Soundwaves | In conversation with Elder Island
4 min read
Words & Playlist by Elder Island
Images by Jack Abbot
What themes do you explore in your new record?
We recorded and produced Swimming Static in our basement studio in a little under a year. It was an intensive period where we did very little else! I think the intensity of focus we bestowed on the whole project really shaped it. Its variety and depth. We got lost in it, being fixed in one space all the time, we thematically stretched out to investigate new ones. Like collecting views through windows into different places and times. Themes of myth and memory mixed with natural forces and emotional shifts. All explored and interwoven together. I suppose in some ways there's an inward nostalgia to it all but at the same time a strong sense of looking out.
How have you grown as a band over the past few years / one record to the next?
Each record is a learning curve. We’re still constantly developing our practice, approaching it in different ways to see what works best. This album mixes our old processes with new ones. Nearly all the music starts life as freeform live sessions which we slowly develop into structured tracks. On this album we spent more time shaping and stripping back, playing them as just piano and vocals, reconfiguring the structures until we we're happy to start layering everything on top again.
Each record is also heavily influenced by the equipment we use. We invested in a few new items before starting this album, some better quality studio equipment, pre-amps, analogue effects units, better mics, this massively boosted the production quality we could achieve by ourselves. Items like the Dave Smith Tempest, a couple new loopers and more than a few modular items lead to a highly exploratory time when we started recording. I suppose we grow as our collection of equipment grows.
It feels more and more artists and musicians are finding these connections to the natural world seeking inspiration or that creative flow – time away from the traditional studio set up at least.
How does this factor into Elder Islands' creative process?
Over the last year we’ve noticed more than ever how much we depend on natural spaces. Like a mental aid we’ve ventured out at our chosen time of day to stand or walk in a green space. I think it's a real eye opener to how important these places are, especially in cities. Our studio is small, cosy and soaks up time in strange ways so there's been plenty of use for trips out to the nearby grassy mound to blow off the cobwebs during recording. I don't think we make our music about nature by design, but the music as an expression of us and so the theme is transcribed. We all have an affinity with the natural world; it will always be written into us and so we impart it into the music.
Massive Attack to Portishead – Bristol is synonymous with music, particularly electronic/indie. How has Bristol and the vibrant UK scene shaped you as musicians?
It’s had a huge part to play in our musical education. We would be out at clubs and gigs most nights of the week as students consuming everything the city had to offer. It really opened up our love for Electronic music. Dubstep was on the rise with Bristol at the forefront. French Electro was having a big impact, Motion had just begun to open its doors and the amount of musical imports the city started seeing was insane.
We were very fortunate at the time as it all felt so raw and exciting. When we graduated we spent the whole summer working the festival season as litter pickers. Roaming the land, travelling from site to site, dancing in a field all weekend to crawling around on the floor the week after. Picking up the last of the glitter and cigarette butts. That really shaped our outlook on things, more than just being there for the party. Seeing the whole event and wanting to be part of it.
Collaboration can be a beautiful thing (check out the boots). Who would be on your front runners of musicians/artists to collaborate with?
Musically maybe Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the way he produces is really distinctive and they’re all such hits. I think we also share a fondness for analogue equipment so it would be a total nerd out.
As a crazy filmic wishlist; it would be incredible to work with Spike Jonze. He has always been the master of the music video and was the man behind so many of the iconic videos of our generation. To see what kind of ideas he could come up with for one of our songs would be the dream. On the same list would be Michel Gondry, he has the golden skill of making things otherworldly whilst keeping a tangible quality to everything.
A question you’d like to ask of each other?
To Luke - What comes once in a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?
The answer is through the green glass doors.
To Dave - How many packets of HobNobs could you eat in a 12 hour period, tea permitted? (Other oaty biscuits are available.)
3 easy, 4 possibly, with a lot of tea, 5...
To Katy - The ability to teleport or 1 billion pounds?
Teleportation, hands down! I'm sure I could make a few quid out of the skill!
Elder Island's DJ Set
And finally, tune into an exclusive musical experience recorded by Elder Island at our Bristol store.