Bred in Bristol, Elder Island are a genre-defying breath of fresh air. Somehow blending elements of indie, house, and countless other tones, they emanate a truly original sound. This is something that is becoming increasingly harder to come by in modern music. After teasing the alternative scene with two EPs and a limited but beautiful collection of tunes like “The Big Unknown” and “Bamboo”, the trio have finally recorded their debut full-length album: “The Omnitone Collection”. Since the release earlier this year, Elder Island are yet to unleash their new repertoire live onstage for an eagerly awaiting fanbase. Luckily for us, the band’s 2019 UK tour kicks off in November.
We recently caught up with Elder Island at Bluedot Festival just south of Manchester. Amid the pounding bass of this unique gathering around an observatory, here is what lead singer Katy and band members Dave and Luke had to say…
So you dropped the album earlier this year. After going through the whole process, how did it feel once it was released?
Dave: Very rewarding.
Luke: Like a weight had just been lifted.
Dave: Making an album was something that, even a couple of years before, we were quite desperate to make… but the money to actually make it was not there.
Katy: “Having the time to finish it along with all the artwork around it, and then getting it as a full finished piece on vinyl, that was like… yeah!”
Once you got close, was there an element of “Wow, this is actually going to be out sometime soon?
Dave: “Getting all of the vinyls delivered to our house was like… wow, now it’s a thing!”
Katy: “Having that physical copy, that’s the reward. It’s amazing. We had a cool point in the studio where we had a few tracks that we were working on… and we all pieced them together... We’ve got the length of a vinyl album. It’s there, we’ve already done it!”
Does touring feel different, maybe in terms of the crowds, since the album’s release?
Luke: “Yeah, we’ve toured bits of it. It’s interesting having people react to some songs that came out like 6 weeks before… and them having a reaction like Wow! I’m looking forward to when we start doing a lot more of the songs from the album.”
Dave: “We haven’t done a UK tour since the release. We’ve played a few tracks from it whilst we’re finishing it off, but in the UK in November… we’ll actually get to play the album.”
So, there’s a new journey ahead. Maybe you’ll see the songs in a different light once played live?
Katy: “A hundred percent. First you play it, obviously, and then you record it, and then it’s translated again to get it onstage. It’s such a good process.”
Were you conscious in thinking of a live audience when you made those songs?
Luke: “Some and some not. Predominantly not. Quite a few of the songs were made in two-hour noodle sessions, and we had to cut it down and be like:
Right… how do we make this into an actual song?
How do we recreate that live?
So then we go back into it and hammer it out:
Let’s mix it up!
It’s great because we get to take a produced song and then remix it again to play it out live.”
Is there a process where you mark each song and say: “This is done now”?
Luke: “We try and set that don’t we.”
Dave: “We try to get to a point where it feels cohesive and like it’s nearly there, with a bit more mixing and production tweaks. But then you’ve gotta listen to it for a few weeks or something and you come back to it like… Oh wait a minute, we need to do some reworking. It’s when you listen to it as a body of work, you’re like… Yes. This is great.”
How has Bristol shaped your sound? How are you influenced by the venues or artists?
Katy: “We evolved with the city. That’s where we’ve always made music.”
Dave: “In the early days when we were at university there, it was like the peak of dubstep and I was going out every weekend basically. I was going to all the clubs and there was an electronic sound leading it, but I came from an indie background as a kid. Then those two worlds merged.”
Katy: “I think now it’s just so broad, like going to a lot of noise-based gigs, I just think you can get anything there. It’s really accessible and that does feed us I think.”
Luke: “I used to work in one of the big clubs in Bristol, and having to work there weekend in and out, I would see everything: hip-hop, house, techno, drum and bass, dubstep, jungle. It’s just full of it and I was soaking it all up all the time. It’s inspiring.”
Would you say that mesh of sounds has encouraged you guys to be quite experimental?
Everyone at once: “Yep, definitely.” “One hundred percent.” “Very much so.”
Dave: “We don’t set up like we’re going to make a song like this, or that we’re going to make certain sounds. The process is very much like we’ll start playing around with a few chords on a certain instrument. Then it’s like: Oh, this has a kind of vibe to it… and it develops from there instead.”
Luke: “I think that’s why we have trouble pinning ourselves down, and quite a lot of people have trouble pinning our sound down. We haven’t really intentionally done one sound. We’ve kind of intentionally done whatever we’ve made at the time, and been like: Is that good enough? If it’s not, we’ll put it on the backburner. If it is, we’ll carry on and roll with it.”
Have you tried to subvert from the pressure of the music industry by having your own record label?
Luke: “We don’t try and avoid it, but we also don’t try and reach for it. That’s why it’s a double-edged sword. People want to pigeon-hole because it’s easier to go: Right, I’ve got an act and I can put it in this bracket, and I can sell it in this way. But if you’ve got an act like us, where you can’t do that, then it’s like: What can I offer and where can I sell it? That’s why we’re independent. We like doing it, and we don’t want to have a major label basically controlling us.”
Has going independent helped you to harness that attitude?
Luke: “A hundred percent. That’s probably the only reason we can actually just keep enjoying it the way we want to, because we don’t have someone breathing down our neck and forcing us to do something.”
What would you say to new acts who are coming up? What’s the best way to go about it?
Dave: “Stay strong to your ideas. If you’ve got strong ideas, and you feel confident in them, it’s just following that.”
Katy: “Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Dave: “You might see other peers or people in the industry going like: That’s good, but we need it more like this. Because they’re looking at the selling side of it, and not the artistic side of it. By keeping true to the artistic side of it, then the fans will respond more truthfully. And there will be more longevity in that as well.”
With the upcoming tour, are there any dates you’re really excited about? Or any places you’ve not played before?
Katy: “Loads of new places in America. It’s gonna be crazy.”
Luke: “The American tour is pretty exciting. I’m really looking forward to San Francisco again, and The Bowery Ballroom in New York.”
Katy: “The Fillmore in San Francisco big-time, because it’s quite a prestigious place.”
Luke: “Newcastle will be interesting.”
Dave: “We’re going to Newcastle, we’re going to Oxford, and Nottingham, which we haven’t done before.”
Luke: “I’m quite scared about Oxford, it’s big.”
Everyone excitedly: “Oh yeah, we’re playing Roundhouse!.”
Luke: “We’re building a show for Roundhouse at the moment. It’s the biggest show and we want to do it justice. That’s the number one on our calendar. Oh, and The Marble Factory as well in Bristol. Hometown gig. That’s where I used to work as well.”
Tickets for Elder Islands Tour can be found HERE.