Ruth and Mike Aicken met at a concert when they were teenagers and their common passion for music has stitched them together for life. Both grew up playing folk music so their instinct was to write folk music which manifested as The Jepettos
. To challenge themselves, the duo took on the electro/pop world and brought to life the project, New Portals. Check out their recent music video/single, “Stereo”, and read below to get the full interview with Ruth Aicken.
MFL: How have you two been able to balance writing, recording and performing music while also raising two children? Incredible!
Ruth Aicken of New Portals (RA) : Hey there, Ruth here – thanks for having me! Writing songs was always part of our lifestyle. We have gone through periods of writing lots and then periods of taking months off but for the most part we have always been writing amidst the background of everyday life; it’s just who we’ve grown into- individually and as a partnership. Now that our kids are older 11yrs & 9 we are able to do music at a pace we that we weren’t really able to before and we have made life choices recently to do music at this faster pace. We are loving it.
MFL: What do your kids think of your music and are they showing interest in music or music-related activities?
RA: Our eldest girl is really keen and anything ‘performance art’ comes really naturally to her. She comes up with some really great tunes and I call upon her when I’m stuck for ideas. Excitingly, we have a first cowrite with Freiah-Beth coming at some point soon… Our youngest is bombarded with music 24/7 and for now at least, she has rebelled against it!
MFL: What decade of music inspires you two the most?
RA: I’m honestly really inspired by this wave of indie electronica- so from 2015- present day. Also 90’s R&B the fast and snappy vocal melodies always blew my mind.
MFL: How did you two meet and how was music part of your relationship?
RA: Unsurprisingly we met at a gig when we were teens. Singing was a massive part of my life. He whipped out the guitar on the 1st date. I remember being really impressed. We’ve pretty much inhaled music together from that point on.
MFL: The Stereo EP release is just around the corner! Any finishing touches that need to be addressed?
RA: We are just finalising the artwork but we are happy to share the finished tracks with you very soon!
MFL: Is the project, The Jepettos, still alive or has New Portals taken over? What is different between the two?
RA: Oh The Jepettos project still very much alive. I just wish there were more hours in the day so we can work on them both. We do keep releasing material as The Jepettos, so go check it out on Spotify if you haven’t already! Most of our time is spent on New Portals currently because we felt we needed a change and had been doing Alt Folk for a few years. We grew up playing folk and it’s in our bloodstream so felt we needed another challenge. We had to learn new instruments and rejig our songwriting style a little for New Portals. But we believe that if a song is any good it will have legs if it is performed in any genre.
MFL: Where do you two draw inspiration for writing material?
RA: Interesting.. we love to write with a theme. So GrooveBoy is about a cheating partner and the innocent party catching on that the cheating party is behaving differently, overcompensating and making more of an effort in the relationship and that’s how the affair is revealed. Yea, even though our songs are chirpy they mostly have a pretty dark edge. ‘Cage’ is about Human Trafficking. ‘Sunshine’ is about dissatisfaction with a ‘normal’ life, and a jealousy over people who have given up on their childhood dream and moved on to just enjoying what they have in front of them. ‘Fill me up’ is about addiction, ‘Move so Slow’ is about how difficult this music industry is and how slowly things lumber on- waiting for labels to scrutinise our work, waiting for music videos to be edited, waiting for mixes to come in, waiting for release dates – one line in the song is ‘these things move so slow, it’s hard not to lose control’. ‘Stay here tonight’ is about chemotherapy! Ha! we are pretty dark writers but try not to be too literal with our themes. We balanced out that last one by getting two comedians to perform the music video.
MFL: Is a tour in the works for Stereo? Along those lines, what are some of your favorite places to play both local and non-local?
NP: We are heading to SXSW next month and I’m sure we will work on a plan for a tour ASAP but for now we are working on SXSW and summer festivals. We did a SOFAR sounds tour in NYC in November which we totally adored! We played in Madrid last year too. The Spanish have great taste and I’d definitely love to tour Spain ASAP- we just need an agent out there and we can make it happen. According to Spotify, our biggest fanbase is in Manhattan, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn – for New Portals and The Jepettos – so we need to figure out how to get a tour organised over there too.
Thank you to Theresa Montgomery of 24West for setting this up and Ruth for taking the time to answer my questions! Follow New Portals and The Jepettos on Facebook and don’t forget to look for their new EP, Stereo, this March 10th.