Lucky Iris
by Interviews

Leeds-based alternative rock duo Lucky Iris, made up of Maeve Florsheim and Jasper Exley, are getting ready to release their new EP maybe i’m too much later this week. The EP finds the duo continuing to grow and expand their sound as they take influence from pop, electronic music, indie rock, and pop punk. Over the course of the EP, they explore aging, bigotry in sports, self-growth, and romantic and platonic love with fantastic introspective lyrics. maybe i’m too much will be out everywhere on August 11.

Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with Maeve over Zoom to talk about the upcoming EP, the importance of music, football, the appeal of writing in cursive, and so much more. Read the interview below!

Your upcoming EP maybe i’m too much was mixed by Richard Wilkinson and mastered by Antony Ryan. How did you decide who to work with? What has working with them been like?

We’ve been lucky enough for the last few years to get funding and support from a team called Launchpad who are a part of Music:Leeds which is a non-profit that helps musicians in Leeds and the surrounding Yorkshire area in the UK. Part of our initial support was getting paired with mentors and advisors and one of them is Simon Rix who’s the bassist of the Kaiser Chiefs. We’ve been lucky enough to have worked with him for the past couple of years. We’ve continued our relationship with Launchpad who now do all of our distribution services as part of what they call Launchpad Plus. We’ve also continued our relationship with Simon as an advisor. We always talk to him about the new tracks and who he recommends us to work with. He has a lot of industry experience and he goes, “What about my friend Rich?” He sent us the reel of people Richard had worked with in the past and the albums he had worked on. He’d worked on Frank by Amy Winehouse, 19 by Adele. He’d obviously worked on some incredible Kaiser Chiefs tunes and with Laura Mvula - who’s a huge influence on us, especially when we originally started writing. We were like, “Say no more! We’re sold!” It was an absolutely lovely experience. We really, really enjoyed working with him. He was very kind about the music. He seemed to be sharing the enthusiasm of the upcoming release which, as an upcoming artist, is really, really nice to have. He said, “I usually work with this guy Antony” and we said, “We’ll take your recommendations”. Antony was equally lovely and enthused by the experience which again, from such seasoned professionals is really nice for us. All of it was done via email because that’s how stuff works now. It’s good because it means we can connect with people in different places who we wouldn’t necessarily be able to get in contact with if it wasn’t for online. It’s been a lovely experience. They’ve been a pleasure to work with and hopefully, we’ll work with them again in the future.

Launchpad were some of the first people to really believe in us or to take us seriously as artists. We’ve had quite a close relationship with them since. I think finding those people who really do take you seriously is a big marker in taking yourself seriously in starting your career. It was very shortly after we released our first EP, Turns Out We Should Have Stayed at Home, that we applied for the funding and support and actually got it. They’ve really taken us from very, very early to where we are now. We have a lot to thank them for.

You and Jasper produce all of your songs yourself. What is that process like?

When we first started, we weren’t doing all of the production ourselves. We had Oliver Sekunda who came and was the producer for the initial EP and then we were lucky enough to work with Ben Matravers who is the brother to Murray and works on all the Easy Life tracks. He has an incredible repertoire, he was recently given the PRS Hitmaker Fund which is quite a big platform in the UK. Then we worked with Ed Heaton. We started to produce ourselves starting with the most recent single before this set of releases and a lot of this was because of lockdown. We started to find our sound the more we were writing and the more we were releasing. We co-produce but Jasper takes a larger part in the mechanics of it and does the predominant base of production. We were becoming more comfortable with finishing the projects ourselves and we took quite a bit of time in writing this EP. We wanted to really show our progression. A lot of the tracks came quite naturally.

