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ISLAND im Interview: »The difference between memories and nostalgia are the rose-tinted glasses«

ISLAND beim Photoshoot für neues Album Yesterday Park

Ach, wie schwelgt man doch gerne in Erinnerungen an die guten alten Zeiten? Und zu eurer Überraschung bin ich nicht 60+, sondern erinnere mich einfach auch mal gerne an die sorgloseren Zeiten als Kind. Auch ISLAND haben sich damit auseinandergesetzt. In ihrem neuen Album Yesterday Park, welches diesen Freitag rauskommt, reflektieren sie kritisch über Nostalgie, Verantwortung und fragwürdige Gerüche im Proberaum. In meinen Augen ist es ein Unding, dass die Jungs aus London nicht schon ganze Arenen füllen. Dieser Vibe von klassischen Indie-Rock Hymnen gepaart mit so viel Emotion und Euphorie zieht mich einfach in den Bann. Zusammen mit Toby, dem Drummer und James, dem Bassist der Band, habe ich über das neue Album Yesterday Park gequatscht.


ISLAND im Interview

Evelin: Hey guys, I’m glad this worked out! Are you excited about the release of your new album Yesterday Park this Friday?

Toby: Hey, thanks for having us! People keep asking that and I think I should probably be more excited, but now that people are asking, it’s getting exciting, definitely.

James: Oh, I can’t wait! It’s been a long time coming.

Evelin: Yeah, I guess it’s been in the works for a while. Since when exactly?

Toby: We started writing this album in Summer 2019. So, it’s been a while. But we recorded it over the summer.

Evelin: Yeah, there’s a lot of things that come into play. It is the album following your debut. Do you feel the pressure?

Toby: Yeah, everyone talks about the difficult second album.

James: Most people feel the pressure of the second album because they don’t have any time to write and get it out because they need to keep up momentum, but we kind of had that with the first album (Feels like air). Because we got a deal and then didn’t have any material that we wanted to record for it. So, it was a mad rush that time and then this time we’ve had two years. So, it’s kind of the opposite, but it feels alright.


“Seeing where our actions have led us personally and as a species”

Evelin: The overall theme of the album revolves around nostalgia, reminiscing and memories. Could you go more in depth about the theme and the influences in the album?

Toby: Until we decide on a theme to write around, we don’t really have any structure. So, we decided on this nostalgia theme quite early on and then again it fell into place there. Musically, we’re trying to push for 90’s influenced music. We were listening to a lot of 90’s hip-hop and trying to get that across in some of the drums and beats. And then again, with other guitar bands from the 90’s, like Chilis (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and other old music that we grew up with. Lyrically, Rollo (singer) mainly writes the lyrics, and he had this theme of nostalgia, so a lot of the songs are written around that. But not just looking back, also current relationships and environmental issues. It touches its own topics and subjects, but all within the realms of taking responsibility and looking back and how things changed.

James: Good answer, I think you pretty much summed it up. It’s as much about nostalgia in the good things about it as well as reflection and seeing where our actions have led us personally and as a species.

Evelin: Would you say that you look more optimistic or rather resentful into the past and the future?

Toby: I would say it’s a bit of both because we look back to the past with these rose-tinted glasses on and everything seemed happy-clappy and amazing and you wish it was like this again. It reflects on how you look back positively but then also reminding yourself that it wasn’t that easy and amazing. But then at the same time looking forward to the positive future, taking the responsibility. So, it’s a mixture.


“We started making spreadsheets and getting really OCD about everything”

Evelin: I have to get the Corona question out of the way. You said that you started writing it beforehand. But still it feels like the album comes at the right time because it is centred around nostalgia and reconnecting with people. Did the current events still influence you in the process of making the album?

Toby: We definitely had had everything ready pre-Covid. We finished demoing the songs, decided on the twelve and written 95% of each. So, we definitely hit a point of Covid where we realized that actually what we’ve done was becoming even more relatable and current because of Covid. I suppose subconsciously maybe we had that in the back of our minds when we went in the studio to record and how we approached things. But because of Covid, we actually ended up having more time than we ever have to get really organised about how we were going to record. We started making spreadsheets and getting really OCD about everything. Which we would never ever (dramatic hand gesture) had done if it wasn’t lockdown.

James: It’s interesting, because you’re not the first person to say that it feels like the album is coming at the right time and it feels even more poignant because of what has happened over the last 18 months. And I guess there could be an element of the subconscious. It took part of the process in a different direction than it would’ve done, but it definitely wasn’t conscious. I don’t know if you could call it fortunate, but we got really lucky in terms of the message of it. But also in terms of the process of recording it. All of the lockdowns, we were perfectly fine to not see each other. And then every time we were out of lockdown, we needed to meet up and record. Honestly, you just couldn’t have timed it better, although it sounds bad.


“Creative music man sweat”

Evelin: In a lot of songs, you explore feelings of nostalgia, but also places that stem from childhood. Is there a specific space, smell or even just a random memory that takes you right back to your childhood?

Toby: I have a very sensitive smell. There are certain smells that sometimes I smell, and I think: “Wow, that was then” and it’s incredible. The memory in your nose is almost more powerful than your brain in some ways. There’s this Patchouli smell, it’s this really strong, horrible smell. My mom’s living room had this fireplace and it always smelled like Patchouli and when I smell that I’m just 6 years old again and it’s amazing.

James: I can’t think of anything necessarily childhood related. Maybe if I smelled something, then I would. But we recently got back in the studio and there’s one smell that I can tell you never changes and that is the smell of a rehearsal room. Smells like sweaty dudes. If you go into a locker room that’s different sweat. It’s not like creative music man sweat, it’s different. And then the mixture of beer and crisps (laughs).

