Island Mint became a band almost three years ago and the sound has changed with each release. How would you characterize this trajectory, what motivates the changes?
It started with a very psychedelic, guitar-oriented sound, a sort of psych-rock inspired by the Australian music scene on the Island Mint EP. The Irreality album shifted this into a more songwriterly approach, I think the sound is softer. There’s a lot of soft sounds and ear candies. The EP is more raw, the individual elements sound more raw, and everything doesn’t fit together so perfectly, the surface is rougher somehow. This I think is quite correlated to the things I’m experiencing in my life – not just the particulars, but a general state of mind. Most of the time, when I finish something, it comes out with a delay, and its energy is no longer as present in my life, but it’s a recording of an inner experience. In the context of our new music, there definitely is an influence of Berlin, because it obviously felt like a world of new opportunities, but it also was a huge test and not exactly painless. For example in terms of accommodation, I lived in four different apartments in the span of a few months; it’s really hard to find a place to stay, and just things like these. They get under your skin and influence your state of mind, how you approach the world, and what moods you are in in the longer term, so this definitely is in the music as well. I basically create what in the moment captures the essence of what I’m feeling. If it works in the moment, I enjoy doing it.
You say Berlin inspired you musically. You will be soon going to Australia for several months – what do you expect from the trip in this regard? And what will you be even doing there?
I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, and in a way it is a return to my roots, because the Australian music scene greatly influenced me when I started writing music. I think I’ve always had a kind of idealized vision of Australia in my head, seeing it as this essence of wilderness, the ocean, a relaxed lifestyle, and a connection to nature, and we’ll see if these expectations will be fulfilled or not. Besides, I now finally have the opportunity to just go, so I’m going. Since it’s really far and it’s expensive to get there, I’m not bringing any instruments with me and probably won’t bring much other music-making gear with me either. I won’t even bring a guitar, and while I might try to get my hands on one, I see it as a challenge to be forced to use very minimal means if I feel like making music. I’m also really curious to see how the time I will be spending there will influence me on the inside, and I don’t really know what to expect in this regard.
Great that you mention music-making. Can you talk us through the process, starting with finding an idea for a song and how it develops into one that is released and played live?
I feel that it’s changed a bit in recent times because I’ve been doing it a lot, studied audio production, and did it every day quite intensively for a longer period of time, so I stopped overthinking it so much. I’m now capable of doing it more like a craft, which also involves not identifying with the music as much. It doesn’t feel like “I am the music” any more, but that I’m just writing songs. I used to think there was only one correct way of finishing a track, that it had to 100% resonate with me when finished. I have accepted that I don’t have control at all times either way, I’m more fine with that, and it’s all a lot more sustainable, including for my mental state. In the beginning, I would sit down with a guitar and just keep playing the things I was working on again and again and plan what would follow, throwing a lot of stuff out because it didn’t feel good enough. In contrast, I made the demo for Insomnia Town in one day, and obviously it was clumsy, too raw, and didn’t sound too good, but that got fixed during actual production. I think that I now spend much more time producing songs than composing them, which is a big change to how I used to make music in the past. I think you can take really any idea and make it interesting – no motif or harmony are boring.
The journey with this band and music covers my personal growth into some kind of maturity. In the beginning, I was doing it just so that it would exist, that I could enjoy that it simply is, and Irreality does feel like being clamped up in a shell, creating a world of your own.
Talking about Irreality, the album was connected to snails and the surreal, but from what you mentioned it is clear the new EP has a different sound and visual language. Could you talk about how these aesthetics are changing on All Studium No Punctum? Does it have a new face, a “mascot”?
Irreality was really about the bizarre, trying to make something weird, and a snail is a creature of nature that just seems really weird (laughs). I was always fascinated by how when something is “weird”, you don’t know if it’s good or bad, it’s just weird, it’s this kind of third essence. But it also felt quite fabricated somehow, and now I feel like I’m trying to intentionally reveal things instead, especially in the lyrics. I sing about things that are really understandable on some level, but they are also really intimate to me and aren’t necessarily something I would discuss with someone I don’t know well, for example. I find something really liberating in this process of revealing.
In terms of a mascot or symbol, I have a really strong, vivid visual in my head for the song “Flesh, Blood and Rust” which could perhaps be used for a music video. It’s full of blood, it’s a horror, where you go to hospital for surgery but the surgeon is your ex-girlfriend who broke up with you and she cuts up your chest and pulls out your heart, and blood is splashing everywhere (laughs).
SWARM MAG’s current theme is “Seed of Peace”, focusing on the psychedelic, whimsical, and dreamy. Island Mint often is often characterized by similar words, but do you personally understand it through any different optics which may not be obvious at first glance, especially in the context of the new EP?
It was important for me to realize that people perceive Irreality as a peaceful album with no sharp edges, because although it is pretty, I sometimes felt as if it sounded a little too pretty, kind of too good to be real. To me, the songs always had a hint of leading the listener astray, like a make-believe world that can become toxic if you stay in it for too long. As if there was a snake there, singing these songs. I was always aware of the music’s escapism, but specifically in the song Irreality, it’s like there’s someone trying to make you follow them to a place where maybe you shouldn’t be going. Like a guilty pleasure of sorts, where you’re enjoying yourself, but you know that whoever is telling you these things is manipulating you, like a slimy snake that doesn’t have good intentions with you. This plays a big role in the songs for me, but I get the feeling that most people don’t feel about them the same way.
In general, I think the songs contain an element of pain. The lyrics to Music of the Spheres for example do have a generally positive message, but start off with the story of a girl so sad that listening to music doesn’t make her happy, but cry. I think that in today’s conditions it’s hard to convey this, because if you make the sound and harmony pleasant, most people won’t dig too deep to find the sharper edges if they don’t hear them in it at first. But I’m sure some people still read the lyrics in the booklets.
And finally, what are some bands that you currently listen to? How do you find new music, and what would you recommend to our readers? It can be anything.
This one’s tough. I listened to a lot of music in Berlin, for example to Burial, but since I’ve returned I’ll usually just listen to Discover Weekly or things my friends recommend to me, but it rarely sticks with me. I focus more on the production or stand-out elements, but it doesn’t stay with me as long anymore. I feel that the more I make music, I have less space to absorb other people’s music in my life. And when I do, I have a lot less capacity to take it in, which I’m not super happy about. When I was in London I listened to music all the time and discovered a lot of great stuff, but I’m kind of struggling to find new music when staying in Prague; it feels like a lot more effort to stay up to date because I have so many social stimuli. I think spending time alone helps me really get lost in music.
I’ve been really fascinated by this artist’s production style. J Lloyd is a part of the band Jungle and also has his own lo-fi project:
J Lloyd – Kosmos
I really love this artist, she has the best production and mixes, both on this song and her albums:
Lianne La Havas – Green and Gold
And I listened to this album in Berlin a lot, it’s kind of vaporwave, but I feel that it should be here, it’s so great and tripped out (laughs):
ESPRIT 空想 – 200% Electronica