We wrote all but the final track which is the title track and which has been in the works for a while. I think it’s possibly the second song we wrote after our first release. I don’t know how many versions we’ve sent over to Simon and to the rest of the team but it’s quite a few. It really felt like a track that I needed to release. What I find really special about it is that the track has grown so much. Me and Jasper sat down the other day and went through a load of old demos and I think maybe i’m too much is really a marker of how much we’ve grown as a band and how much our production style has grown. It’s really nice to see. It’s like a diary. Our songs and the different versions are kind of like different entries. Looking back it really shows the growth that we’ve made over the past year or so.

How do you feel your songwriting has evolved since you started?

I think what I would say now is very different from what I would’ve said then. I was very, very precious about the releases and I think I’m a bit kinder on myself now in that what I’m writing is what I’m going through at the time. What we release is what we’re wanting to hear. I like to think that we make music that we want to listen to and the songs are lessons to ourselves. I won’t know that at the time I’m writing it, particularly with “oh no (i guess i did it again)”. When I wrote it, it was a song that I really wanted to release and now it’s become so much more to that. It’s taken on more meaning. The longer it’s existed the more I’ve been like, “This was really a lesson that I needed for myself”. That’s what it’s become and me listening to it is like a reminder. It’s like I wrote it for where I wanted to be.

Do you find that playing the songs live reinforces that feeling?

I think so. There’s obviously something really special about playing the songs live. Playing them can be incredibly cathartic because I write them from my point of view and I write them based on my experiences. I grew up listening to far too much Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift to write anything with metaphors. [laughs] It’s all pretty literal. I think sometimes I come off stage and somebody will talk to me afterward like, “Wow, that really resonated with me!”. They’ll talk about an experience that they’ve gone through that isn’t necessarily how I felt but it’s so special seeing someone get their own lesson from that and finding something important from that.

It takes on another life.

Yeah! I think that’s really nice. [laughs] People will come up and go, “That really helped me because I’m going through this right now” which is a very surreal experience. I think sometimes I’ll write the songs to make myself feel better and I’ll write them in a sense of how I wish I responded to something. “oh no (i guess i did it again)” is like, “I wish I’d responded like this!” when in reality I probably didn’t respond exactly like that. These are the things that I’d written down after. I’d come out of a situation and I’d been so irate by it and I’d sat with myself and written this stuff down like, “If I could say how I actually felt, this is what I would say”. Being able to present that is really nice because it’s a lesson to me and hopefully others can get some strength from that.

What’s the most cathartic song to play live?

I find “maybe i’m too much” incredibly cathartic because it’s about lessons that I want to unlearn and unlearning this idea that I need to present a more palatable version of myself which I think I took with me for a long time. People who know me would probably say, “That was you taming it down??” [laughs] Genuinely the more I play it and the more I sit with it the more I’m like, “I do need to take this on more. I do need to not overthink to the extent that I am”. There’s something really gorgeous about the song going along and suddenly the chorus hits and it’s like, “Maybe I’m too much but maybe you’re not enough”. It’s silly and it’s jokey and I always enjoy seeing how the audience responds to it because some people take it very seriously which I find quite funny because I find it very obvious that it’s quite tongue-in-cheek. I’m not actually saying that anyone is not enough, that’s far from the point. It’s all about me trying to improve myself.

There’s also a song that hasn’t been released which is quite cathartic. I wrote a song about my best friend who passed away. I’ve been trying to write it for quite a few years. She passed away when we were both teenagers. It’s a really quiet song and it’s really different to anything else we’ve written. It doesn’t have a release date. We haven’t properly recorded it. We have one rough demo. I performed it for the first time - and this is the only time I’ve performed it - a couple of months ago just after the release of “23”. It did remind me that music really is my expression of how I’m feeling. I was kind of shocked by how many people had gone through a similar experience because it’s one of those songs where I hoped that nobody could relate to it but sadly, quite a few audience members could. It was at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds for the Piano Sessions for World Piano Day which is quite a different gig to what we usually play. It’s more stripped back which is why we added this one in. It felt like I was just letting everyone in, which is an incredibly vulnerable experience but it felt nice being able to keep her alive in memory. That’s what the song’s about.

