[INTERVIEW] Lupa Music
Imogen Jones, aka Lupa Music (or Dream Collective) is currently swimming away in an exotic current which will soon lead her to the rare island of "viral". A status-like island where only a select few get to, and where an even more select few survive.
Within just over a month of uploading her fresh-bedroom-recorded tunes to Soundcloud, 15-year-old and fellow Aussie, Imogen, has discovered the internet to be much larger than she'd perceived before.
Thanks to blogging culture's relentless tenacity of all things new, improved, curious and un-exploited - Lupa Music has taken a joy-ride of praise, wows, who and hows. (But really, don't you love it when this happens to the right people?)
With her Tavi Gevinson-like maturity and wonder, Lupa's kickstart to music-praise is not only well-deserved but has a quality about it that means well, simply that, quality. This girl is here to stay.
Meet Lupa Music.
Hi Lupa, nice to e-meet you! How's everything going?
Hi Gina, nice to e-meet you too haha! Everything's going great, it's pretty crazy actually. A lot has happened to me with the Lupa project in the last week or so - I still haven't quite wrapped my head around all the different people that have given attention to my music.
A friend of mine passed on your Soundcloud the other day (LupaMusic) and I was immediately struck by the creativity of your music. To me it sounds original, mature and above all, sincere. What do you think helps you to achieve "your" sound?
Hmm. That's a hard question to answer. It involves quite a lot of things I guess. My songs tend to be inspired by feeling strong emotion towards something that's happening or someone that's a part of my life, and by combining those strong feelings with creating music, I get my songs. I listen to a huge variety of music non stop - as well as replaying the massive playlist of songs on my phone on shuffle every day, I am constantly craving and searching for new music to listen to. So yeah I guess I could say pretty much all of the music I listen to influences my own sound - I feel like my songs are a combination of all my favourite music - as well as being something I use as an outlet for my passions and/or emotions.
You go to the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. Do you think your classically trained background helps you with making music, if so - in what way?
Yes. Definitely. I really doubt I'd be writing songs if I didn't take up violin when I was 6. I wouldn't have gotten into the Con, where musical creativity is really heavily nurtured. At school it's mandatory for us to have musicology and composition lessons, so that definitely helps with learning about compositional techniques and understanding how music works - stuff like how composers use certain techniques to have an affect on the listener. In year 8 we had a whole term of classes where we analysed pop songs. It was actually around that time that I started experimenting with songwriting. As well as having a strong classical music education, my parents are both big indie/rock/blues/pop/alternative/folk/you name it music enthusiasts - so since I was a baby I've been listening to a huge variety of music non stop.
Both that and learning the violin have shaped my own musical taste and creativity.
Do the teachers at the Conservatorium listen to your music? (if yes, what do they say?)
Haha, well, it's currently still a secret from them. I mean, I only started recording my songs about 6 weeks ago, and last week school holidays started... and that's when I started getting all this attention. I'll probably tell a few of them about it when we go back next week.
Did you always like indie pop / electronic music or is it something that came after classical?
Well, I guess you couldn't say I've ever been hugely passionate about listening to classical music. But I've loved almost every piece I've played in an orchestra, and only in the last year or so have I've started listening to it more seriously. Actually, in year 7 when I was 12-13, I had this huge film soundtrack obsession. It was the only sort of music I listened to. I loved listening to film soundtracks and inventing my own story to go with it. Before then, I never really listened to music just for the sake of it.
The first indie/folk/pop artist I really got into was Laura Marling. That was when I was 13 - my dad was playing her first album around that time, and I loved it so much I had to have it on my iPod.
Then a friend introduced me to Florence + the Machine, and another friend really got me into a bunch of (the older) Coldplay songs. That was when I became really obsessed with listening to music. From there my taste and knowledge of indie/pop music rapidly expanded... and then a few months ago a friend introduced me to Grimes.
Now after hearing her, I have this new appreciation for electronic music - it just seems like there's this endless amount of different kinds of sounds you can create electronically. I especially love the concept of looping, and building up a huge layered sound just from one instrument... actually another artist that really inspired me to start making music is Kishi Bashi. He's a violinist who uses a looping pedal to create pop music.
What is your favourite way to create music - does it come out of boredom, love, obsession or just a natural instinct?
Like I said in the first question, it's generally inspired by feeling really strongly about something/someone. I spend an hour on the train to and from school every day, so I end up using that time thinking a lot about stuff in my life. It helps me process those thoughts more clearly if I write them down, and recently I've started turning them into lyrics.
