Photo by Melanie Tjoeng
Radio-friendly bands don’t necessarily need to rely on radio support in this era where Spotify and YouTube fulfill the on-demand access to music that listeners crave. That’s not to say that young UK band ISLAND shouldn’t be in heavy rotation locally on CD102.5 or nationally on Sirius XM’s Alt-Nation channel, but just a few weeks into the band’s first U.S. tour, they are finding fans singing along to every word of every song from ‘Feels Like Air’ thanks to the power of Spotify.
ISLAND’s anthemic rock sound has been influenced by artists the individual band members grew up listening to, artists like The Strokes and Arcade Fire. It’s more subdued that party rock, more cosmic than paint-by-numbers pop and features emotionally gruff vocals courtesy of frontman Rollo Doherty (sort of Kings of Leon-ish if you’re looking for comparisons).
ISLAND singer Rollo Doherty and guitarist Jack Raeder collaborated on responses to questions that I emailed the band as they made their way from the West Coast to the Midwest.
Though your experience in America has been somewhat brief, has it lived up to your expectations? Anything not how you envisioned it?
It’s been pretty crazy… between us we’ve spent a bit of time in New York, California and Seattle, but basically we’ve never traveled around and seen the US properly. The drives have been huge, basically like doing a whole tour of Europe every few days… but the main thing that has exceeded expectations is the reception over here at the shows. It’s been unreal to go from city to city that we’ve never been to before and play to people who know our songs, often people who have been listening for a few years now. Legends.
Being a band on tour, you don’t have the chance to check out all the things that you might have hoped to. Are you building in any time to see things you’ve heard about or is it all – drive to city, load in, play a show, hit the hotel/drive to next city? I’ve watched the tour diary videos you’ve been posting and it does look like you do get out of the van/camper, at least for photo/video ops 🙂
There’s never as much as time as you’d like to see the places you pass through on tour. It always ends up being a rush, and with travel, load-in, sound-check, hotel, press, gig, load-out, the days vanish pretty fast. We try do at least couple of things in each city, and try and eat somewhere fun, but we always end up running out of time and in a mad rush. Particularly tricky when you’re driving around in an enormous RV, getting struck everywhere…
(Photo courtesy of ISLAND)
Based on the cities you’ve seen so far, if you were to relocate to America, which city do you think you could move to and be happy?
We’ve all had different favourite places to be honest. Myself (Jack speaking), I reckon San Francisco would be my fave. Not too hot, by the sea, tons to do and super beautiful. But we’ve all fallen in love with different spots.
Not sure what type of stereo is in the tour vehicle but if you only had a CD player and the ability to bring along 1 “greatest hits” CD per band member, what artists’ greatest hits would be the soundtrack to the “Island Fall 2018 tour”?
James: The Mars Volta
Rollo: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Toby: The Strokes
(Photo courtesy of ISLAND)
My wife has Sirius XM in her car (I don’t) so I don’t have a chance to listen all that often, but has Alt Nation been playing any of your music? If so, do you think that has helped bring people out to shows so far on the tour? If not, how do you think people are hearing about Island?
Not sure about Alt Nation, apologies, but US radio is building for us for sure. However, at the mo the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to who have come to our shows on this tour has come across us via streaming, particularly Spotify, which I think is pretty awesome. Also a lot of word of mouth, and lovely people writing about us like yourself!
I’m impressed that you make videos. I understand they are part of the promotional process and YouTube has become the new MTV but it would be very easy to put your energies elsewhere. What is your thinking going into making videos? Are you at all responsible for the storylines or have you worked with directors who have their own visions?
Collaboration is always a positive thing in film, so we like to work with directors and bounce ideas off each other to really shape our ideas collectively. Rollo has always made films, so he likes to get involved and help edits whether it’s a live video or a music video. As visuals are a major part of our band’s identity we see our films and promo videos as part of the art we put out to the world, so it’s all very important.
Can you tell me a little about how you fit into the UK music scene? What kind of press are you getting? Radio airplay? What type of venues (size) are you playing and is it as headliners or are you still in the opening act phase of your career?
We’ve been playing in the UK for almost 4 years now, and so in some ways we are pretty settled on the UK scene, but in loads of ways we are still just starting out. We’ve been lucky enough to tour around the UK a lot, and play some really great festivals. A real highlight for us is always our London headline shows, which are a nice homecoming at the end of a long tour. We played Koko in London May this year at the end of the European album tour, which is one of our favourite venues in the city.
Who would you consider some of your peers in the UK, bands that perhaps we haven’t heard about yet in America or bands that you think would do well if they decide to come here to tour?
I heard a podcast interview Toby did with RIFF Radio and mentioned that ISLAND has been influenced by artists like The Strokes and Arcade Fire. It’s crazy to me (I’m old!) that those bands are somewhat “classic rock” now, having been around for almost 20 years. Are these the bands you grew up on or are they bands you gravitated to as teenagers when you were starting to form your own music tastes?
Yeah for sure. When we were growing up The Strokes were such a blast of guitar music that really felt like it shaped everything that followed. All the UK scene that popped up in the next 10 years felt in someway that it came directly from them. They are one of our favourite bands for sure collectively, and a staple of any tour playlist.
Most songwriters don’t like to talk about lyrical interpretations and if you don’t want to answer this, I understand. I am curious though about the lyrics to “The Day I Die” and the story behind them if you wouldn’t mind sharing.
The Day I Die, like most of our songs, can be interpreted in multiple ways. Though the song is very literal on the surface, the idea of ‘dying’ in the song doesn’t really specifically mean death. The day you die might be the day you buy an iPhone and succumb to living life through social media and the world of the internet, it seems like a lot of these things seem to make us all a bit less alive. But people finding their own meanings in things is always fun too.
Saved this one for last (ha ha ha). ISLAND? Seriously? Did you give any thought into how the name of your band might cause major problems in a world run by Google? Searching “Island” won’t be very helpful. Searching “Island music” or “Island band” will bring up reggae or Jimmy Buffett cover-band results. Also notice when I search “Island band” in Facebook, the result is the band Islands, not your band. Too late now, but what was the runner up when naming the band?
We spent an embarrassingly long amount of time with no name, but it got to the stage where we had to just get on with it because we were trying to book gigs, which is pretty hard unnamed. There wasn’t really a clear runner up, but we all loved ISLAND as a name. It felt like a really great blank canvas that allowed us to develop our sound without have a name that’s too prescriptive.