Interview: Imugi 이무기 on their 'Dragonfruit: The Remixes' album.

Interview: Imugi 이무기 on their 'Dragonfruit: The Remixes' album.

"Music connects and gives autonomy to artists for building spaces and worlds beyond the structures that oppress and try contain us,” Imugi 이무기 lead singer Yery Cho shared recently, around the release of 'Dragonfruit Remixed' - a reimagining of the 'Dragonfruit' EP from 2020, with remixes from the likes of fellow Aotearoa musicians, Alexa Casino, Leaping Tiger, SWRLY, Amamelia, KÉDU CARLÖ, Borrowed CS, and Dera Meelan.

Since sharing their first EP 'Vacasian' in 2017, the electronic duo - made up of Yery Cho and Carl Ruwhiu - have used their R&B funk, and synth-infused music for healing, self-exploration, and making space for challenging the Eurocentric structures within culture.

We caught up with Imugi 이무기 following the release of 'Dragonfruit Remixed', to discuss the importance of community and collaboration, songwriting, and the year ahead...

COUP DE MAIN: What made you want to create ‘Dragonfruit: Remixed’?
IMUGI 이무기 - CARL RUWHIU: We had a few friends reach out to us interested in remixing some tracks on the EP, and after being involved with Amamelia’s remix album, ‘WOW! The Remixes’, we figured it would be cool to make an entire remixed EP for 'Dragonfruit'. It’s just such a cool way to showcase some of our favourite local artists and what they’re capable of.
IMUGI 이무기 - YERY CHO: Appreciation! Every artist on the album are friends we have collaborated with, played shows with, and admired for a long time. It was a chance to get their sonic seasonings on our tracks, and we have no regrets, only dancing. Thus a legacy was fulfilled and our ancestors are rejoicing.

CDM: The whole remix EP really highlights the sense of community within the NZ music scene. Do you have any specific memories or moments that really highlight that idea of community?
YERY: It’s difficult to pick out single moments - the whole timeline of my memories in and of the community seem to bleed into one huge hug/sesh/gig/jam. Whether we have been observers, supporters, or on-stage together throughout our time here, I can only really describe it as one of the most affirming and inspiring communities to get to witness / be a part of. The acknowledgement and heart in it run so deep and there are so many connections.

CDM: Why do you think it’s so important for fellow creatives to band together, rather than have a feeling of competition with one another?
YERY: We have a responsibility to one another as long as we are here together. Although capitalism wants us to divide and compete, we’re all here together - suffering and laughing together. All oppression is connected and it’s important we put in the effort we can, to learn the tact of when to stand beside, in front, or behind. It’s a big lie that there is only space for few, or that we have to follow a very particular pipeline to ‘succeed’ on a mainstream level. It takes collective work to dismantle these oppressive structures that shame us and invalidate our lives and identities in doing what we do. BiPOC artists should be valued for their existence and work outside of filling a diversity quota and exploitation in all senses. It’s important that we can live these lives in our fully fledged expressions and be celebrated for every inch of this existence.

CDM: Is there a song on the EP you were most excited to get the remix back for?
YERY: Honestly... all of them.
CARL: Maybe the Amamelia remix, we were so hyped to hear what she came up with, and are huge fans of her album. I knew Alexa Casino was gonna kill it, she had already made a bootleg remix that slapped, so it was a no-brainer. It was exciting sitting on the Borrowed CS flip!! We had been sitting on that for a while! The Kedu Carlo remix was exciting too, you hear how they flipped the rhythm? Crazy shit. Yeah, honestly all of them. Listen to the album.

CDM: Have you been working on new music since ‘Swimming / Memories’? What can you tell us about it so far?
YERY: Always working on something whether it’s new or old(er) :~) Hopefully it’ll make you feel less alone out here.
CARL: Of course! We have a small EP almost completed. It features some very talented friends of ours as well as a cover :-)

CDM: Do you have a lyric from the ‘Dragonfruit’ EP that you think resonates most with you still at the moment?
YERY: All of 'Dragonfruit' still resonates in past ways, but not really in real-time anymore. We wrote those tracks over a few years and spent a long time refining and crafting them into their final forms. Everything in that project are things I felt so deeply at a time, and whilst some things haven’t changed much, others have transformed into something else. Maybe ‘Reflections’ still resonates most as we continue through these random human cycles.
CARL: “I am too faded.”

CDM: You’ve called ‘Wandering Recluse’ the angriest song on the EP. What was running through your mind while writing the lyrics for that song?
YERY: A lot of anger that didn’t know where to go that would go on to poison the way I saw the world. I wasn’t sure how to hold it or present it, as anger and such seems to be the ‘less desirable’ and uncomfortable traits that people don’t really know how to respond to. I just wanted to be how I am in all the ugliness and alienation and just let it be what it is.

CDM: The spoken word part at the beginning of that song is really powerful too. How does your songwriting process work, from turning words into poetry into song?
YERY: Thank you kindly <3 Songwriting feels different to writing poetry. To me, poetry is kind of like a capsule of mixed-medium ideas/thoughts/experiences/memories that I can be more free/experimental with, although I’ll spend more time crafting it. Sometimes I’ll write songs as songs, but if I have a poem that holds an essence of what I’d like to put in a song, I will revisit it and try my best to transform it into a song structure. There’s a lot in the process that I can’t really define in one category or another, songwriting feels like an extension of beat-making sometimes. As much as I hold so much importance to words, we also don’t really want to prioritise the vocals over the instrumental, but rather use the vocals as an instrument, to add another layer of communication in amongst the non-verbal and more abstract.

CDM: What do you have planned for 2022 so far?
YERY: To keep being ourselves + have fun in the skillet of life.
CARL: I mean we had a bunch of shows planned.... Hopefully we’ll get the chance to perform sometime soon :) And lots more music. I’m pretty sure we are in the midst of writing an album. So that also!

If I.M.U.G.I was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
I- Iswear2god
M- Mate
U- U Better not f*ck with my
G- Gogi
I- Inuyasha
I- its
G-googling shit

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
CARL: I guess all I can hope for is people to feel some sense of inspiration or catharsis from listening to our music. Because I feel like so often I have experienced that while listening to music, and I’ve come to understand how powerful it can be
YERY: That there are realities out there where you are yourself and that's cool. Plus everything Carl said ^ FEEL something mate

+ LEAPING TIGER ASKS: What is Carl and Yery’s Bagel Love order?
CARL: My usual is a Wellesley with added cheddar on an everything bagel. But I guess I don’t really order it, I make it for myself. Because I work at Bagel Love.
YERY: Sometimes I go into Bagel Love when Carl + Dalyan are working and they give me a iced oat latte with caramel shot and I sit in the corner drinking it and being annoying. Also I love the Brooklyn #2 and the Wellesley, what's UP.

Imugi's 'Dragonfruit Remixed' is out now - listen to it below:

[Made with support from NZ On Air]