Discussing Going It Alone, The Opportunities in London, And Mental Health with INCONNIA
INCONNIA | London
Something about INCONNIA feels endlessly creative, a one woman powerhouse proving the force of DIY independence
When I call up Iona Catherine, the face behind the INCONNIA moniker, her room is lit by fairy lights. Cables hang amid posters on the wall and she gestures excitedly at the warm ambience, “you can see! There’s just art everywhere, music stuff everywhere, it’s like a little creative hub of joy”.
A far cry from her countryside roots, it’s this room in London that’s become her own personal ground zero for launching the project. The place where everything from the songwriting and production, to the visual art and videography is pouring out. Though born in Devon, ending up in London was no accident, starting to plan her move to the big city in her teens. “There’s so much opportunity in London, and I’ve always wanted to live here,” she explains, “[I thought,] university is the ticket, Goldsmiths is the place, take me to London”.
From playing violin in Ceilidh bands to studying music through school and university, it’s clear from the outset how important launching INCONNIA is to her. Passionately self-taught, after one module on music production at Goldsmiths she fell in love with the craft and found herself spending all her time in the music studios learning as much as possible.
While it all might seem a simple, smooth journey, something that keeps rearing its head as we talk is the topic of mental health, worming its way into both her music and her personal life. “When I moved to London, I’d just been given the diagnosis of OCD and PTSD... and was just completely lost in this massive city with all of this stuff going on in my head all the time,” she explains pausing. “My whole body was like, constantly racing, and then I started doing therapy and mindfulness, and kind of getting a sense of how to slow down internally.”
It’s this city in overdrive feeling she considers a reflection on her mental state at the time but, she admits, “[London] is also the place where I found myself and was able to recover”. Her energy is consistently upbeat, with a glowing, positive outlook shining through even as she touches on darker subjects. “I think, if you look in the right places, London can be quite slow too if you engage with all the outdoor spaces, and the green parks, and find the right people” she continues.
“most of these songs are really about mental health, whether that be about post traumatic stress disorder, or OCD, or mindfulness, or recovery.”
The idea of taking time and space to be still, finding that quiet in the storm, has emerged at the heart of her debut release. Slow Down is formed around mindfulness, a meditative response to a busy mind filled with sombre violins and intricately layered synths and breathy vocals - a plea to take heed and take what you need. While applicable to many suffering, Iona never set out to write music about mental health. INCONNIA came about from a daily practice she explains, “I would come up with a musical idea every day and post it on Soundcloud… I did that for about two years… and I kind of realised after a few hundred that I had a really good album if I just could pick songs to work on”. It was time spent with these tracks, following a period in therapy, that she realised “most of these songs are really about mental health, whether that be about post traumatic stress disorder, or OCD, or mindfulness, or recovery.” She also found herself considering the lack of awareness about anything other than anxiety and depression. “We have this conversation about anxiety, we have this conversation about depression which is great… but there’s nothing else about anything else and so I would really like, as someone who’s kind of gone through other stuff, to actually raise some awareness about those things”.
To push out her message and her music into the world, Iona’s DIY ethos seems to sit vibrantly at the core. She describes doing everything herself as being “born out of necessity,” arriving in London a stranger, and having to form connections from scratch. “I started going to all these conferences by lots of different organisations within music,” she explains, “like BBC Introducing, PRS, PPL, ISM… and there’s loads of them all year normally when we’re not in a pandemic. They all very much were aimed at young, ‘up and coming’ musicians, whether you were an artist or whatever else. They’re all very much like ‘avoid big labels’, ‘learn how to do everything yourself’, ‘make sure you know how to do everything so that when you start delegating you have a good handle and you don’t get ripped off’”. It seems like she’s taken this all very much to heart, with a handful of finished tracks now fully written and produced, plus herself to rely on as manager, PR, visual artist and videographer.
“I’ve never actually looked not to be DIY because I’ve had it drilled into my head by everyone to be DIY until you can afford not to... I’m DIY because it was necessary!”
While the music world may often seem daunting, her confidence exudes self-assurance, and it’s brilliantly exciting. “I’ve never actually looked not to be DIY because I’ve had it drilled into my head by everyone to be DIY until you can afford not to,” she laughs, “I’m DIY because it was necessary!”
Alongside her music, she’s also always found joy in creating visually. Finishing her degree during the pandemic, she spent the free time allowed by the ongoing lockdowns to focus on painting and drawing, all of which she’s started incorporating into the image of INCONNIA. She laughs as she admits her time in lockdown has “morphed from like fine art creativity to business creativity. I think business can be really creative”.
While being a DIY musician can be hugely exhausting it’s something she’s taking in her stride, and her excitement at the project finally coming to fruition and entering the world is undeniable.
With many more singles lined up for release over the next two years, and very much in contrast to the name of her debut single, INCONNIA as a musical entity is showing no signs of ‘slowing down’.
Should people listen to your music?
Slow Down is out now.