Every now and then, life hands you a great equation.
For Yery Cho and Carl Ruwhiu, the maths came together when they met in stats class at Rangitoto College in 2014, their final year of high school. The vocalist and beatmaker were part of the same music-centric friend group, one of whom suggested Yery and Carl make tunes together. It wasn't long before they were producing sweet sounds as electro-pop duo Imugi.
"I developed this massive obsession with music production, and it was at the same time that Yery was getting into music," remembers Carl. "A big part of our school day was sharing music with friends, talking about what we were working on and what gigs we had coming up. When we hit 18, we started going to local shows."
"Before that it was heaps of all-ages gigs – Mt Eden Scout Hall, the Old Folks Association, UFO in New Lynn," Yery adds. "It was so cool to go to shows and have our friends showcase all this art that they'd been working on. We were just like, damn this community is dope, we want to be a part of it."
In the early days, the greatest gift the duo gave each other was that of confidence: "hyping each other up – to not be so secretive about the work that we'd been doing, and then bringing it together."
Gradually they shifted from being punters at gigs to opening for the acts they admired, at venues like the Wine Cellar, Whammy Bar, and Whammy Backroom, which Yery describes as "the holy trinity of venues in Auckland".
"We met a lot of our like-minded peers and friends through doing those shows, especially when we first started. Because we were saying yes to every single gig for about two years."
After all that hard graft, and having put out their well-received debut Vacasian in 2017, Imugi were finally poised to drop their second EP. 2020 was supposed to be a year of movement, with a tour and travel to Australia also in the works but, along with many other artists from Aotearoa, they found themselves grounded because of Covid.
"We had a lot of ducks in a row for the release of our EP, Covid hitting was a big halt to everything," says Carl. "We had to really think about how we were going to release stuff, and our future plans. Everything got delayed a little bit."
It was also a time for reflection, as Yery recounts: "Last year was very busy and tough, lots of sad moments but lots of moments of being able to look back and reflect, and be like 'wow we really have been doing this for six years now. That's pretty wild.'"
They tackled the challenges head on, and in October 2020 were finally able to release Dragonfruit. The title is a play on the name Imugi, a word which also characterises mythical Korean serpents that want to one day become dragons.
"We really wanted the EP to be a showcase of all the different influences that we have and the different styles of music that we like to delve into," says Carl. "So the name kind of played into that, with each track being like a fruit of our labour."
"We were really proud of it, and wanted to do the release justice," agrees Yery. "We had to knuckle down and figure out a plan of how we were going to put it out – and stand our ground in continuing to be independent.
"As tough as it can be sometimes, I feel like it's more rewarding at the end. Knowing that 'we did this'. It's nice to be able to make our own system, make our own team, work with the people that we want to, bring our friends into it."
Imugi are extending this notion further with their Dragonfruit remix EP, which is due for release later this year.
"Ever since we released Dragonfruit we've had people asking if they could do remixes, and we've just sent them the files. We had about three or four remixes done, and we figured we should release a remix album."
The idea was inspired by DIY synth artist Amamelia, who had similarly released an album of remixes of her tracks that had been created by friends, including Imugi.
"We thought it was such a cool idea – get together all your friends in the community, showcase their production and songwriting skills as well as sharing something of ours at the same time. It was really fun to hear how they reimagined them."
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