Ex-Necropolis couple mines alienation, procrastination to make new record 'Life's a Mess'
Growing up in southern Ohio, Bo and Emily Davis of Ipps often couldn't relate to the people around them, and the feeling seemed to go both ways.
“There was a lot of alienation growing up, all through school. They didn't like us,” said Bo, seated next to wife Emily at a Canal Winchester taproom on a recent Friday afternoon. “There was such a minority of people who were into punk rock.”
“It's hard to be a music-loving feminist in southern Ohio,” Emily said.
In those days, Columbus seemed like a mecca of good music. “We had a friend whose older brother was at Ohio State, and he would come back every month or so and bring [music by] Gaunt, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments — all the good '90s Columbus stuff,” Bo said. “That was a heavy influence on my bands in high school and shaped the way I write songs to this day.”
Eventually Bo and Emily moved to Columbus, but when they got here, a lot of the bands and labels they loved had called it quits or were on hiatus. So they found a North Campus house on Oakland Avenue near Cafe Bourbon Street and helped kickstart a new generation of punk-inspired, weirdo art-rock alongside Columbus Discount Records founders Adam Smith and BJ Holesapple, both of whom also played with the Davises in Necropolis.
In 2009, while Smith and Holesapple grew busier with the label, Bo and Emily started writing songs for a poppier side project, Ipps, but it took five years for the band's first record, 2014's Everything is Real (Superdreamer Records), to come to fruition.
For Ipps' new record, Life's a Mess, which the band will release on Friday, March 3 at Ace of Cups, the Davises took a speedier approach. After booking two days at the North Campus basement studio of Bloody Show's Jah Nada, Bo wrote most of the album in 48 hours, unleashing a last-minute torrent of songs each morning before heading to the studio.
“I hadn't written anything. It came down to the wire,” said Bo, Ipps' singer, guitarist and sole lyricist.
“We suffer from being procrastinators and having two kids,” said Emily, who handles keys and vocals; two drummers, Mike O'Shaughnessy and Mat Bisaro, round out the lineup.
Bo said the self-imposed pressure during recording sessions at Musicol while making the band's first album made him nervous, but setting up next to an ancient furnace in a dingy basement for Life's a Mess put him at ease and allowed the songs to flow more naturally and sound more like the live version of Ipps — a raw, fuzz-pop amalgam that's simultaneously heavy and buoyant.
“I always liked the idea of taking a melody or guitar riff that sounds really nice, and then putting really dark or disturbing lyrics over it,” said Bo, whose early feelings of alienation never went away. On “Head Off,” he laments being stuck inside his own mind. “I watch the other humans interact,” he sings. “The range of emotions, how do they live like that?”
“A lot of that reflects our upbringing in southern Ohio,” Emily said. “You're somewhere you don't really want to be, and there's not much going on. There's a lot of people there who don't necessarily think the way you think. So you're finding a way to make the best of it by being sarcastic and funny.”
That sense of humor infects all of Ipps' music, regardless of the subject matter. “If you get me, Mike and Mat and Bo in a room, there's a lot more laughing than there ever was in Necropolis,” Emily said.
“Ipps is a very loose band, always has been,” Bo said. “If we happen to book a show, we'll get together and practice. Maybe.”
Ipps also resurrected the title of its debut album for new song “Everything is Real,” a phrase coined by the Davises' son, Daniel, who is also responsible for the artwork on both albums. A similar, reality-based observation surfaces in “Human Beings are Garbage,” which is written from the perspective of a dog, as Bo sings, “Oh, honey, this life is real.”
“I think it's something I just have to remind myself sometimes: This is all real. This is all happening,” said Bo, who admits to escapist tendencies. “You just gotta deal with it.”
“When you're a kid you think everything is gonna be magical and it's gonna go the way you want, and then you're like, ‘Oh, shit. I'm 35,'” Emily said.
In the same way that Bo and Emily used to fawn over underground Columbus legends like Ron House and Mike Rep, a new generation of bands now looks to the Davises as pillars of a bygone era.
“I started meeting people who had the first Necropolis record when they were in high school,” Bo said. “I'm sure there's a group of kids out there doing the same thing we did.”