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Emiji: “meditative music, being quite cinematic, was perfect, even though the audience may be super niche”

As a member of the increasingly impressive Difussion Labs, but you could be forgiven for immediately associating Emiji with their glorious array of hip-hop acts. That’s not the case, at least not on latest release ‘My Journey’.

The Polish-born, Dublin-based artist has instead written an extremely mellow, trippy ode to his love of psychedelics, a pathway, he feels, to improved mental health adn well being. Blending his experiences with chill out meditation and yoga, Emiji is an advocate for how alternative routes can change your life. As well as his music, he’s also quite a serious drone photographer.

I caught up with Martin to uncover what he’s all about…

First of all, can you tell me a little bit about your musical background?

I am pretty much a self-taught pianist, who took time to practice and study music theory and composition in my free time. I’m also a producer, and a trained engineer. I come from hip-hop, funk, house and jazz background musically, although I love neoclassical, cinematic soundtracks and psychedelic music.

Diffusion Lab seem to be everywhere at the moment. How did the project come about for you?

It was around 2015-ish, when I met Ivan, I knew Chris for years, and DFL was only at the very beginning. When I came to Ireland, I called Chris to see what he was up to and he introduced me to Ivan and told me all about the plans for DFL. After a short talk, we started working together. It’s been a journey, definitely.

Is there a real collaborative feel behind the Diffusion Labs acts?

I believe collaboration has a lot of meanings in music and in general. I actually had to learn to communicate and collaborate, as I’m a bit of a “loner”. I feel that DFL is a collaborative project and artists do help each other and other artists, as much as they can. It’s a lot about the vibe in the studio, and writing songs together.

Tell me about your own project – what is the story behind it?

Martin Emiji (Or simply Emiji) is my “other”, more personal side, where I explore more neoclassical, ambient, textural, and cinematic music, and a bit of digital art and photography.

After years of working on so many different styles of music, I wanted to go in a totally different direction. I tried to compose some classical stuff around 2007-2008 but it wasn’t even close to ‘good’. I wanted to explore my deeper and darker side, more mellow and sad, but also the side that appreciates life more, after my first psychedelic experience. This kind of music seemed like the perfect fit for that.

TYG: “The hostel have my guitar in storage, in case it’s used as a weapon”

TYG’s road to the world of music has been an unusual one. The Dubliner has always had a passion for writing and melody, but developed his sound and met people to record with during his time at Dublin music college BIMM. Simultaneously, as well as releasing singles this year, he’s made progress in his long-term recovery from addiction. The pandemic’s hit at the wrong time, however, and he’s found himself without somewhere to stay.

Now, living in emergency accommodation with his guitar under lock and key, he’s taking one of the more unlikely routes into a half-paced music, as he struggles to get his life back on track. A series of singles released this year introduced his sound – a brutally honest, folky take on life – but his latest addresses specific issues in his life straight on. 

‘Lord Do You Hear These Prayers’, out this week, focuses on things like sometimes feeling like giving up is just easier; a feeling of being beaten down but fighting on. It opens “living on the doll, living on the breadline,” and is about “clothing yourself and how you survive.”

“I released my first song at the start of this year,” he tells us. “That was basically down to meeting a lot of great musicians in BIMM, where I spent a year doing a CPD course, and they said they’d help me release a song. They really helped me make it reality.”

“The latest single is about addiction. It’s quite different to the other tracks I’ve released. I’m not literally quoting people, but I definitely use people I’ve met and places I’ve been to paint a picture.”

“I was in treatment for addiction and renting a place, so I was in treatment centres and then in recovery houses, sober houses,” Tyg says of his situation earlier this year. “I got clean and I’ve stayed clean. When Covid hit, I had moved from the recovery house to my own place. The landlord pulled out, and I’d already handed the keys back to the recovery house, so I couldn’t get back into my old place.”

David Keenan: “art can change your life, and create a movement”

David Keenan is your quintessential live performer, so naturally lockdown has been hard on the Louth man, a character who mixes poetry and music in a style somewhat reminiscent of classic troubadours like Bob Dylan, focusing his tracks heavily on building an intense live show.

Like many of us, then, Keenan has spent part of lockdown reminiscing about what used to be. Specifically, he’s been looking back at his live efforts, and tying together years worth of tour films – clips dating back to when he started out promoting his work by sticking posters on city walls – with footage from his Olympia Theatre date earlier this year.

