Live electro outfit Elder Island are fast becoming a musical sensation, since the launch of their confident second EP Seeds in Sand just a year ago, they’ve enjoyed sold out dates in London and Bristol, a European tour supporting Glass Animals, as well as a packed out summer festival season. With the trio currently deep in writing mode, as well as gearing up for their first UK headline tour this January, we were delighted when they accepted our invitation to join us at Hy-Brasil on New Year’s Eve, with their debut Bristol DJ set leading us right into 2018.
The event in question is a collaborative effort between some of Bristol’s best music platforms, agencies, promoters and artists, including Electric Harmony, Hy-Brasil, BBC Introducing in the West, The Bristol Music Show, Tap The Feed, 1% of One, Leisure Records, Word On The Street and Nitelife. Each of us has invited one of our favourite Bristol acts to play, creating a diverse and frankly unmissable lineup.
a collaborative effort between some of Bristol’s best music platforms, agencies, promoters and artists (…) Each of us has invited one of our favourite Bristol acts to play, creating a diverse and frankly unmissable lineup
Alongside The Gnarwhals, Harvey Causon, Mauwe, No Violet, Rozelle, Tropic, Wish and Youth, Nitelife presents Elder Island’s debut Bristol DJ set – their second ever after a debut at Lost Village festival this summer. They will be playing us some of the music that they love, alongside some dancefloor reworks from other major artists; plus a rare opportunity to hear some exclusive DJ edits of their own work.
Elder Island’s pioneering sound combines mellifluous vocals with a myriad of electronic rumbles and is derived from a tapestry of influences, nestling somewhere between the likes of Jamie XX, Maribou State and Mount Kimbie.
nestling somewhere between the likes of Jamie XX, Maribou State and Mount Kimbie
We caught up with Katy, Dave and Luke as they peeled themselves away from their studio, where they’ve been shutting themselves away over winter.
Initially experimenting with a more folky sound, it seems that the band are delving forever deeper into electronic territory, as they continue to advance their sizzling synths and experimental production, which can be heard in recent singles Welcome State and Bonfires, however, they’ve also got some DJ edits of their own tracks under their hat, which they will be unveiling at the Best of Bristol NYE show.
We’ve naturally progressed into electronic territory
‘We’ve naturally progressed into electronic territory,’ explains Katy. ‘Advancement in equipment drives how the sound is, and we’re exploring what can be achieved and putting new ideas out there.’
‘When we play to a party crowd, especially at festivals, we tend to play stuff that is much dancier so that people start reacting more,’ says Dave. ‘Then we react more to that and it just keeps feeding back and forth, maintaining that kind of level.’
that physical thing when you’re dancing and they’re dancing, everyone’s dancing together, it’s exhilarating
‘Yeah, it’s lovely when people stand and you can see their absorption’, adds Katy, ‘but that physical thing when you’re dancing and they’re dancing, everyone’s dancing together, it’s exhilarating.’
The three-piece have also put a few tracks at the mercy of other producers, with a few considerably dancier remixes appearing on their Spotify lately from artists including house and techno producer Kalyde and Mumbai-based glitchy, electro wizard Sandunes, who both re-imagined Welcome State in very different ways.
When discussing how they choose the remixes that are to their taste, Katy explains: ‘We try and look at it from a different perspective. If we didn’t like it, other people might for different reasons. I mean, we’ve never had a happy hardcore edit but I would be quite interested to hear what it was like, even though I might not listen to it in my own time!’
Luke agrees: ‘They’re the ones that interest me the most, the ones that are a lot different or have something that has taken the track further.’
Looking forward to the Best of Bristol NYE bash, Dave says to expect ‘party, fun, and a complete mix of disco, house, techno, Japanese stuff, all sorts…’
‘DJing together is quite a new thing, so it’s quite exciting,’ Katy explains. ‘We’re just enjoying partying down in the basement and practising and stuff. But it will be influences, what we’re enjoying at the moment and then we’ll squeeze in some tracks of ours, stuff to keep the vibe going – we’ll make it interesting!’
