Creator of The Irrepressibles Jamie McDermott, whose surname translates ‘son of a free man’, was born in Scarborough, a town perched amidst the raw and brutal landscape of North Yorkshire. Scarborough has a rich history as the original Great British seaside destination of wonder and escape. From elaborate Victorian penny arcades and peep shows to the wild and rude amusements of the 20th Century its past proved a cliff-home of the magical, spectacular and emotionally overwhelming. It was here in a council house on a hill by the seafront that the young working-class Jamie grew up. Influenced by his strict Roman Catholic school and the secretive drama of its church, enchanted by the distant buzz of the funfair, surrounded by the sounds of arcade machines and old carousel organs and haunted by the sea and the landscape of the moors, Jamie became a dreamer…
Bullied intensely as a child, Jamie began to inhabit a fantasy world fuelled by his imagination.. One day came in this vivid and powerful time where Jamie looked out from his dream-space and saw another boy. He was fascinated by him. Jamie found new confidence and felt invincible. He was for the first time at one with the universe. He was in love. From a beautiful friendship came a terrifying realisation. Jamie now knew he was a young gay man but the emotional revelation of his powerful love for the boy led to rejection and despair. One night, a confused collision occurred; lost in melancholy he took a knife to his chest as his friend slept beside him. The boy awoke, stopped the blade and embraced him’. After that night their friendship fell apart; Jamie walked for days around the places that were once theirs, he took to the cliff edge near with nothing but remorse and the intention to jump. But the view was immense – over the edge and deep into rolling, unforgiving sea; a rainbow across the wet sky. In the silence after his tears he learnt to revisit the dreamscape of his childhood and there he heard music; his own. He dreamed sounds and saw visions and felt a purpose in this moment; to explain the depths of his love so people would understand.
Now, Jamie McDermott’s music of The Irrepressibles lives as a process and artefact that is consistently connected to the emotional. Jamie’s creative process begins with a raw release of his feelings, Jamie works in a refreshingly cathartic way simply letting his creativity intuitively flow and naturally allowing his voice to manifest and explain the instrumental parts of his orchestrations. He says “the voice, like movement, dictates its own flow, its own personality, its own nature – it is the direct route to the subconscious”. “the heart is where music should come from, not too much the head”. He says “I wanted, and continue to want, to make something that portrays the real originality, drama and intensity of life.”
The Irrepressibles are, as their name describes, all about rebellion. They exist to influence, change and collaborate. Their aim is to allow truthful emotional connection and create a landscape of expressive abandon. They are what Jamie decribes as a ”performance orchestra” which he choreographs and fronts live on vocals, guitars and occassionally piano. Comprising classically-trained and pop musicians turned performance artists: Jordan Hunt on violin/costume direction, Charlie Stock on viola, Nicole Robson on cello, `Chloe Treacher on double bass, Sarah Kershaw on piano/keyboards, now James Field on Drums and Ian Trip on Drums and Xylosynth.
Choreographed by McDermott the orchestra move and breathe into performance; fusing their instruments with his directions and their own personas, to unfold, ricochet and contract. They respond directly to his music as they play within unique fashion designs and interactive set designs and lighting installations. The Irrepressibles create what could be considered the ultimate “art pop” – one that iconoclastically collides music styles and iconic visual moments into a truly post-modern expression of music. As if to turn Andy Warhol’s work on its head The Irrepressibles are a pop music project that aspires to become art. As Jamie says “in performance my aim is to become an art object, a ‘being’, a ‘machine’ that expresses the emotion of the music and that fascinates the inner child… just like the fairground organ or a flock of birds I extend the music into visual so the two have a relationship to each other, in functionality and feeling, in expression and manner.”
