One musical term that often baffled me was “Anti-folk,” what did it mean? Some sort of misanthropic music performed by heavily tattooed shouty chaps who railed against us normal folk? However upon listening to music labelled “Anti folk” I was pleasantly surprised. Initially I was expecting my ears to be held hostage and battered into submission by tuneless feral howling, thrashing guitars and lyrics along the lines of “We hate everybody, society’s broke /we hate everybody cos we’re a trifle Anti-Folk!” I’d often ask people, “what actually is “Anti-Folk?” and never get a definitive answer, they’d vaguely reply “it’s just, like, singing what you feel and making music with any instrument you like, duuuude!”, Making music with instruments ? As opposed to making music with say, vegetables eh? Very helpful that!
In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t) Anti folk originated in New York, as a consequence of young local bands being refused admission to the hallowed temples of the established folk clubs within the city. The sagacious elders considered this new lots collective oeuvre an offence to their ears, their musicianship inadequate, and there was much outraged indignation that these cheeky young upstarts had the temerity to experiment with the divine purity of “folk,” and draw on other influences such as punk. Thus excluded these young musicians set up their own club nights, and what is now known as “Anti-folk” was born. It would probably be a misnomer to call it a genre as such, for example in the UK nowadays everybody from Laura Marling to Kate Nash to Lucy and The Caterpillar to Jamie T has been labelled “anti-folk.” Billy Bragg has retrospectively been classified official lord and master of British anti-folk, but these days, in reality it just seems to be a lazy tag for singer songwriters who don’t quite fit comfortably into one category or another.
Emma Lee Moss, a young singer songwriter found herself swept up in initial Anti-Folk scene along with the likes of Noah And The Whale and Jeremy Warmsley, she performs under the name Emmy the Great, and whilst she has complained about the “elitism” of the UK scene, has acknowledged it was originally an opportunity to “let anyone play who can’t get a gig anywhere else.” Her stage name is rather apt too, being called Emmy and being great n’that ! She’s also a bit of a free spirited lass who doesn’t play by the rules “put a few more choruses in”, was the ill advised advice from a manager who soon became an ex-manager. Her music is something that I have grown to love and appreciate and yes even cherish over a long period of time. Some songs aren’t always immediate, personally I often find it’s the slow burn songs that stay with you longer and there’s a high volume of “keepers” within Emmy’s song book. There’s also a subtlety in her lyrics that you don’t always get on first play, as Emmy herself says “It’s not right in your face, so you have to look for it…” I had a chat to Emmy to see what sort of year she’s had.
VP: Hello Emmy, the story goes you were once in a band, and then one day they suddenly stopped turning up. Later when you bumped into them they said “ Oooh look, there’s Frank Sinatra” and when you turned around they’d vanished, so you thought “Ok then, I’ll do it on my own” Is that pretty much how it happened?
EMMY: Yes except it happened three times. Once with Frank Sinatra, once with Frank Butcher and once with relentless Frank Carter.
VP: How’s 2008 been treating you, good year or bad year?
EMMY: Weird year. A lot of stuff has happened and changed but at the moment I’m having a good time. My parents are supposed to be moving to Bangkok but they haven’t left yet and I’m spending a lot of time at home and also treating London like I’m a tourist.
VP: When’s the album out? What’s it called, how many tracks are on it? Is the cover nice? We want details, specifics, descriptions 😉
EMMY: It’s out in January; it’s called “First Love.” It’s got 13 tracks on it. I haven’t got the cover yet but the cover for the next single is pretty good. It’s a black and white poster of a nightmare scene with nappies. Like the creature from the deep if the creature from the deep turned out to be an 8 pound baby.
VP: I remember reading that you said something along the lines of “my songs aren’t autobiographical, if I’d have lived through all that I’d be dead”. So where do your ideas come from, what sort of things inspire you?
EMMY: At the moment all my songs are about the same thing. I plan to go away somewhere in September to knock myself out of the trend.
VP: Now everybody I know from the Postman to the local priest claim to have seen Leonard Cohen live recently. Thing is I know for a fact that in reality when the gigs were on, many were actually scoffing Kettle Chips and watching mind rot such as “Deal or No Deal” and the like . But you’ve told me you really did see Leonard Cohen, and he told you the meaning of life. Is he a bit of a hero? Was it good?
EMMY: Yeah, I’ve seen him twice this summer, and I’ve just got tickets for the 02 in November. He is obviously a hero. He should be everybody’s hero. He told us the meaning of life was “da doo dun dun dun da doo dun dun.” He also gave his backing singer a smutty look.
VP: How do you feel about the way the internet has changed the musical landscape?
EMMY: More 1’s and 0’s? I literally don’t know. I am a victim of the internet generation. While I am doing this I’m also watching “Gossip Girl,” updating my flickr and facechatting like 12 people.
VP: Any new music you’d recommend to us?
EMMY: I’m off new music at the moment. I’ve been downloading Bo Diddly and Lover’s Rock. But someone sent me the Jenny Lewis album in the post and I quite like it. It’s definitely good, I don’t know if it makes as much sense to me as the previous one. But it’s not a shit second album.
VP: You’ve said your song Gabriel is about a 19th century woman marrying for money not love, more recently Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer claims to have been married to the Berlin Wall for 29 years, who got the best deal??
EMMY: Yeah, it’s about making the big choice after which you’re kind of set in that direction for the rest of your life. For my thoughts on Mrs. Mauer see http://royalartistclub.com/emmythegreat/2008/6/9/4528.aspx
VP: What’s been the best advice you’ve ever been given?
EMMY: “Do dun dun dun da doo dun dun” or “don’t eat that’”
VP: The following are all well known quotes “Music is what feelings sound like.” “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”“ One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” How would you describe what music means to you?
EMMY: I don’t think those apply to me. I’m very aware of the contradictions in pop music, but at the same time I’m a teenybopper and I fall for it every time. I listen to music so much I take it for granted and bitch about it all the time. Like when you’re a teenager and you scream at your mum all day but make her drive you everywhere.
“Easter Parade” By Emmy The Great
“We Almost Had A Baby” By Emmy The Great
“Two Steps Forward” (Black Cab Session) By Emmy The Great