In Conversation with…ISLAND

ISLAND – the word beckons various connotations – a remote isle submerged in tropical paradise, majestic and solitary, one of physical being or metaphor, or maybe of personal meaning. In any stance, the band with the same name that hails from the capital are equally multifarious in nature. Raw elements combine to reinvigorate classic indie tropes, topped off with heaps of choral reverb and a group mentality, what ISLAND achieve is alternative in mindset but universal as a result.

Whilst the band were in town fulfilling the last few dates of their UK road trip with Amber Run, we grabbed a portion of free time before the show to chat further with Rollo, Toby, Jack and James. What becomes abundantly clear from spending just fifteen minutes with the guys, is that they’re a tight-knit bunch and often finish each other sentences.

Let’s break the ice with a fun ‘get to know you’ question – can you each tell us a random fact about each other?

Rollo Doherty: James isn’t a very good driver.

Toby Richards: James is a bad driver.

Jack Raeder: Straight in with the deep facts.

James Wolfe: He wasn’t joking.

Jack: What about Rollo? Do you want to do nice or not nice?

James: Well clearly not.

Toby: Yeah exactly, set the bar now.

Rollo: You want a deep fact about me then? Cut to the core.

Toby: He likes to turn his nose up to us when we eat things like kebabs.

Jack: You’re not a fan of fast food.

What about me?

I’m part Norwegian but I’ve never been to Norway.

Toby: No you can’t make it up about yourself…

Jack: There are no rules. Toby makes up random rules.

James: Toby makes up random rules for everything.

You have to share a fact about each other.

Jack: Oh sorry. Well I think that’s Toby’s anyway, well at least we got to that.

James: Captain bad breath.

Jack: That’s not very nice. Really get to know the band.

Toby: I think you know us quite well now.

James: We can do a round of nice facts later on…

Jack: Jack’s got a really nice smile.

Rollo: Jack’s got a really nice smile. Wolfe’s beautiful. Toby’s beautiful. I’m just a little guy.

You’ve been on the road with Amber Run for the last two weeks and it seems to be going remarkably well, most of the shows have been sold out right?

Rollo: Yep.

I know last time you played in Manchester, you were also touring with Amber Run, how does this tour differ from the one back in 2015?

Jack: It was quite a short one, the 2015 one, wasn’t it?

Toby: Yeah that one was only four dates, this is fourteen shows and like you say [it includes] a lot of big shows and a lot of sold out ones, up and down the country. We’ve been up to Scotland for the first time which was really cool.

Rollo: It’s the longest tour we’ve done with back to back shows.

James: It’s nice not to just go to the main cities, we’ve played a lot of our first gigs in places like Hull, Sheffield.

Jack: Exeter, Newcastle, Glasgow. We had not been to any of them before.

Rollo: But [the gigs have all shared] a similar vibe, they’ve always got a character to them.

Jack: And we get to listen to Amber Run every night.

How is it to be touring with a band that are just ahead of you in terms of releases, now on their second album, I know that’s still quite far ahead. But they are similar to you in age? I’d imagine they’re a great band to learn from and just hang out with?

Rollo: There’s a lot of different aspects to it. Like [live] sound as well, we are quite early on with developing how we…we don’t have our own sound man so we can learn from that and temper that.

Toby: It’s always interesting when you can chat to someone who’s done…

James: They’ve kinda done what we’re doing.

Jack: That are a few steps ahead of you.

James: You have a lot of things in common and you kinda can learn from people’s mistakes and people’s achievements.

Jack: Are you gonna list Amber Run’s mistakes?

James: No no no. I don’t know what the mistakes have been but it’s just the same with any band a few steps ahead of you, you need someone to look up to but also take it with a pinch of salt and still try and keep things as yourselves, to keep doing it your own way, which is what we’ve done from day one really.

So far you’ve released two EP’s and a AA-Side single, the route you’ve taken seems to have been the right one, slowly allowing you to build the band and fanbase at a steady rate, with a great ascension on the live front (especially with your London headline shows). Are you happy with the way your career has been progressing up to this point?

Toby: Yeah we always say we’re very happy with our very steady upward progress…

Jack: You don’t want to be a flash in the pan and have your one month of being the next hottest thing and then…

Toby:  Disappear.

Rollo: The key thing is momentum. Just steady momentum.

James: I feel like this way there’s probably gonna be a bit more longevity in the whole career.

