After just two EPs, Oxford experimentalists Low Island have started to build a cult following. Now the quartet build towards the release of their third EP by releasing new track The Lines and heading out on tour.
The Lines is indicative of Low Island’s impossible-to-pigeonhole approach as skittering rhythms maintain a driving energy that counteracts its moody, minimalist synths and carefully enunciated vocal topline. Despite a pop-like immediacy, there’s a touch of the avant-garde about it too, with spoken word buried deep within the mix and enigmatic lyrics which lend themselves to personal interpretation.
The band’s Low Island & Friends performances take the road less travelled by presenting an unconventional bill of mixed collaborative art forms (which could stretch from dance to theatre to animation) alongside their own headline set and guest DJs.
Before their show this Friday 13th October at Stereo, we had Five Quick Questions
1 Did you have a clear idea of the kind of music you wanted to make when the band first got together?
Pretty much. We’ve all made music together in various different forms from a very young age, when we had no idea what music we wanted to make. In 2014, Carlos and I wrote and performed a soundtrack/score for a new play called Fast Track.
We stumbled upon this ambient, cinematic and electronic sound-world, which we thought could really work in the context of alternative pop songs, so we got writing and – once we had enough good songs – formed Low Island as it is today.
We’re all fans of the weirder and more emotional side of electronic dance music, which is really central to our approach.
2 Tell us about some of the songs on your third EP?
The songs on this EP are much more emotional and intense than those of our previous two EPs, and the music reflects this. We’ve tried to shed a bit of the shy cinematic ambience from our previous material, and be a bit more bold and brave with everything from the lyrics to the production.
The songs are essentially snapshots of our generation’s outlook at the point of “inheriting the world” (i.e. reaching young adulthood). There are songs about mental breakdown, anxiety, old friendships, humiliation, xenophobia, hatred, fear, ageing and self-loathing.
The first single The Lines is about feeling threatened and disgusted by vulnerable people, such as refugees, ethnic minorities or members of the LGBTQ+ community, which is the kind of attitude we see a lot of in older generations. The second track Tomorrow is about self-loathing and doubt following a really difficult breakup.
3 What have been some of your favourite shows so far?
We did a big headline show at this old metal-works warehouse called Electrowerkz (London) back in April, which was really great. We trialled the Low Island & Friends gig format by having a really wide variety of artistic disciplines on show.
There were some great support bands, then there was a choreographed dance instalation, there was visual artwork and also DJs until late. It felt so much more immersive and inclusive than your usual rock gig, which is exactly what we set out to do with Low Island & Friends (#LIAF).
4 Do you have a very rigid set for this tour or will you be adding in different elements along the way?
It definitely won’t be rigid. We’ve now got 16 songs to play with, so it’s much more fun to be free with it and make off-the-cuff decisions based on each particular show. We like to blend songs into each other as well, sort of like in a DJ set, as this fits with the electronic dance feel of our live show.
We’re aiming to put a lot of our new tracks in the set – whilst also playing the earlier material – as we’re really proud of these songs and can’t wait to show them to everyone.
We often find that we only truly understand what a song “is” when we perform it to a room full of new people who’ve never heard it before. You can somehow feel their collective response in the air.
5 What’s next after your live dates in October and November?
We’re really excited to release the rest of the tracks on our new EP. That should hopefully see us through until spring next year. Otherwise, we’re going to keep working on new music in a freezing cold cottage in the middle of nowhere with no signal and no wi-fi…
Low Island Tour Dates
13th – Glasgow, Stereo (Low Island & Friends show)
14th – Leeds, Headrow House (Low Island & Friends show)
21st – Oxford, Ritual Union Festival (Low Island & Friends afterparty)
22nd – Primavera Club, Barcelona, Spain
November – Low Island & Friends shows
3rd – Bristol, Crofters Rights
8thLondon, Corsica Studios (support by Our Mother)
9th – London, Corsica Studios (support by Stereo Honey)
10th – Manchester, Deaf Institute