What’s the story behind Low Island? How did you all meet?
The band formed around four years ago, but we knew and were playing music with each other long before that. Jacob and I used to busk on his street together when we were 11 years old. We were at school with Felix who was a musician too, and we met Jamie when we were 13. A whole variety of projects followed: Jamie, Jacob and I played in indie bands, Felix went off to Brazil to study percussion and tour the world with Snarky Puppy and Bill Laurence, and Jamie and I also spent a lot of time DJing around the UK – we had a residency at a night called ‘Filth’ in Leeds where we’d play the graveyard slots either side of people like Kerri Chandler and Maya Jane Coles. Low Island was a way of pooling all of those experiences together.
Congratulations on the release of In Your Arms, what’s the story behind it?
Thank you! In Your Arms is dedicated to my childhood bedroom. We stayed in Oxford after all of our friends left to live and love in other cities; there was (and still is) this weird feeling of being caught in time – still feeling like a deluded kid writing songs in your bedroom while everyone else is growing up. My room came to represent both the good and bad side of that experience; the comfort of home, of youth, but also a sharp reminder of life moving at a very different pace to our friends. This song is about that relationship; with someone or something that evokes those conflicting emotions.
You recorded it in France just before lockdown happened, what was your favourite part of the process?
When we released the track we were looking at old voice notes and demos to find out when it was written, and we found the first demo which dated back to Jan 2018! The song sounds completely different now (it went through six different versions) but most of the lyrics are still the same. France was a great opportunity to draw a line, not just on this track, but on a load of material that had been sitting around for ages without quite reaching the finish line. My favourite part was when I’d written the instrumental on the guitar and took it to show to Jamie – he created this synth sound on his Prophet with these beautiful voicings for the chords and brought the whole thing to life.
You engineered and produced it yourself, were there any challenges and positives from doing this?
We’d accumulated all of this equipment and experience in studios from over the year, and (perhaps more critically!) couldn’t afford to work in a studio or with a producer/engineer, so we took the leap to just produce ourselves. The main challenge is that you’re at the end of the line where the producer would normally be – it’s down to us to say when something is finished and (as is proven with this track!) that can take some time. But the positives are huge: we’ve learnt so much about recording and songwriting that we would never have picked up had we not done this on our own.
You have received positive reviews from the music press and radio, how does it feel?
There’s always a nervous feeling when you release music that no one is going like it, or worse, give a fuck, so we always just have an immense feeling of gratitude towards anyone who wants to write about the music or play it on the radio. But it’s also so important for that not to be how you measure your success – press and radio can be so elusive and random, especially for a band like us who release everything on our own label and are self-managed, so I never expect anything when we release a track. Ed O’Brien said this thing in an interview: ‘the journey is everything’ – are we enjoying ourselves? Are we proud of the music? If those are the main preoccupations then, as O’Brien says, ‘life is richer’.
What artists are getting you excited at the moment?
I really like Shame’s new tracks and videos, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Beverly Glenn-Copeland. I have one of his songs, Ever New, on repeat at the moment. It’s meditative, calming, and all about rebirth; a good tonic for the age.
COVID 19 has affected the creative industry in a big way, what have you been up to to keep yourself motivated?
We set up our own label, Emotional Interference, and took on self-management. We’d been working so hard on new music this year and, when we saw the massive hit the music industry was taking (and is going to take) from all angles because of Covid, we wanted to have no barriers to us getting the music out there. I am the manager, Felix runs the label, Jacob oversees the campaign, and Jamie is in charge of all the production and the live show. It’s a lot of work, but it’s been liberating.
You’ve been on tour supported by the Arts Council England, tell us a funny story from the road?
We’d played a show in the UK and had to get to Hamburg the next day for Reeperbahn Festival. We were staying somewhere on the outskirts of Brussels as a stopover and didn’t get there until 3am or so. It was the outhouse of this crazy chateau in the middle of nowhere that we’d found on Airbnb – Felix woke up to find a ghost screaming over him.
You’ve had several EP releases now, what’s been your favourite to work on and why?
That’s a difficult one! I think the most fun we’ve had is working on the latest material – when you remove the time pressures of being in a studio, that takes loads of stress out of the process and means we can enjoy ourselves more. That said, we recorded two tracks from Shut Out The Sun (In Person and Search Box) at a brilliant studio in Eastbourne called Echo Zoo – full of 70s analogue gear, and it was our first time recording onto tape, which was a lot of fun.
What are you all looking forward to next?
We are releasing new music and working on new collaborations which we’re excited to share. For my part, we’ve been so busy working on the releases that I’ve had less time to play and write music. I’m looking forward to tipping that balance.