For most young bands, playing a private concert at Natalie Portman’s Los Feliz home for an audience that includes Ewan McGregor might count as a nerverattling experience, but for Ioanna Gika and Leopold Ross of Io Echo, the gig was business as usual. “I really embrace strange situations,” Gika says. “I think you can learn a lot from awkward or uncomfortable moments.” Gika and Ross, who have opened for Florence and the Machine and Nine Inch Nails, had been invited to perform by Portman’s husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, who met them at a dinner in L.A. for designer Hedi Slimane. Millepied became such a fan of their arena-goth sound that he directed the videos for their songs “Stalemate” and “Eye Father.” The latter featured a geisha dancing kabuki-style in a grocery store, a reference to the vein of Eastern influences that courses through their debut album, Ministry of Love.
Purple Haze: “When we talk about Shanghai, or something like that, it’s not the literal Shanghai, but a more surreal idea of this place as an escape from where you actually are,” Ross says. “You could take a forest in the Far East literally, but we don’t,” Gika adds. “Ours has purple smoke and magical creatures.”