As a British duo infatuated with, and playing, American roots music, Ida Mae tried to get a bit of both sides of the Atlantic into a video for its song “Reaching,” premiering exclusively below.
The song itself was inspired by the husband-wife team’s sojourn to the American South last year, “smelling the air and standing on the soil” of its heroes, according to Chris Turpin. To bring the “Bonnie and Clyde sort of adventure” to life, visually, Turpin and Stephanie Jean opted for an impressionistic pastiche featuring the two of them driving a friend’s snazzy sports car (borrowed, Turpin notes) around the English countryside. It breaks down, and they’re assisted by a community of random residents chronicled throughout the clip. “We wanted to combine that [American] trip with some bizarre British sensibilities, lo-fi surreal weirdness,” Turpin says. “We got together with a load of our friends in the county I’m from and set up a bunch of strange scenarios. It’s representing what we did in the Deep South in different ways.”
“Reaching” is one of the 10 tracks on Ida Mae’s debut album, Chasing Lights, which is due early summer on Thirty Tigers. It’s the culmination of Turpin and Jeans’ journey from the alt-rock band Kill It Kid into the country blues of Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton, and others, a musical path that’s proven fruitful in a very short time. Ida Mae recorded Chasing Lights with producer Ethan Johns at Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio in Bath, England, and the duo was signed briefly to Warner Bros. by Seymour Stein. “It’s just completely surreal,” notes Turpin, whose stash of guitars includes the same 1931 National steel model played by Bukka White and Blind Boy Fuller. “When you’re doing it you’re only focused on the next thing and constantly trying to improve. Something cool may happen and you get the initial moment of shock, but then it becomes reality and you’ve got to get it to work. Then only afterwardscan I look back at those things, and it’s like, ‘F—! Shit! Did that actually happen?'”
Ida Mae has also been logging miles on the road with Greta Van Fleet, opening for the rock band last year in North America and for the group’s recently rescheduled upcoming European tour. “We were a little shocked when we were invited to play with them, but then it quickly made sense,” Turpin says. “Their dad was in a blues band, plays harmonica. They grew up with Stax and Otis Redding, all the same blues things I did. A lot of their heroes are British rock ‘n’ roll bands, who during the 60s fell in love with blues coming out of Chicago. So it makes sense that Greta would be into us, and those [shows] really work out well.”
Ida Mae, which now resides in Nashville, is wrapping up a European run and begins its next U.S. trek on May 14 in Lexington, Ky., mostly opening for Blackberry Smoke. Turpin and Jean are well aware these are still early days for their reinvented musical path, but they’re happy to be reaching in this direction now.
“We started this because we wanted to do something purely for ourselves, with no compromises,” Turpin explains. “We’d been pushed around by record companies a bit s who wanted to make us more poppy and more commercial, but not anymore. There’s no thoughts about radio, what’s gonna work anywhere. We’re focused in on exactly what we want to make, and we’re really loving it.”