Interview: Imogen Clark on Bastards, London and collaborating

Main image credit: Jess Gleeson

Imogen Clark is a machine when it comes out to music. And yet her constant output doesn’t diminish the quality of her work. Her recent release “Forget About London” is the first indicator of her EP Bastards, out later in the year.

Clark fuses rock and indie pop to tell her own stories of love and heartbreak. Only this upcoming body of work is the first time she’s really removed the microscope from herself and onto those surrounding her – a new territory for the Sydney singer.

“Forget About London” was co-written with fellow Aussie music comeuppance Eilish Gilligan and tales the tainted memories of a romance. Along with its release, Clark has announced a string of themed shows at Sydney’s Low 302 to coincide with Bastards.

Congrats on “Forget About London”!

Oh, thank you so much. We tried to do our best to write our best sort of Taylor Swift style breakup song and we tried to get that chorus nice and catchy. And I wrote it with Eilish Gilligan, who of course is an amazing singer songwriter producer from Melbourne. So it’s great to have her influence on the track, and she sings the backing vocals that you hear as well.

Was that the first time you’d worked with her? Were you guys mates outside of this collaboration?

No, now we are, but that was the first time we’d met, was the writing session we had together, and it was hooked up through my manager Jeremy Dylan. And we came together at the session and I just walked in with all these things weighing on my mind that I’ve just been through with this guy that I wrote the track about. And I just started pouring my heart out to Eilish, and she was so kind to just lend me an ear and it turned into us writing the song. And it was just great to work with somebody like her who’s so wonderful as a producer, as well as a songwriter. So I think we complemented each other’s strengths.

What did you learn about your craft in collaborating with her? Do you find you take different things from working with different people?

Oh, absolutely. I really found with Eilish, that was the first time that I had really written with somebody who worked predominantly on the track. So I’d always sat down with a guitar or piano and somebody else with a guitar or piano, and that was this more organic way that a song came about. Whereas with Eilish, she was building the track as we were writing it. So it was great to hear it coming together and not just on some acoustic instruments. I could really hear how it was going to sound in the final track, just because she’s a wonderful producer. So watching her do that and being able to hear what the finished track might sound like, I think helped us in writing it because it was really a fully formed theme from the beginning.

Is producing something you want to pick up or would you rather leave it to other people?

You know what, I go back and forth on that. I sometimes I think, no, I just want to focus on the songwriting, but I actually think that it would be a wonderful thing to learn to produce so that not only could I work on producing my own records, but also potentially in the future produce other artists’ records. I think it would be a great way of expanding my skillset.

You touched on it before that you went to London and you met a boy over there. Tell us the story behind “Forget About London”.

So, what happened was I had just finished this big UK tour which happened to coincide with this breakup that I was going through from a long term relationship, and I was in a bit of a vulnerable place and I happened to be stranded in London for the aftermath. And while I was on the rebound, I met this guy in London who I thought was everything I was looking for, and he swept me up and I fell pretty hard and fast for him. But as it turned out, he wasn’t really who he’d made himself out to be and he basically just broke my heart and then completely disappeared off the face of the earth. Just ghosted me 100 per cent. And it was really heartbreaking and I just felt very disappointed because I thought it was going to turn into something more real.

So, I felt like when I came back to Australia, I was thinking it’s time to go home, hopefully this will help me get over what I’m going through and the new change of scenery will help me move on. But once I got home, all I could see was London everywhere. And I felt like I was still there, and I was just being followed around by the tainted memories of this romance. So it was really hard, and that’s exactly what I was going through when I walked into the session with Eilish.

You’ve just gone through a tough breakup and now you’ve gone and worn your heart on your sleeve, and then you just get ruined again. That actually sucks.

