The brainchild of vocalist/composer/artistic director Jamie McDermott, London’s Irrepressibles are an orchestral ten-piece equally informed by Baroque music, cabaret decadence, the glam rock of David Bowie and T. Rex, ‘50s exotica, and lush contemporaries like Antony and the Johnsons and the Wild Beasts. McDermott began piano lessons when he was 11 and went on to study art, music, and drama at a college in his native Scarborough, North Yorkshire. His drama teacher introduced him to art and artists in all mediums, including Meredith Monk, Yma Sumac, Carmina Burana and Blade Runner, which influenced the multi-faceted work that McDermott wanted to make.
McDermott then studied rock singing in Guildford and learned to use his countertenor voice to its fullest thanks to a vocal coach there. He went in a different direction after finishing the course, releasing two acoustic solo albums, Newclear Skies, and Nude, that drew comparisons to Jeff Buckley. McDermott continued writing music in this vein as he pursued a degree in Commercial Music at the University of Westminster. Inspired by his studies, which mixed music production with music’s sociological effects, and by a need to surround his cathartic songs with bigger backdrops, he formed the first version of the Irrepressibles in 2002.
Featuring McDermott on guitars and vocals and backed by cello, violin, piano, and bass at first, the Irrepressibles eventually became a “performance orchestra” that included pianist/vocalist Sarah Kershaw; violinist/vocalist Jordan Hunt; violist/vocalist Charlie Stock; cellist/vocalist Nicole Robson; double bassist/vocalist Sophie Li; oboist/vocalist Craig White; flutist/vocalist Rosie Reed, and clarinetist/saxophonist/vocalist Anna Westlake. The group’s theatrical live show featured sets, costumes, and choreography, and the Irrepressibles performed in venues ranging from London galleries, Sicilian villas, a Roman amphitheater in Barcelona, and Paris’ concert hall La Cigale. One of their most spectacular shows, The Human Music Box — during which the band performed in a rotating open box — was the basis for the Irrepressibles' breakthrough performances at the 2008 Latitude Festival: The group performed on a floating stage in the middle of the festival grounds’ lake, surrounded by gondolas. The following year, the band released the score to Shelly Love's film The Forgotten Circus as the From the Circus to the Sea EP; the single In Your Eyes, which featured a video by director Fritz Stolberg, appeared in fall 2009. The Irrepressibles’ full-length debut, Mirror Mirror, arrived in early 2010 in the U.K. and was released in the U.S. in August 2011. ~ Heather Phares