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Meet Iluka: Australia’s Retro Pop Maven

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Meet Iluka: Australia’s Retro Pop Maven

Iluka is an Australian retro pop maven as unique as her name might suggest who has one foot in yesteryear and the ability to capture something sonically futuristic. She’s a songwriter who creates a world within her tracks on her most recent release, Blue My Soul – a concept EP that also serves as a microcosm born from a speck of dust that seems to hail from somewhere between the star from which Ziggy Stardust fell, and a line in a yellowed notebook of Patti Smith’s. Her music is equal parts glam and grit, addictively catchy and deeply poetic, laced with interesting characters like the Vagabond and the Wild Child, the Sinner, and the Lover – characters that appear as individuals but also exist as one in anyone who has ever dreamt with their eyes wide open. Blue My Soul is the soundtrack for the hopelessly nostalgic and beautifully optimistic. Iluka. It’s not a name easily forgotten, but make note. She’s here to stay.

How would you describe your sound?

Somewhere where retro pop meets gospel soul with a little bit of twangy folk rock thrown in for good measure.

Whatever that current was that ran through music of the ’60s and ’70s, definitely runs through your music. What is it about that music and time that inspires and influences you?

It is so inspiring to me because it was a time where the collective energy that had been bubbling up under the surface exploded into this beautiful, creative and rebellious movement that became the counter culture of the 1960s. The civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the feminist movements took flight and the youth came together in this spirit of revolution and individual expression. Music led the way. It was electric and experimental and political and cutting edge and served as this unifier of the collective voice of the generation. It was all about pushing boundaries and tapping into something greater that was going on in the youth. That’s what I draw upon from this time. I’ve always been inclined to that way of thinking and that way of life and with the climate of the world today it feels as relevant as ever. You only have to look at the Women’s March and the Black Lives Matter movements, not to mention the danger the planet itself is in, to understand that we are in a very important time and, much like the ’60s, it is our duty as artists to reflect this revolutionary spirit that is rising up again all over the world and bring the collective voice of our generation together. It’s funny, I used to think that I was born into the wrong era, but now I understand that I wasn’t at all.

There’s a running theme throughout the EP. The vagabond and the sinner, the wild child, the lover, the moon, the color blue, and heat and fire. Was it intentional to create a concept, or were all the songs written in a specific time that just told that story and tied them together in that way?

All the songs on the EP were written over the past few years and I guess just became this ode to my life over that time. I traveled a lot.  I lived in a Buddhist monastery on the Thai-Burmese border, I lived in India in an experimental community called Auroville,  I traveled the States and fell in love with the desert there. I came back to Sydney and lived in my dingy artists’ warehouse where strange characters floated in and out, and my “room” was merely a construction of upright mattresses and cupboards. I wrote on the walls about all the strange souls I met on my travels, wrote poetry and read books and dreamed for days on end. All of the songs  I was writing during that time in some way pay homage to all those who I was surrounded by and inspired me to live the freewheeling life that I have lived thus far. My life is my art. There is no separation between the two. The wild child, the vagabond, the sinner, the lover, they are all fragments of myself and of those characters who have crossed my path and moved me or stirred my soul in some way. I am in love with people. With feelings. I am in love with the stories we are all here to tell and I guess through my music I am weaving and unraveling my own story.

Blue My Soul was also tracked to tape live, correct? What made you decide to capture this collection of songs that way?

Yes, it was. I guess the records I love most are the ones that were tracked to tape. I love the warmth, the rawness, and imperfections of those records and I really wanted to capture that in this collection of songs. The process is also more organic because you are playing the song live with the band, so you’ve all got to be so in tune with each other and the music. To me, that is where the magic lies

Read Iluka’s full-length feature in our Fall issue, available now at all Barnes & Noble locations, or for purchase on our website.

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Lily is an entertainment writer who grew up around the corner from Janis Joplin's hometown. Consequently, she found herself enthralled with the music and stories of the leading women of rock & roll at a young age.

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