ISLAND – Track By Track

Foto-© Christian Cargill

Spätestens seit ihrem Debütalbum Feels Like Air gehört die Londoner Band ISLAND zu den spannendsten Indie-Acts aus UK und machen sich seitdem fleißig daran diesen Ruf stetig zu untermauern. Auf gefeierte Touren und Festival-Shows folgte 2019 die Veröffentlichung der EP When We’re Still…und dieses Jahr legt die Band nach und nach neue Singles auf dem Weg zum neuen Album Yesterday Park vor! Heute ist es soweit und die Platte erscheint endlich – die Band nahm sich für uns die Zeit und hat ein Track by Track zum neuen Album verfasst!

1. Octopus

Octopus introduces the main themes of Yesterday Park as a record, bringing in the ideas of the freedom of youth, and the blurry way that we look back on younger memories. It wasn’t originally intended as an album opener, but we loved the way it introduced the record musically and thematically. The track also shows some of the new approaches we used recording the album. Our view of recording before this album was pretty straightforward, just trying to capture our live sound in as natural a way as we could, but for ‘Yesterday Park’ we experimented with new ways of doing things, collaborating with producer Mikko Gordon. For example, from a beat perspective our writing was influenced by the grooves in 90s hip hop, and so we really lent on that direct drum sound on Octopus by doubling the drums and really pushing the sound to emphasise the feel and the groove.

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2. Everyone’s The Same

Everyone’s The Same is another example of how we really tried to push our sound into new places on this record, harnessing the raw energy of some of our earlier tracks and pushing into a rawer and more powerful direction in the studio. The track actually started off as a bit of joke and for a while felt too grungy to fit with us and the rest of the record, but a few subtle aspects like the shimmer effect on Rollo’s guitar parts brought it back to a space that felt natural to us. Lyrically the song’s about getting across the frustration and stress of the present in contrast to the way that nostalgia creates a beautifully rose-tinted past.

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3. Do You Remember The Times

Do You Remember The Times is the lyrical cornerstone of the album. It’s about what nostalgia is and how it feels, and bringing together the themes of the first two tracks. That feeling of nostalgia was something we wanted the song to evoke sonically too, bringing in the 90s slacker rock vibes through the groove from the drums and Rollo’s rhythm part. The recording process for the track was really fun creatively as Toby had an idea for the beat that starts it but one of the first things we did in the studio was to really experiment with that. After trying out various bits of scrap metal, Toby ended up banging on a keyboard stand to play the beat, and with some Mikko effects magic we were able to create the ‘junk-yard’ style loop that drives through the track.

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4. Young Days

If Do You Remember The Times is the wistful positive side of nostalgia, Young Days is the more concerned and melancholic side. The track combines worry with where the planet is going as a result of humanity’s actions with the feeling of getting to an age as an individual where you need to start taking responsibility for yourself. Young Days is another example of our focus in on the beat with that 90s hip hop influence, pushing the drum sound gently away from the purely natural sound we would have gone for in the past. It’s also another interesting one for us as it was a track where Mikko helped us rethink the structure in the studio, flipping the song on its head and shifting the verse / chorus structure entirely around, which is something we would never have previously experimented with in that way.

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5. We Used To Talk

Yesterday Park combines more abstract songs focused on that theme of nostalgia and reflection with more direct songs that tell some personal stories, and We Used To Talk is the first example of the latter. The song is about an old friend and the feeling of drifting apart from them. In terms of recording the trickiest thing with the song was the tempo, as we originally wrote it way, way slower than it ended up. We loved the way the groove of the verse worked at the slower speed, but it sometimes felt like it dragged behind a bit in the rest of the track. We sped it up a lot to get the energy back, but Mikko helped us maintain the soul of the slower version by getting James to play the bass in a lazy way, sitting behind the drum part, which helped give the verse that groove that we wanted without slowing down the whole track. Also, having been really strict with ourselves on song structures, we really wanted to let this track breathe at the end, so we jammed the outro for ages in the way we would naturally tend to do for a show to give it a live performance feel.

