Sounds Against Slavery interview – The Long Islands

Liam caught up with one of the five acts performing at this year's Sounds Against Slavery event...

Impact Magazine and the Anti-Slavery Society are collaborating on the second iteration of Sounds Against Slavery on Thursday 15th March. Impact caught up with one of the acts, The Long Islands, to hear their thoughts on music and the event.

What are you most looking forward to about performing at Sounds Against Slavery?

Dan:      Playing Rough Trade has always been a goal of ours, as it’s such a cool place/institution. We’ve got quite a punchy set so hopefully, people have a good time. More importantly, however, Rough Trade is known for their activism and Sounds Against Slavery is another great cause they’re giving their space to.

Matt:    Going for a shorter, but higher energy setlist!

Rhys:     Supporting the cause.

Why did you decide to support the cause?

Dan: Human trafficking isn’t just something that happens abroad; it’s everywhere and, more often than not, it’s underreported. Everyone deserves freedom as a basic human right, and we should all try to ensure or contribute towards this freedom.

Rhys: The Anti-Slavery Society are fantastic and to be able to contribute to their awareness-raising efforts and their ability to keep campaigning as they do is a privilege.

How would you describe your sound?

Dan: Imagine if Foals, The xx and The Cure had a strange love-child. Indie rock with a   twinge of 80s pop-guitar work; jazz-influenced bass and rock-orientated drums.

Rhys: Dan pretty much nailed it with the band’s sound. Mine personally is somewhere between a wall of deep inaudible fuzz, Barbarian Begins At Home-style riffing; avant-garde jazz and Kwassa Kwassa.

Matt:    It’s lit.

Who are the artists that you are inspired by?

Matt: Rhys and his Bass, Foals, Don Broco.

Dan:  To name a few: Fleetwood Mac, The Smiths, Tame Impala, Prince, Sufjan Stevens, Glass Animals, David Bowie, Frank Ocean, and right now I’m listening to a lot of Blood Orange and Charles Mingus. I think all of these artists have a great combination of accessibility but brilliance and intelligence about them. They all make beautiful, varied music that challenges listeners in a friendly way (if that makes sense).

Rhys: (… Here we go) It depends on the type of music I’m making to be honest. I don’t really have absolute influences, they vary from song to song, project to project. The people I channel most often include Laura Marling, Lenoard Cohen, Tom Waits; King Krule, Homeshake, Thundercat, Ron Carter, Vampire Weekend, BadBadNotGood, Rex Orange County, and then a lot of less conventional Kwassa Kwassa music/Congolese bands such as Staff Benda Bililil. Recently I’ve been listening almost exclusively to Erykah Badu, Devendra Banhart, Kanye, Thundercat and Kaytranada.

In the band however, a lot of what I do seems to resonate from alternative music crossed with my personal influences, so also think along the lines of Pixies, The Cure, The Smiths, The Fall and Joy Division. Madonna’s ‘Lucky Star’ was also on my mind a lot during ‘After Hours’ as well as Foals’ ‘The French Open’ and Antidotes in general. I have (just counted) 97 playlists on my Spotify excluding ones I follow/haven’t personally made so I could cite influences all day to be honest, and that’s just musical influence.

Desert Island Disks! Name a song, an album and an artist you couldn’t live without?

Dan: Song: ‘God Only Knows’ by the Beach Boys. I know it’s a cliché, but goddamn this song hits me like no other. The classic “it’s-happy-and-sad” description is fitting. Album: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac is my favourite album. As I said earlier, it’s the perfect storm of radio-friendly music that’s instrumentally and lyrically complex. Artist: I think I’m going to have to say David Bowie. The man could do anything.

Matt: Song: ‘Airfield’ (Enter Shikari). Album: The Spark (Enter Shikari). Artist: Don Broco.

Rhys: Song: Claire De Lune, Debussy – that song takes me somewhere. Album(s): Alas I Cannot Swim by Marling, and Doolittle by the Pixies… because I need both. Artist: The Miles Davies Quintet, comprising of Miles, Coltrane, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Herbie Hancock, because I didn’t believe in magic until I heard that shit.

How long have you been performing? What are your memories of your very first performance?

Rhys: Technically ten years, but bass for like five: I played a little solo gig when I was eleven – some Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Red Hot Chilli Peppers covers. It wouldn’t have been good. As part of a band my first gig would have been in a punk venue in Swansea at the age of 15. I was playing rhythm guitar for some 18-year-olds who needed a hand, I had to enter via the fire exit because it was a 16+ show. They had a heavy Smashing Pumpkins vibe about them then, no idea what any of them are up to these days. Then I was in a Jazz Ensemble from the ages of 16-18, still as the guitarist; from there I started playing bass in a Ska-Punk band from 16 until I went to Uni (19).

Dan: My first performance was when I was about 14. I was in a pop-punk band and essentially wanted to be like the people I was listening to at the time (aka All Time Low and You Me At Six). Our first set was literally comprised of 8 covers including that of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and ‘American Idiot’. It was a dark time.

Matt: Together about 2 and a half years; myself, 5.

Do you know any of the artists that you are performing alongside at Sounds Against Slavery?

Dan:      We’ve performed on a line-up with Leonora before and she’s got one hell of a voice. I’ve listened to a bit of Kwoli Black’s stuff and it’s awesome; he’s got some serious grooves and a bucket of charisma that shines through in his songs.

Rhys:     Essentially as Dan said except I also know one of Kwoli Black’s backing members; guitarist, production wizard and former Impact Music Editor, Oggy. Though I think he’s stuck in London this time around!

Matt: I don’t know them but I have listened to and very much look forward to Katie Cooper, Kwoli Black, and Julia Joyce. We’ve also played with Leonora before.

You’re surrounded by musical opportunities here in Nottingham, what’s it like to be a singer/songwriter in this city?

Dan: Nottingham is host to some of my favourite venues in the world, my personal favourite being Rescue Rooms. The city seems to have a thriving creative energy about it, and it’s definitely influenced our EP. A lot of ideas for songs just came from wandering around the city centre at night.

Matt: Notts is great, the support network is incredible!

Rhys: I’m in love with Nottingham as a place. It booms with creative industries, independent institutions and amazingly original people and students in both unis and beyond. All of this makes for a great and aware music scene. Lyrically, moving here has probably altered what I write in a way unique to the city, though a lot of my lyrical efforts aren’t really attached to a geographical identity – I’ll leave that to the Arctic Monkeys.

What do you have planned for the future?

Dan: We’re working on a whole array of new material. What we’re writing at the moment is quite different from the stuff on ‘After Hours’, so we’re just trying to figure it out. For now, however, I think we want to focus on getting a few festival slots.

Matt: Yeah man, more lit stuff.

Sounds Against Slavery comes to Rough Trade on Thursday 15th March, 7pm-11pm. Tickets are £5.50, and all donations go to Anti-Slavery International.

Liam Inscoe-Jones

Featured image courtesy of Alexandra Farzad.

Article images courtesy of Alexandra Farzad and the UoN Anti-Slavery Society.

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