He was a boy named Leopold.
She was a girl obsessed with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs.
What started as bonding over the name “Leopold” and masochism, at a party in the rolling hills of LA has manifested itself into one of today’s most promising indie bands.
Ioanna Gika and Leopold Ross craft moody, oriental grunge pop anthems, like if the Cocteau Twins and Nirvana teamed up to compose blissed-out music about teenage kabuki dancers lost in LA. The duo has been pretty busy this year, touring, opening for Nine Inch Nails at the band’s last show ever, composing the score for Harmony Korine and James Franco’s new film Rebel and curating at MoCA for Jeffrey Deitch all while somehow finding time to finish up their debut album, Ministry Of Love.
“I’ve been in bands since I was 12 years old” says Leopold, when I ask the duo if they’ve always been interested in music, “Its just something thats always been apart of me.” Which definitely shows in the bassist’s CV, hes been apart of bands such as Error, Fear and the Nervous System, Nojahoda, 12 Rounds and The Big Pink as well as having composing credits on films like “Book Of Eli”, “Twilight” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” (the latter a product of Io Echo). Ioanna, however, took a different route to sonic discovery. Raised on a steady diet of Yanni, Enya, Ioanna took her musical cue from musical theatre, “I never wanted to be an actress but that experience helped me realize my love for being on stage.”
I very recently got into IO Echo but as soon as I heard their music I was hooked! Its at once airy and textured and nostalgic yet its like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and in that way they reminded me of The Drums (who they happen to be pretty close with, after meeting them while Leo (then apart of Big Pink) was on tour with them. They even recorded a song with frontman, Johnny Pierce.) I think one of the things that makes this band so interesting is their mashed up sound, their ability to mash up so many different influences, sounds and instruments to create a very unique, dynamic composite sound.
“ The producer [of James Franco and Harmony Korine’s new film Rebel] is a fan and he recommended us to Harmony. We watched the film and it kind of came very naturally to us.There is a very intrinsic nature to images, so we watched the film and did what felt right and usually when we do something like that the director will send us a round of notes and adjustments, Harmony was just like ‘Yeah, this is great.’”
“Sonically, nothing is really influencing us right now…” says Ioanna, when I ask about what’s influencing them right now, “but right now we really love songs like Higher Ground by TNGHT and Harlem Shake by Bauuer.” who’dathunk that these gothpop darlings would be into Trap/EDM? But its things like that that make this band even more likeable, their references are endless and they have a hand in all sorts of creative mediums, “We Love MoCA in LA” says Ioanna, “The LA scene is so vast and exciting, and I love supporting everything sonically as well as visually.” This summer the duo curated a music/art festival at MoCA for their pal Jeffrey Deitch, who’s also excited about the up-and-coming creative scene in LA.
When asked about fashion and their individual style and aesthetic, Ioanna hips me to her collection of kimonos and the custom one Jeremy Scott made her, but Leo is a bit indifferent on the subject, “I love the color black. I don’t wear black as much as I want to though” and without missing a beat Ioanna chimes in with what I believe to be a perfect dissertation of the band, “Your heart is black and that’s all that matters.”
Words | Tag Ragland
Photography | Jesse Ashton Photography for XO magazine