Ipswich: Homecoming gig for Neon Jungle’s Asami Zdrenka

Neon Jungle

Neon Jungle - Credit: Archant

Neon Jungle’s Asami Zdrenka has an extra reason to look forward to playing blinkbox music East Coast Live in Ipswich.

“I’m so excited,” says the singer, whose mum is from Japan and her dad from so many places in Europe she could bore herself telling you, but actually grew up in Elmswell, studying music practice and performance at Suffolk New College. “It’s the first time we’ll properly perform near home.”

She was discovered singing Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wheatus, One Direction and Rihanna tracks on YouTube. Group mate Shereen Cutkelvin was also discovered on YouTube, Jess Plumber sitting on a bench in London’s Brick Lane and Amira McCarthy at Westfield.

When Zdrenka got an email inviting her to audition for an earlier project she didn’t answer for months, thinking it was a scam. When they emailed her again about what would eventually become Neon Jungle, offering to pay for her lunch and travel, she thought “okay, I’ll go”.

Meeting for the first time at auditions, they instantly bonded; although Zdrenka thought McCarthy hated her. She was actually admiring her shoes, hair and looks.

All four felt this was the start of their lives and nothing was going to stop them owning it.

Trying out lots of different group names including the universally hated Tick Tock - “my mum’s got a really heavy Japanese accent, I just couldn’t put her through having to say Ti To,” says Zdrenka - they pinged emails between themselves and their mums, who they say are a Neon Jungle all of their own.

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Neon Jungle summed up their brightness and raw energy.

Now living in London with the rest of the group, she really misses her family who still live in Elmswell. The show in Ipswich’s Chantry Park on June 28, part of this year’s Ip-art festival, will give her the chance to see them and her dog.

“It’s crazy, I enjoy every single moment and we don’t waste any opportunity we get because we know it could just be taken away so quickly - even though it’s not going to be,” she stresses.

With their debut album Welcome To The Jungle out July 28, the girls have already had three top 20 singles. The single Braveheart reached number four on the UK charts, hanging around the top 20 four weeks after release.

“We just couldn’t believe it, we’re still trying to get our heads round it,” says Zdrenka, who left home for London aged 17. “I feel like I’ve definitely grown throughout this. I’m just having so much fun and learning a lot as well.

“There’s so much work that goes behind it, you’re exhausted pretty much all the time but it’s so worth it because we get to do what we love on a daily basis. We don’t how solo artists do it, they’re incredible.

“If I didn’t have the girls I would probably find it so much harder, I’d be so much more homesick. I class the girls as my family, I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true so it’s nice to know I have family in an unfamiliar place like London.”

Zdrenka, who recently performed with the rest of the group at the Victoria’s Secret show in New York before they’d even been together a year, mingling with the likes of Taylor Swift and Fall Out Boy backstage, describes herself as the biggest fan girl out there so is looking forward to blinkbox music East Coast Live.

“We toured with Jessie J and we’re friends with The Vamps and Union J, so it’s weird. I used to wait outside places for One Direction when I was younger, every time I meet someone I’m like ‘can I have a picture before I say hello’. Jason Derulo, I mean, who doesn’t love Jason Durulo, he’s amazing.”

Describing Neon Jungle’s sound as electro-pop, she says they don’t really stick to one genre because they all love different genres; adding their forthcoming debut album is an eclectic mix.

It’s the approach you’d expect from a band keen to point out they’re different from anyone else around at the minute and hate any attempt to pit girlbands in particular against each other.

Given how much they like to mix things up, what can Chantry Park audiences expect?

“I don’t know, you’re going to have to wait and see,” she teases.

Also on the blinkbox music East Coast Live bill are Jessie J, Jason Derulo, The Saturdays,Rizzle Kicks, The Vamps, Katy B, Union J and Rixton.