Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

How Imogen and the Knife found an edge

20 June 2024, 11:45
Words by Jen Long
Original Photography by Ruby Pluhar

After stripping everything back and questioning her motivation and desires, singer/songwriter Imogen Williams set about creating her truest work to date as Imogen and the Knife

“It was a time of reckoning where I was like, do I want to do this?” asks Imogen Williams, reflecting on the moment where everything changed. “I know that I will always make music and I'll always sing and I'll always write because I have to and I don't know how to do anything else, but do I need this to be my career?”

Having previously made music under her first name, Williams incorporated her new moniker after a period of reset. Coming out of the isolation of the pandemic and feeling unfulfilled by what had been her life passion, she stripped everything back to answer some basic questions. The result is a new persona, approach and an EP that shines with inspiration and direct authenticity.

A proud Geordie, Williams’ family moved back to Newcastle when she was a baby. Born with hip dysplasia, the best specialist care could be found in her dad’s hometown. The knife in her name is a nod to the procedures she underwent growing up, however, it was music that played the biggest role. “My mum is a huge, huge Beatles fan. We had a picture of The Beatles on our wall in the kitchen, so my little sister used to think that we were related,” she laughs. “I was raised amongst the classics like David Bowie and Carole King. Joni Mitchell I found by myself, age eighteen, I just came across Blue and my whole life changed.”


Another pivotal influence was her granddad who worked as a welder by day, an entertainer by night. “My granddad has a lot to answer for,” she laughs. “He was always singing, always performing, always doing some kind of comedy routine. I think it's quite clear to see where it's all come from.”

Williams began performing in her mid-teens. Having taken keyboard lessons from a young age, she focused on formal singing training. Her teacher at the time was an artist herself, and for an upcoming gig at Newcastle’s The Cluny 2, encouraged Williams to write a set of original material and open. “That was when I just really got the bug and I was like, right, this is what I want to do,” she smiles. “I was always lugging my piano about somewhere in the Northeast. I just cut my teeth on the Northern circuit, very much like my granddad.”


She moved to London to take the infamous popular music course at Goldsmiths, a degree that launched many artists before her. “Newcastle to New Cross,” she jokes. “That really challenged what I thought I was doing. It wasn't necessarily a songwriting course, it wasn't really a music course, it was more of a philosophical, existential, constantly asking the question, ‘What are you bringing to the world as a musician and why is it important that your voice is heard?’ It was so important and it was such an incredible education to have.”

Having made music under her full name while playing in Newcastle, after graduating from Goldsmiths she dropped the Williams and continued to gig and record her brooding and capacious, emotionally-driven pop balladry. But after a few years and the stop-start of the pandemic, she found herself questioning everything. “I think what I've really struggled with, and still do to an extent, is the idea of shoehorning this inherently anti-capitalist, anti-structural thing - which is music making and wanting to connect with other humans through the art of songwriting and performing - into this insanely capitalist structure,” she says. “I just didn’t know if that's what I wanted to do.”


After a few weeks of soul-searching she stripped everything back to its beginnings. She began to put on her Imogen and Friends live nights around London and in Newcastle, she began working on new material with writer/producer Alex Parish, and she added a new suffix to her artist persona, Imogen and the Knife.

During the pandemic, Williams had applied for a role with the Ivors Academy, the body for UK songwriters and composers. She found herself accepted onto their board of directors. “It gave me a sense of belonging but also extreme validation, which I didn’t have before,” she smiles.

Armed with a new sense of identity and confidence, she applied for PRS’ Momentum Fund, landing the funding to bring her new project into fruition. Working alongside Parish, the pair put everything into the creation of an EP. “Obviously we went to RAK Studios. I was like, well, if I’ve got the money!” she laughs. “I got all my friends to play on it and I got to pay them, just people I knew and loved. It just felt so wonderful and I really feel like you can hear that it was made in that room. I like to think it’s money well spent.”

Released next month, Some Kind of Love is an expansive and elegantly orchestrated collection of dark, progressive, and sonically captivating pop echoes. From the grinding bass pulse of first single “Mother of God,” masterful in its dynamics, to the stark confessional of follow-up “If It Won’t Talk of Rain,” the EP showcases Williams’ direct narratives and joyfully unreserved compositions.

New single, “Red (is My Colour)”, out today, is an elegant cut of classic songwriting with dark undertones, its delivery soft but its lyrics sharp. “It’s a constant question of what are we doing? Why does this perpetual cycle of violence towards women and non-men keep happening?” she explains. “I’m not really accusing anybody, it’s more like, everybody, nobody and me. It’s just posing a lot of questions, because I have them all the time.”


Having secured new management off the back of the recordings, Williams decided to keep everything close to home and release through the company’s own imprint, Vertex Music. “It felt so natural to go in a homely direction in a way that just felt right. It felt like a well-oiled machine. It felt like everyone’s vision aligned and it just kept it in the family. It’s made the whole process a lot easier and less daunting,” she says.

As Imogen and the Knife, Williams has created a world within which she can step back and let her music take on its own life, from the most devastating riffs to the lightest sentiment, her songs are free from her own boundaries and realities. “Some of them are rageful, some are desperately sad, some are joyful,” she says. “It’s just ruminating on different kinds of love and how the lens through which I see everything is just this lens of love. I think it’s the thing that really just propels me through life.”

Imogen and the Knife's debut EP Some Kind of Love is released on 19 July via Vertex Music

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