Wonderland.

ELDER ISLAND

Speaking on their beginning as a band and past projects, the genre-defying trio sat down with us ahead of the release of their album Swimming Static and documentary debut.

Elder Island Head Shot
Elder Island Head Shot

As with some of the most interesting musicians, trying to place musical trio Elder Island into a box is almost impossible. With their origins spanning across fine arts, photography and graphic design, the band began as a melting pot of artistic backgrounds, musical talents and inspirations. And, as Katy Sargent, Luke Thornton and David Havard embarked on an expansive musical career – that saw them have wild success with their debut album The Omnitone Collection and rack up millions of streams – it became clear that their evasion of genre boundaries and the varying sounds that they channelled into each track resonated deeply with listeners.

Continuing on with their journey, the band is gearing up for the release of their eclectic sophomore album Swimming Static. Drenched in the reflective and emotive themes of the last year, tracks such as “Sacred” and “Queen Of Kings” mix electronic sensibilities with the introspection and melodic vocals at the heart of the indie genre, resulting in an assorted display of masterful musical fusion.

“When writing this album, for me, a lot of it had to do with memory. I have a really bad memory, but I had the time in the studio while making the music to concentrate more firmly on certain memories,” explains the band when speaking on the process of creating their latest album. “Extracting details, collecting them together with others that held the same themes. These themes became the backbone of what a lot of the tracks were about. We chopped them with other things like myth, biology, news, television shows, all sorts really. Weaving them together to try and create richer immersive songs.”

And, while their upcoming album holds the promise of a barrage of diverse tunes, the brand is not stopping there when it comes to new releases. Drawing on the notion that behind every great album is a story worth hearing, the band is offering their debut album film. Standing as an ode to their creative process, the trio hopes to allow fans to celebrate their new album with scenes of primary recording sessions and candid conversations. So whether it’s uber-successful musical offerings or ventures into the world of filmmaking, expect unmatched creative talent and diverse tracks from Elder Island as they continue on with their impressive career.

Head below to check out our interview with Elder Island…

Hey guys! We’re almost halfway through the year! How has it been so far?
Hello! The weeks have been flying by a little too fast for comfort! Feeling pretty positive now everything is beginning to open up again and touring plans are underway. Totally pepped to finally have this album out. The vinyl arrived the other day, it’s official. It’s been a long campaign because of the circumstances but it’s like a weight has been lifted. Today is a day for sharing.

Do you think this past year has affected your creativity?
It’s been an incredible time to focus solidly on things creatively. But the pressure of not having much else going on has been a bit of a stunt. We threw ourselves into this project pretty intensely at the start of lockdown, it was an amazing time of exploration and experimentation. We shut everything out and played music for weeks in our little basement studio. When we finally emerged like three un-sunned studio creatures, looking for some external stimulation we found everything at a standstill. That was when it was hard to get back into it, pull it all together and make sense of the madness. We all learnt a lot about ourselves at this time, we refined the way we work together collaboratively whilst polishing the tracks themselves.

How did you guys all meet? What started the musical bond?
Dave and Luke had been friends for a long time, making music in various bands as teenagers. I guess it all started when we all ‘moved in’ together in Bristol whilst studying creative art subjects at uni. I say ‘moved in’, Luke needed a place to stay so started sleeping in an alcove in the kitchen. We were all heavily into music, it brought us all together. We spent a lot of time sampling Bristol’s live music scene and had started the financially crippling habit of vinyl collecting. The guys had got the music-making itch, using a cheap Behringer B-1 Microphone and GarageBand, we would record songs using a second-hand cello and a handful of random instruments we had collected. Originally we started out making what I can only describe as ‘experimental folk music.’ A little further down the line, we introduced some more electronic items into the fray and from there Elder Island was born.

Congratulations on your new album! Talk us through your mindset approaching the project?
It was just after The Omnitone Collection tour. There was no unfinished material left to work on, it was a fresh start. We spent some time revamping the studio and getting everything up and running. We did one last show at Printworks in Feb 2020 and jumped straight into the studio the next day to start recording. Pretty hyped after the big show, we were recording about 3 or 4 sessions a day. We wanted to create a body of work that was organic, made through live improvised free sessions and jams. Creating a set from which we could choose tracks to transform, develop and arrange into finished songs. We were pretty fortunate we got to finish on a high, it inspired us before the pandemic took hold.

The album takes us through topics such as nostalgia, reflection and learning more about yourself, what made you tap into these subjects?
I guess a lot of people have had more time to reflect over the past year or so. With reflection comes a tendency to be nostalgic, and delving into the past can give a richer understanding of where you come from and who you are. Part and parcel of the same brooding. It’s been a time of retrospective analysis that I guess we naturally picked up on. When writing this album, for me, a lot of it had to do with memory. I have a really bad memory, but I had the time in the studio while making the music to concentrate more firmly on certain memories. Extracting details, collecting them together with others that held the same themes. These themes became the backbone of what a lot of the tracks were about. We chopped them with other things like myth, biology, news, television shows, all sorts really. Weaving them together to try and create richer, immersive songs.

Elder Island Portrait
Elder Island Portrait

How do you think this album differs from your first The Omnitone Collection? How would you describe your growth?
We’re constantly developing our practice, each record is a learning curve. Nearly all the music starts life as freeform live sessions which we slowly develop into structured tracks. On this album we spent way more time shaping and stripping back, playing them as just piano and vocals, working toward a ‘campfire test’, where the song still holds up even when it’s bare bones. Once we were happy with the structures we’d layer everything on top again. It was a new experience for us, before everything usually developed at the same time. Structure and soundscape.

Your sound very much fluctuates between genres, how would you describe your sound?
Electronic-art- pop? I’d say the music sits somewhere in the middle of all our eclectic tastes in music. It’s a complicated ol’ convergence that accounts for the shifting in genre.

Who would you cite as your inspirations?
It changes, but for this album: Roxy Music, CAN, Kate Bush, FKA twigs, Fleetwood Mac, Dylan Thomas, Sylvan Esso, Radiohead, Little Dragon, Frank Zappa. What a dinner party that would be.

You also have a documentary coming out, can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to create it?
We wanted something to commemorate finishing this chapter of work. We would have liked to have thrown a party, a gig, something where we could share the music with fans. It wasn’t very achievable in the current circumstances. The documentary was a way to capture a bit of what Swimming Static came from. To give some insight into the music for those who wanted it, but at the same time, it was an opportunity to make something visually stimulating. Nic Kane the director is a good friend of ours and so she was able to give the video a real intimacy. It’s a mixed-media scrapbook of studio archives, insights and one-off performances. Echoing our love for exploration and experimentation. It’s soundtracked by original music from Swimming Static, early unreleased sessions, and us banging on about stuff. We hope people gain something from it, be it inspiration, a sense that you can achieve a lot on your own, or just an enjoyment in the music and its origins.

What’s next for you? What are you excited for?
At the moment it’s just for people to listen to the new music, it’s been a long campaign due to the circumstances and we’ve hated dragging it out for fans. After that it’s touring. The last show was at Printworks in February 2020 so it has been quite the break from performing. We’re working on the show now and are excited to get the new material on the road. UK and Ireland tours have been announced and plans are underway to see the folk around the world again.

ELDER ISLAND

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