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‘We had one rehearsal as the four-piece we are now and everything slotted together’… Introducing: Island

Tuesday 20 February 2018
Words Alice Bell

Having recently played at Annie Mac’s AMP event along with Tom Misch, four- piece band, ISLAND, Rollo Doherty (lead vocals), Jack Raeder (Guitarist), James Wolfe (Bassist) and Toby Richards (Drummer) are one of London’s most exciting bands. They’ve managed to get four sell out dates at renowned London Venues, and over a total of 9 million Spotify streams under their belt, all whilst being unsigned. We caught up with the band for an exclusive interview…

Hey guys! To start, tell me a little bit about how you guys formed the band.

We’ve played in various different groups together for a long time now, some serious, some less so. We were playing together in a different band previously, with a fifth member, and ISLAND basically formed naturally after that. With no plans musically, and no ideas about where anything might go, we had one rehearsal as the four-piece we are now and everything slotted together. The music started coming very quickly, but the name ‘ISLAND’ took ages, so we were nameless for an embarrassing amount of time…

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Individually we listen to a decent variety of music which covers everything from folk to drum and bass. But as a band we have several unifying influences which draw us together musically, originating in the early Fleetwood Mac we listened to growing up, to Kings of Leon and Radiohead, and now to bands like The War On Drugs and Grizzly Bear.

You guys have quite a few singles and EPs, but this will be your first full album. How do you feel about the release in April?

Super excited. Even though our second EP only came out a year ago, the process behind this album has been intense, and it feels like we’ve been working on it for a long time. It was all recorded by the middle of last year, so the main feeling now is that we just can’t wait for everyone to hear it after all this time.

What was the process of making that album like?

The two EPs were fairly DIY, and we learnt a lot about how best to record the band as we want it to sound. With those lessons learned, going into the album our main recording ethic was to attempt to capture the experience of a live performance. We write the majority of our music by playing together so naturally we record better when we play together too. It’s taken a while to really hone our preferred recording method but we feel like we’re getting closer with every new release.

Your 2015 song “Stargazer” really resonated with your audience. What kind of reaction have you gotten from some of your newer stuff like “The Day I Die”?

The first time we played The Day I Die was at a festival last summer. Literally no-one other than the four of us had heard it live at that point, and we threw it in the set as a bit of fun, as we were in the process of recording the album. That was a really special moment, the crowd really vibed it, and we’ve played it at literally every gig since.

I noticed that you all star in the new video for “The Day I Die.” Why did you choose to go in that direction?

We (and particularly Rollo) have always been be really involved in the process behind our videos. However, we had never actually appeared in one before, and its something we were a little bit unsure of to be honest. However we loved the weirdness of the concept, and were really excited about working with Claes Nordwall who directed it, so it felt like a nice strange way to introduce the band.

What was the inspiration behind that video?

Rollo’s lyrics can often be interpretted in a bunch of different ways. ‘The Day I Die’ isn’t necessarily about actually dying but more about succumbing to something and losing grip on your identity. We wanted the video to portray a world in which technology has taken over and ordinary, human things stop mattering. This idea especially resonated with us as we live in a time where so much of our lives revolves around social media and technology, hopefully people could see past the weirdness and relate to the concept a little.

You’ve played quite a range of really intimate shows & some pretty big festivals. What’s your favourite gig you’ve played and why?

It’s so hard to pick just one, as we’ve been lucky enough to play a whole range of amazing gigs over the last few years. A recent one that stands out was Vienna on our last tour. We’d never played there before, and didn’t really know what to expect, but we were blown away by the crowd. It was also particularly special gig for us, as Toby and Jack both have family in Austria, so it felt like a bit of a homecoming.

You’ve got quite a lot of tour dates coming up. What is life on the road like?

We can’t wait to get back on the road this year, especially as it’s going to be our first time in both Spain and Ireland. Most excitingly we’re putting together a US tour as we speak… Touring is basically what inspired the writing process for the album, and so it really feels like ISLAND is most at home on the road.

What would you say to any bands struggling to hit their stride?

If we had to give three tips they’d be: Practise, practise, practise. We’ve been to plenty of gigs where we might not like the music but if the band is really on point we still come away with a positive experience.

Write music that means something to you – if you can relate to it, chances are your audience will too.

Finally, we might not like it but social media is a huge part of your identity and getting your name out there. Potentially a new band’s most valuable tool (aside from playing anywhere and everywhere) so use it wisely.