Iona Luke: Existentialism, Patti Smith and Performing at Mash

Music for the introverts of Cambridge


From performing at Mash, to a new music release, Iona Luke has been busy during her first month at Cambridge.

After meeting Iona at Revs, and the initial joy of finding a name twin (not that many ‘Iona’s kicking about), it became apparent that an interview was needed.

Originally from Shepherd’s Bush, London, Iona Luke is an English student at Magdalene. Her music is influenced by folk, rock, alternative, and pop, as well as the 70s icon Patti Smith.

Just last week, she released two new songs titled ‘Oxygen‘ and ‘Spinning‘.

When asked to describe her music, she replied: “It’s very poetic… so [is] my process, most of the time, my songs begin as poems. That’s why Patti Smith is my god, because she’s basically the punk poet laureate.”

Non-Patti Smith enthusiasts, do not fear. She also takes influences “from Lana Del Rey, Florence the Machine, PJ Harvey, and Portishead”.

Gigging in London. Photo Credit: William Lindsey Perez

From Children’s Choirs to Cambridge Clubs

Iona Luke started her musical career with the Capital Children’s Choir, a renowned London-based choir that’s performed alongside Lily Allen, Rihanna, Frank Ocean, and The Spice Girls.

Only a few years later, she began to write her own music.

“I started writing when I was thirteen and had pubescent rage that I needed to get out… Like all of my old songs I can’t even play anymore, because they’re all just me hating on the universe.”

“It was very period punk, and I don’t mean period as in time period, I mean period as in menstruation.”

Iona took a gap year after sixth form to play music with her band, and during this time she decided to apply to Cambridge. She says, “I know a lot of people want to get into Oxbridge their whole lives but for me… That wasn’t really the case.”

“I kind of want to be a professional songwriter for other people, as well as myself.”

Gigging in London. Photo credits: William Lindsey Perez

Music for the introverts

Last week, ‘Spinning’ and ‘Oxygen’ were released. Both are definite adds to the playlist.

Iona says her new songs are “quite electronic, quite Kate-Bush-y in a way, but simultaneously singer-songwriter.”

“They’re quite intense listens.”

Spinning is especially Cambridge-inspired: “Spinning is more recent. I wrote it when I was in my ‘oh my god what direction is my life going to take do I go to Cambridge’ phase. It’s basically just me having an existential crisis.” Can relate.

If you’re considering creating music, it seems the production process is not for the faint of heart. Iona described how “I was in the studio every day, from the morning till deep into the night.”

Now that it’s released, she can breathe again.

“Ugh, such relief. It feels like, I don’t know. I think there’s like a really big misunderstanding that the release is the first step,  but it’s like the last step. Like once I’ve released it, it’s out. The part before was just struggle, and now I’m just ugh, it’s in the universe, I’m done. Onto the next one.”

Iona thinks her music would appeal to “A certain genre of Cambridge student. Maybe not the party animals, because they’re not party songs. Maybe it’s for the introverts and the existential crises students. Which I guess would be quite a large percentage.”

Gigging in London. Photo credits: William Lindsey Perez

Performance at Mash

Last Thursday, Iona performed at Mash, but this wasn’t without trial. After “impulsively saying yes” to doing the gig, she had to “frantically email around” looking for a band.

“The gig was on a Thursday and our first rehearsal was on the Tuesday and it was only two hours. I was literally freaking out. And our second and last rehearsal was literally right before the gig. So that was quite stressful!”

Iona says “Given how little we rehearsed, and the fact the band learnt all of my songs in literally two days, I think it went really well.”

If the crowd was anything to go by, I think she might be right.

IONA gig in London. Photo credits: Sam Brownstone and Harriet Raphael

Work-Life-Music Balance

It must be hard managing the Cambridge lifestyle alongside a budding music career, but Iona gets it done.

“I’m a hyper-efficient person. I’m used to being overly busy, it’s in my nature to be permanently, massively overcommitted.”

In fact, not getting it done is her worst nightmare.

“I have this massive thing about wasting life. It’s a nightmare for me. If I have a day where I don’t do anything, I actually freak out and I have to go do something, or else I’ve just wasted a day of my life. It’s a really stressful way to live but it’s the way my brain works.”

“But when I’m in Cambridge I never feel like I’m wasting time. Even if I’m in my lectures, and I’m doing Middle English, obviously it’s not my favourite thing in the world, but I actually am learning so much about writing in general. It’s just wild.”

Check out Iona Luke on Spotify to have a listen 

Follow her on Instagram for updates

Feature image credits: Sam Brownstone and Harriet Raphael

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