Friday, 8 February 2013

Si's Sights And Sounds Meets: Mike & Ruth Aicken

The husband and wife duo behind Belfast-Derry indie quintet The Jepettos tell us about their past, present and future musical journey

It's been over a year since your first EP, Start A New People, was released. What have you been getting up to since?

Ruth: We've had a great wee year, gigging and promoting the EP on numerous radio stations, and playing festival gigs alongside Tiny Tempah, The Foo Fighters and The Black Keys. Last summer, we released a music video short film, which has always been a bit of an ambition of ours. Mike wrote the narrative, the first of his to have been made into a movie. We've also written new material, to be released in April.

So how did the musical journey begin, for both of you?

Ruth: Mike and I met at a gig fifteen years ago. Since we've been together, we've always messed about writing songs and putting on shows for our families, with my brother and sister who are also musicians. Some of our song ideas are quite old, but our sound has been honed through many years of writing songs together in our bedroom. The Jepettos came to be after we had been songwriting for some time and had just finished in another band. We became good friends with Emma Flanagan (clarinet/recorder player), Colm Hinds (bassist) and Dan Kerr (drummer), and began to work on the EP that became Start A New People.

Did either of you have a favourite instrument at school, or did you prefer to sing?

Ruth: My Nana is a piano teacher, so I played piano for years. But really, vocals were always my main instrument. Although I was in the choir at school, music truly came alive for me outside of school. I learnt how to sing properly after taking part in loads of stage productions as a kid in Belfast, although I have a much more laid back approach nowadays.

You have a unique record design and approach to music videos which seems keen on telling a story through visuals and music...

Mike: Yes, I'm quite interested in telling stories through different mediums. I hope that I'll get more opportunities to write screenplays through sight and sound off the back of our first video (watch it below).

Last year, I likened you to Lisa Hannigan, Duke Special and Belle & Sebastian. Are they among your inspirations?

Ruth: Yeah... I love Lisa, she has such texture in her vocals. Duke has been a local hero of ours for years and we were very honoured to have him playing on the piano in "Goldrush". We've worked with him previously too, in The Lowly Knights.

You've received much critical praise. Has it helped you as songwriters, or has it not really affected you as such?

Mike: It's always great to hear people, especially rock critics, like what you're putting out there, but we are really fussy, and we really need to like what we are producing otherwise we won't get anything out of it.

The band seems like a real family affair.

Mike: Yes... We have two daughters, and our eldest is a natural in front of the camera. She's not phased by the stage at all, so we have her come on the radio and stage whenever possible to give her experience. The younger one couldn't be persuaded, however...

What should audiences expect when they go to watch The Jepettos?

Ruth: Hopefully, an earful of catchy songs.

Where do you and the rest of the band see yourselves at the end of 2013?

Ruth: A New Year's Eve party!

The Jepettos' first EP, Start A New People, is available to download at iTunes, Bandcamp and Amazon. The band themselves will be performing at the Cellar Bar, Draperstown, on Saturday February 9. For more information, follow The Jepettos on Facebook.