Words by Nadia von Bertouch
After releasing her single Numb last month, Sydney songstress Imogen Jones (or better known as Lupa J), has set off on a national tour as a support act for singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko.
As a classically trained violinist, Imogen made the transition to electronic music in her early teens and has been making waves in the Australian music scene ever since.
Having already supported the likes of Canadian songstress Grimes earlier this year, it’s clear to say the eighteen year old is well on the way to cementing herself within the national music scene and beyond.
I caught up with Imogen ahead of her tour with Sarah Blasko to chat about the upcoming shows, and to get a taste of her soon to be released EP, My Right Name.
Firstly, congrats on the release of your new single, Numb. Can you tell us a bit about the track and what to expect from the music video when it’s released?
Thank you! I wrote Numb during a particularly dark phase of my teenage years, after being forced to deal with some difficult things I had ignored for too long. I could see another girl I knew from school really struggling to face her own emotions, and instead coping in damaging ways – I guess I saw aspects of myself in her, and I ended up writing about it. That’s where the song originally came from.
With the video, I tried to portray those ideas in a more subtle way – there are shots of me dancing and singing in different locations, and other shots where I got a friend of mind to stand around in crowds looking a bit lost. I sort of see it as the older more mature me singing to a younger more naïve representation of me.
You wrote Numb when you were just 15, do the lyrics and meaning behind the song still ring true for you all these years later?
I wouldn’t write lyrics like that now, but I guess the underlying ideas do still carry significance in the sense that I think over time it’s come to represent the beginning of me becoming more self-aware. The formation of identity that comes with facing and dealing with painful situations is a central theme of my EP – so I made Numb the opening track, as it marks the beginning of that process.
How have things changed for you since finishing your final year of high school in 2015, as well as signing with WME Worldwide?
It’s just meant a lot of rehearsing! That’s all I’ve been doing for the last two months really, sorting out my live setup and preparing for my first national tour, as well as finishing up my EP. It’s thanks to WME that I was able to open for Grimes and now Sarah Blasko.
You’re a classically trained violinist. How did you find yourself writing electronic music? Is classical music something you’re still interested in?
I’d been experimenting with songwriting for a while on keyboard and guitar before I started using electronics – but because I was having to spend so much time on violin I never got very good at either of those more typical songwriting instruments. So at the point where I really wanted to make a recording of a song, I decided to centre it around violin. Since violin alone can’t really carry a song like guitar can, I filled the gaps by making loops and other electronic sounds on Garageband. Then eventually I bought Ableton and learned to produce.
Since finishing 6 years of intensive training in classical music at the Conservatorium high school I’ve kind of avoided any non-contemporary classical music. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate classical music at all – I like a lot of more contemporary composers, like 1900s onwards, and I really like experimental electronic music that involves ‘classical’ instruments or takes influence from art music. I just tend to avoid Hayden symphonies and Mozart string quartets.
Lupa J has recently started performing as a 3 piece, how has this changed your onstage presence?
Having Nathan on electronic drums just adds much more of a live element to our performance – I do think it’s more interesting to watch people trigger drum sounds in real time than have it loop or play back from a sampler.
Your tour with Sarah Blasko kicks off tomorrow night (Wednesday April 6), do you consider yourself to be a longtime Sarah Blasko fan?
I’m super excited! I guess I could say I am a longtime fan, my parents have been playing her albums since I was quite young. I first started listening to her on my own terms when I was about thirteen, and she definitely has influenced my songwriting and singing style.
Some of the tour venues are a lot different to the usual bar or club, with your first show at The Abbey in Canberra. How do you think this will change the dynamics of the shows?
I’m not entirely sure, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow night – I’ve hardly ever played in venues of this size, apart from Grimes at the Enmore, so that’s my main concern! I doubt many Sarah Blasko fans will be coming to dance though, just because of the nature of her music, but that’s fine – we’re used to people just standing and staring. Even though I’m an electronic artist not many of my songs have a consistent beat the entire way through.
Numb will feature on your upcoming EP My Right Name, can you share a little bit about the idea behind the name and what we can look forward to from the EP?
My Right Name is essentially about a struggle with identity; about coming to terms with who you are and what you really value in yourself – that’s where the title comes from. For me there’s always been a battle between wanting to be free in that and wanting to conform to other people’s expectations, usually out of anxiety of being rejected or misunderstood. I’ve tried to be someone else entirely for huge chunks of time, and it’s caused a lot of problems for me – superficiality in relationships with other people; confusion in how I relate to myself. The EP is about untangling yourself from a mess like that, seeing better how you fit into things, and developing a sense of identity in the process.
And finally, do you have an estimated EP release date for your fans?
No specific dates yet, but I’m hoping late May / early June!