This audio-visual fantasy described by the Sunday Times as ‘an enchantingly theatrical pop extravaganza’ first reached seminal status in 2005 with their headline show at The Hackney Empire in London, a 3-act spectacle featuring costumes by designer Rui Leonardes, the band members suspended through screens and a three-tier podium with revolving centre. Their next sold-out performance saw hundreds of people turned away at one of London’s hottest clubs with canvases behind the band erupting into paint as the performers, dressed in origami, were painted live by makeup artists. These shows set a new precedent and earned The Irrepressibles a reputation that has seen them influence more commercial pop artists including Florence and The Machine, Paloma Faith and Lady GaGa amongst many others. The Irrepressibles are now internationally acclaimed, having created commissions for some of Europe’s most prestigious institutions and festivals. With audiences now in their thousands and tens of thousands they have presented their infamous “Light and Shadow” and “Gathering Song” spectacles to open Latitude Festival, the “Human Music Box” for the V&A Museum, the “Mirror Mirror Spectacle” for the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Paris Quatier Festival, and their “Air Spectacle” premiered at Teatre Scorchi in Modena, Italy. The Irrepressibles continue to be completely unique and continuously ingenious contemporaries in popular music, astonishing everyone with their breathtakingly intense and emotionally irrepressible performances.
January 2009 saw the release of their 7 track CD/DVD package ‘From the Circus to the Sea’ and Jamie’s creation of the soundtrack for the film ‘Forgotten Circus’ by the acclaimed director and choreographer Shelly Love. Following this and their signing to Major Record Label, The Irrepressibles’ debut album ‘Mirror Mirror’ was released in February 2010 through V2/Cooperative; their sell out premiere performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London of the Mirror Mirror spectacle astounding critics. In 2011 the band took the spectacle on a European tour including their powerful performance at the Barbican Hall in London, before retiring the spectacle at the Donaufest in Austria. The Holland Festival in Amsterdam were treated to a revival of the revolving, hypnotic‘Human Music Box’ in June 2011. In August 2011 The Irrepressibles premiered ‘The Human Zoetrope’ at the Piazza Castello in Sesto al Reghena, Italy. August also saw the release of “Mirror Mirror” in the USA along with the single “In This Shirt” with the forceful remix from Hercules & Love Affair, and the “10 minute and 36 second electronic masterpiece” of a remix by Röyksopp.
McDermott has contributed his unique musical style to Hotel Pro Forma’s upcoming opera ‘War Sum Up’, composing alongside Santa Ratniece and working with the Latvian Radio Choir. The show features music from The Irrepressibles and premiered in September 2011 to standing ovations, before touring Norway, Denmark, Germany, and Latvia with four and 5 star reviews and notimations for 3 opera awards .
On the 22nd October THE IRREPRESSIBLES’ will begin the international release of their highly anticipated second album “NUDE” . The album showcases their new direction in combining dark electronica with organic orchestration to, in their words, try explain “the rich complexity of life”.
NUDE is a raw, elements inspired work with a focus on the passing of time and memory. It is expansive and atmospheric in it’s orchestration with powerful melodies and iconoclastic arrangements that are both very European and in many ways American-iconic in style. The album features the singles tracks “ARROW”, “PALE SWEET HEALING”, “TWO MEN IN LOVE”, “NEW WORLD”, and “TEARS”.
On lead track “ARROW” McDermott tells the story of a clumsy boy finding himself to be different – the turmoil of his adolescence – and his coming of age through his love for another boy. It is a deeply poetic piece about the beauty of the human spirit and how tender and fragile this is. The track combines ‘McDermott’s confessional lyrics and sky-scraping voice’ with dramatic Fassbinder / Kenneth Anger styled orchestrations and dark european electro to create a driving emancipation of a track. On the 28th May “ARROW”‘s music video directed by McDermott appeared on The Irrepressibles website and youtube and racked up thousands of hits in the first two hours alone and has continued to go viral being picked up by the fashion and gay press.
“New World” (double A side released 27th August 2012) combines late 50’s style doo-wop male backing vocals with sub-bass and a driving dark 80’s new wave as the singer tries to communicate to a close friend that he should be free to be himself. “Tears” (double A side released 6th August 2012) brings together 40’s cinematic orchestration with 80’s electronica and 70’s prog-rock styles to become driving kitsch electro. McDermott sings about the surreal life of a performer with the “tears of a clown” struggling with life of being a performer and his own insecurities. .
Sonic influences can clearly be heard ranging from Phil Spector, 80’s Chris Isaaks, Doo-wop masters The Flamingos, Godspeed you black emperor, the dark country style of Neil Young, and even Japanese electronica, and ABBA.
Described by The Independent’s Simon Price as ‘one of Britain’s best kept secrets’; quite a title to own…