I’m really sorry to hear about your loss. I’m glad you do have something that you can do to keep her memory alive. That’s really beautiful.

She was one of my biggest supporters and I think she’s a big reason why I still do this now. But she was also a massive Taylor Swift fan and our single “blowing kisses” happen to come out on the re-release date of Speak Now. It’s the first happy love song that we’ve released. I think a common misconception with our songs is that they’re all about relationships but they’re almost all - except “blowing kisses” and “maybe i’m too much” - about friendships. I’m a big believer in friendships holding incredible weight in our lives and I think you can be equally as heartbroken by the ending of a friendship as you can from romantic relationships. The high majority of songs that I write are about the makeup or breakup of friendships. I do think we need to take them seriously. I think you should be allowed to mourn the end of a friendship because that’s a real feeling. It can sometimes feel even more brutal than the end of a romantic relationship. Often in relationships, you show all of yourself but these are the people that you’re trying to be your authentic self with and when that gets rejected it’s a lot.

On “23” you talk about stress brought on by getting older and the need to have everything figured out. What helps you when you feel age-related stress? Why do you think there is so much pressure to have everything figured out at a young age?

That’s an interesting question! I think I find music very useful for helping me decompress and really work out what I’m feeling. A lot of the time when I’m feeling really intense feelings, I will try to note them down. Whether that’s for the purpose of writing something or whether that’s for the act of actually being able to get those emotions out of my brain. [laughs] My Notes app is genuinely a better diary than any I’ve been able to keep and I’ve tried. I’ve really tried! I have a hoard of unfinished notebooks however I have to delete my banking app off my phone because I have too many notes and voice notes on my phone. There’s something about it. I can’t delete them. It’s like I’m going to need that recording of me singing ‘la’s in the bath in case it makes it into a song at some point. [laughs] I have a real attachment to them. Writing these things down helps.

I think also taking time to acknowledge what I’ve done and accepting that my ideas for the future are allowed to change. I didn’t always get told that music was an option for me although I was lucky enough to learn music when I was growing up and I was surrounded by music. My siblings are incredibly musical and I always say that I’m the musical failure of the family. [laughs] They’re incredibly talented and so are my parents. It still wasn’t given to me as an option like this could be my journey to a career. I think for a long time it was a hobby and then I realized that isn’t what I want. This is something that I take very seriously and this is something that I want to put my time and effort into. I can’t think of anything better that I could put my time and effort into than the thing that I love. Obviously, my dream had always been to do music. I think when I was younger I was like, “I want to be a musician, dancer, and actor. I want to do it all! I want to be on stage”. As I grew up, music was what really stuck with me and it was really what helped me through a lot of hard times. It was a way that I could express myself and I was like, “I should take this more seriously!” That came with realigning my goals.

I think trying to tell myself that I am allowed to change what I want really helped me take a bit of stress off myself. Being 16 and believing that I should have a cat and own a house and wear a suit to work is really sweet but that’s no longer my goal. That’s no longer what I want to do. That’s actually very far from what I want to do. I would like a cat but the other bits are not what I want from my life so I shouldn’t put that pressure on myself because it’s not even in the vision of what I want in my future. I’m trying for something different and that’s going to be a bit more of a staggered journey. We’ll get there or at least we’ll try really hard to and I should give myself credit for that as well.

Your song “oh no (i guess i did it again)” addresses the barriers that women and queer fans of football face within the sport. What changes would you like to see made within the sport to make it truly an inclusive place?

