Cardiff quartet Islet spent a fair portion of their blossoming musical career being labelled by lazy journalists as ‘the band without a website’ or something similarly irrelevant. Ask anyone who had caught one of their thrilling live performances however and they would have been able to tell you something that those who favoured the Google research method couldn’t: that Islet are an exciting, fresh-sounding, creative musical force.
Not so long ago, Islet made a website complete with pictures of ‘The Isness’, an increasingly varied zine they had been making. With more creative outlets under their belt – not to mention two superb mini-albums – before some critics would even consider them a proper band, we are very excited to be living and experiencing this thing that Emma Daman, Johnny Thomas, Mark Thomas and Alex Williams have decided to call Islet. We caught up with Emma to talk about the band’s progress over the last year, live music and the ‘Do It Together’ philosophy.
Islet is a proper band now with songs, records and a website. How does it feel to be talked about in such terms?
Brilliant! We have even got t-shirts with our band name on, and we will very shortly have a mailing list that doesn’t involve Royal Mail. Welcome on in, 2010!
What do you make of journalism’s habit of focusing on small details (such as a lack of a website, in your case) while often ignoring the music itself?
It makes it a bit less fun for us, obvs, ‘cause we’re ARTISTS and our ART is really important and that. But at the same time, they’ve got to have something to write about. Writing about music is, as they say, like dancing about architecture.
Perhaps this is partly because Islet is quite a difficult band to describe. How would you describe your sound?
I skirt around the issue and avoid describing it myself. That’s for other people to decide.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Playing at Greenman was pretty good. It’s a good, Welsh festival and we’d definitely go every year anyway so it was a good feeling to get to play there ourselves.
Having all played in various bands before Islet, do you feel anything is different this time around?
Islet is different to most bands in that we all play various instruments, there is no lead singer, we all get involved in artwork, recording etc. And it makes a difference that Mark and JT are brothers, and that Mark is my boyfriend. So one night we might sweating on stage and the next time we could be discussing their brother’s wedding. There’s a lot of love.
Islet seems to be a live band first and foremost, would you agree?
No way! But if that’s what you think, then your opinion is as valid as mine. To us, our recorded output is as important as anything else. It is fascinating to do and you get a real sense of fulfillment when you have finished a record. I think it just so happened that we spent a while playing gigs before we released anything, so that’s what people came across.
What are your own favourite live bands?
Hmm… Chrome Hoof, Deerhoof, Connan Mockasin, Munch Munch are all up there.
What’s the best venue you have played at?
The Portland Arms in Cambridge is a pub with back room that always seems to have a jovial atmosphere.
Having put out a couple of EPs and toured around a bit, what are you planning next? An album? More EPs?
We’re writing a full length album at the moment. I think three mini-albums in a row might be too much! We’ve recorded all our previous output ourselves, so we might branch out into working with other people. We’ve got a couple of festivals on the horizon too.
The band is built on a DIY ethics and aesthetics (with lo-fi artwork etc), do you think this would change if funding wasn’t an issue?
We do a lot of things ourselves because we like to do so. We have our own philosophy, Do It Together, and the basis is that things are much more fun if you do them with your friends. If we were given a pot of gold by a leprechaun, we’d probably do even more things ourselves! In an ideal world, we’d do more full stop, because it’s what we love to do. As far as lo-fi artwork, we make it that way because that’s the way we like it. I know how to work Photoshop and I could make it all look swish if I wanted to, but that’s not what we’re about.
We started a band because love writing songs and recording and making pictures and putting on parties, and I can’t see that changing.
When is the next edition of the Isness coming, and what can we expect to see in it?
Not sure, and this blog http://theis.posterous.com/ is where we out things that we’re working on. Because the Isness is print based you can sometimes be constrained it terms of colours, and it’s very time consuming, so we started the blog to put up ideas quickly, without giving it too much thought.
Who – or better, what – influences you the most when expressing yourselves creatively?
Beats, the human voice, homemade zines, drawing, photography, going to gigs as much as possible. Probably being in rush too, makes you get stuff done!
2010 has seen a lot of productivity from you guys, what are your three favourite memories for the year and what lesson have you learnt that you will take on board for 2011?
Good moments for were jumping around in the barn where we recorded ‘Celebrate This Place’, giving out Isnesses at Los Campesinos gigs, seeing our artwork 12” square, 12 hour practices we call ‘training’. And a lesson we’ve learnt is how to successfully push start an extended wheel base van in the snow every day for 3 weeks. Hopefully we won’t have to use that one as much next year.
What emerging artists should Crossfire readers be tuning into next year?
Sweet Baboo has a new release in the pipeline, that I can’t wait to hear. Cate Le Bon and Perfume Genius should have some new tunes out too. Munch Munch’s debut album is out now, and it’s brilliant, loads of percussion, falsetto and layers of proggy keyboards.