Exactly how I felt. Thank you, that’s very sweet. That was part of it, was not only was I upset, but I was really angry. I was like, I’ve tried my best to be open here and not let the breakup taint me for future, like you said, wearing my heart on my sleeve, but didn’t work. But I don’t regret anything because I think all you can be is your honest self, and if you’re honest with people about what you want and they run away from that, then they weren’t meant for you anyway. Because if they can’t deal with you being honest and being true, then it wasn’t right in the first place.

Does this heartbreak fuel a lot of your upcoming EP?

Well yeah, I think there’s elements of it, but I would actually say that this is the first record I’ve put out where a majority of the songs aren’t actually related to loving romantic relationships. They are all songs about relationships, but I pulled in different kinds of influences this time. Really all the songs are about me learning how to deal with the external forces in my life, the push-pull of other people and how they affect me and how I affect them. So there are songs on there about family relationships, there’s a song about my old guitarist, Glen Hannah, who we’ve lost to depression a couple of years ago. There are a couple of romantic relationship songs, but as a whole, it is actually more of a broad spectrum of different kinds of relationships.

I like that because I was reading that you’re a big Taylor Swift fan and I was like, “Okay, so maybe she pulls across from a lot of her relationships.” But no, it’s nice to hear it’s a bit more introspective and self-discovery in that sense.

Definitely. And I absolutely love Taylor Swift and she is a huge idol to me, and I think she’s begun to do that as well. I think she’s always touched on it, but she’s begun to be telling different kinds of stories rather than just autobiographical ones, which is something I want to do as well in the future. But this EP just happens to be autobiographical stories, but not just romantic love, different kinds of love and different kinds of relationships.

You’ve got a residency coming up at Low 302. What can we expect from those shows?

That’s going to be really fun. I’m looking forward to that so much. So, every show is a different theme and a different setlist completely. So I’ll be playing the preview songs of all of the upcoming EP’s tracks, and apart from that, every other song on each setlist will be completely different. So the themes are, the first show is all about breakup songs. So it’s going to be different kinds of breakup songs, happy, empowered, even sad, angry, all those kinds of breakup songs, my own from my back catalogue, but also covers. The second show was going to be duets. So I’m going to get some musical friends to help me with that. We’re going to reimagine what some of my songs as duets, as well as our favourite classic duet covers. The third show is called My Personal History of Pop. So I’m basically going back as far as pop music has influenced me, and working my way towards today in chronological order with all the pop music that’s shaped me. And the last show is called Bastards, which is basically just angry, cathartic rock songs.

Imogen, this sounds so cool! So people can come to every single night and get a different show.

Exactly. It’s how we wanted to design it, because it’s such an intimate, great venue and Low is my favourite place to hang out in Sydney. We wanted to do the residency there, but because it’s so small, we hoped to do multiple shows, but make it different so people can pick and choose their favourite, or they can come to all of them or a select few.

That’s exciting! And do we have any more information on the upcoming EP?

The EP is going to be out in May, amidst the residency.  The title is Bastards, hence the last show being called Bastards.

I can’t wait! Thanks for talking to me today.

Thank you so much, it’s such a pleasure to talk to you.

Keep up to date with Imogen Clark on her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 UPCOMING TOUR DATES

Buy your tickets HERE.

MAR 26 FRI | The Baroque Room @ 5:30pm | Katoomba, NSW
MAR 27 SAT | The Victoria Bathurst @ 6:00pm | Bathurst, NSW
MAY 4 TUE | Low 302 Residency – Break Up Songs @ 7:00pm | Surry Hills, NSW
MAY 11 TUE | Low 302 Residency – Duets @ 7:00pm | Surry Hills, NSW
MAY 18 TUE | Low 302 Residency – Personal History of Pop @ 7:00pm | Surry Hills, NSW
MAY 25 TUE | Low 302 Residency – Bastards @ 7:00pm | Surry Hills, NSW
NOV 13 SAT | The Barn at Wombat Flat @ 5:30pm | Timothy James Bowen | Neales Flat, SA

Main image credit: Jess Gleeson

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