[laughs] So many. I think it’s probably quite hard to sum up all the technical changes that need to be put into place but I think we just need to be generally more inclusive. I was looking at the EP and the theme is all about growing up but I didn’t really realize that until I put it all together and was like, “This is literally a story of my growth. This EP is the lessons I’ve learned in the past year or two”. I think when you’re getting older and especially when you’re in this tumultuous time in your 20s where you’re trying to work things out, like what I talk about in “23”, you’re really looking for places where you can really create your own community. When you leave any kind of structure like schooling and if you move out of your hometown and you’re going through all these changes, you find a lot of time trying to find somewhere to belong. What I love about football and what I’ve always loved about football, is that all you have to do is pick a team. All you have to do is say, “That’s my team!” and you belong there. That’s your group. It’s something that you can choose to belong to and nobody can take that away from you. Except people do and people tell you that isn’t your place even though the whole beauty of it is that it’s something where you should be able to just pick. [laughs] It’s nice because you’re choosing to be there. You’re going, “I love this team so much that I don’t care if they lose every match! I’m going to be there cheering them on and telling them I believe in them”. It’s a place where for nothing else you can all come together and talk and share. I think what “oh no” really became about was people telling you where you can and can’t belong and how I don’t want other people’s opinions of where I should or shouldn’t belong to affect my judgment. That’s what’s so beautiful about the ‘beautiful game’ is that it is meant to be for everyone. What hurts so much is it’s really the perfect opportunity to have this space where everyone can create their own sense of community and yet there are some people who are really intent on stopping that from happening.

You also released a video for the song which was directed by Emily Bradley and filmed at OOF Gallery, Warmington House, and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. What was it like to film your first music video?

It was really exciting! I wanted to do a music video for a while. I forget that people don’t see what’s going on in my head. [laughs] I write the songs and I’m like, “Surely everyone knows. Everyone must be bored of me talking about this. They must know what’s going on!” But I forget that what people see is the tiniest, tiniest sliver of what’s happening, and creating a music video is a brilliant opportunity to let people in properly. I feel like people’s understanding of us as a band is so much clearer when we can present it in a format where people can get a bigger part of the picture.

I’ve been following OOF for a while. I look for these places in football where there is less exclusivity. One of the places I feel comfortable and I think is a beautiful place is this intersection between art and football. You see far more queer creators, you see far more women, and you see an expression of love in a different, less toxic way. I’m a big Tottenham Hotspurs fan so I happened upon OOF once they opened. They’re actually based inside the Supporters' Trust building at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which is incredibly cool! [laughs] They did this exhibition with all of these beautiful scarves. It’s picking out little bits of football culture that are special and using them to display other parts of life and fandom and other things that are going on expressed through this love of football. It’s like all of these things coming together at once. They had all these beautiful creations and the whole room was packed, they had sourced them so wonderfully. As soon as I saw the exhibition go up I was like, “Wow! How cool would it be to go shoot down there? It’s perfect! They even have a fake bar! It will literally be like we’re in my local but we’re not, we’re in this accepting place without these people who are making me feel excluded. This is a place where I can see myself belonging”. We emailed Justin, who runs the gallery, asking if we could film there and he said, “Yes! You can”. I’d mentioned it to Emily who had done the cover artwork. I was like, “I just had this mad idea” and she was like, “I’ll come!”

This will sound pathetic because the UK is tiny but a half an hour drive for us is a pain. [laughs] I think it took us about three and a half hours to get down to London from Leeds. For the logistics of the day, it would only work as a day trip. So we drove down first thing in the morning. We had a four-hour slot from lunch until mid-late afternoon and then drove back. The whole thing was incredible. It’s our home ground. Jasper and I are both Tottenham fans. We’re there and we get to say we’re filming our first-ever music video for our band on a song about football at our club. We were running around and it was not a match day so there were tourists picking up shirts from the shop. Nobody has any idea but we’re just going insane! All Emily, our videographer, can talk about is that Beyonce is playing there soon. [laughs] We obviously love Beyonce but we were like, “This is the Tottenham stadium!” We’ve been there so many times before but being there and loading in in the loading bay was amazing. I was wearing a kid’s hoodie that said “Spurs” on it and I was like, “Do you think this is too keen?” We walked in and the security were like, “Are you the artists?” I was like, “Oh my god! This is the best day ever!” Just completely overwhelming, I was absolutely buzzing. We couldn’t stay around and couldn’t take it in as we would like to. It was this fever dream of getting there, running around, jumping up and down, filming a music video, screaming our track a couple of times, and then getting out of there.

