Finding Beauty in Darkness with Io Echo Singer Ioanna Gika
After undergoing life-threatening lung surgery at 9 years old, Io Echo (@ioecho) singer Ioanna Gika found solace in the movie Beetlejuice. “I confronted the concept of death very early on,” she says. “A film like that made death seem like such a party because they were dead but they were finding moments of comedy. That was comforting for me.”
That balance between light and dark is something Ioanna has fully embraced in her work. Before forming Io Echo with Leopold Ross — the brother of composer Atticus Ross — she lived briefly in Jakarta, Indonesia, where her stepfather and mother were stationed, and then spent time staying with her aunt in Tokyo. Her experience in Asia would go on to have a major influence on the Los Angeles-based band’s debut full-length, Ministry of Love, from the use of Chinese violins to the Japanese koto harp.
More broadly, though, Ioanna is inspired by literature and paintings created for a bigger purpose. (“I connect with art and literature that rouses and electrifies a feeling, and sometimes that’s art with a social message.”) She cites artist Ai Weiwei, painter Allison Schulnik, photographer Ren Hang and activist Malala Yousafzai as recent examples of people who’ve informed her work. There are also some personal struggles that find their way into her writing: Her father passed away from a degenerative brain condition as Io Echo was finishing up its debut album, and her stepfather was nearly killed in a 2004 terrorist bombing near the Greek embassy in Jakarta.
“They had targeted the Australian embassy but the force mainly impacted the Greek offices, so much so that my mom’s passport was in my stepdad’s drawer, and the copies of the papers ended up on the street below so they thought something had happened to my mom,” she says. “It was a tumultuous time.”
While she recently accepted a role in a performance piece called 20/20 Accelerando by artist Lita Albuquerque at the University of Southern California, Ionna is mostly spending time with her bandmate on the second Io Echo album, which is already halfway done and set to drop some time this year.
“This will be different than our first album,” she says. “[Ministry of Love] was influenced a lot by my time in Southeast Asia, but since that album, a lot has changed. My father died as we were finishing it, a long-term relationship broke down and I can feel that our sound is evolving as I push myself. I want to expand and improve through the various personal vicissitudes. I want to be more open.”
—Dan Reilly for Instagram @music