"I’ve waited all my life to sign a confidentiality clause – it’s fantastic!"
Interview by Dawn | Photos courtesy of Adrian Moreton
If you’re not yet familiar with Devon-based band Iko, don’t worry. Although over the years they’ve built up a loyal following of fans, so far they’ve remained a well-kept secret hidden away in the south west of England.
But be prepared because soon you’ll be hearing their beautiful music everywhere – including an upcoming episode of US television show Grey’s Anatomy (with new EP track Dazed and Confused) and on the soundtrack to one of 2012’s most eagerly anticipated films, Breaking Dawn: Part 2 (with Heart of Stone, a track written specifically for the Twilight franchise).
Little wonder, then, that Iko’s softly-spoken singer Kieran Scragg sounds like an extremely happy (if very busy) man when I manage to catch up with him for a chat and ask just how excited he is right now:
‘Very excited. It’s very strange for us because it is all sort of happening at once,’ he laughs. ‘It’s lovely 'cause we’ve waited a very long to be in a situation where people care and people listen to our stuff. We keep getting emails every day and it’s just blown our mind really. We got an email yesterday to say that we’ll be playing Abbey Road on the 27th of November for Absolute Radio and they want us to learn a cover, probably of a Beatles song. You just think “oh my goodness!”. That’s the thing that’s impressed my mum the most other than Twilight – she’s like “You’re playing Abbey Road!”. Next week’s our busiest week really. The [Twilight] premiere’s on the 14th in London and we’re aiming to go to that. Then on the 15th we’re on Grey’s Anatomy and on Friday, Twilight is released worldwide and we’re going to London again. So for the rest of November we will probably be promoting the movie and ourselves as much as we can. It’s very strange, but yes we are taking the time to enjoy it so it’s good.’
It’s been interesting, not to mention heartwarming, watching the excitement around the band building as word got out about their Heart of Stone song being included in Breaking Dawn: Part 2. The Twilight fans seem a passionate and friendly bunch, eager to welcome Iko into their world of vampires and werewolves - and even more eager to hear the full version of the song in question. YouTube has been overrun with unofficial song clips, cover versions, and even piano tutorials long before the soundtrack was even released, and given that the film is still yet to hit the cinema, was Kieran surprised at just how much interest there was in the song?
‘We’ve had to be a bit cautious about what we do, as it were, but it’s all part of being part of the secret club of Twilight soundtrack bands.’
Which must be a nice club to be in?
He smiles: ‘It is a very nice club to be in. It’s funny, I’ve waited all my life to sign a confidentiality clause, it’s fantastic.’
Kieran’s passion for the band, and for their music, is as infectious as the laugh which punctuates many of his sentences. When asked about Iko’s forthcoming album, The Victory Hall, he describes the potential tracks so enthusiastically and so vividly that it’s impossible not to share his excitement.
‘Strangely enough the stuff we’ve yet to release is probably more accessible and a bit more filmic than we’ve already shown. We’ve got a couple of songs that are really kind of big songs like The Lake which, as a complete song, sounds like it really means business. But I think it’s going to be a lot more accessible, it’s a lot more piano based, and hopefully a little bit brighter than most of the stuff that we’ve done with Iko before. It’s still got that melancholy but I think it just feels a bit more anthemic and a bit more confident in itself.’
And compared to previous album Ludo Says Hi, this time around the recording process was much easier:
‘Ludo was a really long gestation – it took us probably 18 months to write as a complete band and then another 18 months to record it from scratch. This time we had a full seven days and we’d written a list of 16 things that we were interested in. We thought if we can get 12 of them done in seven days then we’re doing pretty well – and we walked out of the studio with a total of about 16 to 18 songs, some of which were almost fully formed, so we sort of outdid ourselves. So this time it’s felt much more natural - it’s felt really quick, but it feels like the stuff we’re hearing back through the speakers is gonna put Ludo into a category where we’re still proud of it as a record but it just feels like we’ve moved on.’
A few hours before I speak to Kieran, there’s more excitement in the Iko camp at the fact that Steve Lamacq is going to play lead EP track Dazed and Confused on his BBC 6Music radio show. A week ago, the band were in London to record a three song session for Daytrotter. But it hasn’t always been easy for Kieran and Neil, and a year ago it was a very different story.
‘It’s funny...’ says Kieran. ‘If people knew the back story - the fact that I pretty much had given up [on music] this time last year... I cut myself out of all of it. You reach that point where you honestly can’t justify it. I spent so much money, so much time, so much holiday, so much of my sanity on this. And you walk away and it’s like “well we’ve been on Flash Forward, we’ve been on Grey’s Anatomy, that’s great, it wasn’t a waste of time but we didn’t really get to where we wanted to”. I just said to Neil that’s it, I’m done, I’m not actually gonna write anything or do anything now, I’m just gonna take time out and just forget about it all. And literally within a month or so of me really making the decision I get the email [about Twilight] and all of a sudden it’s like ok, so our biggest opportunity ever has just come along after I’ve quit!’