“The inability to express yourself live, and just to have contact with each other, it’s been hard,” Keenan tells me when I ask about how he’s spent his time in recent months. 

“What I’ve made in the film is condensed from three years, from Rob Benson, including open mic lights at the start though to the Olympia Theatre. It’s about the positive impact that music brings to a life, and the musical community in Ireland.”

“It’s also about finding a tribe, self acceptance and realising a dream, which is what the Olympia show was for me. It was finding a band, kicking up some dust around Dublin, and the collective encouragement of my tribe, and facing fear face on.”

“I was on tour in March. All summer was obviously cancelled, but the film bookends the story of this chapter of my life. The passing of Gar Kane, by bandmate, features heavily in the film, and I’m still reeling from that. I think it will help to keep my spirit of live music alive, and the story shows the collective graft from everyone involved. There was no big management company or label or anything, it was just word of mouth. People helped me a lot along the way.”

Jafaris: “whatever I put into music, I find I often get out”

As a rapper who’s not that into performing live, Jafaris – Percy Chamburuka – is more suited than most to creatively dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus, and he’s been making the most of his time in following up his hit 2019 album ‘Stride’ with some shorter offerings.

Latest EP ‘I Love You, But I’m In A Bad Mood’ is every bit as heavy on the emotional content as it’s title might suggest. Based on a break up with his long-term girlfriend, Jafaris lets his emotions flow, leaving him with mixed feelings about the release that he says ia nonetheless a part of him. 

“It was part of the process of the break up, coming to that decision and then the aftermath, and how the situation worked, really,” he says of the music, which combines elements of hip-hop, pop, soul and light jazz. “I didn’t want to make it into an EP really, but it came out because that’s what was inside me, so that’s the way it went.”

“I had way more songs in this vein, maybe two albums worth, but these songs are the ones that expressed exactly how I felt the most. I didn’t want the songs to go to waste, so it’s my journey, I guess. I was with this girl for a very long time, and she was my first girlfriend really, and she’s an artist herself so she was kind of around for some of the process of making the tracks. I played her some of the songs so she’s aware before it comes out, and she’s supportive of it.”

The decision to release the EP and then immediately follow it with an unrelated single, in fact, is part of Jafaris’ ‘moving on’ from the break up that he’s based his EP on. 

“I was looking forward to doing this one live,” he says, “which is strange as I’m not that into the live thing really. I’m very into the visual side of things, and this did give me a lot of time to focus on the visuals and make sure I get that right.”

Bitch Falcon: “in a sense, it’s nice to take a breather away from the ‘rat race’ of music”

Blending a grungy rock style with a full on wall-of-sound live set up, Bitch Falcon stormed onto the Irish music scene a few years ago with stonking, hard-hitting singles like ‘TMJ’ and ‘Clutch’, too heavy for substantial radio play, but capturing the heart of the rock scene.

Having taken five years from their debut singles to releasing an album, ‘Staring At Clocks’, though – a time period that has seen the band undergo a line up change and a solidification of the style – Bitch Falcon’s debut full-length feels like a considered launch.

“We feel like we’ve really solidified our writing process ahead of the album,” vocalist Lizzie Fitzpatrick explains ahead of the release, referencing the various styles the band take on board, including a growing poppy edge before joking, “we’ve gone soft.”

“You can hear a little bit of [new-ish member] Barry’s black metal on some of the album tracks,” drummer Nigel Kenny continues. “There’s some interesting guitar picking on there from some of his ideas, so you might hear a little bit of that.”

“We recorded the album with Deaf Brothers, at the Meadow Studio out in Delgany,” Kenny says. “They did the No Spill Blood albums, BATS and so on. It was recorded over ten days and then sent to Alex Newport in Los Angeles, who’s a Grammy nominated mixing artist who works with The Mars Volta and so on, established bands we really like.”

“That helped develop the sound, Alex put a particular vibe into it which we really like. It made a huge difference in terms of capturing the craziness and allowing it to be heard in the way we wanted.”