The band are excited to be playing to a home crowd on NYE and when asked if there is added pressure gigging here, Katy responds: ‘The Bristol gigs mean a lot more as we want to make them especially good. When we’re here you can just feel the electricity. It means something.’
The Bristol gigs mean a lot more as we want to make them especially good. When we’re here you can just feel the electricity. It means something
Although not originally from Bristol, Elder Island have said that going out in Bristol is what gave them their musical education. Katy and Dave met after both coming to Bristol for university, with Luke – a long time friend of Dave’s – crashing regularly on the sofa, before eventually making the move from Wales himself.
‘The best thing about Bristol’s music scene is the diversity,’ says Luke. ‘You can go down St Pauls and you’ve got dub or some kind of grime, then you can come over here and there’s a Ceilidh band in the Canteen. There is such a good range of artists and venues and a constant flourish of different scenes everywhere with some real nice independent record labels popping up.’
Katy adds: ‘It’s manageable as well. It’s not like London where there is too much and you can’t really find a scene.’
With the importance of independent music venues being particularly topical thanks to the current and constant threat to many of Bristol’s iconic live music and club venues including Thekla, I thought I would ask the trio’s opinion about how crucial these venues are to up-and-coming artists…
‘The support you get when you’re starting out is invaluable,’ says Dave. ‘If it wasn’t for the independent venues, you wouldn’t get a chance to actually get feedback. You get the opportunity to try stuff out, experiment, and you can network and gauge responses to get a better understanding of how well it’s going.’
Thekla is an extremely important venue with a lot of history
‘Thekla is an extremely important venue with a lot of history,’ says Luke. ‘The first time I came to Bristol was to see a show on that boat. We’re playing it in January for the first time and it’s a really big deal for us.’
‘When we first started playing here in Bristol, we were still working out how we were going to play live,’ says Katy. ‘The sound guy at The Louisiana was brilliant, he really nurtured us into this gig which was actually pivotal for us, because we enjoyed it and it sounded great. We wouldn’t have got that if we were in a place that was just trying to churn acts out.’
Lately, the Bristol-based band have been spending a lot of time bashing heads in their studio, or ‘the basement’ as they call it, though as Katy says, ‘Luckily it’s winter, so it’s not horrible. The sun isn’t out with us all down here, pasty looking!’
despite nurturing their electronic sound, the trio have no plans on losing the entrancing live elements to their recording process or live shows
It’s comforting to hear that despite nurturing their electronic sound, the trio have no plans on losing the entrancing live elements to their recording process or live shows. The UK winter tour, which finishes up at Thekla on 27 January, will see the full band setup. This looks something like: Katy on vocals, cello and looper pedal, Dave on guitar and keys, and Luke on drums and bass – with lots of wires between them.
Katy continues: ‘We’re trying to figure more stuff out live, rather than spending a lot of time trying to arrange it, which is actually really refreshing. It’s nice to not be sat behind a computer, while we try become a bit more live and organic.’
With so much time being dedicated to the studio, we can’t help but hope that a debut album is on its way soon. With smiles all round, Katy cautiously answers, ‘Possibly… Maybe. We’re trying anyway. We have about a month to put a good basis down, so we’ll see.’
The band have another exciting project underway, as they explain that they are in the process of designing and building a light rig that they will control live, with the intention of delivering knockout performances as they continuously strive to get better and better.
For people to come away saying that it was even better than last time – that’s the dream
‘After touring with Glass Animals, we realised we wanted a show with that extra wow factor,’ says Luke. ‘For people to come away saying that it was even better than last time – that’s the dream.’
With a substantial amount of new material in tow and an added wow-factor light show (although we’ve yet to not be completely wowed by Elder Island), their end of tour show at Thekla this January should be one for your diaries. In the meantime, join us all on 31 December at Hy-Brasil to ring in the New Year in some great company.
Words by Georgie Partington
Photos by Khali Ackford