Interview: A Conversation With Arc Iris

Since first hearing it only little under a month ago, the debut self titled LP from Arc Iris has been one of my most listened to albums.  I was already looking forward to the show, but when the opportunity arose to sit down with the band for a chat, I jumped at it.  This was the first time that they have appeared together as a band in Manchester and only their second show in Europe.

The original plan was for me to meet with the band before the show but after a delayed sound check and with a few things to do, it was requested to take place once the show was done.  Once complete and after I’d had a brief chat with the drummer, Ray, and a slightly longer chat with the classically trained cellist, Robin, in which we discussed how she had spent her last three years in Afghanistan having opened a music venue over there as well as a couple of other ventures, I got to have a chat with the vocalist and creator of the group, Jocie Adams.
The first thing that came across from Jocie, as well as the rest of the band, was that they were hugely accommodating.  Despite the earlier mix up and the fact that they had only flown into the country the day before, Adams insisted to continue on with the conversation.  After of quick discussion of where it should take place, we took a seat at the merch table and set about with the questioning, she leaned in close and made me feel as though she was genuinely interested in having a conversation.

Jocie was originally a member of the group ‘The Low Anthem’, leaving them to start what is now, her career with Arc Iris.  Although I knew that it would have been a question that she had probably been asked many times before, I thought it was something that I should start with.  The look of disdain that came across her face however, spoke more volume than any words could and I quickly moved on without pushing the subject.  When asked why Arc Iris wasn’t pursued as part of a side project however, Jocie did reveal that “The Low Anthem wanted 100% commitment, no less, and I wanted to do my own thing”.

While talking about the reviews that the album was receiving, we touched upon some of the comparisons that have been made with the band.  Dirty Projectors gets dismissed and linked to the fact that Jocie mentioned she was listening to them during the recording of the album and when I mention that I even spotted Led Zeppelin in one article, she looked at me wide eyed and begins to laugh in disbelief. “I’ve seen that I like Grizzly Bear in one place too, but truthfully, I haven’t really even heard them!”

One of the things that seems to get mentioned wherever Jocie is concerned is the fact that she was previously a NASA Researcher.  “A lot more gets made of that than there should be” she remarks “I worked at NASA for a couple of months… that’s it!”.  When I ask her if the same can be said of the fact that she’s a classically trained composer as well she says that there is certainly more to those claims and rightfully, it seems something that she’s proud of.  While on the subject, I mention how it blows my mind that there’s piano parts during ‘Honor of the Rainbows’ that I would have just never ever thought of to which she responds “I certainly think that it’s something that you’re born with though, not something that can be trained. the training just improves what you have already.. I mean, you write your blog and none of the band are writers”

The name of the band being Arc Iris was another area that was mentioned.  Jocie informed me that it’s old english for ‘Rainbow’ (Arc of Iris) and that since Arc Iris was created, another band have appeared in the U.S. named Arc of Iris but that hopefully they won’t get to a place where a discussion needs to be had over the name.  I asked if it was the name of the band, or a moniker for Jocie Adams and was told that it’s certainly the name of the band and that she hopes that it will still be the same seven members when it comes the time to record album number 2.

I commented on how one aspect of the blog is to make recommendations for the readers and asked If made to choose one track from the album to play to a first time listener, which one would be chosen?  After a short burst of laughter once we both agreed that ‘Powder Train’ would be the most accessible but also happened to be our least favourite track from the record, Jocie stated that “Honor of the Rainbows and Lost on Me are the most personal ones that I’d written for the album, so maybe one of them?”.  The mention of ‘Powder Train’ led Adams to reveal that Cocaine is a drug that she has seen a lot of friends get addicted to and that it’s a substance she has a strong dislike for but is something that, along with alcohol, has a huge prominence within the music world.

While the subject of recommendations was in the air, the question of what artists that the band are listening to whilst touring came up. “Cuddle Magic are great, they’ve not got the best band name, but they’re great, Anais Mitchell, The Barr Brothers, Patrick Watson & Ivor Cutler are some others.  These are all relatively new and unknown bands by the way, the older guys have already had their chance!” she said, laughing as she completed her answer.

This was my first sit down with a band of any kind and although I possibly rambled on a little too long, I felt like I could have chatted with Jocie for a lot longer than I did.  We discussed plenty more than what I’ve written about and deciding on which parts to write about was really tough for me but I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable experience with the whole process.

I’d just like to thank the group, and especially Jocie, for taking the time out to speak to me and I was touched that Robin took the time to thank me for showing an interest in the group and their music.  I wish them all the best for the future.  They’re an extremely talented and likable group and hopefully our paths will cross again.