Up N Down: Talking Pop's Future And Indie Softboys With Izzy Camina

Up N Down: Talking Pop's Future And Indie Softboys With Izzy Camina

"I really want to showcase all the fucked up, angry, sad music that I made..."

The early weeks of 2020 have been highlighted by a brace of light-hearted, club-ready DIY singles from a relatively unknown Los Angeles-based singer and producer.

Izzy Camina, a New Jersey native, is set to include the infectious, slinky ‘Up N Down’ and ‘Kill Your Local Indie Softboy’ on her forthcoming debut EP ‘Nihilist In The Club’, released on March 27th. It gives us our first real glimpse of Camina’s homespun beats and ear for a four-to-the-floor banger, which combine naturally with her innate instinct for the subversive and unexpected. 

Ahead of its release, we spoke with Izzy about her background, what she learned from living in London and exactly what an indie softboy really is.

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Your debut EP, ‘Nihilist In The Club’, is coming out in March. How long have you been waiting to be able to say that?

Izzy Camina: Oh man, I started this whole thing properly about four years ago. So compared to some other people, not that long. It was a childhood dream, so based on the first song I ever wrote, maybe two decades!

Was it always in your mind that you wanted to make music then?

IC: Yeah, but I was always very realistic. I didn’t really grow up in a home that nurtured that, it wasn’t until I was a bit older and all of the home drama had dissipated after me and my sister had left home and grown up a little bit that I found some peace.

I think it was something that I always wanted but subconsciously always supressed. I wanted to do so many things when I was a teenager and music was never at the top of that list.

What was at the top?

IC: When I was a kid I wanted to be a field biologist. And then when I was in high school I wanted to be a pastry chef. Then, I went to a business school and wanted to work in a corporate environment and do something at the intersection of business and sustainability.

Wow, I’m trying to draw the through-line between these interests, it’s a squiggly line!

IC: Yeah it’s really bizarre! You said leaving home was a big moment for you.

You grew up in New Jersey. When did you leave?

IC: I was staying with a boyfriend for a long time so I began escaping the home as soon as I really could in my early teens. But then things really changed and I was liberated when I moved to London in 2017. That was a good time because it mended a lot of things between me and my family.

I was also able to explore the music industry, and I thought, ‘wow, this is really accessible’, whereas in the United States it’s a distant planet that you can never reach. That’s interesting.

When you say accessible, what do you mean exactly?

IC: People are hungry for new music [in the UK]. I mean, pop radio is way more indie artist-friendly, compared to the United States. Growing up in the States, pop music is hemmed into you and you consume it, or you are just totally indie. That was my perspective as a teen. There was a huge polarity, but in the UK, everything is jumbled up and it’s a healthier music ecosystem.

So what was it that brought you to London?

IC: I was in college and the only classes I was enjoying were History and Art History and I began to wonder if there was a creative part of myself that I wasn’t nurturing. At the time, I was also getting some mastery over Ableton Live and doing music as a hobby.

As soon as I posted my first demo on SoundCloud, I got some interest in the UK. My profile picture was me in front of Brighton Pier because I have dual citizenship and I’d spent a lot of time in the UK. My childhood memories are half New Jersey and half Brighton and those are two very different places!

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You seem drawn to mutant, underground, nocturnal electronic music. Why is that what appeals to you?

IC: My music taste, things that I genuinely really love and that move me and inspire me and get my heart rate up, that music is always going to be visceral and very carnal and heavy and intense. This goes across all genres. It could be sludge metal or a band like Meshuggah, or rap where the production is quite dark like Mobb Deep.

I like music that helps me confront something that exists deep within me that I find hard to access on a day-to-day basis. When I hear that kind of music it's really cathartic and therapeutic, and where other people might find that it’s a bit much, I find it calming. It’s familiar, maybe that has to do with a troubled past, I don’t know.

So then it’s interesting that you landed in the electronic sphere. How come?

IC: Well, something tells me that if I learned to play guitar when I was a kid, I would probably be in all sorts of bands - hardcore, punk, metal, ska, I would have been totally into that. I never knew how to play any instruments, so being able to use software for someone that had no fucking idea what a key was or what the notes were, having a DAW gave me the time to produce an entire track, and go back and fix my mistakes, move notes around and learn slowly. That was incredible.

There’s a variation in the stuff that I produce and you will that see shortly. I think I’m right in thinking that you produce everything yourself.

Do you collaborate with people too?

IC: I am really weird about the whole ‘I produce’ thing, to the point where when my manager shows my music to people, I say, ‘Please put in parentheses, “Izzy produced, start to finish”’, because if you just produce a playlist of ten songs and two of them are produced by someone else, that’s all it takes for my producer certificate to be fucking taken away.

Me being a girl, and I hate to be woe is me, but unfortunately, people do not believe it, so it kind of sucks. So this entire EP is self-produced, aside from the guitar chords on ‘Kill Your Local Indie Softboy’ because I don’t play guitar. But moving forward, I would like to release more music that is a collaboration and I think how I will navigate that is by being very transparent and crediting people and saying where I produced something 100% and where I haven’t. I hope that that helps me.

You are the owner of already the song title of the decade with ‘Kill Your Local Indie Softboy’. We have to talk about indie softboys, what is your understanding of what one is? I dare say were are heading back to London for the answer.

IC: Ohhh yeah. We’re all familiar with the manic pixie dream girl trope and this is not something that was foreign to me obviously. But for the first time, I was totally smacked in the face by the gender reversal when I moved to East London. All of a sudden, it was like, wow, on the surface these guys are arty, poetic, they’re dreamy and cool and they dress well.

I was thinking, guys in New Jersey aren’t like this! But, they’re just as shitty. People are either shitty or they’re not, it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing. So it was like, yeah I’ve got to write a song about these guys, they gotta go!

Whenever I try to picture it in my mind, all I get is Timothée Chalamet.

IC: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s people like him. I want to say, ‘you’re so sweet and nice and thoughtful, but are you though?’ I wrote that song very quickly. I was on the 76 bus going from Stoke Newington to Shoreditch or somewhere and that is the indie softboy capital of the world, so I was struck with inspiration. This song manifested in my head.

What is next for you, will you be playing live?

IC: I have so many visions of my live shows going forward. I picture Berghain on ice. I want to bring that raw, spontaneous club energy to a live show in a pop way. Maybe just me with some people in the back on synths, but it’s all about me! [Laughs] There’s a lot of ego in my music, it’s not really a band vibe.

And have you already got plans to release more music?

IC: Oh yeah, there’s so much stuff. And it’s actually way better than this EP! I think I might call it a mixtape rather than an album, mixtape seems more casual. I really want to showcase all the fucked up, angry, sad music that I made. More music, yes, is the answer. Content, content, content, welcome to 2020.

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'Nihilist In The Club' is out on March 27th.

Words: Max Pilley

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