John Cooper Clarke, Nick Cave and Kate Moss. The George Tavern has seen a host of big names come through its doors throughout its long history. For many brand new bands performing their first string of shows, this venue might prove daunting.
However, this was not the case for London based four-piece Island, who seemed to take it effortlessly in their stride. On the 20th of August it was Island’s beautifully crafted, tender and atmospheric brand of music that was shaking the walls of this historic pub. The moment the band took to the stage, the chaos in the small East London pub gave way to an expectant lull, allowing Island to lead the crowd on with their beautifully delicate riffs and echoing melodies.
Image: Sara Gonzalez Kuhnel
For a new band that hasn’t played many shows so far, their confidence and stage presence was inexplicable yet convincing. Island pride themselves on their dynamic range: “Dynamics are really important for us, the highs and the lows is our game, taking it down and bringing it up and then let the fucking top come off! Be it this kind of cosy little place or a slightly bigger place—not that we’ve played a big place yet—but we like to think that it’s manageable in a bigger venue as well,” Toby Richards explained.
Island have been limited primarily to smaller venues, but are clearly looking to expand their horizons, and judging by the way in which they dominated the stage it is not a matter of if, but when, they play bigger stages. Rollo Doherty’s hushed vocals gave way to grungy crescendos provided by the rest of the band. The band’s range was exemplified during 'Stargazer' in which Island took the crowd from a minimalist introduction to raucous chants of “Stargazer!”; punctuated emphatically by Toby crashing on the drums. The powerful performance combined with the subtlety of their music had the audience on tenterhooks, which is no mean feat for a band that are yet to release their debut EP.
Island’s confidence is no doubt a result of their recent signing to Beatnik Creative. Not only does this mean that ‘it makes people look at you a bit more seriously’ as Toby explained, but it also improves the writing process. Rollo seemed grateful for the help provided by the label: “As a band I used to write a song and take it to the rest of the band. Whereas, now we get to bounce ideas back and forth with the management and the label too. The collaboration is so important to our writing process.” Collaboration in general is important to the band and Toby told us of plans to collaborate on the video of their upcoming video for 'Stargazer'. “Our video is coming out soon and we’ve collaborated with a really awesome London director called Will Kennedy from Black Dog Films, and he makes really beautiful stuff.” The boys are understandably itching to get their music out there but are pleased with the reaction to the debut single. “[Stargazer] is out there on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Spotify. It’s also on YouTube via our first crazy fan, which is a real milestone in itself: our first nutter!” Jack laughed.
When asked about their following, the band seemed pleasantly surprised by the amount of people turning up to their gigs—after all they have only one song out at the moment. As James told us “We’ve just recently started to break out of performing in front of mainly friends. It’s encouraging, to have people turn up to our shows despite having no connection to the band.” All the early signs suggest that the release of their debut EP Girl should be a successful one, and the band cannot wait. Rollo in particular was motivated by the fact that the band will soon have a tangible product for their efforts. “It feels great, it feels like we have been locked up in the studio! We are finally at a point where we just want to get it our there and get it listened to. I think with the 'Stargazer' release came a turning point where it felt like ‘oh, we are a real band now’!”
Yes, Island are now a real band. After spending over a year in limbo and not having a name they seemed to have picked a name that perfectly represents the style of music they play, mellow, solitary and clean but there’s always a threat of a storm. “We were nameless for so long, probably about two years! Eventually, it came up just while we were having a chat in the pub and we didn’t think much of it to start with, but it grew on us. Naming the band was my least favourite part about being in the band! I think because we really want to make it work this time. When you’re in bands when you’re young the name doesn’t really matter, but this time round, we were being really picky,” Jack clarified.