Toby: [It’s about] always trying to push ourselves without going too fast.

Jack: Like an oak tree.

James: We are an oak tree.

Jack: We were an acorn.

James: No we’ve come to about a sprout now I’d say.

Jack: I think we’re more of a young sapling. We’re at sapling level.

Is music now the day job?

Toby: It is for most of us, trying to be. It’s an element of having to earn the pea to climb the tree.


Jack: We talk in rhymes quite a lot.

Rollo: Riddles.

Toby: Yeah we all do a bit of work on the side but it takes up a lot of time. We’re not the kind of band who can just get together for a few days before we go on tour and rehearse, we have to be playing all the time, keep the momentum up, keep the motivation up otherwise we get really depressed and sad. Yeah we’ve got to keep the hopes up and just try and spend as much time as possible together.

James: Keep the dream alive.

What’s the next step in terms of releases – do you see another EP before you start to think about an album?

Rollo: This is the question.

Toby: Well we’re starting to work towards an album actually, which is a little secret hint. But we’ve also got an acoustic EP that we’re gonna be releasing quite soon to keep things ticking over a bit, so that’ll be of songs we’ve already released.

Jack: Greatest hits.

Toby: Yeah now it’s working towards the album. It’s exciting to be working towards a bigger project.

James: A full body of work.

We had a sneak peek into the acoustic tracks last week on the Facebook Live.

Toby: Yeah it’s that kind of thing.

Jack: It’s a bit more acoustic actually, getting the old acoustic guitars out.

So do you have a main songwriter within the band or do you all share the lyrical duties equally?

Toby: Rollo’s definitely captain lyric. He’s definitely the man with the voice and the words.

Rollo: I think also every song develops differently, sometimes it’ll start with an idea on guitar…

Toby: Sometimes drums, sometimes bass, it kinda comes from all over the place. Musically it grows naturally from somewhere.

Jack: But they’re always formed as a collective.

What is songwriting for you – is it a means of expression derived out of personal experience or is it more abstract?

Rollo: I think it’s kind of both. Its personal things and less personal things, common themes done in a more abstract way so that they’re not too obvious because I think what’s most important with the band is the music, so if the lyrics are too literal, it kind of distracts you from the sound.

Last time we talked you were planning a five aside game against Palace. Did that football match ever happen?

Rollo: We’re going on a football tour.

Toby: …a tour of Europe. We’re gonna be playing on some famous pitches across Europe. We’re still yet to play so we’ll have to let you know of the score on that one.

Jack: Who do you think is gonna win?

James: I think we’ve got it, to be honest.

Your fans are very dedicated; they’re never shy to shout about their love for the band and the music. Have you ever acted in a similar way about a musician or someone that inspired you?

Toby: I think we’ve all been there in our youth, like we’re all music fans – set list collectors and signers, waiting after the shows and backstage, trying to sneak around to meet everyone.

Jack: Didn’t you try and sneak around backstage in Hamburg to try and meet Simon Neil (of Biffy Clyro)? [to James]

James: Yeah. Basically I tried to write him a note but I couldn’t fit it through the door so I was really sad.

Toby: So this is pretty recently, this is no youth fanage.

So we’re all very much fans [of other artists], I went to a Lana Del Rey concert about a year or two ago with a friend and we may have waited for about four hours afterwards to try and meet her. Those were in the prime days, yeah we’ve all been there.

James: I’m fangirling Amber Run a little bit.

After these tours have wrapped, are you heading back into the studio?

Rollo: Yeah I think we’re gonna get a bit more introverted, a lot of writing.

Toby: Demoing, recording, getting it all prepped. We want to get it all done as quickly as we can so we’re not disappearing for too long, keep active.

Any last words?

Toby: We’re looking forward to playing Manchester tonight. It feels like a third home.

Rollo: What’s our second home?

Toby: Amsterdam. I think it’s like our Northern home. We like playing here, even though we’ve only played here once before. [laughs]

Jack: It was a really good one though. Hopefully we’ll come and do our own show here at some point, hopefully really soon.

James: Yeah we feel the love in Manny for sure.

ISLAND’s new EP ‘A Place You Like’ is out now on Beatnik Creative. The band will also be touring across Europe with Palace throughout March, kicking off in Paris on Monday 20th March.

Find ISLAND on Facebook and Twitter.

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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