JYellowL: “I’m finding out what my ‘why’ is”

JYellowL’s debut album 2020 D|vision is an exploration of goals and concepts, one that’s been a long time coming. After several EPs in recent years, but also dabbling in music since his childhood, the rapper, Jean-Luc Uddoh, raised in Dublin to Jamaican and Nigerian parents, always looked destined to pursue a life in music. 

His commitment is such that the rapper says the entire purpose of his education – in particular a degree in politics from UCD – was to lay the groundwork for a politically-heavy career in music. His music has since helped soundtrack the hit TV series Normal People, and he’ll shortly take part in the BBC documentary ‘The Rap Game UK’. 

He’s spoken to crowds at Black Lies Matter Dublin protests, and addresses racism proudly and starkly in his lyrics.

“It feels like stepping into my purpose, really, having a full body of work done to call my own” JYellowL says. “The whole process was great, you only get to finish your debut album once.”

“It felt a lot different to the EPs, I guess EPs would be more the same sort of concepts, but done really concisely. I don’t delve as deeply into certain things as I’d like to on the EPs, and I have done on the album. That was the major thing for me when I was writing.”

“There are a lot of concepts. The overarching theme is the different stages of growth for an up and coming artist, finding out what my ‘why’ is. It’s one I touch on from the very first track on the album, and it slowly progresses from a state of questioning everything but maybe taking everything at face value, to actually realising the impact I could make with what I’m doing, and what my goal is as an artist. That’s the main idea.”

“I address things like racism, hypocrisy, pride, humility, patience, the balance between those things. They’re basic human concepts, but it’s about my experience with them and my relationship with them.”

Laura Elizabeth Hughes: “Pen to journal and ramble writing is my first port of call”

Laura Elizabeth’s Hughes’ new EP ‘We, Myself and I’ is perhaps the ultimate lockdown release. Blocked from her social life and her beloved job as a librarian, the Hughes describes the album as “confronting myself,” and “dealing with the choral voice of my own thoughts”.

The focus of the new release, as a result, is keeping things simple, without two many studio-leaning bells and whistles, while Hughes’ navigated the surreal world we all find ourselves in.

I caught up with her ahead of the March 5 release…

First of all congrats on the EP. I’d imagine it comes from a different place to your music before this. Tell me about the background to ‘Days’ in particular…

Thank you! Days was a weird oul look at the restlessness of repetition and limbo that has been lockdown for me, and a lot of people I’ve had conversations with have felt the same.. I was bored, I was wanting some change away from the Groundhog Day feel of everything.

What kind of challenges did you face on the technical side working in isolation?

What kind of challenges didn’t I face on the technical side haha, I had a lot of learning to do. A lot of Youtube troubleshooting, voice notes with pro-friends. I guess the biggest side step of any larger challenges regards recording was to simplify what I was working with, and to play to my strengths which I was failing to see for a good chunk of last year! I was getting caught up in trying to do too much, or create bells and whistles that in the end just didn’t work, and didn’t make sense in the realms of the project.

Nealo: “I think it’s unfair, for a lot of people, the way society is set up”

Nealo’s debut album ‘All The Leaves Are Falling’ is a snapshot of a left-behind side of society, a kind of personalised treatise in music that highlights the difficulties of working-class creatives while exploring his own perspective.

The product of years of work, it’s a step aside from the Dubliner’s usual style as he goes for a more expansive, punchy, expressive record, drawing on his own punk-roots and embedding his protest-message in a record that’s heavily hip-hop leaning.

“It felt different making this, I wanted to make it so that people would look at it and think it’s something different. I wanted to give a feeling for what I was trying to do, and tell my story, who I am and what’s unique to me,” he explains, before going into the way the album relates to his own history.

“It’s a little about that adolescent want for leaving somewhere, and then later coming back. About the hardships, and the people who have left, and who haven’t. There’s tragedy and beauty in that. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is I’m trying to say, but there’s a message in there.” 

“So it’s about Clonsilla, essentially, which I love now, but when I was kid I felt like there was something big happening somewhere else, and I wasn’t there. I still get that today, sometimes, but I think I have a bit more perspective on it, too. When you’re young, everything seems like the biggest thing in the world.”

The record features a series of interludes that expand on the music, giving witty context. “I was a little worried the Interludes might be a bit long,” Nealo says, “but I put them in and they’ve been really popular. It gives context, a feeling of who I am I guess, and adds to the narrative.”