Imogen Clark Hits a Nerve with Heartbreakingly Honest Bastards EP

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud x Giulia Giannini McGauran

Alt-country, nu-folkie Imogen Clark is possibly the hardest working musician you haven’t heard of. She wrote her first song at 13 (“I loved writing my own music,” she admits), going on to tour Australia, release two albums, and work with some well-known Australian talents. Lately, she’s been keeping busy preparing for a national headline tour and the drop of her EP Bastards on May 21, 2020. The EP and the tour are named after the track of the same title, a vehicle for Clark to exorcise the demons of misogyny that had haunted her career and her confidence.

“’Bastards’ is a song about really struggling with patronizing people in the music industry. I’m sure every industry has people like this – people who just underestimate you at every turn and make you feel like you don’t know how to do your job,” says Clark. “I just felt like I was encountering it a lot, and that comes with the territory of being a young female artist.”

She calls it her “fire in the belly song” – one which she hopes will give other female artists the strength and sustenance to know that they’re not alone, and that they can use their music and voice to call out bastard behaviour.

Clark chose to work with LA-based producer Mike Bloom after their successful partnership on her acclaimed 2020 EP, The Making Of Me. Clark and Bloom (who has worked with Jenny Lewis and Julian Casablancas) initially met at an Elvis Costello concert; her manager had a hunch that the two would work well together, and that forecast that proved true.

Though The Making of Me happened unexpectedly, creating Bastards was an organic process. “We started making what we thought were just a handful of demos, but as we were moving along with them, we realized we were putting so much effort into these, we cared about them, and we were having so much fun,” she recalls. “We realized we were making a record.”

On their second outing together, Bloom provided Clark with the comfort and confidence to do things that scared and challenged her, resulting in her most confessional work to date. Leading up to the anticipated release of the EP, she has shared four singles, including the just-released “First Class Man” and a candid behind-the-scenes video; the yearning, sweet “Forget About London;”  heartfelt “Eat You Alive;” and confessional, vulnerable “Never This Time.”

“Never This Time” was co-written with none other than Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes and Jason Boesel of Rilo Kiley, who also plays drums on the track. In the studio, Clark had casually mentioned to Bloom that she loved a song by Dawes, only to discover that the world is really very small; Goldsmith and Bloom are friends, so the producer offered to set up a writing session.

Clark’s “jaw hit the floor,” she says. Other than Taylor Swift, she believes that Goldsmith is one of the best contemporary songwriters around. Together with Jason Boesel, who often writes with Goldsmith, the trio gathered at Clark’s little Airbnb in Silver Lake and wrote “Never This Time.”

“They were so wonderful,” she says. “They really helped me bring to life a topic that I’d wanted to write about for a long time but hadn’t quite known how to. They made me feel comfortable enough to do that with them, and I really loved the result.” In the wholesome, unfussy rock tune, Clark reveals the many chances she’s given someone close to her, only to be disappointed over and over again. It aligns very much with the exploration of relationships and Clark’s position in the world relative to the push-and-pull of people around her.

Where Bastards is an exploration of her relationships with the external world, her earlier work was more inward-looking and very much created within Australian borders. She released her first album Love And Lovely Lies in 2016, following the success of her 2015 song “While Women Wait,” which received national and US radio attention.

Her second album, 2018’s Collide, was produced by guitarist/singer-songwriter Mark Lizotte – best known to Australian and international audiences as Diesel. Clark had supported Diesel on tour over a couple of years, so it was a natural fit for the Lizotte to transform Clark’s live energy into a studio album.

Clark has made big choices her whole career – and much like Taylor Swift, she has recognized the power of surrounding herself with people who share her vision and give her the tools to sculpt it her way. “Taylor’s just one of my all-time favorite artists,” she says. “I think she’s unparalleled when it comes to the success of a modern-day songwriter who has been able to so successfully reinvent themselves countless times and has never really dropped the ball when it comes to creating consistently good art.”

Creating good art and performing for an audience are in Clark’s blood, and especially after the prolonged hiatus from touring due to the pandemic, she’s ready and excited to take Bastards on tour this month. After all, home for her is not the four walls she’s known throughout 2020; stuck in her house, she’d wondered whether home might not be a physical address; the sense that home is not a place, but a feeling is perhaps most indicative on Bastards track “Forget About London.”

“The pandemic made me realize that home is definitely more of a feeling, because I was in my house so much, but I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin because I wasn’t touring and I wasn’t doing the thing that I love and the thing that I dedicate my life to, which is music and performing for people,” Clark says. “I realized that, for me, home is on the stage, wherever that stage may be.”

Follow Imogen Clark on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing updates.

INTERVIEW + PREMIERE: Maria Taylor of Flower Moon Records

Sometimes a new record has a familiarity to it that feels like curling up under a warm blanket. Flower Moon Records Compilation Friends and Family Vol 1 puts a listener at ease; its laid-back cadence urges you to close your eyes and relax. These are old friends reintroducing themselves.

