A Chat with The Islas (22.08.20)

Hailing from Norwich, UK, The Islas are a brand new breed of indie-rock. Influenced by artists like The Beautiful South, Oasis, Declan McKenna and The Smiths (to name but a few), The Islas have a sharp, vibrant and upbeat sound. We had a chat with frontman Nathan Baverstock about their upcoming single ‘Close’, life goals and much more!

OSR: What can you tell us about your upcoming single ‘Close’?

Baverstock: Ah, I always struggle to put into words what to expect from our music, mainly because the listener is going to hear under three minutes of music but it’s actually around six months of work! Here goes: ‘Close’ is a fast-paced, guitar driven alternative indie track that incorporates a meaningful lyricism which we pride ourselves on.

The track was written when I stumbled across a blog post called ‘How To Not Let Your Relationship With Your Partner Interfere With Your Relationship With God’. Now I would class myself as an agnostic, but I could not shake that feeling that many people live in this world with the hope of there being some higher being and it’s worth sacrificing the very real love and experiences you have in front of you. I then wrote the lyrics as if I were losing my faith and baIling with this want to explore and ‘sin’ essentially. A lot of my lyrics come this way; I always remember what I felt at a certain time and try my best to put it to a chord progression or riff on my guitar.

OSR: How did The Islas form?

Baverstock: We’re a quartet who started as a duo. Myself and the other songwriter/guitarist (Ross Allen) met back in 2012 at a local music college and really hit it off. We have a solid friendship, but we also work really well together. He’s very good at enhancing melody and turning my rough demos into bigger and better things.

After splitting with the first band we created we then joined up with Ed who was a known drummer around our local area. After a year or so playing with a different bass player, Granger came along and was the final piece really. All four of us are quite different in our own ways and have lots of different music styles. I think that’s what makes us work so well together.

OSR: What was the recording and writing process of ‘Close’ like?

Baverstock: I remember messing around with my new amplifier and pedal board about a year ago and I found a beautiful little octave sound and the first thing I played was the riff in the verse that the vocal melody follows. Granger came over not too long after and I think I played it to him very briefly, but we were just messing around with ideas. A few months later, I said to the boys I have a new song and played this kind of Arctic Monkeys ripoff. It sounded dreadful – I was in a massive block, I couldn’t write a thing – and Granger said what about that riff? So, I just chucked it into the mix and ross started playing along and asked me to keep playing as he figured out his parts. It then just stemmed from there. I figured out a chorus not soon after and the structure came in a few weeks after that moment.

The lyrics always come last. In rehearsals I’ll just hum or sing the same line over and over to get to drips with a melody. I keep a note on my phone of different articles and lines I think up, then revisit it when I get the chance to sit down and play.

We had planned to go back to the production team we had been using before, but with the COVID pandemic we couldn’t gig or make any money to travel very far. So, we recorded with an old friend (Tom Joy) at Mill Studios in Norfolk. Tom’s famous in the East of England because he’s something of a magician really. He just gets what you you’re trying to do. He listens to a massive amount of music so knows his sounds and has brilliant tips and tricks to really make a song sound great. The whole recording process with him is really effortless and just what we needed. The tracks were then mastered at Metropolis Studios by the brilliant Andy ‘Hippy’ Baldwin.

OSR: A B-side will be released with ‘Close’, what can you tell us about ‘Dancing With Daisy’?

Baverstock: ‘Dancing with Daisy’ was probably one of the first tracks me and Ross wrote way back in college. I think I was 16 when I wrote the song and Ross was 18 when he wrote that riff. It had been stuck on the shelf for years, but Ed and Granger really loved it when we played it to them. It’s changed since its original recording (which we never released); I think it’s matured with us really well. As 2020 put a bit of a puncture in our plans, we wanted to give away more than just the one single on its own.

It’s a bit of a dark storyline camouflaged with a love song. The lyrics are actually quite dark and focus on a man who falls in love with a stranger, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s innocent and sweet. It’s completely intentional as I love artists like The Style Council and The Beautiful South who do this so well. It’s probably one of my favourite songs I’ve ever written.

OSR: Which track do you prefer and why?

Baverstock: It’s like choosing between children! I’m going to go for ‘Dancing with Daisy’, but only because it’s nostalgic and has sentimental value to me.

OSR: How would you describe the tracks?

Baverstock: I’d say indie music with some depth. Guitar-driven and vibrant, but also says a lot about us and who we want to be.

Image credit to Richard Chalu

OSR: What are the greatest challenges unsigned artists face?

Baverstock: You can write the best songs in the world, but with the absolute ocean of unsigned artists coming into the mix every single day it’s so hard to stand out and simply get heard. We put just as many hours into our social media and releases as the music itself. We would release much more music with a team helping us do these daily tasks but honestly, I actually love being a DIY artist with no manager and no label.

OSR: How do you overcome these challenges?

Baverstock: I used to think I wanted to be signed. It was all about getting signed. I don’t feel like that now. I take pride in everything I do with The Islas. I love it all! Once I stopped caring about how old I was getting or why other bands were succeeding better things have happened. Best thing I can say is “keep on keeping on”.

OSR: What is your life goal?

Baverstock: Stay happy. Enjoy what I’m doing and in 50 years time, sit with the grandkids and show them all the things I did in The Islas and be proud of it all.

OSR: What is your favourite meal and why?

Baverstock: Tough one. I’m gonna say not much beats an old-fashioned, greasy full English. Makes everything better in my eyes.

OSR: What is the most mischievous thing you have ever done and did you get away with it?

Baverstock: Ha! Now I don’t want to do a Theresa May and say something so un-mischievous that it’s not a good story, so I think this one’s a good one. This is the one that springs to mind.

Back in high school I was sitting my GCSE History exam and I remember it was the hottest day of the year and we were stuck in our sports hall which was essentially a large greenhouse. Our whole year group was stuffed in there. Now, this exam was my re-sit; I’d actually failed my original sitting so I was pretty nervous. So nervous in fact that I, how should I put this, passed some wind. I don’t remember what I’d eaten that day, but imagine a very warm room and my nervous stomach – not a great partnership. I remember instantly thinking “oh no” and I put my head down but could hear the murmurs of people around me. The girl in front turned and looked at me in disgust so as quick as a flash I held my nose and looked behind me at my friend. I then looked back and shook my head and said, “on my god that stinks Brandon!”. Before he could respond everyone was told to be quiet so he couldn’t get a word out. After the exam, Brandon was taunted a little bit by our fellow classmates. The examiners actually accused poor Brandon of letting off a stinkbomb at the end of the exam.

So, that’s my story of being mischievous and getting away with it! For the record – I am so sorry, Brandon.

OSR: Do you have a message for our readers?

Baverstock: Thank you so much for reading and listening to our music. Your support for unsigned bands means the absolute world to us, and the small acts of streaming, connecting on social media and buying merchandise helps us keep on chasing our dream.

Thank you to Nathan Baverstock for speaking with us. For more from The Islas check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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