I M U R, Vancouver's music group combines the whole electronic, experimental, soul and hip-hop experience within their music. Members Jenny Lea, Mikey J Blige and Amine Bouzaher talk about their biggest obstacles, advice and their process for creating music.
Q: Describe how I M U R came together and the recent addition of Amine Bouzaher?
A: I M U R was initially created when Mikey J Blige and Jenny Lea wanted to experiment, and see if their two musical worlds could collide, to create a unique sound and a stand out live act. We begun with a little bit of cash that Jenny had been granted from Music BC's Emerging Artist Program. For Mikey, an inspiring surf, and production trip followed by the pressure of landing our first live show at Canada's most popular electronic music festival, Shambhala.
At the time when we first got together, Amine had just started Simple Machines, a solo live-looping act, which enticed us to invite him along our first tour in the summer of 2015. Amine was feeling inspired after seeing our set up with Abelton Live, and after tour, locked himself away for months learning the ins and outs. We had started to book larger shows and festivals and wanted to hire Amine as a session player to really 'wow' our audience. After our second tour together, and first collab track “Wayward," it was pretty evident that there was no turning back, and we had to have this amazing human in the group permanently.
Q: For people who don’t know- what does I M U R stand for?
A: I M U R (I am you are) represents the idea of art as indistinguishable from an audience. Without a context and an appropriate medium (of whatever modality), art falls on deaf ears. It’s like that proverb, “if a tree falls in a forest with no one to hear it, will a hipster buy its album?” Or something like that. The point is we realize how important our friends, family, and audience are and have incorporated that into our band name and our general outlook.
Q: Your music consists of a combination of electronic/experimental soul and hip hop- Do you think you have established a unique sound that differentiates you from other artists?
A: Absolutely. We have a unique mix of melodic, ambient and jazz influences and manage to mix that in with our more banger faves. Our live show is an especially good way to get a sense of that; the combination of RnB vocal hooks, instrumental arrangement, and thick sub offers up a welcome change from similar, wholly electronic music.
Q: What have been some of your biggest obstacles?
A: They have been varied, from the frustration of playing for big acts with little recognition/pay to dealing with Spotify/Soundcloud algorithms and practices. In a nutshell, the biggest obstacle has probably been navigating the world of music business, learning its ins and outs and learning to hone our business sense.
Q: I M U R reached over one million people through Spotify in the past year- how do you feel about this accomplishment and how will you continue to push this in 2017?
A: We feel a lot like Willy Wonka probably did after his first run at the chocolate factory, “holy smokes we made some quality stuff and people loved it, now we have to refine it, keep pushing and do it bigger."
Q: Can you talk about one particular performance, which you really enjoyed?
A: The Chapel Sound 4 year was a huge highlight, in large part because it marked an incredible period of artistic and personal collaboration with some of our Vancity faves. Chapel is a collective that we've been watching and listening to for years, and it felt so good to share the stage with so many incredibly talented locals, plus, it was a total banger.
Q: Your song “FFL” is featured in the Patagonia ad, which is incredible- what has it been like since releasing this song- have you had lots of positive feedback?
A: We’re all avid snowboarders so we were really pleased to collab with Patagonia! We have so many friends who ski, snowboard, mountain bike, etc, so our fan base is really familiar with them as well. Getting to work with them and seeing how well the song fit to images of deep backcountry pow turns was surreal, in the best way possible. The feedback we've been receiving has been extremely supportive. I think people are genuinely excited to see an eclectic sub-genre able to break through some mainstream barriers.
Q: Can you talk about the themes portrayed in your music video for “FFL”
A: “FFL” defies societal norms about monogamy and sexuality by flipping the traditional love triangle on its head. It’s usually either two horny, fratty dudes chasing a lady or two ditsy, love-lorn dudettes chasing an asshat of a bro. We wanted to keep it aesthetically engaging and, of course, sexy, but also challenge preconceived notions about what a certain sex is meant to behave like in a relationship. Throwing in the dynamic of 3 lovers of the same sex who are all entangled with one another also brings to mind questions about love, commitment and “freedom” in a relational and personal sense.
Q: What advice do you have for people wanting to pursue a career in music?
A: Learn to stop saying “let’s go out” and start saying “let’s go in…on this track." When you think you’re working hard, work harder. When you think you’ve made it, work harder. When you think you’re there, work your hardest. There are so many people grinding and none of us can expect to let so-called “talent” or media prominence speak for our skills, those are hard-earned and deeply engrained.
Q: Can you talk about any projects you have coming up for the New Year?
A: We have lots of exciting things coming up! We have an album coming out the end of March, which we are ecstatic about! Along with that, we have our release party, which for now is a secret location but we can tell you it's going to be quite an experience. We’re also gearing up for festival season and a trip to Montreal in the Spring to record a new album.
Q: You each have such a unique and significant role within I M U R as a whole- the vocals and keys by Jenny, the live production and electric guitar by Mikey and the Electric violin and bass by Amine. How do you 3 combine all your sounds to create a song? What is your process?
A: Our songs up until now have largely been a collaborative process between Jenny and Mikey. Mikey will formulate a beat and groove, using his guitar riffs or Jenny's keyboard playing/vocal loops to create a vibe from the ground up. Jenny will usually bang out vocal ideas in a heartbeat, and then the collaboration will begin. With Amine's inclusion in the band, we've begun incorporating his violin and bass into our newest, upcoming tracks, as well. In general, we share songs in progress, make notes, discuss, add and subtract individually, as a group as necessary, and take our time to bounce ideas off of those we respect musically.
Q: Who are each of your musical influences?
A: Oh snap there's a smorgasbord, but right off the bat here's some stuff we're currently (and always) listening to:
Q: Do you have anything else you want your viewers to know about I M U R?
A: Yes! We have now begun a collaboration with Pacific Wild Conservation Society, and visual artist Laine Butler. Pacific Wild has provided breathtaking footage of Canada’s Pacific Coast and the Great Bear Rainforest, which is artistically manipulated in real time by Laine. This provides a backdrop to our performance that is visually engaging while encouraging critical thinking and conversation about environmental issues in the BC Coast Region. We've also started donating a portion of proceeds from each performance to Pacific Wild.
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