Toby: That sort of ties in with how you know everyone has their own smell, but you don’t really know what it is. I have this weird self-conscious thing when someone comes over, I’m like: “What are they smelling? What is it, is it a weird smell, is it a nice smell?” And I think when you know people really well, like your good friends, you do know how they smell and that becomes a nostalgic thing about how you remember your friends.


“Nostalgia isn’t reality, it’s abstract”

Evelin: Moving on from the smell and sweat. My favourite song is Octopus, especially because I love the video. It’s so weird, but so genius. I was wondering, is there one song, that you had the most fun making?

James: I’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of them. With the first record we basically just got in a room and recorded it as we play it live, that was how restricted we were with the first record. With this one, we really opened a door into allowing a producer in to have his creative input and to things like using a drum loop for example. Young Days took a really different structure from when we wrote it to when we laid it out in the studio. Do You Remember The Times as well. There’s all sorts of metal clangings and weirdness in the intro and throughout most of the tune. That’s Toby playing a keyboard stand with bits of metal strapped to his drum kit. We’ve never done that kind of thing before and it was nice to let the creative juices flow a bit more.

Evelin: You mentioned Young Days, the song feels like a mantra dedicated to the younger generation. Especially in that song, you explore themes of inequality, legacy and heritage and as you said taking responsibility. Can you explain the meaning behind it in more detail?

James: If you were going to choose one tune to sum up the album, it would be Young Days for me. It encapsulates the whole theme of nostalgia. It’s not just looking back and having fond memories, thinking: “Things were so much better then”. The difference between memories and nostalgia are the rose-tinted glasses. Memories are what happened, nostalgia is looking back at what happened with perspective of today. The reason we wanted to have that living room setup in these weird places is because nostalgia isn’t reality, it’s abstract. I might look back at something in a different way to someone else who looks back at the same thing. Everyone that gets to this point, even the younger generation will do the same and everyone that went before us has already done the same. We’re all just going to do as well as we can and we’ll be fine.


“We just wanted to broaden our horizons”

Evelin: You said it’s the first time you took a producer on board. With Yesterday Park following your debut, how would you say you evolved musically from Feels Like Air to now?

Toby: We just wanted to broaden our horizons a bit more and go from just being that 4-piece live band to actually making a studio album. Mikko (Mikko Gordon, producer) coming on board was our first step to try and release control. Normally we’re very hands-on and DIY and like to do every little detail ourselves. So, this was the first time where we had to go: “Right, someone else is going to be coming in, let’s be open to their ideas. They might be good, they might be rubbish.” He brought some really nice ideas to the table and made us realize that we didn’t have to sweat the small stuff. Just think more about the bigger picture. Just opening our eyes to things, we had been quite stubborn about before. We wanted to be a bit looser with it. It did change our whole process quite a lot.

James: The nicest part was, that we never really had someone to direct and just say: “Today we’re gonna get this done and this” or “let’s try this”. Normally, it was us taking the reins and just ticking boxes of record the drums, record the bass, etc. So, it was nice to have a bit of a routine and let someone sort of steer the ship.

Evelin: I’m always happy to see you guys releasing stuff because I really love the music. Next to the album, is there anything you’re particularly excited about happening for ISLAND soon?

Toby: Obviously, not being able to play any shows has been a bit weird whilst trying to release music. We’ve only got a small tour in October for the UK. We’re quite sad about not having anything booked for Europe. And not just because of Covid, but Brexit-wise as well, it’s all a bit difficult at the moment. We would like to say we have a huge tour booked for early 2022 but sadly we don’t. We’ve got a couple little things this summer, a few little festivals. We’ve been getting back into the studio in the last two weeks for the first time in maybe 6 months. Just rehearsing has been really nice, playing songs together and remembering how it feels building the set together. And even though we’ve only got a few shows in October, it’s really exciting. So, fingers crossed that they go ahead.


“It was pretty rock ‘n’ roll”

Evelin: That’s still super exciting to be able to celebrate with at least some shows! At the end, we always ask for an untold story. An anecdote, a random fact, something you haven’t shared yet. Maybe something fun that happened during recording or filming or again related to childhood memories.

Toby: We’re so open, I feel like we don’t keep much secret. So bad at keeping secrets.

James: Anything untold, maybe should stay untold (laughs). Maybe something that happened on the Everyone’s The Same video. That you (Toby) liked wearing make-up a little bit too much.


Toby: The initial idea for the Octopus video was just going to be us playing on a basketball court. But then the company we worked with found this amazing basketball court on the beach. So, we added these beach elements. We were doing weird things in the sea. I’ve been doing some hoovering, Jack was doing some ironing and Rollo felt a bit left out. He didn’t really have anything to do. So, towards the end and this was – bear in mind, we were shooting in December in England – freezing cold. And he was like: “Guys, just give me the mic” and he was just gone in the sea. It was like *I need to outdo these guys. I need to really show off*. He came out and was so cold. He ripped off his clothes, he was just naked, and he put on … what was it a onesie?

James: It was like ski onesie.

Toby: (laughs) Yeah, it was like a skiing outfit. It was as if he prepared, as if he knew he was going to do it but hadn’t told us. He went and sat in the van. He was shivering for the next two weeks. But it made the end of the video and it doesn’t look as extreme as it was. But at the time, it was pretty rock ‘n’ roll. Props to Rollo for doing this. So yeah, that wasn’t planned.

Evelin: So, that’s actually everything already. Thank you so much! Good luck with the release, I’m really excited for you guys!

Toby & James: Thank you, Evelin! Bye!

Hier könnt ihr in das neue Album Yesterday Park von ISLAND reinhören und in Erinnerung schwelgen.


Fotocredits: Christian Cargill

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