Interview: Elder Island
Party season is officially upon us. With the fast approaching expiration of 2016, the population is dragged (some of us unwillingly) into the final two-month stretch of endless get togethers and soirées. As someone who is unashamedly anti-social, you may think that this time of year fills me with dread. You would be wrong. For it also signals hope. Hope that the absolute shittest year on record may finally breath its last Zika-ridden death rattle. Hope that 2017 will be a tiny bit better. Hope that Kim K returns to Instagram. Anyway, for all of you that will be donning your best threads and pulling on your dancing shoes, I have the perfect band to add to your ‘getting ready’ playlist. I spoke to Elder Island last week, ahead of the release of their brand new EP ‘Seeds In Sand‘:
KM: Tell us how you began working with each other.
EI: It all started back in our university days. Dave and Katy used to live together whilst Luke used to sleep in a snicket next to the kitchen on the floor. We caught onto the fact that Katy could play cello then eventually we found out that she could sing. After some convincing and messing around, we started to learn how to record and play together. We were all studying different art-based courses so it was very much another creative avenue we were all enjoying exploring.
KM: Your music has elements of pop, neo-soul, and electronica. How did you arrive at such an eclectic sound?
EI: We all have very broad and different tastes in music, so when we play and write together its a large combination of different influences that come out to create our mixed-genre music. Katy loves Kiss, Luke is a fan of Erykah Badu, and Dave is really into electronic music.
KM: What different qualities do you think each member brings to the band?
EI: Katy brings samosas and Bombay mix. Dave brings fags and pepperoni pizza. Luke brings Kettle chips and brandy.
KM: Katy, your vocal style sounds very soul/blues influenced. Which vocalists do you look to for inspiration?
EI: I have to say I can’t think of particular vocalist that I draw direct inspiration from. I’m sure I’ve been influenced over the years listening to a variety of voices. I was, and still am into singers with less conventional voices, I’m not sure I’m in that bracket, but I do like to keep true to my own voice. I remember years ago when Joanna Newsom first became popular I was singing a song I’d written in a faux Newson-esk style and my Dad told me if I stopped putting on a voice then it would sound much better. It did and I suppose since then I’ve just sang how it naturally comes out.
KM: Your new single, ‘Key One’, from your latest EP has such a sophisticated arrangement. Did that manifest during the songwriting process or later when you are producing the track?
EI: A combination of the two. It was organically created while practicing and playing live, so developed over time. It was recorded as a live take to keep the feel of how we play it, but using overdubs and a few chops to make the song a bit more coherent and tighter.
KM: Can you tell us what the track is about?
It’s pretty vague and I think Luke would say it’s about nothing and everything in a true dance pop style. I was however reading ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle’ by Haruki Murakami at the time so I think the words are an ambiguous nudge towards that.
KM: My favourite author! I like the fact that the music is both really cerebral and really danceable at the same time. Was that intentional?
EI: It comes from the development of playing the first EP live and gradually playing heavier and making it more danceable which has fed back into the way we make music. It creeps out of us as we’re all into different forms of dance music. Also, living in Bristol for as long as we have, the dance culture of the city has definitely influenced us over the years.
KM: Although the instrumentation is complex, it’s the vocals that stand out on a lot of work – whether you’re using vocal samples, effects, or dissonant harmonies. What draws you to using vocals in this way?
K: I suppose it’s a random mix of what sounds best for the song and how I’m feeling at the time. I also use a vocal looper and effects unit which gives me the freedom to manipulate my voice – I’ve evolved with it and it’s a lot of fun.
KM: How do you find your music is received in a live setting?
EI: Our plan is for everyone to dance and have a great time. So if that happens its easier and much more enjoyable for us to do the same.
KM: What are your hopes with this EP and for the future?
Hopefully it’s well received like the first EP was. We were so unprepared when it was released that it’s taken us this long to find our feet. We’ve built a studio at home in that time though and have been writing and developing our production and playing live, so we should be following with some new music again quicker this time. We all work full time though, so we’re hoping that following this release were able to spend less time at work and more on music.
Listen to the new EP ‘Seeds in Sand‘ here.
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