The Irrepressibles with Gabby Young & Other Animals


19 Wednesday 19th January 2011

On the 29th, the Barbican will be invaded by The Irrepressibles and Gabby Young & Other Animals, and if you have any sense at all you’ll hither yourself thither. By way of explanation we caught up with their lead singers.

First up is JAMIE MCDERMOTT of THE IRREPRESSIBLES, a ten-piece orchestral ensemble. The classical elegance of the orchestra is thrown into relief by the industrial harshness of metal, bright lights, and mirrors. These visual contrasts push the intimate humanity of the music to a destabilizing, almost monstrous extreme, only to find balance in the powerfully compassionate beauty of McDermott’s voice. 

 You often describe your shows as spectacles – why is this word especially appropriate for your work?

I like to create a fantasy that lives in the emotional world of sound. I am a very rebellious person and from when I started in 2002 I wanted to push out the boundaries of pop music performance by innovating how it's performed. I bring choreography, lighting, music and set together to create one body - orchestra and elements - 'breathing emotion' - everything interacting like a flock of birds. The spectacles are these imaginings that I am lucky enough to be able to create, they are dreams I have. I am also lucky enough to have a technical brain that allows me to work out the mechanics of my imaginings - I fit everything together like a puzzle to inspire others to work with me to build them.  


How did you come to start an orchestra?

I needed instrumentation with dynamics and textures to become characters, landscapes and feelings and effects. The orchestra gives the most options for me. I wanted to restrict myself to the instruments in the room. I write in the moment and they play what I hear in my head. They are wonderful musicians and people. They are also very childlike and rebellious like me. 

What emotions and reactions do you hope to excite in your audience?

Fear, rawness, intensity, joy, laughter, childlikeness, and emotional openness, the ability to let go. 

What is the experience of performing like for you? Do you enjoy it?

It is like standing on the edge of a cliff naked playing with the potential of each moment. I do and don't like it in equal measure. I want to run away but I also want to say something that means something in this time of little meaning in pop music. 



Next we have GABBY of GABBY YOUNG & OTHER ANIMALS, an act that shares the Irrepressible’s visual fascination with the child-like, the baroque and the carnivalesque, throwing in a dose of light-hearted humour and whimsy. Gabby’s voice – like Judy Garland shaken up with Neko Case – is lovely and strong.


How did Gabby Young & Other Animals start?

Bit by bit - from getting together with an old school friend who plays trumpet to finding 4 members on the Internet! I also found 2 animals at gigs for which I owe earmusic promoters a debt of gratitude.  They used to have amazing acoustic nights at Monkey Chews in Camden and it was there that I met my drummer / guitarist / co- writer / arranger and boyfriend! (Stephen Ellis)


You have a penchant for headdresses –  in your video from Green Man, you appear to be wearing a dollshouse sofa. What are your favourite pieces?

Oh I have so many- I love wearing elaborate headpieces! Dolls house furniture inspired it all at the start but my favourite piece is a bespoke feathered headdress from UglyLovely that was made especially for our single launch at Bloomsbury Ballroom and was inspired by a painting I saw in Paris.

Describe your dream show.

The last one we did at The Tabernacle came pretty close and hopefully the next show at the Barbican will too. The Barbican is a dream venue for me but I have also always wanted to do a big theatrical open air show in an amphitheatre in Italy or Red Rocks in Arizona!


You can find tickets to the Barbican show at, and follow the bands at their websites, and


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