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6. Yesterday Park

Yesterday Park let us explore a more abstract sound world, trying to create the place that we’re describing in the nostalgia of the record. We wrote and demoed the track live knowing that we were going to mess around with it in the studio, and at first we pushed it really electronic, with Wolfe on a synth bass and Toby playing an SPD. We ended up pulling it back a bit from there and creating something that blended natural and electronic sounds more smoothly, and then essentially improvising the performance all together with Mikko as conductor. In building that sound world we added loads of different layers in, like sampling an acoustic guitar to play Rollo’s parts, using samples of shell sounds, recording Toby’s bike wheel spinning, and creating samples from real childhood home videos.

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7. By Your Side

Lyrically By Your Side is a song about that rose-tinted world of relationships and friendships. It was one of the first tracks we wrote for the album, but By Your Side was actually one of the hardest to work out in the studio, trying to find the right place between the washy guitars that create quite a spacy feel with the punchy drive of the bass and drums. We’re normally really delicate with dynamics but we wanted By Your Side to have a consistent, chuggy swagger to drive through the whole track.

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8. The Lines We Follow

The Lines We Follow is a reimagined version of an old song, taking the outro of a song we never quite finished which ended up having a whole life of its own. It’s one we were a bit torn about, but our man Big Si (Toby’s dad) really campaigned for it and so we reinvented it and really embraced the playful poppy element that the track adds to the record. Lyrically it’s a song about the different pathways in life, about how your past relates to your future and thinking about where you might end up.

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9. When I Gave You My Heart

This was the track that convinced us that Mikko was the right person to collaborate with on the record. We were deciding on producers during the first lockdown last year, so we were all separated from each other and just had the basic demos of the tracks to send to people. Mikko sent back a trial version of When I Gave You My Heart that instantly won us over, bringing out the soul of the track by pushing it into new directions in a really interesting way. We then got to work on that further in the studio together when we finally recorded it, creating a reversed tape loop of ambient noises, piano, and some questionable singing from us, which then created the sound bed for the whole track. Lyrically it’s also a personal one, a simple song Rollo wrote about his mum and some early childhood memories.

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10. This Part of Town

This Part of Town is a song in the now, and is basically written as one side of a dialogue during a night out. It was really nostalgic describing that world of freedom and adventure while recording it in the weird world that we’ve been in for the last year. Musically it’s a juxtaposition of a really acoustic song set against the urgent, driving drums with a 4-to-the-floor kick to subconsciously give it that euphoric, ecstasy-like feeling of a night out. It was our dream to have some country-esque steel guitar on the record, and we were so happy to bring Henri Vaxby and his lap steel into the studio for a few tracks, and his parts really help ‘This Part of Town’ soar when we wanted it to.

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11. My Brother

My Brother is a really simple song about a close friendship, and about wanting the best for someone that means a lot to you. Musically we wanted it to make it match that hopeful, emotive feeling. Dynamics were crucial for us in the writing of ‘My Brother’ as it started off as a more ‘obvious’ song that built into an explosive, generic chorus section, but it felt a little stale and we realised that the most important thing actually was the way it built and grew, so we doubled down on that. Jack created the sound that started off the track using a loop, and we had that as a drone for the whole track to build around. It was also originally called Cowboy for a very long time… we get pretty attached to the draft song names and this was a pretty hard one to lose.

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12. The Way We Love

The Way We Love closes off the record with another personal story, about the end of a hard relationship, so the album does end with a touch of sadness. It’s a really simple guitar song, and in some ways is one of the most straightforward songs we’ve written, but we wanted that to bring out the simple sensitivity of its meaning, and it’s one of favourite tracks on the album. The song had a bit of a weird journey to get where it ended up as it originally started out as a simple ballad on the bass, but slowly developed into a full ISLAND song – the bass outro is a little nod to those roots. Again we love Henri Vaxby’s soaring lap steel work on the track, which helps give it the swells that build the emotion towards the end of the track.

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Bedroomdisco-Gründer, Redaktions-Chef, Hans in allen Gassen, Golden Leaves Festival Booker, Sammler, Fanboy, Exil-Darmstädter Wahl-Hamburger & happy kid, stuck with the heart of a sad punk - spreading love for great music since '08!

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