New Noise: Low Island

LOW ISLAND mix electronics and acoustics to create chilled-out, road trip worthy tunes.

Low Island are one of those bands that sum up the feeling of late night driving. Fusing together electronic and acoustic waves to create a jangly yet emotive sounds, LOW ISLAND explore the beautiful side of loss. Named after a small rock in the Atlantic, LOW ISLAND (who are fans of Arthur Russell, Warpaint, Grizzly Bear and Caribou) use an old Roland keyboard and look to their local Oxford music scene and typical 20’s angst, create sounds made of shuffling melodies and emotive lyricism.

Emotional layering of textures and the exploration of persisting through the face of doubt and pushing through the lows to get back to the highs, comes to a hilt in their debut EP, and in particular, their track “Anywhere.” Opening the EP with this dreamy exploration between ambient synths, ethereal vocals and intricate guitar riffs makes the track both completely chill and intensely dramatic. LOW ISLAND are always a surprise.

Sum up your sound in five words?

Late night drives on motorway.

How did you all meet and what was the first song you wrote together? 

We’ve known each other and played together almost as long as we can remember. The first Low Island song we wrote is called That’s Right, which came together pretty much on day one. It’s about hanging out with someone you no longer see so often. We’ll be playing this one live.

Where did the name LOW ISLAND come from?

It’s a small rock in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the South-West Irish coast. It sits next to High Island, which looks way more impressive. Long ago, it was a Cistercian monastery; today, seals like to hang out there in big groups. We go to that area a fair bit and find it pretty inspiring for making music.

How does the Oxford music scene inspire you? 

Oxford has a history of great bands, which certainly played a part in encouraging us to give this a go. Our studio is quite removed from Oxford city, but people behind the local music magazine and radio station are really great and they’ve always been so supportive of us, which makes all the difference.

You have a varied musical background between you – who are some influences that you all look to and how do they inspire LOW ISLAND?

We like Arthur Russell a lot because he seemed so open-minded about what he would use to create music. His records showed us some of the best ways to blend electronic and acoustic sounds, and  avant-garde and pop styles. He was also very good at making positive music with emotional depth. Sonically, bands like Warpaint and Grizzly Bear create these amazing sound-worlds that you can get totally lost in. Carlos and Jamie used to DJ in Leeds, and that avenue of music certainly rubbed off on us with artists like Four Tet, Caribou and Ricardo Villalobos.

“Planning usually pushes things in a bad direction for us, so we just go with whatever the song asks of us, be that picking up a guitar or turning a voicemail into a drum beat.”

What themes do you like to explore with your music and what do you want to make people feel? 

A lot of our lyrics are about quite simple experiences we and our friends have gone through in recent years. We’re all in our mid-twenties, which seems like quite a formative moment in life. Also, we’re working all the time in our garage studio, which sits in the middle of a field outside Oxford, so there’s this remote rural perspective in the lyrics. Simon Gardner’s artwork for Anywhere conveys it so well.

What’s your writing process like? Do you carefully plan everything or are you wildly spontaneous? 

Carlos and Jamie will come up with some singing, some words, some beats, or all or none of the above, then we take it from there as a band. Sometimes it’s finished almost before we start; sometimes it takes a year. Planning usually pushes things in a bad direction for us, so we just go with whatever the song asks of us, be that picking up a guitar or turning a voicemail into a drum beat. Also, our range of personal tastes help us push and pull against each other, which is an important part of our writing process.

If you could get lost on any island, which one would it be?

Not Low Island. It’s about half the size of a football pitch so there wouldn’t be much getting lost there. We’d go for somewhere hot…Carlos hates cold water.

Can you tell us about your debut EP? What’s the sound like and what themes does it explore?

We’re all really proud of this EP and we hope it will lead everyone into our world. There’s a real mixture of electronic and acoustic sounds and styles, and we’re excited to push this wider in our future releases. Anywhere was mostly built out of the sounds from an old Roland keyboard, and the words are about the beautiful side of loss. End Piece is almost entirely electronic – with soundscapes made out of Felix humming in a reservoir – and the words are about persisting in the face of doubt. Disconnect opens with some manipulated grandfather clock chimes that Felix’s girlfriend made, and the words are about angry groups not listening to one another. Recent was built on the sound of Jamie’s brothers stamping on the floor of a London tomb, and the words are about pushing through a low, in the belief that it will lead back up to a high. We like using weird sounds.

What’s next?

We have something pretty exciting dropping a month from now. We’ve also got the following three tracks from our EP coming out and our first show is on November 28th at The Sebright Arms, London.

New Noise: Low Island

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