iamamiwhoami: ‘Every Event In Our Storyline Has A Purpose’Interview
Alex Yau speaks to Jonna Lee ahead of the release of iamamiwhoami's debut album 'Kin'.
In 2009 various bloggers received an anonymous YouTube video titled ‘Prelude 699130082.4513188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.’ Soundtracked by ambient electronica, it’s the first of six ‘Prelude’ videos, each prominently featuring the same enigmatic blonde woman. Who was she? Guesses ranged from Lady Gaga to Christina Aguilera but this enchantress was unveiled as Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee who, partnered with producer Claes Bjorklund, was reinventing herself as iamamiwhoami.
Myths and emblems enchant all of Lee’s work. The ‘Prelude’ videos focus heavily of the mandragora officinarium myth where the semen of a hanged man apparently produces hallucinatory roots. Animals feature prominently in the following ‘Bounty’ series and in the videos for her recent debut LP ‘Kin’, Lee saunters around differing landscapes with giant, yeti-like figures. Lee’s reluctant to reveal much about her own messages in the videos, stressing that they would only create barriers: “I leave my detailed motives out as not to narrow the interpretations of the listeners and viewers,” she explains. “It’s a journey of the project in real time and ‘Kin’ portrays different battles in its own making.”
Lee holds MTV and BBC 6 Music Awards for her innovative online presence but, with her identity revealed, does she fear people will lose interest? She says: “I guess people have different motives for why they follow iamamiwhoami. I think the whom in the equation has only been interesting considering who I am as an artist out of the audience perspective.”
‘Kin’ is already available to buy digitally and its videos have been online for months now but it’s only just being released physically this September. Clearly Lee places tremendous amounts of thought into her music’s visuals but ‘Kin’s physical release shows the strength of her songs once the bewitching images are stripped away. It’s a collection of glacial electropop (think Bjork, the Knife and Fever Ray) that starkly contrasts with the alt-pop of Lee’s earliest work. She describes these tracks as separate entities that she has nurtured into something huge. “At the core I’m a musician, and the growth of ‘Kin has developed into something that can stand on its own legs – musically, visually and as a whole,” she says.
Lee never takes a break when dedicating herself to these ‘separate entities.’ She immediately began crafting ‘Kin’ after the ‘Bounty’ series and, despite being a “massive drain on funds and time,” it was hugely successful. Will she release her next project similarly to conjure the same success? “I think there is a lot of effort put into trying,” she says. “What remains essential is still the content, not the delivery method. I don’t believe in over articulation. I believe in the capacity of the audience as individuals.” Unsurprisingly Lee doesn’t reveal much more about her upcoming project which she is currently living as we speak. “Every event in our storyline has a purpose,” she says. “The releases coming from iamamiwhoami are episode based. Function and purpose will always be the motive to how these episodes are shared, musically and visually. The work done needs to be able to speak for itself.”
iamamiwhoami's debut album 'Kin' will be released on 3rd September via To Whom It May Concern / Cooperative Music.
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