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Elder Island

LIVE: Elder Island @ Soup Kitchen | 31.10.18

WORDS BY CIERA LITTLEFORD        PHOTO BY DAVID THOMAS SMITH

Much of the buzz around Elder Island at the moment seems to be trying to pin down their unique feel, aiming to condense it to a just a genre or two. But that’s what’s so exciting about this Bristol-based trio – their eclectic mix of bass, loops, and funky guitar riffs, with some cello thrown in for good measure produces a vibrant sound that makes for easy listening and an even better live experience.


As their set begins in the Northern Quarter’s Soup Kitchen, it’s clear from the off that it’ll be an energetic, lively gig. The crowd doesn’t stop moving throughout, and neither does the band, because it’s hard to keep still when the sound of hit ‘Bamboo’ with its insanely catchy melody and beats fills the room.

Elder Island’s debut album ‘The Omnitone Collection’ is due for release in February 2019, and the band play a few new tracks. It’s usually a hit-or-miss situation at any gig, however, every single song is met with raucous applause. The trio don’t slow down once, turning the venue into a disco with a dreamy twist with their relentless beats and mesmerising synths.

‘Black Fur’, from 2016’s ‘Seeds in Sands’ EP, proves to be the climax of the night. It starts as a slow burn but as a crowd favourite, it has everyone singing every word through a massive grin, standing up on the benches that line the edges of the room.

Katy, David, and Luke truly are a dynamic trio onstage – adding to the rich synth sounds, singer Katy’s vocals are an instrument on their own. It’s possible that her voice is part of what sets the band apart from some generic electronic bands around right now; it’s got a kind of sophistication and luxuriance to it that sounds just as refreshing live as on the record. It comes into play particularly on tracks ‘Hotel Beds’ and ‘Bonfires’, which hark back to the golden era of house music – confirmed when Katy gleefully tells us that there’s time for one more song, before the band launches into Crystal Waters classic ‘Gypsy Woman’. It’s a perfect fit for Elder Island, who tells the crowd they only really play it at festivals – and for a few minutes, we’re transported from a cold, drizzly October night to a sunny field in the height of summer.

Elder Island are a must-see. If you’re on the fence about seeing them on their current tour (supported by FAVELA and Dirty Nice), bite the bullet and get that ticket. They really know how to bring their hypnotic tunes to life and it’s tons of fun.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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Elder Island

 INTERVIEW: ELDER ISLAND @ THE CASTLE HOTEL

Photo: Dominika Scheibinger

If you know of The Castle Hotel – nestled down Oldham street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – you’ll think of lurking sounds, indie vibes and dark, delving corridors. That is until you see Elder Island perform there. Their intricate synergy of jazz and pop and electronica creates the perfect blend the back of your mind aches for, a sound you didn’t realise existed yet soon begs to be played at clubs, bars and your Aunt’s fiftieth. We found the artists huddled up in The Castle’s green room nursing an Irish hangover, with memories of last night’s “bonkers” set in Dublin and eagerly awaiting their first Northern gig beyond Birmingham. On this tour alone they have sold out not only Manchester, but all 6 nights on their tour.

The trio met in Bristol, “many, many years ago” through an exchange of Universities and hometowns colliding. David Harvard and Luke Thornton met as Bristolian youngsters and were members of multiple bands together, and as such their own tastes were delved into and moulded. Katy Sargent was in halls with David at the University of Bristol, a friendship was soon formed and ultimately Elder Island came to be. At the time of forming and understanding each other’s sound, they were toying with their mutual passion for experimental music. You could perhaps even say that their current sound is a twist on experimental; if asked to describe it you’d mutter some I’m-not-quite-sure/can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it answer, a sound pretty genre-defying in standard term. Though, when asked how they describe themselves, Luke bluntly mentions “Weird.” Followed by a laugh from the group and Katy chasing it with a fan comment that they all agree with: “someone said on the street that it was a mixture of house, jazz and another weird one.”

Before contemplative brainstorming led to the name Elder Island, during their early days of experiments and trial runs they were titled Traví but the name was met with fans being unable to pronounce the term. Their minds met through a similar admiration for music and taste within melodic symphony but they mention that their appetites have always been quite different to one another. Katy comments that it’s not dissimilar to a Venn diagram; “the overlap in the middle is the music that we love together and also the music that we make together.” In terms of taste, Luke mentions that they seemingly subconsciously take snippets away from the music they listen to, with no key, tangible influence, to their knowledge. Their current music musings clearly lay a strong groundwork to their daily lives. Summed up collectively into their MCR Live takeover which contains an eloquent selection of artists from prog-rock singer-songwriter Nick Hakim to Midnight Sister and everything in between. There are comments of “lots of Anderson .Paak” as well as proclamations hailing Spotify as a key defender of their corner. “There’s been a lot of people that we’ve met on this tour that have said ‘it came up on my Discover Weekly or through another artist and I’ve been listening ever since’ so it’s amazing, the Spotify algorithms have been amazing to us.”

Plans for the future include keen aspirations to get back in the studio and record as much as possible, but otherwise all else is under wraps. Swiftly avoiding the album question with grins that only seem to contain their excitement hinting that they have something big in store for us. Following the release of their last single ‘Bonfires’ the band actively decided to self-release and aren’t with a record label at the moment but mention that they enjoy the organic  process and find that being self-sufficient is key to their concept. They’re eager to get recording so that they can get their eyes on sorting out festival slots for the Summer, following on from a heavy festival season last year including the madness of Boomtown Fair and Somerset’s Farm Fest. “Seeing a whole crowd of 800 bobbing heads is an amazing feeling.” This hopefully means the future is bright for Elder Island – at least, that’s the image  painted when met by a crowded room of jiving, active fans saluting their performance in the cave of The Castle‘s music room.

Listen back to their takeover below. Ft. an eclectic meld of Smerz, Otzeki, Nick Hakim, Michael Prophet & more.

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