Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville’s debut album Emotional Education is perfectly attuned to the complexities of navigating the modern world
If you ripped out a page of a twentysomething’s diary and turned it into song, you’d get IDER. The electronic pop duo, comprised of Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville, perfectly articulate the anxieties of their generation through compelling harmonies and euphoric crescendos. Full of self-reflection, their debut Emotional Education, out today, is a powerful pop album with social media, identity crises, and reassurance at its core. It’s therapeutic listening, with IDER’s lyrics offering an earnest honesty that’s become central to their musical identity.
“At the heart of IDER is our friendship,” Markwick says as the pair lounge on one of the supersized sofas in the Dazed office. On first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were sisters; given they’ve lived together for five years, they may as well be. The pair met on their music course at Falmouth University in 2012, where Somerville reveals they instantly clicked: “We were put in a group with a bunch of guys as well, but we ditched them and decided we were better alone.”
Now sharing a flat in North London, it’s unsurprising that Emotional Education – written in their bedrooms over the course of a year – feels so personal. It’s centred on the unequivocal openness of their friendship. “The way in which we’re able to be so open and honest in our music is because we talk about everything,” Markwick explains. “We share experiences, feelings, and emotions that feed straight into our music.” These conversations, which filter into IDER’s fiercely relatable lyrics, mirror those being had in house shares across the country. Fear of the future and the suffocating urge to be successful are explicitly explored in previously-released single “You’ve Got Your Whole Life Ahead Of You Baby”, while aptly titled “Saddest Generation” tackles loneliness and isolation, and “Mirror” captures the stomach-churning woes of modern dating, with the obsessive devastation of a break-up illustrated by the line: “I’m trying so hard to forget you / When were you last online?”
Here, Dazed speaks to Markwick and Somerville about Emotional Education, their magical rapport, and the woes of social media.
What’s it like working and living together?
Lily Somerville: So natural! We have to check ourselves sometimes and remember how intense it must seem to people. We moved in together in the second year of uni and we’ve lived together ever since, so we’re like sisters but with the boundaries of friendship.
Megan Markwick: It’s completely bonkers, really. We wrote our whole album in a bedroom!
Lily Somerville: After finishing the album, we realised how much we’d hibernated. We went in deep and were so consumed by it every day for hours. I’m surprised it didn’t drive us mad.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Megan Markwick: I grew up listening to a lot of Americana and folk rock: Springsteen and Neil Young, Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles. More recently I like really good pop and rock: Wolf Alice, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish.
Lily Somerville: In the early days I was into Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Fleetwood Mac, then folk songs that my dad used to play on the guitar. I also grew up with a lot of classical music – I learned to play classical piano when was young, so I still have a real love for that. Nowadays I listen to big influences like Frank Ocean and SZA.
You’ve got a lot of female influences – is female empowerment central to your music?
Megan Markwick: Definitely. I suppose the fact that we’re two women who have written our whole album ourselves – which in the pop world is unfortunately still quite rare – is female empowerment in itself. We’ve done it deliberately but not because we want to make a point, we’ve done it because it’s the best way for us.
“At the heart of IDER is our friendship, and I think the way in which we’re able to be so open and honest in our music is because we talk about everything” – Megan Markwick, IDER
In “SWIM”, the line “If you think you’re drowning, well I’ll meet you at the bottom” – though bleak – creates a sense of togetherness that’s missing in the world right now, particularly when you look at the UK and rising issues of mental health and loneliness. Is this sense of camaraderie an important message you want to communicate to your fans?
Lily Somerville: 100 per cent. There’s a real overarching theme on the album about mental health in various manifestations throughout different songs. “SWIM” was a song we wrote together, for each other.
Megan Markwick: We were really struggling with the music industry (when we wrote “SWIM”) because it can be really shit at times. Social media is all about showing the great stuff, but we’ve suffered a lot in terms of anxiety and mental health from our experience of working in the industry.
Lily Somerville: The song was born from that, (to express that) we’re in it together. It’s personal to us, but it’s a message we want people to connect to and feel empowered by – to know they’re not alone.
You’ve previously said your friendship is like therapy – is talking a key part of your writing process?
Megan Markwick: At the heart of IDER is our friendship, and I think the way in which we’re able to be so open and honest in our music is because we talk about everything – we share experiences, feelings, and emotions that feed straight into our music.
Lily Somerville: Having that other person to help you dig deeper and ask questions (is vital). Also, to invite someone else into your idea means you have to be so explicit about what you’re trying to say to help that person understand.
Emotional Education is obviously a very personal album, do you feel vulnerable sharing it with the world?
Megan Markwick: I don’t know! We’re used to being really personal and open.
Lily Somerville: In a way, it’s that idea of, ‘Well, we’re just being honest’, so what can anyone do? It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not.
Megan Markwick: Art wins! (Laughs)
I think people want honesty! It feels like your lyrics could be a page out of your fans’ diaries. For example, I think “You’ve Got Your Whole Life Ahead Of You Baby” perfectly voices how so many of us are in a rush to grow up and be successful.
Lily Somerville: There’s such a personal and external pressure to be seen to achieve. Constantly being told that the world is your oyster and everything is possible – imagine everything being possible? What the fuck are you going to do with that?
Megan Markwick: With social media as well, there’s such a lack of reality.
Do you think social media is responsible for rising mental health issues, or do you think it’s been used as a scapegoat for wider political issues?
Lily Somerville: With these things there’s always positives and negatives, but it comes down to how you use it and what you do with it. There are so many incredible people using social media in extremely positive ways. (With any new technology) you just have to figure out how to use it, and I guess we haven’t done that yet.
Megan Markwick: When we were writing the album we had to be really strict (about using social media). There was a point where it got too much – when you’re scrolling but not actually looking at anything.
Lily Somerville: It’s an addiction. But the question is, how can we use these platforms to create connections and be more real?
What have you got coming up next?
Megan Markwick: We’re supporting Sigrid on her tour which leads onto our own headlining tour going into 2020. Then also the weekend our album comes out we’re playing Melt Festival in Germany.
Lily Somerville: We go straight to Latitude the day after, and we’ve got loads of family and friends coming down, so it’ll be a bit of a celebration.
Emotional Education is out now