But with Kieran and Neil’s musical upbringings it seems unlikely that they would have stayed away from songwriting for long. Neil studied piano up to grade eight and went on to achieve a degree and a Masters in music. Kieran, meanwhile, has his parents to thank – not only for his musical education, but for his desire to perform onstage.
‘My dad saw Led Zeppelin’s first ever UK gig,’ he says. ‘I grew up on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and listened to Free and the Beatles. My parents are really tragically trendy in that they keep me up to date with stuff. My dad introduced me to Radiohead, which is pretty embarrassing, but I was sort of glad he did. I remember my dad came and told me I should play in the national music day in my hometown when I was about 13. I’d only had a guitar for a couple of years and I got up in front of friends and family in the back garden of a pub on a hot sunny day and sung Tracy Chapman with my sister. It was quite surreal, but it felt kind of ok to do that so I’m glad they opened me up to that. They also wanted me to do pantomimes from a young age – I think they had this theory that if I could get on a stage when I was reasonably young then maybe it’s something that I’d want to pursue. That was useful. I don’t get stage fright now. And Neil’s had a different kind of background - a general nudge towards doing music and performing.‘
Speaking of Neil, I’m interested to know what part he plays when the band aren’t performing, as it’s Kieran who is the visible half of Iko on their social media pages.
Kieran explains: ‘Between three of us - our manager, Neil and me - we run the label, so we’re effectively running a small business between us and Neil does a lot of that. I mean, he’s done all of our publishing stuff and he’s done lots of meetings and stuff so that’s a full time occupation really. He’s quite happy to leave the social media and the chinwagging to me. But yeah pretty much all the background stuff that can be done he’s working away on at the same time.’
So would it be fair to say that Neil gets all the boring jobs while Kieran gets the fun ones?
Kieran laughs. ‘That’s exactly what it is. He’s got to go and see the accountant, you know, whilst I send lots of hearts to teenage girls in Brazil.’
Iko’s EP is released on the 12th November and the video – filmed in a pretty old house in Devon - will be online very soon.
‘It will literally be any day now,’ says Kieran. ‘We’re really pleased with it. It’s taken a lot of work, but we’ve got a pretty decent looking video.’
But, judging by the photos and the premise of Kieran having things smashed over him by two evil twins, a lot of bruises?
‘Yeah, some damaged hips,’ he winces. ‘My elbow’s still not quite recovered and I’ve got two massive bruises on the side of my arms - but it was all my idea so I can’t complain.’
And following on from the EP will be the release of the band’s third LP:
‘We’re obviously trying to finish the album off, which is very difficult in amidst the chaos of all of this, and we’ve got more than we need, most of which doesn’t have finished vocals on or guitars on. Most of the bass is done, the drums are all done, so the spines of the songs are there and it shouldn’t take us too long to finish that. I will no doubt be singing my lungs off come the end of November, but I think that realistically we’re not going to try and pitch it at Christmas and compete with Michael Buble and all that lot, so it may well be bumped to next year. But hopefully the beginning of next year so that it might coincide with the DVD release of Twilight.’
The Victory Hall will be Iko’s third album and the title comes from the lyrics of their Kites track.
‘We did have this little idea and it’s something we might do actually - to try and construct a tour around victory halls up and down the country. I think that would be quite a cool idea – little candlelit gigs in victory halls throughout the land. It would be quite a nice thing to do but we’ll have to see about the logistics of that. It’s quite British and it just fits with the general theme that we were going with. It only occurred to me after we wrote it that my granddad was actually in the Second World War - he was part of the Spitfire crew - and of course they used to call planes ‘kites’.’
But the word ‘victory’ also seems particularly poignant given that, at last, the band seem to be on the verge of the success they deserve?
‘It has felt like that. I mean there’s something to be said for the idea of a memorial to something but also, like you say, trying to put a positive slant on it - where you’re saying this is a memorial to say that we’ve won. Which is as much about what our record is going to be for us now than it was before any of this madness happened.’
It’s endearing the way that the word ‘madness’ seems to have become the shorthand for everything that’s happening in Iko’s world right now.
Kieran laughs: ‘It is madness – it’s insane! “Oh you’re playing on Abbey Road! Oh you’re going to the Twilight premiere!” We’re sat there going “What?!”’
I wonder if he fears it’s all just a dream that, one day soon, he’ll wake up from.
‘Yeah, could be,’ he says. ‘Could be like Dallas.’
Here’s hoping not...
With huge thanks to Kieran. Visit http://www.ikomusic.com for more info and to buy the new EP. Go here to watch the new video for Iko's Dazed and Confused track.