"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. Then generally it’s "Awwwwww brill, I can picture you doing that! You’ll have to make sure you remember us when you’re on TV and famous” and then I put my head in my hands.”

This is Mark Thomas, the lead singer from Islet. The truth is though it really is difficult to describe what Islet sound like. They are a band like no other around, a band who play by their own rules. Their sound is an ever-shifting mix of idiosyncratic pounding percussion and tribal chanting, taking in myriad styles from electronica to massive guitar riffs. And they sound magnificent.

After releasing two outstanding EPs - Wimmy and Celebrate This Place - their album, Illuminated People, is out next week and, even in January, it’s safe to say it may be one of the albums of the year. Their influences, and the acts who the band all agree are great, goes part way to explaining their eclectic sound. Mark reels off a list: "Pavement, Deerhoof, At the Drive In, Can, Yo La Tengo, WHY?, Animal Collective, Broadcast, Caribou, Dirty Projectors, Joanna Newsom.” If you listen hard enough you can probably hear all these influences in their sound.

In keeping with the values of a lot of those acts, their rise has been based on a traditional, organic and DIY type of promotion. When the band started there was none of the usual MySpace page or social networking sites – there was, though, their homemade fanzine The Isness. A lot has been made of this ‘non-internet’ way they went about promoting themselves. It’s something that frustrates Mark:

"For a start, we didn't use a ‘non-internet’ way to promote ourselves. We started off and got offered a couple of local gigs before having recorded anything. No biggy. Then we recorded some tracks and made a website ourselves when we had a chance. We actually had a website and people were still writing ‘anti-internet band’ Islet. It was both funny and frustrating because it took me a disproportionate amount of time to learn basic htmling!”

Yet despite this they are certainly a band who do things on their own terms. Having all been in bands previously and also holding down full time jobs means there is no time to compromise - and it means they are focused on what they want to achieve with the band. "It definitely helped in many ways. As we'd all played live before and been on tours etc we were all very level headed with what to expect. I think the most important thing is we started it with the aim of just being proud of what we do and not letting ourselves down by doing things we don’t want to do.”

"We’ve never been offered to not do it on our own terms so I don't know what that feels like, or indeed what happens when bands don’t do it on their own terms!”

Whatever they’re doing it’s proving successful. Rave reviews and fantastic live shows meant 2011 was a good year, professionally and personally. "2011 was fun. Throughout the year we played festivals in Slovakia, Spain, Belguim as well as some cool ones in the UK. It’s been great as we hoped we’d get to see a bit of the world and now we are. Aside from that 33.3% of our collective siblings got married in 2011 so there was a lot of love and hearts.” And with the release of their debut album it seems their ascent will only continue. When asked what to expect from the album he answers coyly "I can’t think of any answers that won’t seem sarcastic! My best efforts are "music” and "10 tracks”.” And when asked if he has a favourite track he will only say, "No, I like them all.”He will say that it is sonically unlike the EPs. "It does sound different, mainly because the recorded and mixing process was so different. It was recorded / mixed / produced by a guy called Drew Morgan. He and the engineer Hugh used more hi-tech microphones and equipment than what we cobbled together for our first two records!”

They band have also gained a reputation as a fierce and breathtaking live act. I ask if he prefers playing live: "They are both equally enjoyable. Although there are lots of variables as to why one might be better than the other on occasion. I’m not a superfan of doing many vocal takes so playing live is cool as you only have one take per day!”

So 2012 looks like being the year of Islet. Yet, in keeping with his modest answers, Mark has a typically pragmatic view when I ask him what success looks like for Islet. "We got given baguettes and fresh coffee when we turned up to a gig in Belgium the other week and that felt pretty good." It makes sense, though after Illuminated People is released you get the feeling there’s a lot more in store for them.


The debut album from Islet 'Illuminated People' is released through Shape Records on January 23rd. You can read our review of the album here.