Ivy & Gold, London-based duo of Rachel Wilkinson & Jamie Davies, opened for Laura Doggett in Cavern two weeks ago. I managed to have a chat with Rachel, the sylph-like figure behind the power vocals, about their music & what they’ve been doing. She’d somehow managed to spill some of her drink on my (fortunately, black) coat and was extremely apologetic, despite my hastening to assure her that it was from Primark, the land of all things cheap & good.
Don’t worry about my coat! So how did you guys get started?
Rachel: I met Jamie at a barbeque through my sister’s ex-boyfriend & we started doing covers together because we had a mutual interest in music. He was at university doing a music course & I was doing journalism because it incorporated lyrics and stuff, with lyric-writing modules, and he needed my help for his song-writing modules. He’d never really done that before because he was mainly production, so I helped him do a few songs. Then we that actually realized we sounded really good together. A few of them are on our first EP as well, like Ghosts.
So he goes on the keyboard & you sing?
Yeah but he plays the drums as well and everything in the production. For our performances, we play our song tracks and he just mutes my vocals and leaves everything else in there, and then mixes it so it sounds good live. We played it for St Pancras Old Church in London, which we sold out – it was amazing. We had some string players as well – a cellist and a violinist – and someone playing the drums, which was really nice. We occasionally have some other musicians but it’s so much easier when it’s just the two of you. People are more likely to book you because it’s not so much equipment; it’s just a piano and the two of us. You wouldn’t have a big van; we can just come down in our car & it’s really easy.
How would you describe your music?
God that’s hard. I always say it’s dark pop, but it doesn’t really have a genre I guess. It has pop elements, because I like to think it’s sort of catchy, but it’s vastly piano-based with a lot of strings & synth. We get a lot of comparisons to Kate Bush, Florence + The Machines, London Grammar School – I think we only get London Grammar cause I’m blonde (laughs) because their songs are quite placid, whereas our songs are a bit more in-your-face. I think Kate Bush because I like to use my head voice quite a lot; you know when your voice goes really high.
So did you always want to be a singer or did you just kind of fell into it?
I went to the Saturday drama school where they had group singing, dance and drama lessons since I was 4 years old, so I grew up singing stage songs mainly, and I just really liked it. I didn’t really enjoy the dancing part but I liked the acting and the singing, because you can incorporate them both. As I grew older, I wanted to learn the guitar, the piano, and write my own stuff. It was just the kind of thing where my Dad got me a piano, because my Dad & my Mum are so into music, and I just really love writing songs. This is what I want to do.
How does the song writing process work for Ivy & Gold?
We both write the songs. Jamie tends to do the skeleton of the song – he writes the music, does the piano and production – and I’ll take it and do the melody and the lyrics. But sometimes we work on the production, melody and lyrics together. It really depends.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Personal experiences. Like Bullets, one that we did tonight, I literally wrote it two weeks ago. My best friend’s Dad passed away and his funeral was two days ago, so it’s really raw. A lot of songs are based on my personal experiences, because it’s just the easiest thing to write. If not then books, like if I read a book and loved it, I’d write a song about that. If I’ve seen a film that I love, I’d write a song about that as well. It’s just inspiration from everywhere. Childhood memories, a certain mood you’re in…
Any singers that you’re really inspired by & base your music on?
I wouldn’t say we base our music on anybody particularly because it’s difficult, you sort of find your own style. I’m inspired by Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush, Florence, Tori Amos, and loads of others as well. It’s probably evident in the music the people that I look up to and love. It must be quite because people say Kate Bush but I think you just find your sound naturally and whatever you listen to in the past just makes its way into your music. Like Jamie in his production, he loves composers like Hans Zimmer, the guy that does One Republic’s production, and it just sort of amalgamates!
Well it works really well! So what have you guys got lined up?
We’ve been working on some singles, writing a lot of music, trying to do shows out of London because we’ve done lots in London. We’re doing The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and a Polish film festival in Krakow. We’ve got a cover coming out just to fill the gaps in between singles. It’s Trouble by Coldplay; we normally do it on live shows. It’ll be out in a few weeks.
I think it’s great that you guys managed to come down to Exeter even though it was a 4-hour drive.
It went quickly but then Jamie drove and I was asleep, so I’m sure he’ll disagree! (laughs) It completely went over my head, and he’s got to drive back as well and I’m drinking wine. Well, that’s what boys are for really.
Are you guys doing this full time?
We both work at a restaurant part time just for extra cash, but it’s pretty much full time because there’s always so much to do. Writing songs, going to events, doing shows, especially because Jamie’s doing all the production so it keeps him occupied. There’s constantly lyric writing as well. We could get full time jobs, but it would take its toll on the music and you sort of have to give your all to the music.
What do you think has been the best part of your music career since 2011?
Well, I personally love when we supported Paolo Nutini at Bristol Harbourside. It was the biggest show we’ve done with 5000 people; we’ve only ever really done small shows, like 200 max. Walking out and seeing all those people, all those faces, it was just really inspiring. I think it pushes you forward to really want to do well so that one day you sell out a 5000-capacity area. Because it was outside and it was summer it was just so amazing, and Paolo was so nice as well.
Also, we played at Abbey Road studios. I love old music, like Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and my Dad’s just a massive fan. Being able to play there, and even if we don’t ever get anywhere, just to say we’ve played Abbey Road studios, is pretty cool.
The other highlight was that we sold out one of our first headline shows at St Pancras Old Church. It was a good year last year. This year we’ll have to top it.
What are you guys aspiring towards asides from selling out 5000-people shows?
Getting more fans really. People always say ‘Oh I want to be signed’ which would of course be amazing but it’s more about being successful with people enjoying what you do. Just to stand there in a packed room and look at people and they just genuinely love your songs and are singing it back to you. To have that but as a full time job that pays. I don’t necessarily want to be massively famous like Lady Gaga or whatever; I just want people to enjoy our songs and to make money from that. (laughs) I love it when people come up to me at the end of the show and say ‘Oh I loved it, it was really good’.