Port Isla - Live at Leeds 2015 Interview

18 May 2015

Port Isla hit the second stage at the Leeds Beckett Union late in the afternoon at Live At Leeds. The Norwich band's forthcoming EP 'A.L.I.V.E' became Radio 1's Hottest Record - and it's easy to see why. Their mix of uplifting lyrics and restful guitars make for a summery vibe that left the crowd feeling wistful as it drizzled outside. We sat down with them before the show to find out where the group dubbed "Great British indie-folk, executed properly" are headed and why they're taking a forward-thinking approach to releasing songs.

ContactMusic: Well it's very nice to meet you! How's it going in Leeds today?
Henry Kilmister [Drums]:
Really good!
Stanley Spilman [Lead guitar]: I've been to Leeds loads seeing my friends at uni here.

CM: Why did you decide to release your two singles for free?
SS: I think that that system just works. Not being conceited in any way, but it makes sense because people are doing you a favour by listening to it. And if they like it then they'll tell their friends and that's worth way more to us than however much it is to get CDs made up.
HK: That person telling five or 10 of their friends about your band is worth a lot more than 99p for a single - however much we get from that. It's just a nice way of doing things too. Everyone likes getting free stuff! We hand out these postcards and free CDs at our gigs. If people are undecided about you at the gig you know they probably wouldn't buy a CD but if you give them one for free, they may at least listen to it on the way home and you've got your name out there.

CM: Your new EP 'A.L.I.V.E' - what does it stand for?
HK: It doesn't stand for anything.
SS: It was just a stylised way of doing it. I don't exactly know why we came to the conclusion that we were gonna do that. I think it's maybe - and again, not in a cynical or conceited way - that it's slightly more memorable.
HK: It's deliberately quite a big-sounding song so having everything in capitals matched that.
SS: We might ask Twitter if it can come up with the best acronym.

CM: Are there any bands you're looking forward to seeing at Live At Leeds?
SS: I really wanna see Thurston Moore.
HK: I'm gonna go and see Lucy Rose. I'm gonna go and see the Cribs, obviously. They're very underappreciated on a mainstream level.
SS:We're big fans of the Cribs. I think they're probably the most underrated British band. They deserve to be stratospherically big.

CM: Is there one band that influences Port Isla more than any other?
HK: There's no band that makes us go "this is who we aspire to be" because we all listen to so much music and if you're aspiring to be one band in particular it kind of limits what you can do. We all enjoy loads of different genres of music so you notice things, like, "ooh this bit sounds like these two mixed together". Then it turns into something else and it's a lot more interesting.

CM: How did you guys start making music together?
SS: We met at the University of East Anglia studying [whispers] Classical Music and we got together. It was less band-like in those days - we were just messing around in rehearsal rooms. We'd go to lectures with each other and then de-camp to the halls to thrash out some songs.

CM: Classical music, that's an interesting subject...
SS: My favourite era is probably turn-of-the-century French impressionist music.

CM: How has that influenced your sound?
SS: It's helped but I think when you come to doing something creative, it's the sum of all of the experiences in music you've had up to that point. Will [Bloomfield, frontman] has always been really fond of a Benjamin Britten, who's an English composer, and I think he's had quite a lot of influence on the way Will's melodies work.

CM: So no lute?
SS: No! Henry's a violinist and I started life as a pianist and organist. We all play quite a few different instruments - not all particularly well, but we do our best.

CM: What's the most unusual comparison you've had so far music-wise?
SS: Interesting question! We used to get a lot of Belle and Sebastian, but we were playing slightly more folky music at that time. I can't currently think of any because my brain's a bit shot.
HK: So many reviews go "it's this crossed with this with a bit of this crossed with this." We get Stornoway quite a lot and I've never got that influence. I've only listened to them since we've had that comparison. We got called a boyband the other day, which we didn't actually have a problem with!

CM: What have you been up to?
SS: We've been on the road all day driving up from London and I didn't sleep very much.
HK: We were on the road at 8am. None of us are morning people.
SS: We'll try to make it to Thurston Moore later though. I love visiting Leeds some of the venues are complete one-offs, there's this really special thing about the Brudenell [Social Club], which is that when you walk in you're hit by this special combination of disinfectant and lager [laughter]. It's unlike anything else.

CM: What are your hopes for the next year? Where do you see the band going?
SS: We've had a pretty nice trajectory so far and I think if we followed that trajectory to its course by working hard, then a year from now we'd be in a good place. I mean, we're currently on that weird boundary of supporting some really great artists and playing in really amazing places, but we have to make that jump into being able to do our own tours and that's the main aim.
HK: Yeah, building more of a dedicated fanbase really. We've had so many unbelievable gigs - Kodaline at the Roundhouse, the Royal Albert Hall and Barrowlands in Glasgow. Places that you have no right to play! You just get some amazing opportunities and it would be so, so nice for us to be doing that ourselves. When you've had a taste of it, you want it. Onwards and upwards really.

CM: And finally, if you could sell any merchandise at your gigs, what would it be?
SS: Another good question! You know Thunderbirds? Well, I used to be super into them and saw Blue Peter making Tracy Island. I'd want to make an island with loads of cool features, like the rocket taking off from under the swimming pool, which would be awesome.
HK: I'm not gonna top that. I was just going to say a hat. Or some sort of action figure to go with the island, so there'd be a Stan that you'd buy and have to build up [more laughter].

Lauren James


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