Find the original interview HERE
Already courting comparisons with their avant-garde forerunners Goldfrapp, the electro pop duo I Am A Camera (made up of Mancunian Francesca Ross and Northern Irish Ian Watt) discuss their cultural influences with IDOL.
How are you both doing today? What have you been up to?
Francesca: We’re good, thank you. We’ve been doing interviews and we had a photo shoot this morning in the baking sun, which was fabulous. We’ve had a great day.
Can you tell us about the source of inspiration for the band name?
F: Well it’s taken from a quote [“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking” - Christopher Isherwood, “Goodbye to Berlin”]. It’s all about being passive and watching, and that’s what we do a lot with our song writing. We sit back and look at things, and look into things a bit deeper. It can be like a woman we see on the tube, or we really like “60 Minute Makeover” and, like, there can be a bitchy friend in that that you can tell is thinking, “That should have been my house!” So we think about people and what actually goes on inside the mind and behind closed curtains. That’s where a lot of the subjects and things that we think about when writing songs are about, like mundane things and how they can be transformed. So there’s that element of it and then the book itself is fabulous. It’s about Berlin at that time [1930s] and everything that was going on, with all the parties, but then on the other side, the Nazis coming through as well. We feel like it’s quite relevant now as well because no one can do anything these days without being recorded, whether it’s on Facebook or CCTV, we are all being watched all the time, in one way or another.
So how did the two of you come together as a band? Ian, we heard that you saw Francesca working as part of another band and decided you wanted to work with her.
Ian: Yeah, that’s right. I had been writing and producing with a few people, and I had actually been asked to go and see Francesca’s band and to work with them. The band were great, I had heard of them for about six months beforehand, but when I was watching I was thinking, “I really want to work with her.” It was Francesca’s voice, the tone and the way she sings. I just had a really good gut feeling about her. But obviously I didn’t get the job! But that was fine because Francesca contacted me a few weeks after.
F: I felt the same thing about Ian when we met that night because of all things that we have in common. It was a mutual thing – that’s why I contacted him; mutual appreciation.
I: So Francesca started travelling to London three days a week and crashing at mine and we built like a home studio. So we worked on a track called “Without You” and we just had a really good feeling about it and it was like, “I think we’re onto something.”
What kind of music were you playing in your previous band, Francesca? Was it different to I Am A Camera’s sound?
F: It was different, I mean, it was still electronic music but it was very much around that time of New Rave, and it was a bit less structured, shall we say.
I: Shambolic! It was a bit more punk.
F: We were just friends in our late teens and we wrote everything whilst we were drunk. It was still synth based but apart from that, this is much different.
Now that you two have joined forces, what is your creative process like?
I: We have a little studio and it’s covered in things like cult movie posters, things that we rip out of magazines and just things for inspiration. And when we start writing it’s just me and Francesca in the room and we just battle it out. We tend to have a strong idea of what each of us wants, and generally there’s a really good middle ground between the two, so it’s just finding that. We also both are visually aware of how we want the band to look, so we want to keep on shooting all our videos and keeping them all our own ideas. We work on our videos in the same way that we work on the music because it’s just such a huge part of it. It means that we get to push ourselves that little bit harder. It’s quite challenging but to do it and then finish it we get to feel like, “Yeah, we rocked that.”
You seem to be a band that draws inspiration from really defined sources, like your forthcoming single “Factory Boys.” Can you tell us about the story behind this song?
F: It’s the story of these twins, these two guys from New York. They were two country boys who were waiters, for Martha Stewart actually, and they ended up going to Studio 54 and because they were so charming and really beautiful boys they dabbled their way right into the centre of the whole Andy Warhol and Halston circle. It was such an amazing scene and the crowd that was there, and they ended up being the centre of all that. Warhol was giving them screen prints and all kinds of other amazing stories that happened to them. And we just heard the story and were fascinated by it. It was a great subject for a song. Everything that was going in New York at that time with Warhol’s Pop Art is what we’ve taken away for the video as well.
F: Yes. I think that because of the song and the story behind it and everything that goes along with it, for us to then hand it over to someone else to come up with a concept for the video and give their ideas on it, I think we became control freaks about the whole thing. It was just an extension to do the video ourselves. That’s the way that we will always want it to be.
What plans do you have coming up? You’re playing Lovebox in June – are you playing at any other festivals?
F: Well, we have a few gigs coming up in and around London, and Lovebox and then another festival in Spain.
I: Which I’m sure will be a very sober affair!
F: I think next year will be our big festival year. We just want to focus on getting the album done and finished. So we’ll concentrate on the album and then have a fabulous summer of festivals next year. We’ll still go to them this year, but to enjoy them.
You did a remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die.” Any more remix work coming up?
I: No, the whole Lana thing came up because we had met her before “Video Games” came out. She came down to a gig we were playing at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, and she loved it, which was great for us and her manager just asked us directly. We don’t have anything else like that lined up but we are totally open to it. But we’re not going to do a Steps remix or a Westlife reinvention, or anything like that! I mean, with the Lana thing, it’s a fantastic song so we didn’t want to do a dance remix but we wanted to do something that was different to what was there. I was just thinking of her vocal and nothing else.
Finally, who are your idols?
I: My idol is Prince. I have quite a few idols though; I’m quite obsessive about people. I also like John Carpenter who made a lot of movies in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. He wrote all the soundtracks, and wrote them and directed them and all that; a lot of dark sci-fi movies.
F: My idol, not in the sense of trying to be like them or look like them, but I would say Joey Ramone just because and love him and his vibe. And also, just because Ian got to say two, I will say Karen O as well – I love her. I’ll stop at two, but I could go on!
Interview: Kate Allen
Written for IDOL