I nearly wore out my copy of Kate Bush – The Whole Story when I first started work. For some reason, I found playing The Man with a child in his eyes was just about the most soothing thing it was possible to listen to when I got home from those first steps into being a grown up. What I couldn’t get over was that she wrote the song when she was 13 and recorded it when she was 16. I’m not sure I was ready to accept that this beautiful, ambitious, ambiguous song written by someone who should have been putting Bay City Rollers posters on her wall. And then there was Tori Amos, and PJ Harvey, and soon I discovered there were an awful lot of supremely talented women who were able to write fantastically evocative and emotional music.
In Sheffield right now there’s that sort of a buzz about Emily Ireland a.k.a. See Emily Play. She writes distinctive sounding indie-folky-pop (I know that’s slightly ambiguous, but you listen and see) and has released a couple of ep’s that show that she’s certainly worth keeping a very close eye on. Certainly her most recent (self-titled) EP bristles with ambition and confidence and this quirky, melodic music that’s nigh on impossible not to like.
Hi Emily, tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! Well, I write songs and perform under the moniker See Emily Play, I’m studying law at Manchester University, I like vintage dresses and songs with good melodies.
And you were brought up in the peak district – lot going on there at the moment, what with you and Drenge etc, must be something in the water.
I’m a Sheffield girl! I do live near the Peak district though. And Drenge are pretty ace. I went to school with the drummer.
And you started early writing and playing?
I started piano lessons when I was eight, and I wrote my first song when I was 12, so pretty early, I guess.
When did that sort of gel into see Emily play, or was that straight from the start?
I was in a band with some school friends from when I was about 13 to 15, after that I didn’t gig for a while, but I started writing songs on the piano. I first gigged as ‘See Emily Play’ when I was 17, but ‘See Emily Play’ now is pretty different to those first few tentative gigs.
Who was influencing you at that point? And now?
I was a proper Indie Cindy when I was in my teens, I think I saw just about every indie band that had a top 40 hit during the mid-2000s! Now I like artists such as Ben Folds, Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush.
How would you describe your music?
One part dark, brooding melodrama, one part tongue-in-cheek, catchy, poppy self deprication.
Are you, as Heaven 17’s Glenn Gregory said, Kate Bush in waiting?
I do love Kate Bush. I admire her music and the strength and determination she had as a young woman. And I guess that admiration bleeds through into my music, but I’m not a carbon copy of her, obviously.
And your first release (official anyway) was Four Feet from the door, which appeared on the tiny teeth label – how did that come about?
I spent a few years doing backing vocals for Jon Windle, who owns Tiny Teeth, it was really fun. Releasing my EPs on Tiny Teeth seemed the logical thing to do.
Do you enjoy the studio, or does it frustrate you?
I love going into the studio. There’s something very satisfying about the process of building up a track from its bare bones to something massive and incredible. My brother and I played most of the instruments on both my EPs, its really cool to piece together all the ideas and find they actually fit and work well!
There’s a new self titled release out as well now? How was that?
The second EP means a lot more to me than the first, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think its better, It feels like there was a progression from the first to the second, which was a relief! It means more because a lot more people were involved, there’s a 12 piece orchestra on there! And a trumpet player. We recorded it all in two days and I’m really proud of how it sounds. It also means more to me because it was borne out of a desire to turn a bad thing into something good, the profits from the EP go to a charity called Rape Crisis, which provides support for victims of rape and sexual abuse, so far it’s raised over £2000. I’m proud of that, too.
It’s got some lovely songwriting on it – you worked with your brother on it? Is that right?
Yes! He’s the Lennon to my McCartney. No, wait, I want to be Lennon, he can be McCartney! Tom is a bit of a musical genius, he plays drums and guitar and bass. He’s very handy to have as a sibling!
Do you two have a great understanding, or do you row over things and throw screwed up paper at each other?
We get on, we’ve always got on, which is unusual for siblings, isn’t it? There’s no throwing screwed up of paper or arguing in the dressing room. Not that we’ve ever had a dressing room! Sorry, that’s a boring answer.
Which of the tracks on the ep do you think best illustrate you and your music?
That’s so tricky because they’re all so different! My favourite to play is Let’s Go Get Away, we usually open gigs with it because the intro is SO cool!
Let’s go get away
The track that makes me cry is….. ‘Hope There’s Someone’ by Anthony and the Johnsons
You’d surprised to know I can……not tie my shoelaces properly!
My guilty pleasures are…… Take Me Out and The Barenaked Ladies
My plans for the next year are – Get through my second year of Uni unscathed, write, record and release more music. Play lots of gigs in exciting places.
The best thing I’ve heard this year is…. A band from Amsterdam called Elementary Penguins, they have a track called ‘Everybody Knows My Name (Especially On The Dancefloor)’ and it’s awesome!
Sheffield is…….. Home.
Catch See Emily Play at Tramlines in Shefffield on Saturday 20th July