Elder Island’s single “Feral,” accompanied by b-side track “Absolute,” was released in mid-November with a music video revealed soon after. COLLiDE had the privilege of speaking with the Bristol-based trio about their recent achievements and more!
Your music combines elements of electronica, house, pop and neo-soul. Which one of you brings which of these styles to the table?
Luke Thornton– Like most things with Elder Island there is a crossover on who brings what. Dave probably brings the Electronica and house with his synths, effects and drum pattern choices. I’m perhaps the house and neo-soul with my preference of drums sounds, bass lines and chords. Katy provides extra electronica with her looping and cello effects. Her voice and singing style is slightly reminiscent of neo-soul as well. If you put all three together then you get our version of pop.
The three of you went to school to study different mediums of visual art and design. How did these skills help you in your pursuit to launch your music career?
Dave Havard– It has helped us in so many ways. Economically, we’re able to create artwork to a higher standard without having the budget. But also we have the understanding and knowledge on how much time and skill is involved to create visual assets. We’ve got a large network of friends who work in the creative arts and help us out. Creatively it all feeds into the music.
Did the three of you always plan to pursue music, or was visual art your primary focus?
Luke – In the beginning we all pursued our own artistic avenues. Katy was working at Aardman in the art department. Dave was working freelance as a graphic designer and I was working as a freelance photographer & assistant. It wasn’t until our first EP was released and we discovered that people were really enjoying our music that we saw a potential for us to become musicians.
How did the three of you discover each other’s musical abilities while in school?
Dave – Luke & I had been making music in various bands as teenagers, always meeting up for jam sessions, going to open mic nights and experimenting with loopers. I moved to Bristol for uni, spent all my student overdraft on some turntables, a drum machine and synth and tried to get good at that for a while. Luke bought a drum kit and went to Uni in Wales and instead of going to lessons spent all his time pissing off his flatmates. I met Katy in halls and we moved into a shared house in our second year. We’d be playing records, going to club nights & gigs all the time. Luke moved to Bristol towards the end of that year and brought his drum kit so we started to mess around, jamming again, doing a Death from Above style bass and drums thing. Katy felt like she was missing out and bought an old cello as she used to play when she was young, so she could get involved and we got very experimental, started running it through loopers and pedals, it was a lot of fun. At one point Katy started singing and it sounded incredible, this secret voice. From that point we’ve always just been learning and experimenting together.
In your short documentary film that captures your latest tour, you mention altering your tracks to make them more danceable and utilizing improvisation. How did this unique style of playing live come to be?
Luke – This came from the enjoyment of going out to club nights and seeing live music. There is nothing more enjoyable than seeing one of your favourite artists expanding on the music that they’ve created. It gives you as a member of the audience a feeling of being part of something unique. We wanted to give our live music an additional level of experience. We can’t help interacting and moving about to our music when playing live and to have the audience join in with us is a really special experience.
It sounds like you have the perfect quarantine set up after making music in your home together for many years. Have you been able to feel inspired to create more music during this time?
Katy Sargent– We were lucky with our timing. We’d just finished setting up the studio for writing the album when the first lockdown started. So we just got on with it. It has been an intensive period. Like many and most, we’ve all had points where we’ve struggled with the longevity of the situation. This feeling runs alongside an impending expectation of finishing the project. In perspective however to the hardships so many are facing we feel incredibly fortunate to have had this opportunity to funnel the time into making music. The themes are in there but we tried not to allow the current mood to drag the music down. We wanted to make something others could find pleasure in and escape to.
Your latest single release features an A side and B side track and features juxtaposing tracks. Can you tell us how these tracks are connected and why you chose this old-school format?
Katy– There were a few reasons for the A-side B-side decision. One was to do with a sense of nostalgia that the new music was taking on. Another was that after an extended period without releasing music we wanted to give our fans a more substantial release, one that represented both our existing catalogue and also the new music we had been producing.
Luke– The lead single “Feral” had a unique style and direction that we hadn’t necessarily ventured into yet.
It felt fresh to release something with a new sound and was a good introduction into what might be in store album wise. “Absolute” is a short and snappy song that is a similar style to what you might be used to from us. Whilst it sounds quite light, it also holds darker undertones of the current climate.
Elder Island appears to have some incredibly vibrant shows with sold out audiences. How has taking a break from performing been? Do you hope to be back on the road as soon as possible?
Dave – The last show was at Printworks in February so it has been quite the break from performing but was much needed as we had a busy year of touring throughout 2019. We went into writing our second album straight after that show, so has been an intensive year solely focused on that. Now we’re nearing completion of the album and the thrill of wanting to perform the tracks out is starting to creep back in. Our booking agent has just been shuffling tours, hoping, as soon as we can get back out we will.
The “Feral” video matches the intensity and artistry of the track perfectly. Can you tell us about the inspiration for the video?
Katy– We worked with director Jordan Martin for this one. He was a perfect facilitator for the naive and disquieting themes of the track. We explored the cinematic horror tropes of the films we had seen in our youth. The films you watch too early and prevent you from sleeping for a few weeks. However we wanted to use a soft touch to the horror to evoke a child’s perspective. The sleep theme is the crux of the video. As a child I’d had a spate of somniphobia (a fear of falling asleep). I’d interwoven this theme with an episode of ‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark’ I’d seen as a kid, where every time the main character fell asleep a group of dead mariners would crawl out of the sea and slowly make their way to where the sleeper lay. Hence the horrifically tiered faces and drag shots. Sounds mental on paper but looked great on screen.
Watch the music video for “Feral” here: