Emmy The Great
Bill Cummings 26/01/2009
Emmy The Great finally releases her eagerly awaited self produced and self released debut album First Love on February 9th. An album that sees Hong Kong born, London based songwriter Emma-Lee Moss aka Emmy The Great and her band, fulfill the promise they've shown for the past few years. If the beguiling first single 'We Almost Had A Baby' (the tale of a floundering relationship suddenly facing unplanned permanence), whetted your appetite then you won't be disappointed. First Love is a beautifully observed album exhibiting Emma's quality songwriting her sighing tones weaving intricate, at times stark pictures of the fleeting life affirming moments and relationship trauma that pervade her world. It's fleshed out by the entire outfit's passive aggressive music, pared back folksy, bittersweet, pop tunes. 2009 could be the year Emmy The Great does a 'Laura Marling' crossing into wider recognition that her first long-playing record deserves. We caught up with Emma for a chat on the eve of its release for a chat about her relationship with Alexandra, her past, her work, the album 'First love' and potential fights between Jeremy Warmsley and Lightspeed Champion.
Hey there, how are you?
I am fine thank you.
Where does the name Emmy The Great come from? And what exactly is your relationship to Alexander?
It came from my gmail address when I was at University. It was supposed to be a joke and I was supposed to make a demo and then go on to have a real job. I have a lot of respect for Alexander the Great he was brilliant in that movie Phonebooth.
Was it a conscious decision to use a moniker rather than your own name for the outfit?
Very few things have been conscious decisions so far but I'm starting to think about stuff more because if you don't you get stuck with the name Emmy the Great for the rest of your life.
Can you give us a quick recap on your history? Did you start out solo? How did you gather your current band mates?
I was solo for a relatively long time but I was always pretty aimless about it. Everyone who is involved congregated by accident last summer and it was a happy coincidence that we all fitted together so well.
How many of your old demos that are circling the internet are going to feature on your new album?
None of the old demos, but a couple of the songs. If I like a song I will continue to record it and record it until I think it has been done justice. I'm quite shit at recording and attached to my songs.
There's been a long wait for your debut album, was it a case of getting it just right or were there other factors that effected the release? Were there industry pressures to 'write a hit album'?
I can only write when I have something to write about, so a lot of the last three years I've spent not writing songs, or writing songs and then throwing them away. it was only when I felt like i had enough I was proud of that I wanted to make a record. There was the occasional person who wanted me to write some hits I thwarted them with my inordinate contrariness, and they were all disappointed.
Having heard your super self released album 'First Love', we reackon you could potentially cross over in a similar way to Laura Marling, do you think about commercial success or are you more concerned with creating personal songs that connect with people?
I don't really see Laura Marling as a crossover. She was much poppier when she started out. She's more like a crossback. I don't see us as a crossover band either. It is two days before the album is manufactured and I am still making changes to make sure it sounds as rough as I originally wanted it to be. If we get to next month and somebody actually buys it, it will be quite the coup.
Your lyrics are very intricate and poetic; do you keep a notebook or a diary?
I have some notebooks and a diary, but I don't write poetry. A lot of the time I think of an amazing one liner that I should have said to somebody and write in my diary that I did say it. I hope that future generations will get hold of my diary and think I was a really spontaneously funny person. I'm also writing a plot to a Sci-Fi story every week, which I've started a new notebook for. Some are good and some are really dumb.
Naming your album 'First love' after the Samuel Beckett novella is that a reflection of the fact that it deals with your personal relationships?
A lot of the songs were written after I broke up with my boyfriend, but the songs are less about our actual relationship and more about a dynamic that our relationship took on sometimes. I romanticised my position within the dynamic as the loving girlfriend who is sexually awoken and then deserted by the older man, and wrote a lot of songs with this in mind. then I read the novella and it seemed to be exactly what I'd been writing about, so I took the story and adapted it into a song, which is first love. After that, it just made sense to call the album the same thing, as that song says everything I wanted to say about the other songs on the album.
Do you find writing lyrics/music therapeutic?
It's quite hard to explain, but basically I have an idealised view of what I would like the world to look or be like, and it doesn't, so when I write songs I write them within that world and it's kind of like it exists.
First Love was produced in collaboration with guitarist Euan Hinshelwood, and pianist Tom Rogerson, and recorded at The Earlies' lovably dilapidated studios in rural Lancashire, do you think recording it in a small quarters in distant places seeped into the way the final songs sound?
Lancashire is the most beautiful part of England I have ever been to. I couldn't believe it when I saw it. I don't know if it seeped into the songs or if the songs just always belonged there and it was a happy coincidence but the album and Lancashire just fit together. I am currently looking at a picture of a lake Tom and me found in the middle of nowhere when we were just walking around, and it just doesn't look real. It looks like the afterlife or something.
Why did you choose 'We Almost Had A Baby' as the first single?
It's the most immediate song on the album, and also it's one of the only songs I've ever written just so I could put it out and make someone feel like shit. Unfortunately, I got back together with my ex boyfriend just before it came out and now every time it is played on the radio I have to make him a cup of tea or buy him a gift. He would also like his parents to know that we did not almost have a baby.
Whose baby did you use for the video?
That's my friend Marcus's baby, his name is Mana. He didn't cry once and he tried to eat the playstation.
One of our writers has almost had a baby (see what I did there?). They've got a girl's name, but can't decide on a boy's name - what should we call it?
That depends on the last name. if you can get a pun in that will ruin the baby's school years you should do that.
Your guitarist calls your music passive aggressive, do you think it's important to have that light and shade in your work?
You just shouldn't sell yourself out. if you feel like putting a lot of shade in your work then you should and if you feel like making bubblegum pop that makes everybody dance then you should do that too.
What were your fave 5 albums of 2008?
Beach House - Devotion, Eugene McGuinness - Eugene McGuinness, Weezer - Red. Lightspeed Champion - Falling off the lavendar bridge, Why? Alopecia, Wild Beasts - Limbo, Panto (I know that is six)
Have the 'naughties' been shit, brilliant or somewhere in between?
They're OK. I love the 90's now because I've just hit that point in my life where nostalgia for your adolescence kicks in and your obsessing referencing of Clueless ceases to be current and starts being sad, but the 00's are fun too. Facebook, Youtube, Obama, Gossip Girl. You know.
You recently appeared on the BPA single how did that happen, did Norman (Fatboy slim) ring you up?
He came to our gig and said: "ello, I'm Norman", and I was like: "Hello, yes, I know." The whole BPA project has been a really fun experience, the kind of thing that makes you have faith in music because someone like him is still putting on gigs in his local town and messing around and having fun with it, as well as thinking about giving platforms to wieners like me.
Who would you like to work with in 2009?
Who do you tip for '09?
I don't tip as I am a miserly sort.
What's best - glockenspiel or melodica? Why?
Tom is really good at both, so both.
What's the best chord to start a song with - G major or C minor?
Try 5 7th.
Who would win in a fight - Jeremy Warmsley or Lightspeed Champion?
This question made me laugh a lot. if you could even get one of them to fight the other one it would only be seconds before both were in tears.
What are your fashion tips for the coming year?
Tracksuits. Tracksuits to sleep in, tracksuits for evening wear, tracksuits for tennis. Tracksuits for making love.
What's your favourite cheese?
I don't eat cheese.
What's your star sign?
Tickle-e or tickle-er?
Try to avoid all human contact.
Your golden rule for enjoying a gig would be...?
Skip the gig and go get some noodles instead.
What are your hopes for the New Year? Any resolutions?
I made one resolution but it was quite malicious so I better not say it.
Many thanks for answering these questions! Good luck in 2009!
Emmy The Great releases the album 'First Love' on the 9th of February.
UK TOUR DATES:
31st OXFORD, Academy
1st EXETER, Phoenix
2nd BRIGHTON, Komedia;
3rd CARDIFF, Clwb Ifor Bach
5th GLOUCESTER, Guildhall
6th BATH, Chapel Arts
7th READING, South Street
9th NORWICH, Arts Centre
10th COLCHESTER, Arts Centre
11th NOTTINGHAM, Bodega
12th LIVERPOOL, Academy 2
14th GLASGOW, King Tuts
15th ABERDEEN, Moshulu
16th EDINBURGH, Cabaret Voltaire
17th NEWCASTLE, Cluny
19th SHEFFIELD, Plug
20th LEEDS, Brudenell Social Club
21st HULL, Adelphi
22nd STOKE, Sugarmill
24th MANCHESTER, Ruby Lounge
25th BIRMINGHAM, Glee
26th BRISTOL, Fleece
27th LONDON, ULU