Oklahoma synth-pop duo The Ivy talks “Good Faith” and next album ahead of recordBar show Sept. 7
The Hippocampus-adjacent act on their 80s influence, singing gibberish, and running a live concert light show via Instagram.
Oklahoma-based indie synth-pop duo The Ivy, comprised of bassist/songwriter/synth player Shawn Abhari and singer/songwriter/guitarist Wyatt Clem, is coming to Kansas City next week. They’re playing recordBar Sept. 7, the final show in the first leg of their first headlining tour.
The Ivy has released three critically acclaimed EPs and several singles. They’re currently gearing up to release the single “Good Faith” on Sept 15. This is the second single off their debut album, which will drop in February 2024. They released the single, “Tower of Terror” back in March of this year, which will also be on the new album.
Today, they sat down with The Pitch to talk about their musical influences, nostalgia, touring, and running a live concert light show via Instagram.
The Pitch: So you guys met at the Academy of Contemporary Music in Oklahoma City, what led you guys to start up The Ivy?
Abhari: Whenever I joined ACM and met Wyatt, I had kind of started The Ivy like a solo, but I wanted it to be a band. And so then whenever I met Wyatt, I was like, ‘Hey, do you want to join The Ivy with me?’ And then we both just kind of started writing music, playing shows.
How did you choose The Ivy as the name of the group?
Abhari: I was just trying to come up with a band name, and I got poison ivy like five times in a summer. So I was like, ‘Well, let me just call myself The Ivy and see if it fits,’ and it’s stuck.
I saw you guys are influenced by blues and R&B-type stuff, but what are some more specific bands and artists that influence your sound?
Abhari: Well, I’d say that it’s kind of shifted from year to year, month to month, just who we’re listening to. But I’d say right now, some of our most recent influences would be probably at least in the same vein as us, probably Hippocampus, COIN, maybe Alvvays.
Clem: Yeah, Alvvays is a big one. I think when we started, it was more like, which we didn’t realize it at the time, but I guess we were more 80s inspired, bands like Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, things like that. We used to cover their songs. But I think we’ve kind of more or less shifted out of the big 80s drum sounds and things like that, and kind of moving more towards an organic band feel, like more dry sounds and kind of more guitar-based, sort of starting songs around guitar lines. And whereas we used to kind of approach it with big synth pads and things like that, so just little changes that have happened over time.
What do you think sets you apart from the rest of the indie pop scene?
Clem: Well, I think on our upcoming record, and the upcoming singles that are going to come out, I’d like to think we bridge a pretty cool gap between the Lo-Fi, indie bedroom pop scene and commercial pop–that was the wrong word to use. I think kind of bridging the gap between a DIY bedroom songwriter kind of feel, and then a polished band like Coldplay or COIN, like someone with really hi-fi production. I think our album is a pretty decent mixture of those, and I also think we’re incorporating some heavier elements, like heavier guitar, almost some shoegaze influences on our new record. So I think there’s a little something for everybody when trying not to box ourselves into one sound or genre. So I think that’s something that we’re pretty proud of, I would say that sets us apart.
So you recorded ‘Good Faith’ in a storage container. Would you care to elaborate a little bit on that?
Clem: Yeah. So Shawn and I decided it would be a good idea to kind of get away for two weeks or ten days or whatever. So I had just gotten my passport in the mail. So we were like, ‘Let’s go to Mexico.’ You know, Shawn kind of grew up going to Mexico and staying with some family friends out there, and they had a storage container villa there, and it was like three or four storage containers that were kind of put together and made into a living space. So we transformed one of those bedrooms into a little miniature home studio. We just brought some speakers and a laptop, and a guitar keyboard, pretty minimal setup. We started just writing about one or two songs a day, and ‘Good Faith’ ended up being one of the last ones that we wrote on that trip. We pretty much just had the guitar chords, and me singing like gibberish, melodies, but those melodies ended up sticking, and then we didn’t quite have the lyrics finalized yet. So we took that song to Santa Monica to work with some producers that we’ve been working with for the last couple years now and finished writing it there throughout that trip, and then kind of finished putting all the pieces together. So yeah, the actual studio recording was done in Santa Monica, but a lot of the parts that we did on the Mexico trip ended up staying in the song as well.
Going backwards a little bit, you guys went viral when you put out the singles “Gold” and “Have You Ever Been In Love” in 2017. What was that like? Did you guys expect any of that, or was that very out of the blue?
Abhari: Yeah, that was pretty out of the blue, I would say we, at the time, had maybe 600 monthly listeners on Spotify. And then we had released our song, “Gold,” and about six weeks later, I looked on Spotify, and we had doubled to, like, 1200. And by the end of the week, that 1200 got to almost 250,000. Somehow that was just the perfect recipe for landing in the Spotify algorithm. I, as a joke, pulled up the viral Spotify playlist, I remember, and I showed my mom. I was like, “This is the playlist you want to be on,” and when I clicked on it, I saw our song at number 9. And I was like, “Wait,” and then by the end of the week, it was at number 3, which was nuts.
Do you guys have any other interesting stories from touring?
Abhari: I would say the craziest thing for me was, we have a light show that we’ve been attempting every night, and it’s kind of been a beast to try and learn the ins and outs of problems that keep arising. Our friend back home has access to the computer that we bring to run the light show, so he can just log in, and the other day, we were like, two minutes to show and we got the green light on everything, but the light show wasn’t working. So I ran back to Wyatt and I was like, “Hey, pull up Instagram, Instagram message Cameron”—our friend— ”about the lights and see if he can fix it from his phone.
Clem: And like, within seconds he was on our computer, like controlling everything and just saved the day, like last minute.
Abhari: Like literally, the intro tracks started, we walked on stage, and right before beat one, all the lights turned on. And we were like, “Let’s go.” So that was awesome.
Were you planning a tour once the new album comes out?
Clem: Yeah, we’re hoping to get a spring tour. Whether or not that’s a headline tour or support tour. I’m not really sure yet.
Do you guys have any plans for once the album comes out other than touring? What’s the future of the band?
Abhari: Well, we have an EP that is pretty much written, so we’re kind of trying to figure out when we want to do that. And so we have more demos and songs in us that we’re excited to get out.
Clem: I would say we have a pretty decent catalog to kind of look through and decide what we want to be on the next project. But yeah, I think we’re gonna try to do a 4 or 5 song EP. We were kind of thinking about, haven’t set in stone yet, but we were thinking about shifting towards more of an acoustic vibe for that EP, or at least for a couple of the tracks. And for that one, I think we’re going to be working with this guy in Nashville named Sam, so super excited to do that.
Abhari: But yeah, just keep writing music and playing shows.