Dead Fingers’ “Whistling Song” stands out as the kind of nouveau standard that requires a google search to make sure it isn’t a cover, though with graceful lines like “Life is a series of ups and downs / overs and unders and round and round / I think I’m gonna make it to the down down down / Eventually I’ll find a way out” it’s certainly a YouTube ukulele video in the making. It makes sense that the album features artists who have worked together and identify as friends in the music world; the collaboration is effortless, straightforward, well tuned.

We sat down with Flower Moon Records co-founder and musician Maria Taylor (of Azure Ray) to talk about the album’s genesis, what it’s like to run a record label, and how she balances music & parenthood:

AF: You were 15 years old when you and Orenda Fink founded Little Red Rocket. What were your earliest songs written about?

MT: Our very first song was called “Follow You For Now” but we named it that because we had huge crushes on these guys in this band Follow For Now. The lyrics to our song was “Wherever you go, I’ll follow you, follow you for now. I’m not doing this for you, I’m doing it for me… I’ll follow you…for now” They were mostly about love but we also had some of our friends who were poets write poems and we would put them to music.

AF: Your career is full of collaborations, whether it’s with Orenda, Moby, or Bright Eyes. Do you find yourself looking for artists you’d like to work with or is is it more organic than that?

MT: It’s more organic. Mostly it’s that my friendships play such a huge role in my life and through our friendships we collaborate on music.

AF: Flower Moon Records was founded by you and your husband Ryan Dwyer, who is with us for this interview. What was the catalyst for creating your own record label?

MT: I had been thinking of doing this for some time now, but I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. Ryan is (among many things) a businessman, and I knew that with my understanding of the industry and my connection and his business skills… we could do it.

RD: For me it was a few reasons. One is that I’ve always been a fan of music (especially the bands that are featured on the Friends and Family Vol 1 compilation) and I’ve always loved the idea of working at or running a record label. I was in bands when I was in high school, but my career took me into politics and public relations – which leads into the second reason. From an outsider looking in at the music industry – especially now, how it’s changed so much and the uncertainty around where it’s going – I wanted to bring what I learned in those fields and apply it to a label.

AF: How do you both find artists for Flower Moon? Is it through submissions?

MT: At this point it’s just literally our good friends and family. We’ll see how the label grows. Ryan is already the busiest guy I know, so he pretty much can only focus on one release at a time. We started out only planning on releasing my music, but then we heard my friend Louis Schefano’s record and decided we just had to release that too. And now Azure Ray is planning on releasing something in the future.  And my sister and brother-in-law have a band called Dead Fingers which we will be releasing too! With these releases, plus the compilation, makes our hands super full of love and music.

AF: You have two children together. I know this is a tired question, but as an impending mother myself, how do you balance running a label, being an artist, parenthood, and finding time for yourselves as a couple?

MT: It’s hard balancing it, I’m not going to lie. Ryan is better at multitasking than I am. I try to find a little time in the day to sit and write, but I find that it takes an hour just to clear my head of the chaos and then my time is up and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished. I’m also exhausted at night and I fall asleep when I used to stay up writing. So – it’s possible to balance, but it’s hard and I’m still trying to get the hang of it. I have taken my kids on a few tours and I’m lucky to have a husband who can work from wherever and a mom who is retired and loves to travel. Ryan is a machine. He’ll read to the kids and then watch a movie with me while making band posters and Instagram posts. He’s always doing five things at once and doing them well. And as for us as a couple, we try to do a date night at least every couple of weeks. And I try to stay awake for our “Homeland date” every Sunday night.

AF: When did the idea of creating a compilation record start?

MT: Ryan and I both love our playlists. We love having parties and we spend so much time getting all of our favorite songs together to create the mood. This compilation is just that: a bunch of our favorite artists together on an awesome double colored vinyl. These artists also happen to be our greatest friends and family! Now that we did it, I can’t wait for Volume 2! I honestly have listened to the comp so many times and I love all the songs. It’s such a great way for us to all get exposure and build something together.

AF: What was the compilation process like? Are most of the songs previously released or were some written especially for this project?

MT: Lots of the artists had these songs previously recorded. Some friends gave us a few options and we picked the song we liked the best. As for me, I wrote something specifically for the compilation. I liked the idea that I could have a little more freedom to do things differently since it was for a compilation and not a full length album. I didn’t edit the song… I just let all six minutes roll on by and the F bomb roll right off of my tongue. None of the songs have been previously released, that was the only thing we asked for.

AF: This album covers a lot of topics, including rebirth and living in the era of Trump. Was there an overarching theme or feel you were looking for?

MT: No, we weren’t looking for a theme, but I think we are all living through these crazy times together so it would make sense that there is a common thread or theme.

Flower Moon Friends & Family Volume 1 is officially out TOMORROW on Flower Moon Records. It features 16 new and unreleased tracks from Louis Schefano, Whispertown, Dead Fingers, Doctor Samurai and the Firekeepers, ghosts, Nik Freitas, High Up, Orenda Fink, Maria Taylor, Umm, Taylor Hollingsworth, Jake Bellows, Viva Violet, Ryan Dwyer, Brad Armstrong, and Mike Bloom. Order it here.