My article originally published on Run Riot
Jamie McDermott is late for his interview because he’s just confirmed a wedding booking. Whereas with other bands this largely involves covering The Commitments to a room that’s too busy getting drunk to give a toss, for Jamie it might just be the highlight of his career. At the end of the month The Irrepressibles will play the first gay wedding in the UK.
“I think it’s going be one of most beautiful evenings of my life, it will be incredible,” says Jamie,“We’re going to be playing Two Men In Love, as they get married.”
For two albums and three recent EPs his band have flitted between musical styles like a cultured yet populist iPod on permanent shuffle but one thing has remained constant: enduring love and the belief that everyone has a right to it. It feels odd that in the 21st century that this is still an issue. I ask Jamie whether he thinks we have gone backwards rather than forwards in recent years, particularly when we look at arcane laws that Russia and other countries enforce.
“We were over in Russia recently and were able to see the situation first hand. In many ways they are far freer than under the communist regime. Really now the problem is that it’s ruled by a religious dictator who got into his position via his relationship with the Russian orthodox church. In terms of ex-colonial countries, there’s very much a legacy from the British missionaries, it’s still very active and that’s not going to be affected by Western politics. And of course, there is much more of a systematic hard line in the way they deliver the penalty.”
The Irrepressibles performed a free concert in Gorky Park, Moscow last year. As a band with openly gay members who unashamedly confront this with their music, this was an extremely brave decision and not one that Jamie took lightly.
“It was terrifying, I cried on the train on the way there, more for the band than myself because they were so steady and determined to do it. And a lot of them are straight, including the two drummers at the back of the band but they were so behind it. So much so actually, that when the Russian technical staff refused to play our video, one of the drummers threw his sticks at them!”
This wasn’t a video that reached Frankie Goes To Hollywood levels of Bacchanalian excess, it featured gay male couples kissing. Controversial in Russia perhaps, but it is also an idea so “abhorrent” that it frequently gets their beautiful, honest and affectionate videos banned on social networks. Jamie’s response isn’t to tone this down, it’s to coerce more couples into kissing, and filming that. The aforementioned video for Two Men In Love features a crescendo of canoodling couples and last week the video of their forthcoming release The Edge of Now saw their fans recreating the “restricted” Arrow video of two men wrestling with their emotions, and each other. I ask Jamie about his relationship with his audience.
“In some respects I’m not really a traditional pop star in the way that I don’t really have much of a guard. I’ve performed in different garbs and have taken to different ways of performing. It’s quite funny actually, I met some guys at one point and they thought I’d be really haughty and arrogant and I guess that’s sometimes the way we appear on stage but we don’t have that attitude really. The important thing for me is trying to say something about a time that is honest. It’s about telling a story about something that’s real when it communicates properly that’s a wonderful thing. It’s always really scary when I bring out new work because I worry that others might not like it. Making videos about a group of people saying something is a really wonderful thing.”
Nude is the name of The Irrepressibles last album and the recent three EPs were also Nude variants. Nude:Viscera the most recent EP saw the band (pun intended) stripped down to the bare essentials of guitar and light orchestration. It’s hugely impactful – nothing is dressed up or obscured, just a raw soaring vocal coming straight from the heart, as nature intended.
“Nude originally was an album that I made before I was signed,” says Jamie “the idea was to perform the songs on a guitar in one go. Then when we looked at mixing the album with The Irrepressibles I wanted to make something that was broader… that also represented the time that the songs were written in. When I finished the record there were songs that didn’t fit the main record. They weren’t any less songs but they were too raw and mine. These songs needed to be released in some way so the idea was to do a second part, but they didn’t fit on one record. So the idea was to inhabit three different worlds with three different EPs.”
The Irrepressibles performance at Village Underground will be stripped down, Jamie explains the set up in more detail.
“The set-up is a five piece rock band, with a grunge exotica feel. We’ve got piano, viola, cello and guitar – it’s a really wonderful sound. It’s quite exciting for me because we usually have something that’s very set or electronic, it’s good to have movement. The musicians are wonderful. There’s no chance of a big spectacle with this, it’s about the energy of playing punchy loud rock music.”
We wonder if Jamie will be stage-diving?
“I don’t think so,” he says with a little laugh.