society.
4. a note in explanation, expansion, or criticism of a passage in a book, article, or the like; annotation.

Anonymous said...

Funny that Larry Pickleman should slate Emmy for only giving her 'opinion' ( I'm not twee enough to post a dictionary quote! ) on a scene that he has made a big point of telling everyone he is involved in....( as opposed to being classified by others.)

Emmy never makes a point of placing herself in any one scene as far as i can tell.... and she certainly doesn't slate others talents when she is not in total agreement with their thoughts.

When i last saw Larry he was just another over enthusiastic guy trying to play self penned 'folk' songs and not really doing a very good job of it.

Perhaps that is why Emmy is getting some deserved attention, touring the UK/ playing festivals and Larry is sitting home alone posting malicious comments.

Only Perhaps.... It could just be that Larry Pickleman calls himself anti-folk because it sounds like a good excuse for being shit.

A Music fan ( Brighton )

Anonymous said...

ha ha, eat my fucking cock you anonymous twat...I run, I've been putting shows on in Brighton for 3 years, I've even had emmy down once, though most people (including myself) thought she was shite, bland etc... you're obviously just a little kiss arse of hers, but you haven't got a fucking clue about me or our little scene which tries to support musicians on the fringe as opposed to little smart arse penners who write pathetically contrived commercial-centric music...

Lot's of Love, Larry xoxox

Anonymous said...

Shut up Larry, Emmy is Great.

Also..."eat my fucking cock"?? You sound like Shooter McGavin ha ha.

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