The identity of No Island

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Sometimes it is difficult to make a combination between the old things and the new ones. But it doesn’t seem to be hard for the members of No Island. Their music keeps in touch with the roots of rock and roll and incorporates the modern sounds.

The Canadian band wants, through their songs, find their own identity, which can be heard not only by young people but also by adults.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, the band spoke about their first steps, their tours and the idea of making a new album.

How did the band start?

James (saxophones): In a way, it started long before I was ever playing music. Keith and I grew up in practically the same neighborhood, and we played on the same soccer team when we were quite young. We went to different schools and weren’t friends while growing up, but we recognized each other immediately when we re-met on the first day of class at Capilano University’s music program in North Vancouver. We started hanging out right away just because of that shred of familiarity, and pretty soon that developed into a great friendship. We also discovered that we had a strong musical compatibility, sharing a lot of the same influences and sensibilities. Like Keith, I grew up listening to classic rock and have always loved playing it. There aren’t normally a lot of opportunities for a saxophonist to play that kind of music, so it seemed like the obvious choice was to start a new band with this talented friend who is very much on the same page as me. The rest of the band’s membership was found amongst our fellow music students at Capilano during our time there, and the music program at Vancouver Community College in the case of our new drummer Max.

How can you describe your music?

Max (drums): I knew, and loved, No Island’s music as a fan, before I was a member. Now, as the new drummer, I have had time to reflect and think about what makes this music great. I think that No Island’s music does a great job of keeping in touch with the roots of rock and roll, and that’s where you hear the influences of Supertramp, the Eagles, Billy Joel, and other classic rockers. However, there’s a great balance with forging into more modern sounds, and I think that it is this balancing act that keeps No Island’s music fresh. There truly is a little something for everybody. I’ve enjoyed listening to No Island with the ears of a musician and hearing the intricate details, and careful arrangements these highly trained musicians put into their craft. I’ve also had the pleasure of just listening to these great, catchy tunes that are so easy to love as an audience member. It is an honor to be involved in this band and I hope others can enjoy this music as much as I do!

How do you work within the group?

Andy (vocals, keyboards): Rehearsal-wise, things are pretty focused. We have a lot of fun working together and a lot of laughs but we also really value each other’s time. We try and really buckle down during rehearsals to squeeze everything we can get out of a band practice. We’re all busy guys!

Composition-wise, all of our tunes have centered around one or two songwriters in the group. Someone will generally work on an idea on their own, get it into its basic form, make a demo or write out a chart, and then bring it to the whole band to make changes, work out an arrangement, and put it in what we call the “No Island blender.” It’s amazing how many directions a song has the potential go in so having everyone in the band decide what that direction is going to be makes sure that we maintain a consistent sound.

What can you tell us about your newest EP “The Waiting Game”?

Andy: Since releasing our first album, Sign of the Times, in March 2011, our songwriting and our overall sound had really started to change and evolve quite a bit. By the time March 2012 came along, we were really wanting to record some new music that would show off that evolution and represent us a bit better. We got our wish the following month but there was only a short amount of studio time available (12 hours total spread out over 2 days) to finish two tunes — House of Cards and The Waiting Game — so it kept us on our toes!

Reason came a little later. We recorded that one on the road during our summer 2012 tour of Western Canada. My friend Doug Perry has a recording studio in Kamloops (a smaller city about 4 hours away from Vancouver) and we spent the day there barbecuing hamburgers and recording that track live off the floor. There’s a video of it on YouTube actually. We were all pretty tired from 13 shows in 17 days but we managed to get a couple good takes.

Later on as we began listening to all three tunes one after the other it became clear that they would work well together. We were long overdue for some new music and we figured our fans and our friends would like to hear something new so we decided to release them digitally. Just before Christmas we put The Waiting Game EP on our Bandcamp site (www.music.no-island.com) and just the other day the physical copies arrived. We’re really excited to take those with us on the road and to our upcoming shows.

After the EP you are recording a new full-length album. What can you tell us about it?

Keith (vocals, guitar): Well since we first released Sign of the Times in 2011, we have written nearly 20 songs. Andy has really come into his own as a songwriter and James and I have really started to develop our craft. We’ve written what we think is some of our strongest material and we’ve really honed in on the “No Island” sound. So the plan for this next album is to write as much music as possible so that when it finally comes time to put the album together, we can choose the strongest and most cohesive body of material so that the album has a really strong identity. One of the things we love about our music is how we’re able to go in different directions and touch on different styles of music while still staying true to our sound and on this upcoming album, we want to represent that but we want the album to have a very distinct identity. We’re all incredibly excited about getting to work on it because we believe we have something really special to bring to the world.

Have you perform outside Canada?

James: We have not yet had the opportunity to perform outside of Canada. The obvious first step will be to the USA since it’s the only other country we can get to without flying, but because we would be entering the country to work, there is a lot of documentation and paperwork (and related expenses) that all has to be taken care of well in advance in order to make sure that it’s done legally so that we don’t get turned away at the border. We definitely want to do a USA tour sometime in the next year or two, and certainly we would love to branch out to other parts of the globe as well when it’s feasible. We would love to come down to Argentina sometime if you can recommend some places to play! In the meantime though, Canada is a very big country and there’s a lot the band can do here. This summer, we’re taking 2 months to play our way across to the east coast and back again.

Which is the audience’s repercussion?

Keith: Well the feedback we’ve received from people has been incredibly positive. We have noticed that our music really crosses generational boundaries. We’ve heard stories of fathers loving our music and their teenage kids digging it as well so that’s always really awesome to hear. People seem to be excited that we’re doing something different. We noticed this on our tour this past summer. Wherever we went, people were excited and glad that there was a band out there that were willing to do something different and I think people are really looking for that right now. We don’t belong to a niche market and there are not many bands doing what we do so it’s very cool to be getting this kind of reception to our music. It’s always nice to hear about people who have been touched by a song you wrote. It’s great!

Which are your projects for this year?

Andy: To get the year started, we jumped right into rehearsals getting Jay and Max comfortable on the older songs and working on a ton of brand new ones. We’ll also be heading out on the road later in the month for a mini tour to couple of ski resorts here in British Columbia and of course, we’ll be bringing that new EP with us! We’re also hoping to go back into the studio to record a new full-length album sometime this year, as soon as we can get in and do it. Things are going to be pretty busy though because we’re also planning a two month summer tour across Canada this July and August. There are certainly exciting times ahead!

Samantha Schuster

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