Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Interview: IS TROPICAL


IS TROPICAL make some really good music.  I could wax lyrical about this mysterious band in the needlessly wordy reviews this blog normally delights in, but, really, that says it all.  They've been making waves recently with their controversial (read: amazing) video for ridiculously catchy/frenzied/summery single, 'The Greeks' which you can watch here (though be warned it has an 18+ rating over on youtube ) and overall there's something undeniably thrilling and fun about their anarchic take on pop music.  Here's an interview I did with them so you can learn more about this exciting trio - I did consider editing it to make all their sentences start with caps etc., but I'm kind of into the e.e. cummings vibe: 


Who are IS TROPICAL?  How did IS TROPICAL come to be?  And also, to clarify, is it supposed to be in caps or do you not really mind?

caps are good. there's nothing worse than a capital 'I' next to a lower case 's'. but yeah, IS TROPICAL are a dance/punk/pop kinda band from london, we make music at home because we are incapable of real life. we met each other playing around squat parties and throwing ourselves out of windows. we wrote a song called Zombie (which is on the album) and we were like... holy shit people around the world need to hear this so we can become youtube sensations.

Is there a reason for the vaguely connected seafaring references in your band name, song titles and lyrics - e.g. tropical, south pacific, seasick mutiny, S.O.S.?

all of us independently grew up near the sea... and it's a powerful image. we went swimming in the sea once in spain at dawn, had a race to a buoy. escapism and the symbolism around mariner's culture is easy to get. everyone feels it. it's the origin.

People seem to struggle with labelling your music, so if you could make up the name of a new musical genre to describe your sound what would it be and why?

no we wouldn't want to make up a new genre name. the internet has meant that people are now free to listen to all kinds of music next to each other. why would we encourage useless categorisation of what we do? we're not even sure what it is, which is what makes it exciting for us. 

Who would you say your biggest influences are?

wu tang, ratatat, lou reed, taio cruz

I hate to ask a mask-related question, but I feel like it has to be done: you famously wear masks, and when you perform live you face one another rather than the audience.  Do you have particular ideas about retaining an aura of mystery when it comes to band aesthetics, or are you just really self-conscious?

when we play and face each other, it's because we're just trying to create some kind of energy on stage. we don't like the idea of frontmen and that played out, bogus posturing that bands seem to have to go through. we can thank the Beatles for inventing band's having riders when they play but it doesnt mean that a gig has to be a fashion show. so the masks started out as an attempt to make a distinction between us performing as a live show, and now it's turned into a ritual that i don't think we could forego.

Judging by YouTube your live performances are pretty amazing (sorry I haven't actually seen you live yet), but who are your favourite live acts?

i watched Rage play live at Lollapalooza when i was younger - that was one of the most impressive gigs i've been to. other bands that are really good live are Women, Pet Shop Boys (seriously), DOM (banter), and Klaxons, obvs,

Your video for B-side 'Tan Man' [I strongly urge you to go watch here] is probably one of the best music videos I've ever seen (although the bit with them in clown-ish face paint kind of freaks me out).  How did it come to be?

simon just made that in the tour bus when we were fucked on our way to a festival or something.  it's cool right? love the olsen twins. apparently one of them is a real party animal now. CALL ME

Who is your favourite Olsen twin?

that one i just talked about, Gis Olsen

What is your favourite retro dance move?


What would be your perfect pizza?

the pizza kebab. it's our invention. basically you get every kind of pizza, and then stack it up on a skewer and just shave bits off. 

I feel like I should probably ask you something about music - your album, 'Native to', is out on Kitsuné.  What can we expect from that?

lol. our album's basically a bit of a snapshot of where we've been up until now. it's quite diverse, but we spent a while getting the songs in the right order. all of the weird eccentricities from the demos, some happy mistakes, some in-jokes... alot of bass, generally a danceable ADD pop album made purely for the love of it. there's some song's people wouldn't have heard on there, as well as reworkings of our original set of demos. draw your own conclusions, answers on a postcard.

You released single 'The Greeks' as a free download - where do you stand on the whole "should people pay for music"/"mp3s vs. physical releases"/general-state-of-the-music-industry type thing? (...Pretend that makes sense, please).

err... the music industry is fine. people who complain about 'the state of the music industry' are the people who used to make a killing by exploiting music and it's fans... recent changes have made home-made recordings more viable, and have opened the way for anyone to try and create music. good stuff will always stand out, and truly great bands will always be supported by the people who are into them. music is made to be free. what you pay for is the object, the value comes from the love you have of it. if you don't really give a fuck about a band and wanna check out their music, download it. if you love it, buy a t-shirt or something. or tell your mates who have a bit of spare cash.

Any recommended listening?
have a listen to Becoming Real and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. and totally try and check out One Man Destruction Show - he doesn't have much stuff online, but if you email us we'll hook you up with some of his demos. they are brutal.

I just saw an interview with you where Dom said "if in 10 years time you’re still doing the same things you’re doing now it’s just not right. One should always be doing something different."  So outside of the band, what different things do you enjoy doing?

we all make art - we get involved with the band artwork and do some painting and stuff when we have days off... we also like skating really fast down hills and jumping over stuff in service station car parks. we make a mixtape every now and then with our mates' music and new stuff we've heard. umm, there's more but i can't remember. oh and we love getting all our girlfriends together and cooking them a nice meal. awww

Highlights of the band so far?
highlights have been going to tokyo and moscow; collaborating with billabong to make a limited edition run of t-shirts...; also making the album with jimmy robertson was a really important moment for us. all of these things have been like rites of passage which have brought us together and solidified our passion for making music

Thank you so much for your time!  Any final words while you've got our attention?  

simon - Peace
gary - Deep
dom - Enchilada


MP3: 'The Greeks' - IS TROPICAL

Many, many thanks to IS TROPICAL and Giovanna over at Sure Shot.  'Native to' is out this week on Kitsuné and you can buy it here, or if you're an MP3 kind of person, from iTunes.  You definitely need to give this music a listen if you're into raucous, sometimes-scuzzy sometimes-clean, electro-pop sounds which will woo you into trying out some of those retro dance moves.  Delectable listening.

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