Island are one of those tales many bands can only dream of. Selling out London’s Heaven while still unsigned, their soaring sound and eternally relatable lyrics have gained them a substantial following and there seem to be nothing stopping the quartet now.
From jamming together for fun, Island quickly turned out to be more than just your casual garage session. “We kind of did it as a bit of a laugh but it worked better than the other bands”, frontman Rollo Doherty says.
Rooted in their partial Irish origin, Island is one of those band names lost in translation. Though they might be hard to Google - “we didn’t think that one through” - they still seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.
Sitting down with Clash before the biggest gig of their career, Island have something special going for them. “It’s kind of our last show until we’re going into the studio record our album. It’s a big one for us. A kind of final cut off from the stuff we’ve released so far,” Rollo ponders. “It’s closing a chapter”, bassist James Wolfe elaborates.
And it’s closing a chapter in more than one way - only minutes after this interview Island will sit down to sign their record deal with indie label Frenchkiss Records. Their idiosyncratic melodies soar from the ethereal. The escapism captured within both melody and lyrics bear witness to a deep symbiosis between the two. “I think that the lyrics act often like an instrument in a song”, Rollo reflects.
He contends “they are all quite abstract, rather than being literal. The meanings of the songs often are very personal things, but they are put across in a way that isn’t so obvious.” Drummer Toby Richards quickly adds: “I think they are very relatable. They’re not personal just to you, but they are personal to the listener”.
Though thriving on a very distinct sound, Island seems to have a hard time describing it. Upon reflection James concludes in tongue-in-cheek fashion that “Island sounds like mum-friendly ambient indie rock! Everyone knows we’re not very rock and roll”.
As a group, Island definitely have a very strong chemistry live, and guitarist Jack Raeder admits that they try to record live to grasp this feeling. “I think we’re a band best captured live. So when we’re going into the studio, we try and make it have as much of a live feeling as possible.”
When speaking of inspirations, Island seem hesitant to pinpoint specifics. “I don’t think we directly have certain bands that we think ‘ah let’s try and sounds like that’”, Rollo says.
However, Sigur Ros seem to be a band close to the boys’ hearts. “Jonsi, the singer, is very... obviously I don’t speak Icelandic, but it’s very much about the sounds of the words and how they feel. There’s almost a kind of meaning behind the actual literal meaning”, Rollo contemplates. Bandmate Toby adds: “He can make you feel something by the sound of his voice, but you don’t have to understand the words. You still kind of get it, and I think Rollo kind of draws on that as well. You might not understand what he is saying in the sense that the lyrics are abstract, but you still feel something”.
As we depart Island to let them sign their record deal, their forward plans are “just to record an album and tour the shit out of it.”
- - -
- - -
Words: Aurora Henni Krogh