Whoever said that you don’t mix business and pleasure obviously didn’t relay the message to IO Echo. Not only do the pair – LA girl Ionna Gika and London boy Leopold Ross – work together to create melodic dark pop, they also used to be a couple. But they say (and to continue writing in cliches ) if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and there doesn’t seem much that IO Echo need to fix. Based in LA they’re currently putting the finishing touching to their debut album, were personally picked by Trent Reznor to open for Nine Inch Nails at the band’s last ever show, have just composed the score for Harmony Korine and James Franco’s Rebel and have already landed a cover for Italian Vogue. Oh, and Florence and the Machine is a big fan. Sounds like quite the endorsement to us. IO Echo chat to us about their musical beginnings and share a photo diary from a typical few days in their LA lives.
TELL US HOW YOU FIRST MET. WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EACH OTHER?
Leo: We met at a seance. Ioanna was listening to the song ‘Venus in Furs’ at the time. I was named after Leopold Von Sacher Masoch, who wrote the book upon which the song is based. Nothing like masochism to bring two people together. I thought Ioanna was gorgeous and seemed to have an in-depth knowledge of the arts.
Ioanna: We had a similar passion for music and literature. He was engaging and calm, but at the same time a bit aloof. Doesn’t bother me. I’ll slay him.
HAVE YOU BOTH ALWAYS BEEN MUSICAL? AT WHAT POINT DID YOU DECIDE TO TURN IT INTO A CAREER, WAS THERE A TURNING POINT WHEN YOU REALISED THAT IT WAS VIABLE?
Leo: I started playing guitar when I was 11. The idea of doing anything else filled me with dread. That was the turning point for me.
Ionna: Yes. I grew up in a home without siblings so there was a lot of time spent alone with a keyboard my parents gave me for Christmas. That and their Enya records. Living on a mountain top in the far east, in my mind, where I harbor clouds of frosted colors, and study planets, is where I do the writing of my imagination. From a young age I knew I wanted to be immersed in the arts.
YOU’RE BASED IN LA BUT LEO, YOU’RE A LONDON BOY – HOW DOES THE LA MUSIC SCENE COMPARE TO LONDON’S?
Leo: I love London but haven’t lived there for a while so it’s difficult for me to comment on the scene there, but the UK has such a rich history of producing great music, I’m sure there’s a lot of great stuff happening there too. I think at the moment there is a real openness in Los Angeles across all creative fields.
Ionna: Cross pollination is occurring between different mediums and ideas in LA, which is exciting. To celebrate this, in August we co-curated an audio visual festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art with a variety of musicians – everyone from Salem to Cults – as well as visual artists based in Los Angeles taking part across three Fridays during the summer. It was super rad, all the participant were great.
WHAT MAKES YOU AS A BAND STAND OUT IN THE CURRENT MUSIC SCENE, WHY ARE YOU UNIQUE?
Leo: We use a layer of Japanese koto harps and Chinese violins throughout our songs. I’m not sure that makes us “unique” per se, but I also don’t know any bands doing that at the moment. Some people treat things as a trend, but for us, the far east is a legitimate influence which is reflected in our sound.
YOU’RE BOTH VERY CREATIVE, HOW MUCH OF A ROLD DOES ART PLAY IN YOUR OVERALL SOUND/IMAGE?
Leo: All forms of art inspire us – we have a collection of films and visuals that we project on the wall at the studio, it helps to get into a different head space.
TELL US HOW YOUR MUSICAL PROCESS WORKS ONCE YOU’RE IN TEH STUDIO, DOES ONE WRITE AND ONE COMPOSE OR IS IT ABOUT COLLABORATION? HOW DO YOU SOLVE DISAGREEMENTS.
Leo: It’s completely collaborative, but usually starts with a basic idea that one of us has started on our own. There is often tension, but in my mind: nothing truly beautiful is easy to create.
LEO, YOU ALSO PLAY WITH THE BIG PINK, HOW DO YOU DIVIDE YOUR TIME? DOES ONE PROJECT MEAN MORE THAN THE OTHER?
Io Echo is my primary creative focus, so in that sense it means a lot more. As a band, as a gang, The Big Pink means a lot to me, Robbie and Milo are best friends of mine, so playing with them is always really fun.
DO YOU HAVE SIMILAR MUSIC TASTES?
Not really. I think that is what makes our music work. It’s a juxtaposition of both of our influences and ideas smashed together. Ioanna listens to Enya, Enigma, Vangellis, and Yanni. I grew up listening to Nirvana, Public Enemy, and NWA.
YOU’VE TOURED WITH FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE, LA ROUX – WHO WOULD BE THE DREAM TO SUPPORT?
Ionna: Enya. Or Depeche Mode
WHAT’S BEEN THE ,OST ‘PINCH ME’ MOMENT SO FAR?
Leo: We’ve booked some very big shows next year which we are really excited about, but we can’t say what they are yet!