On the way back we were like, “We don’t have any press shots for “23”!” Something that stuck in my head while writing that song was that scene in Perks of Being A Wallflower where they’re in the back of a pickup truck and are like, “Nobody knows what it’s like to be 16 and turning 17”. It stuck in my mind while I was writing because I felt like I was saying that and I found it quite funny. I remember watching the movie and being like, it’s funny how specific an experience can feel to you and how easy it is to forget that you’re not alone feeling lost in that way especially when you’re aging. We’re all going through it at different rates but at the same time. So we just got out of the car at the first service station, went and had a KFC, and then took all the press shots on the side of the road. [laughs] We went back up and that night I was back in my bed like, “Did this day just happen??” It did and it was great fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

The EP title and a lot of the song titles are written in lowercase. Why is this?

I really enjoy it. I feel like it expresses the way that I’m feeling the best. I feel like with a lot of the songs we write the message is quite strong and almost to soften it, I’ll present it quite sweetly. I feel like “Maybe I’m Too Much” with capitals feels quite intense but for some reason, here’s a cute, palatable version in lowercase. Not that anyone needs a palatable version, but I like the idea of catching people off guard when they’re reading it. How aggressive can cursive be? Not very aggressive and then you read it and you’re like, “What a weird thing to put in cursive”. [laughs] Jasper’s not a fan of the brackets. I just think they’re fun. I like any way that we can get the personality of the song across. It’s funny because often the songs are quite brutal but if you put it in cursive then they’re not. It feels like as soon as I was given the option, I was like, “I have to take it now”. [laughs] It’s like expressing some kind of agency over every part of the music including the silly little title. Somebody came up to us at the end of a gig and said, “The lyrics are like a cotton candy kick in the face” and I was like, “That’s the best description of us that I’ve ever heard!” We’ve put it on everything now. That’s how I feel about writing our titles in cursive.

How would you describe the music scene in Leeds?

I really love it. I fell in love with Leeds before I moved here because I’d come to see a friend’s brother in a play and I was like, “This city’s so cool!” The university had this incredible club. You could tell I was like 17 because all I was thinking was, “Oh my god! My uni would have this three-level club in it! This is great!” I’d been to a show and I was like, “Look at all these things you can do in this city!” When I came up to Leeds for university it was everything I wanted and more. I started in a band at uni and it was quite different from what we do now. Me and Jasper were both in it and it was really fun. It kinda gave me a taste. All around us, there was constantly stuff going on. We also have a really big music college here.

It feels like a big city and a small town all at the same time. That’s what I really love about it. That’s nothing to do with the geography of it because Leeds is actually a really big place but there’s something about the atmosphere and the passion that people from Leeds have for the city that is really, really, infectious. I have ‘Leeds’ written all over my flat now. I think I’ve been here six years and for the majority of that I was a university student so it was slightly different but there’s this real pride in being part of what’s going on in Leeds. It’s really buzzing and it’s got so much live music all of the time and so many incredible grassroots venues. Leeds has been able to keep these venues going in a way that I think some other cities have lost. I feel there’s real importance and interest in upcoming music here. For me, Launchpad was a big part of starting to become connected to the city. I feel like there’s this real spirit with everyone here. It’s like its own little ecosystem and there’s so much happening. There’s so much gorgeous live music and so many places where you can have so much access to seeing such good quality live music. It’s really inspiring being able to go and enjoy all these nights really makes me want to do more. I feel like it’s kept me on my toes in the best way. I’ve constantly wanted to create more because there’s so much being created.

A real focus on the cultural aspect of things.

I think so. I think there’s real access in Leeds. Obviously, it doesn’t have the money and the international draw that being in London does but there’s something about the scene that feels more accessible. It feels like it wants you to be a part of it. The music scene feels tangible in a way that is unquantifiable in cities like London. I think especially as an emerging artist it’s really nice to be able to feel like you’re in a scene and really feel like there is new music around and that’s something that the city values.

