243 Ida are an electro-pop duo from Manchester, who combine their different musical experiences and backgrounds to create an enchanting, original sound that fuses classic song writing with minimal electronica; melancholic and at times experimental, but always packed with catchy hooks and memorable melodies. We caught up with Lennie and Emma to find out more about the band and what makes them tick musically.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind 243 Ida and how would you describe your sound? And how did you come up with your name? It’s an unusual one!
We have both come to the project from different perspectives. Lennie has been writing and performing for over ten years, and comes from an indie rock background, having performed as the front woman for the band Sandbox. Emma had been bedroom-producing for a few years, but had never performed live. Lennie was looking to move towards a more electronic sound, and Emma was wanting to develop her song writing and work with a vocalist… so it was a perfect fit. Our roles would best be described as vocalist (Lennie) and producer (Emma), although we both dabble with vocals and production.
We met online in February 2016, bonded over bands like East India Youth, School of Seven Bells and Hot Chip (and a mutual love of wine) and never looked back. We have a really special working relationship, both bringing different things to the table: Lennie has a technical ear for music and an intrinsic understanding of song writing, Emma is keen to experiment and push the boundaries, and obsessed with poetic lyrics. We’ve both encouraged each other to step out of our comfort zones.
In terms of our sound, we both have a passion for electronica and dance music… but our first love was indie, and we aim to take the melodies and hooks of indie music and place it in a danceable context. We want to create music people will dance and sing along to.
It took us over a year to decide on our name (!) we were looking for something we could both identify with, and that we felt communicated who we are as a band. We found ‘243 Ida’ when researching celestial bodies. She’s an S-type asteroid, which we love because we’re both geeks at heart. The name Ida comes from a Nymph in Greek mythology, which speaks to our romanticism. We love the feminine name, mixed with the ‘technical’ sounding numbers: the melody and the beat.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
We write very much from personal experience, and aim to evoke our feelings in the songs we create. We really scrutinise the mood of the song, and try to craft the key, melodies, lyrics and production accordingly. We want people to feel something when they listen, and we also (ideally) want them to move about. We write about our experiences as women, and as individuals. Our current EP, The Howling, focuses on heartbreak, as we have both been in touch with that emotion over the last few years. But, we wanted to communicate this in an unusual way and explore the reality of the lived experiences involved in a relationship breakdown. You won’t find a traditional ‘love’ song on the EP.
To me, your sound is very atypical for a Manchester band. It certainly stands out in a city dominated by guitar and dance genres. Was that a conscious decision?
Nope! We just write music that we like, that we would like to listen to. We are not averse to playing around with some guitar, in fact, in our next EP we will feature a guitar in at least two songs. We would happily feature a guitar, or write a dance section, but it would have to add to the unique character of the song. We’re keen to keep our options open creatively, and would never try to fit into a specific scene. We write predominantly for ourselves: for self-expression and catharsis (as well as, you know, fun) rather than trying to appeal to a particular audience. One of the best compliments that we have had about our EP is that no two songs sound alike.
What’s your song writing and production process? Is there a specific work flow between you, or do you swap and change roles more organically?
Every song has been different so far, and it really depends on whether it is a song that one of us has written alone, or a song that we have specifically set out to write together. As we write from experience, it works well when we have one ‘creative director’, who owns the song and has overall say on how it should sound.
When Lennie writes a song, we will record a rough draft (in Emma’s bedroom), then Emma will spend time producing it (creating the beats, synths, loops and sounds) and then send back to Lennie for feedback. When Emma writes a song, she would create the skeleton and send to Lennie, who will often adjust the melody or chords to create a more harmonic composition. Emma has a bank of songs that she’d been working on over a few years (as part of the process of learning how to produce); this has allowed us to adapt and develop this material, and make it ‘ours’.
Either way, the process is very discursive, and naturally may take a long time, or we may get the result we want right away. We try not to force anything and only work when we feel that creative spark. This is important to us as this project needs to be enjoyable and engaging.
What was the inspiration behind Mariah, the track from your recent EP, The Howling?
Mariah came from the bank of songs Emma had already written. In fact, it was the first song that drew Lennie to Emma’s sound! It has been adapted and honed: Lennie has adjusted the melody and chords and tightened it up to make it more polished. It’s a song about bravery, in essence it’s meant to be an empowering song. It’s also a bit melancholic: you can never escape yourself. In practical terms, it is about a trip Emma made to New York; she was listening to a lot of Sufjan Stevens at the time, and (although it is a very different kind of song) Chicago (from his album Illinoise) helped inspire for the mood of this song.
What’s up next for 243 Ida? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
We are currently working on our next EP, which we anticipate will be out in a few months. The songs will have a more upbeat, dancey vibe, and we’re really excited to play them live.
We have a show coming up at the Peer Hat in Manchester on the 8th March, with some awesome Manchester acts: IORA, KITS and Sam Leoh. We met some of these artists through the Electronic Open Mic Nights that are put on by the wonderful and talented Martin Christie, of Poet and the Loops (check him out!). We will definitely continue to be involved in these nights as it feels like one big electronic family.
We also have a gig on the 1st June supporting Black Nail Cabaret in Sheffield at the Mulberry Bar and Venue. In general, we’re just trying to get our music out to as many people as possible. We adore playing live, and really appreciate getting positive reactions to our songs, we just want to do it as often as possible!
Thanks for the interview, there’s some really interesting insights there in to your creative process and we’ll be looking forward to hearing your new EP. And we’ll be there to see you play in Sheffield this June, if not before then!