No Rules: The 405 meets Islet
"The best aspect of being in Islet is that there are no rules, you are not tied to a particular instrument or role. That's also the worst aspect."
Islet first formed in Cardiff in 2009 and the band is comprised of Emma Daman Thomas, Mark Daman Thomas, John Thomas and Alex Williams. Emma explains that the band really got going after her and her now husband, Mark first got together. "Mark and Bunter are brothers and have grown up playing music together, and when Mark and I got together we immediately started making music together. Alex is the kind of guy who is a bass guitar badass and is impossible to contact unless you bump into him in the street."
Currently signed to Shape Records, the band creates a heady mix of lively, psychedelic, indie, pop. The band says that when writing their songs "the music always comes first, usually with a keyboard or a guitar in a bedroom. Melodies and riffs are expanded and structured. Sections are dissected and jammed onto jams. Lyrics are often finalised last of all in a slight state of panic, recently Mark and I have been filling notebooks separately and then combining them together."
The inspiration for their music stems from their roots and their surroundings: "Mark and Bunter come from a farm halfway up a hill in windy Mid-Wales and 'Triangulation Station' is about the walk to the top of the hill. It's a walk that the brothers have done hundreds of times in their lives, and I've done a fair few. The kind of place that makes you think about the comforting minuteness of your own existence in the great scheme of things, and we wanted the song to convey this euphoria felt in open spaces."
If you have never heard their music then Emma from the band recommends that you start with 'Triangulation Station' especially if you are feeling adventurous. "Sometimes I get a bit disappointed when a band is hyped up to be really boundary bending or that their music is somehow new and peculiar and then when I hear them they just sound like Krautrock or the Verve slowed down or whatever. But we are genuinely not like that. Our music is odd, not saying it's unlistenable, but I can sincerely say that we are not like anything else."
Islet have some of the funkiest artwork in the music world, all designed by Emma Daman Thomas from the band. "I do our artwork, mainly record sleeves and zines. I'm trusted to go wherever I want to with the visuals although I rely heavily on Mark's opinion and he contributes collages and ideas and keeps me sane." Emma goes on to say "With the 'Triangulation Station' cover I wanted to make something that was fun, that reflected the energy of the track and included symbols of the song - the hill, trig point, Mark in a bobble hat, sheep. I also wanted to do it in two colours so that I could do a 2 colour riso print for the 12". Riso is an almost obsolete process a lot like photocopying but with coloured ink, there are a few places in the country that print this way. It has an unfinished grainy tactile surface that I love, which reminds me of zines and church newsletters and all sorts of exciting things."
A band as unique as Islet need to be seen live to be fully appreciated. Emma says that one of the most standout moments of their gigs was at Greenman Festival last year "when, halfway through the set, Alex went to the back of the tent and did a spontaneous Kilnsmann dive into the mud. It was wholly unprompted and I'm not sure if anyone was even watching. I think he was overtaken by the music." Gig gold, I am sure you will agree. Interestingly, the band has a very healthy approach to their musical supporters. Emma explains, "I have an uncomfortable relationship with the term 'fan' because it implies a hierarchical relationship. I think anyone who is into our music or has come to a gig can speak for themselves about what they like (or don't like) about the band.
When pressed for details on who if anyone at all, they would most like to go on tour or collaborate with, Emma says "I'd like to play with Savages, because they play like they mean it. I'd like to make a record produced by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, he'd make it beautiful. I would like to play drums for Swedish singer Sibille Attar, I've got into here recently and I love her full-hearted clear voice." In the meantime and in rather exciting news, Islet are actually collaborating with an ice-painter and making a brave new foray into the world of podcasts.
Their new 12" single of 'Triangulation Station' is out on the 10th June and they are playing numerous gigs this summer including 'Old Town Festival' with the likes of Sweet Baboo and Trwbador, so plenty of chances to catch them live and watch Alex stage dive!
Purchase and listen
"I regularly have to try and describe what we sound like at work. I work in a school and have a lot of time off to ‘do the band’ so people take a lot of interest. For some reason it is quite hard to explain as people seem to have different reference points to mine. I get quite lazy when explaining what we’re like! I’m often greeted with blank looks even if I go for ‘we’re an indie band’. People say, "what, like Oasis?" I just say, yeah, a bit like Oasis. [read more]
Following the release on Monday of debut mini album âCelebrate This Placeâ (which received a decent 7/10 here on The 405), Cardiff band Islet unveil the video for We Shall Visit. Get a glimpse into their seemingly somewhat unusual world below. Islet "We Shall Visit" from Ewan Jones Morris on Vimeo. Islet play the following summer festivals: 16th July â Latitude Festival, Suffolk 25th July â Truck Festival, Oxfordshire 21st August â Greenman Festival, Powys 2... (continued) [read more]
If you live on this planet, you probably already know about Islet. The Cardiff four-piece make noises unlike most others. Their live shows are energetic and fluid, and theyâve been called the best live band in the world a fair few times, too. They had gained quite an incredible amount of press before having even recorded a track. Tracks have been recorded now, though. And good tracks they are too. I caught up with Islet in a small cafÃ© in Cardiff to have a chat about things. ... (continued) [read more]
Islet have treated us to 'Inlet', the b-side of new single 'Triangulation Station', out on 10th June on Shape Records. With a beat sounding like a blended composition of horse's hooves and someone knocking two halves of a coconut together, it boasts a summery, tropical feel. The synths hover along to provide assertive, churning patterns, while the harmonious vocal drenches parts of the track in a sweet haze. [read more]