I try to make my lyrics a much more subtle and abstract way of writing about things. The music part of it just comes out of obsession, like I mentioned before. And I guess you could say that the actual process of deciding what fits, what sounds good, what works - that's a kind of natural instinct for me.
Are you better at improvising or rehearsing?
Well, that's implying that I've actually rehearsed with people to perform live. Which I haven't yet, but will be very very soon. But I guess you could say I improvise by myself when thinking up new ideas for music... so I'd say I'm better at that.
How does your music translate to a live show?
I'm currently in the process of assembling a band, and I've been busking with violin a few times to save up to buy a Roland SP-404SX Sampler (the same sampler Rainbow Chan and Grimes use). I'm trying out a few things - at the moment I'm practicing controlling the electronic drumbeats and synthesiser sounds as well as singing.
That's where the sampler comes in handy. I've borrowed a Roland Fantom G6 synthesiser/sampler keyboard from school, so I've programmed all the beats and samples from my song 'The Creature' into there - I'm set up to perform it with that, I just need someone to play the violin part, and maybe someone else to help with backing vocals. And thanks to going to a school full of musical kids, I'm all set for that.
What would be your ultimate live show? (If everything went absolutely your way...)
Well. I'd love to have a band. And be one of those bands where everyone can swap instruments for each song, like take turns at doing the synthesiser, looping pedal, guitar, violin, whatever. Except not everyone can play drums. I'd love to have a drummer who could play real drums as well as control a drum machine/sampler for some songs.
This sounds ambitious, I guess I just think like this because so many of my friends from school could easily learn how to use a sampler and/or looping pedal, as well as play their own instrument.
Do you think that Australia is a good breeding ground for musicians?
Straight out yes. So, SO many of the coolest bands/artists are Australian. And the whole Triple J Unearthed thing is just great for promoting new Australian musicians. I'm constantly discovering new Aussie artists that I love.
Are there any other cities you'd like to go to just for music?
Melbourne. Most of the people that like my music seem to be from there. Several of my favourite bands are from there. It just seems like the coolest city to me at the moment.
How did your collaboration "Dream Collective" begin?
'Dream Collective' is the name I'm using for any music I co-write with my friend Mara or anyone else. I guess it's the name for my future band too. I met Mara at the Con - she only joined this year, and does a composing major.
We have almost an identical taste in music - she was the friend who introduced me to Grimes and Alpine, my two newest favourite bands/musicians. She's been making her own songs too, and we've been talking about doing something together for a while - we only got a chance to have a first go at it last week. As well as Mara, I have another friend who is probably going to become part of this collaboration.
Are there any future goals for "Dream Collective"? (labels, EPs, LPs, tours, cds, vinyl etc)
I don't know, I'm a little unsure of how or if I'm going to merge Dream Collective and Lupa into one thing. I definitely cannot perform as Lupa on my own, but I'm just unsure of whether or not the backing band I use will just become Lupa too - or if it will stay separate, as Dream Collective. At the moment I'm just going to say that any song I write with Mara is a 'Dream Collective' song. Any song I write entirely myself is a 'Lupa' song. We don't exactly have any huge plans or goals - we just had a go at it for fun.
Do you feel that being 15 years old gives you an advantage, disadvantage or are you completely neutral about your age?
I think there are both advantages and disadvantages. I mean, people see 'only FIFTEEN years old' and their ears prick up - like I feel it's easier for me to impress. But at the same time, I feel that because I'm still young, I've got a lot of maturing to do - and so does my music.
I don't want people to get set on the kind of sound I'm making now - because who knows, by the time I'm 18, it might have changed dramatically. I might have changed dramatically as a person. Also, I need to focus on getting through high school - this is a crucial time for me to be preparing for the HSC. If this is going to be a possible career choice, I don't want to have to make that decision till I'm finished school.
And ultimately, what's the dream?
The dream I've always had, and still do, is playing in an orchestra like the Sydney Symphony or Australian Chamber Orchestra - and doing my own creative thing on the side. The 'creative thing on the side' could be one of several things - art, writing, photography, film making, composing - I love them all - but now I really feel it needs to be writing songs and performing in a band.
What I'm doing right now is really working for me. The kind of feeling I get making music - you know when you hear something that really affects you, you get the shivers, and all your hairs stand on end - that small little feeling is like the best feeling in the world to me.
I love that I've discovered how to create something that can make me feel like that. I don't think I've ever enjoyed doing something as much as this before - if I could do it as 'work', well, that would be the dream.