Rock n’ Recipes: Emma Kupa

We return to Rock n’ Recipes features with one of my absolute favorite musicians, Emma Kupa. I first stated my fandom with Standard Fare, but she’s gone on to her current projects Mammoth Penguins, Hayman Kupa Band…and, this month she’ll release her new solo LP. We caught up with her via email to chat about her songwriting process, the new LP, and she shares her go recipe for Vegan Banana Pancakes! It Will Come Easier is out Friday via Palo Santo Records and Fika Recordings.

ATH: I’ve been listening to your work for countless years, and I’ve always wanted to know…what percentage of your songs come from you as the actual narrator (personal experience), rather than playing the role of some imaginary character. Does that apply to this record?

Emma:Everything I write has come from personal experience in some way or another, but its hard to put a percentage on it. Every song I have written starts with a genuine emotion or thought or something thats been said to me, or that I wanted to say to someone. But more often than not, a separateexperience or feeling will get blended in to develop the song, or a song might amalgamate events for the sake of storytelling. Very occasionally I have made things up to fit the lyrics or just because it’s something that came into my mind. I think this is how I’ve always approached songwriting theres always a feeling or an event that sparks a lyric. But theres a fine line between capturing a raw emotion and narrating an event and not airing your dirty laundry.

In some recent projects (Mammoth Penguins & Friends John Doe), I’ve consciously tried to write from someoneelse’s perspective but I think even then I’ve still managed to make it about myself somehow!

The songs on the It Will Come Easier record are all based on personal experience, but some cover a period in my life that feels quite distant now, whereas others are more recent.

ATH: Between the HK Band, Mammoth Penguins and other various projects you’ve worked on, how did you decide, “Yes, this is going to be for my solo work?” And, does the songwriting process differ from how you work on other projects?

Emma: For the Hayman Kupa Band, we co-wrote most of the songs or brought bits of songs that we hadn’t been able to develop into full songs so that was a fairly distinct project. With Mammoth Penguins, I try to start with a riff or something that we can develop as a band. So sometimes I have played songs to MP but they can only really follow the strumming and it’s become clear that we can’t turn it into an interesting rock song. Or, on the other hand, a song can be too quiet and just wouldn’t work with bass and drums. For solo project songs, I need to be able to play them on my own with just an acoustic guitar so they are perhaps more lyric or melodic-driven than songs I write for bands. Sometimes I’m not sure where a song fits and I try it in different settings, but other times it’s really clear.

ATH: I think one of my favorite tracks on the new LP is “No Easy Way Out,” but as a superfan, I’ll admit I was a bit surprised (pleasantly) to find a 7 minute track on the record. It also falls in the perfect A-side split spot. What was different about this song (or Nothing At All too) that felt like stretching the song beyond what a layperson like myself might expect?

Emma: I don’t often think about the length of songs when I start to write them although mostly the songs end up quite short (around 3 mins). If I had been gigging No Easy Way Out live, I’m sure it would have been shortened, but we went straight into the studio to record it after I wrote it. It was one of the later songs added to the record and it had been a while between recording sessions so I think we were all just happy to be playing music together and enjoying that buzz of playing a song fresh to everyone, and having a number of musicians present meant we could have a bit of fun extending it but it was a natural thing rather than a conscious decision! With Nothing At All, I decided to add an extended outro inspired by one of my favourite songs, Lou Reeds Satellite of Love, so that was always going to extend the length.

ATH: Going to put you on the spot here, but there are tons of great folks on this album, not to mention tons of great folks you’ve worked with in the past. If you could only pick one of them to start a new band with, who are you taking? Or, would you pick someone else completely random that you admire? Or answer both?

Emma:I have been in other bands with nearly everyone on the record in some form or another and I wouldn’t hesitate to start a band with any of them. It’s been a long time since I played music with anyone and I miss it like crazy.

As for new people, I would love to work with Dearbhia from the Drink because she is the most incredible guitar player and songwriter.

ATH: How will the pandemic affect this release for you? Will you have livestreams, play solo shows in spaced out places? Will you just shun that side and let the record speak for itself?

Emma:I was planning to tour the album in the UK, probably a bit in the USA and maybe in Europe and all that has disappeared. With the pandemic and Brexit, things are looking a bit bleak. I am playing a special solo online gig on Sunday September 20 (LINK!) and as part of that event doing a Q&A with Darren Hayman about the album and I’m sure I’ll do a few more livesteams over the coming months. I may also play a real life gig in the new year if the conditions are right but I can’t guarantee anything at the moment. So this record has a different start to any other records Ive made. If you like it, let me know via social media because I wont be getting the normal feedback from gigs and tours!

ATH: In indie rock terms, you’ve had a pretty stellar/long career, yet you never really seem to slow down. What’s next on your songwriting agenda? Anything we can expect in 2021?

Emma: Now seems like a good time to focus on writing and recording and that’s certainly the plan for Mammoth Penguins and The Hayman Kupa Band. In the current climate, there’s no need to rush anything so we will have to see. It certainly feels like current events have forced a slowing down, some of which has been nice, but I am super pumped to be starting our weekly MP rehearsals again mid-September! Its been a long time!

ATH: If someone only gets to hear one song from It Will Come Easier, which song do you hope makes it to people’s ears?

Emma: Oooh I can’t answer that. I hope people hear a song on the album they like; I’m not going to tell them which. I hope people hear the album driving through the countryside or on a train coming into a city or on a mix cd/playlist from a friend. I think that’s all any artist wants!

Emma on her Vegan Banana Pancake Recipe:

A recipe I use often at the weekends is this Vegan Banana Pancake recipe from Tesco. It makes enough for two adults, I use less soya milk see the comments of the recipe, it’s a good use of over ripe bananas and it’s easy and tasty. My wife won’t eat bananas when they start to turn brown. It is amazing how long a brown/black banana will last in the fridge you can use bananas in this recipe that most people would have thrown away a fortnight ago and it works fine!

We serve with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra to oil the pan
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g plain flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 250ml soya milk
  • maple syrup, to serve

1.In a mixing bowl, mash the banana with a fork and whisk in the oil, lemon juice and cinnamon. Add the flour and baking powder. Stir while gradually adding the soya milk. The batter will take on the consistency of yogurt.

2. Place a frying pan on a medium heat. Oil it using a little sunflower oil on a scrunched piece of kitchen towel. Drop tablespoonfuls of batter onto the pan and swirl so it spreads across the surface. When bubbles pop and the glossiness of the pancake becomes matte (about two minutes), flip over. Cook for a further couple of minutes.

3.Place the finished pancakes on a plate. Repeat the process until the batter is used up. Serve hot with maple syrup.

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