Io Echo is your favorite band's favorite band: Hot Chip, Florence + the Machine and Nine Inch Nails have all hand-picked the Los Angeles duo to open tours, and after one listen to their new self-titled EP, you'll know why. Songs like "When the Lillies Die" propel the listener through a sort of natural fiber update of a '90s goth-industrial sound -- albeit one that's layered with Chinese violins and Japanese koto harps. Singer Ioanna Gika and producer-guitarist Leopold Ross take this "new orientalism" (as the music press have dubbed their sound) even further live, with Gika, a Nico-esque chanteuse in a long kimono robe, gesturing with her own flourishes in front of videos of Kabuki theater.
"Kabuki has so much eroticism yet so much restraint," Gika explains of the band's fascination with the dramatic art. "It's these kinds of contrasts that inspired me to want to make music."
The only child of an MIT physicist, Gika grew up in Washington, D.C., listening to Enya and was a self-described science nerd. "When the whole Higgs boson thing happened, I was like 'That's my jam!'" she says. Gika first met the London-bred Ross (whose older brother Atticus wrote The Social Network score) at a Hollywood dive. "I was obsessed with [the Velvet Underground's] 'Venus in Furs,'" Gika says. Ross shared that he was named after the original book's author, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. "I'm pretty socially awkward so it gave me something to talk about," he says. The pair "hung out" a few times (no, they're not a couple) before making music. "Our friends were having a Halloween party and asked us to play and we were like 'sure,'" says Gika.
Two years later, it's still this almost accidental quality that permeates Io Echo's effortless mix of emotion and escapism. The more pragmatic Ross attributes the sound to the London-esque weather around his Laurel Canyon studio. "We'd be working and be completely enveloped in fog," he says. "That definitely contributed to the mood."
Io Echo is out October 16th.