Interview with The Islas
Out of the challenges of the lockdown, The Islas, the indie four-piece from Norwich, found musical inspiration. They created a beautiful track ‘Last Time Forever’, their final release for 2020. Written in April, the track is an emotive ballad which marks a change from their typical brand of energetic and punchy indie-rock. The sparse soundscape really allows the listener to focus on Nathan’s stunning vocals, the band’s superb instrumentals and the track’s thoughtful lyrics, “Lost my hopeful thoughts somewhere in between deep sleep and a funny dream”.
The Islas have gone from strength to strength this year and I cannot wait to see what is in store for them in 2021. It was great to catch up with Nathan this week about the band’s new track, their lockdown experience and the songs that always put a smile on their face…
Hey! How have you been since we last spoke and how have you found the second lockdown?
Hey Eveline! I’ve been well and I hope you have been too. It’s actually been a pretty great couple of months. We found our latest single ‘Close’ on a whole load of Spotify playlists, BBC Introducing made it their track of the week and added it to their hot list in 2020. Plus, it took us to Number One in the Amazing Radio chart which is mega. So all in all, it’s been a great autumn for us! This lockdown definitely feels different right? I’ve missed socialising a lot but it’s been good to work on our music and prepare for 2021.
Nathan, you have spoken about how you really struggled with the first lockdown. After feeling like you had lost all positivity, how did you turn things around from that point?
Yeah, I found it really difficult at times, as I’m sure everyone did. I don’t want to offend anyone who suffers from anxiety or depression because I am very fortunate to not suffer from those horrible illnesses – but I was the lowest I have ever been in my adult life for sure. I missed my friends and my loved ones and my whole job changed, it almost felt like I was a bit of a prisoner in my own room at times.
No sport, socialising or band work to keep me moving was something I had never experienced before. I took a lot of trips on my own to secluded spots. I went to the beach a few times as we’re very lucky to be Norfolk boys we have it on our doorstep! I started reading again, I wrote a fair bit of poetry and I dug out my old Xbox. I got over my sense of needing to be productive by basically being un-productive, and realising that’s ok!
Has music played a role in restoring your sense of optimism and hope?
Absolutely! I think people will look differently at their relationship with the arts when this is all over. Imagine the lockdown without the media we consume daily, it would have been so much worse. I loved the fact The Strokes released a new album this year, some amazing films and TV shows came around. I think for me personally, I listened to music every day and it opened me up to so many new genres and artists.
During the first lockdown, Ross and Nathan sent different track ideas back and forth. What was it that made your new single ‘Last Time Forever’ an instant favourite for you?
So the poetry I was writing is how the lyrics to ‘Last Time Forever’ started. When I write, I usually think of a couple of lines and then come back to them in a note on my phone. Ross wrote the melody which I sang along too and I had it stuck in my head for days. I actually composed the piece all in one sitting and then sent it back to him. He came up with the chords and melody but I was still unsure what he thought it should sound like. He said he was a big fan, and if you know Ross you’ll know that’s a big deal! And then we added the finishing touches and it was there. We were really proud of what we created.
How is this track different to the music that you have released before? What do you love most about it?
Well, it’s the first track with piano and it’s the first track we’ve written that’s really slow and sad. Our singles have all been punchy indie rock songs and I think this shows a lot of versatility in us as a band.
What is the story behind the lyrics of the track?
It really did stem from a lot of different lines I wrote at a few different times and then as I was playing along I just cut them to fit. They’re really abstract and I really like that kind of lyricism, a great example is Arctic Monkeys and Hippo Campus. I love both of those bands and I was definitely trying to replicate that somehow.
Can you tell us about three songs that always put a smile on your face and lift your mood and tell us why they have that effect on you?
Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
Archie, Marry Me – Alvvays
Laundry Day – No Vacation
I think these three have been on repeat for the last few months and I definitely think of them as happy songs. Mostly, because I sing along to them every time they come on without fail!
What new music have you discovered in the last year that you think everyone should be listening to?
I really like Alvvays. I’ve listened to them a lot this year and I think the lead singer has an amazing sense of melody in her singing. I’ve listened to a lot of music, but ones I’d recommend are Cassia (always Cassia), Nothing But Thieves, Japanese Breakfast and Joesef.
If you could play a live gig at any venue in the world tonight, where would you choose and why?
I’ve always wanted to play at The Scala. It’s not the biggest venue but it’s so incredible and has such great history. An intimate venue that if we ever got to the size to be able to play there, I’d absolutely love it.
What can fans expect from The Islas in 2021? Is there any possibility of an album being released?
We’re working really hard to get an EP together. I think an album would be ambitious for an unsigned band, but we’re knocking up tunes quicker than we ever have been able to before so I’m really excited about 2021. We feel we have a sound now and songs keep coming and our ideas are getting there. It won’t be long until we’re following up this release, that’s for sure!
By Eveline Vouillemin