Local musical experimentalist Jemma Roper was good enough to stop by for a chat about her influences, favourite venues in the city, and where’s good for breakfast (spoiler alert: she’s a night owl!).
Hey there, I am Jemma Roper of Earth.
I only came to Cardiff to do an art degree, but liked it so much I bought the whole place. I arrived from Yeovil, Somerset, which allows me to talk like a pirate when I’m drunk. Or aroused.
I’m attracted to a very dissonant sort of racket. My default setting is post-punk but the door is open wide, genre-wise. As long as its interesting. I favour interesting above all other things. I think hearing The Birthday Party and Velvet Underground really young changed the way I think, but I didn’t have any co-conspirators or people to share my passion or hunger with until I moved to Cardiff and met my first band Sammo Hung. Previously, I had taught myself guitar and saxophone in my bedroom and was terrified of unleashing my noise onto the world of soft pink ears.
Clwb Ifor Bach has always been a favourite to play and I’m very privileged to have a Saturday night DJ slot there also. I’ve also seen so many incredible bands there, up close and intimate: Liars, Thee Oh Sees, Super Furries, Foals, Health, Telepathe, White Fence, and soon to be iceage, too many to remember really…. Cardiff might be a bit short of venues but the ones that we have are very unique: Gwdihw, Undertone, Chapter, The Moon Club, Porters, Buffalo. They each have a special thing about them that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. I played the Sherman Theatre Octa event last year and I’m praying that it becomes a regular venue.
I used to have the pleasure of working at Barfly while it was open. I saw all of the huge bands there before they got big: Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, Killers, Amy Winehouse, Libertines… It was a dream job and I have many fond memories, although I thought they were all crap at the time.
At the moment I’m Grangetown-based in a weird, lovely flat with two floors and a spiral staircase. The building is so old it shakes every time a bus, or even a large car or cat goes past. I’ve loved living in Canton and Riverside too. Cardiff’s small enough to cycle anywhere in ten minutes or so.
In terms of local gigs, Shape Records put the From Now On Festival at Chapter Arts Centre, which was magic. It was specifically for acts that are on an experimental journey right on the seat of their trousers. My band and I took part and I felt like it was a weekend of music like no other.
Q. What was the last book you read?
A. I’m re-reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot at the moment because it was named after my fave Iggy Pop album. Before that, I read Viktor Pelevin’s Omon Ra about the Soviet space race. It’s very dark and claustrophobic, which is really my bag.
Q. Tell us a secret
A. I’m scared of Scottish Terriers. Their tiny black eyes remind me of prawns.
Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?
A. What is “breakfast”?
Q. What’s your local pub?
A. I spend a lot of time in Chapter Arts Centre as I work on the café/bar and gallery, so my social life tends to revolve around there. The place is a hub for Cardiff musicians, actors, artists and film-makers. The beer and food is awesome and the fridges are rammed with German Weiss Biers of marvellous strength. I often find myself in the Urban Tap House, or The Landsdowne for darts, though.
Q. Tell us about a hidden part of Cardiff that you love
A. Grangetown is ripe to blossom, regenerate, and not be known as Strangetown, Stabtown, or Rapetown. It’s got a lovely community spirit in the part where I live. It needs a bit of love.
Q. If you had some friends coming to visit for the weekend, where would you take them?
A. We’d begin at Café Minuet, on to culture and art at the National Museum of Wales, then there will be a hazy bit where we think we’ve gone to Dempsey’s to see a mate’s band, but we’re actually asleep across someone’s legs in the Urban Taphouse. That, by the way, is my ideal date.
Q. If people want to see you live, when’s their next opportunity?
A. 24 March 2015, at Clwb Ifor Bach we’ll be supporting Kiran Leonard. It’ll be a night to remember.
Jemma Roper is a marvellous sonic being who currently lives in Grangetown. You should go and check her out on March 24th at Clwb Ifor Bach.
Photographs by Noel Dacey
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