Everywhere should do that because it benefits everyone.

Agreed! It makes better music as well. Not that I’m biased or anything. [laughs]

What are you listening to now?

Flowerovlove has released a song called “Coffee Shop” and that originally piqued my interest because we released a song called “Coffee Shop” in 2021. It’s incredible. She produces with her brother and they just make gorgeous music. It’s kind of fun and it’s joyous. I think we all do, but I use music to really indulge in the mood I want to be in. I love a Spotify mood-based playlist based on my tracks. It does mean I rotate the same songs far too much but I love it. If I want to be in a good mood, I will aggressively listen to happy music until I am. [laughs] I’m still listening to Rina Sawayama’s album, particularly “Minor Feelings”. That’s my grit song. If I’m in a bit of a “Where am I now?” mood, I will put that on and I will march up to the hospitality job that I do to support my music and be like, “It’s ok! Rina’s felt it so I can feel it if she’s felt it”.

I listen to a lot of pop music. Olivia Rodrigo’s “Vampire” has been a real earworm one for me in the past couple of days. I think it’s really interesting. She seems to have grown so much as an artist in the past couple of years and it’s incredible the music she’s been able to release. I also think it’s interesting. I don’t know too much about the song but she kinda talks about what I’m thinking is her being taken advantage of as a young musician. I think for her to open up about that as still a very young musician is incredibly brave. It feels quite reminiscent of when Demi Lovato came out with “29” and things like that. Olivia Rodrigo did that in her own way and I was a bit taken aback by it. I was like, “This is a lot of growth for somebody fresh on the scene still”. Lots of Kim Petras and lots of hyperpop too. We’ve got a hyperpop remix of one of the tracks coming out - I won’t name which one. We try to make music that we enjoy listening to.

When I’m in the middle of writing sometimes I’ll take a lot of inspiration from listening to other artists and sometimes music becomes very intense. [laughs] I’m like, “I’m trying to create my own music and I don’t want to get too consumed by it”. So I’ll listen to something else. Jasper and I have both been listening to a lot of hyperpop to decompress and we’ve enjoyed listening to it just for the sake of enjoying music. Jasper’s a big PC Music fan and sadly, they’ve just announced the closure of that label. I think the sadness of it is that it’s closing but the beauty of it is that they’ve been a huge part of making hyperpop music more mainstream than it was. There’s something beautiful in all that music becoming more normalized. The remix is heavy and it’s fun and it’s warped. It’s what we’re listening to and what we’re enjoying. It’s expressing our music in a different way and showing the different ways we see our music.

I also listen to a lot of Coco & Clair Clair. I don’t remember how I found them. They seem to have grown pretty exponentially in the last year or so. They make music that is just so easy to enjoy and sometimes, especially when I’m writing, I really need music that picks me up. It’s the perfect blend of music that makes me feel something and music that I can enjoy at the same time. It’s a beautiful blend of both. I think they’re so cool! I would very much like to be in that band.

What does the future hold for Lucky Iris?

More music! Looking at the writing we’ve been trying to fit in while we’re releasing this EP it’s amazing just how much we continue to progress. I think we often forget how new to all of it we were when we started. Even in the last year, the way we’ve progressed in the music we’re making and how much we’ve learned is really huge. I think now more than ever we’re really excited to write more music. We’re really excited to produce more. It’s enjoyable. We do it because we love doing it. More gigs in the future too. When we started we thought, “We play electronic music. Who’s going to want to come and see that?” Then we started gigging and we went, “This is really fun! We really love performing live! We got into music when we were younger because we loved performing live. Why were we cutting ourselves off to this option?” More live dates are coming up and more music about our life experiences and what we’re going through with the aim that it helps us and in any way helps other people. Even if that’s just to have a slightly better day, that’s wonderful. We do it because we love it.