Penelope Isles released their rather charming debut album Until the Tide Creeps through Bella Union last Friday. Formed around the chemistry between siblings and dual songwriters Jack and Lily their sound is ripe with woozy rhythms, zippy hooks, and wistful sun-kissed melodies that stick on your head. Until the Tide Creeps In is an album deepened by their shared experience, informed by moving away, growing up and reconnecting. We sent Jack some questions, in an attempt to get to know them better.
Hi, how are you today? How does the band dynamic work being in a band with your brother/sister?
Haahaa Oasis just came on on the speakers in the cafe I’m in! Maybe its a sign that its all gonna go tits up being in a band with my sister! Nah, I wouldn’t change a thing and feel real luck how close we are and how we get to travel the world together. We share very similar interests and are best mates. Its pretty sound looking over at her shredding on the bass every night. We rarely argue and she is pretty sound when I’m having a stressful time or having a meltdown about whatever. She kinda keeps the team afloat!
What was the first song you ever wrote? What was it like?
The first song I ever wrote that I thought was any good was a song called ‘Imposable’. The lyrics made into the school end of year newsletter which I was pretty chuffed about. But the first songs I wrote were a bunch of love songs for a girl I fancied at school. I made her a CD and gave her them with a love letter. They were terrible.
What was the first thing you released?
Some old mates and I had a band at school called On A Friday when we were 15/16. People would come up to us and be like..’ Are you a Radiohead tribute band then?!’ We didn’t know Radiohead at the time and obviously didn’t know that they used to be called On a Friday! That’s actually how I found out about Radiohead, who would later become a massive influence on my music. We made a 3 track EP in a little studio in the north of the Isle Of Man and burnt a bunch of CD’s and sold them to friends. That’s the first time I ever shared anything and was the first time recording too. The songs were called “No Marks” , “Ain’t The Same” and “Conscience” . It’s funny thinking back and how little idea of anything we had then! But I think the excitement of it all is still exactly the same.
How did you end up on Bella Union and what are your favorite Bella Union bands?
We played a show supporting Pom Poko a while back and I heard that Simon from BU was coming along. When we finished playing I walked downstairs, only to see Simon arriving! He missed us but had come to see Pom Poko, who he later signed. A few months later we played our first sold-out headliner with Porridge Radio at The Latest Music Bar in Brighton. The crowd was a big one and I saw Simon was there so had a good feeling about it. After the show, I had that weird feeling I sometimes get after a great show. Like something just happened. We went for breakfast with Simon the next morning and have been hanging out ever since! It’s a real pinch your self moment most of the time being a part of Bella Union. Working with Simon and the crew is inspiring on a daily basis and is a really productive headspace to be in. My favs on the label are Pom Poko, Jambani, Lowly and Beach House.
What’s the music scene like back home?
We played a show on the Isle of Man for the first time since we left a few weeks ago. It felt good to be back! The Manx music scene was a really important part of my youth. Loads of pubs to play gigs and bands of all genres, live music photographers, music lovers and loads of good times. It seemed like a really exciting at the time then. I was speaking to a friend who is very involved with the arts and creative projects on the Island and she said that the scene was picking up again. Like any small place, the scene fluctuates a lot. Venues close down, people leave town. There’s not always enough happening to maintain a regular music scene! It’s important to support your local bands and venues ya’ll.
How would you describe your music in five words? Which artists do you admire?
Fuzzy, atmospherical, bifocal, colourful and dynamic. I love Jonny Greenwood’s guitar work and general concepts within modern music.. Same with Russell Lissack (Bloc Party), John Frusciante and Romeo Stoddart (The Magic Numbers). The Magic Numbers have been a big influence on us for songwriting over the years as well as a band called The Thrills. I’m really into Aldous Harding at the moment. Deerhunter made a big impact on the way I listen to and make music.
I get a really strong melodic sensibility from songs like ‘Round’ are you big fans of a hook?
Yea for sure. I don’t think it’s always necessarily important to have a hook but yea love a good earworm.
What would be your dream collaboration?
The thought of a collaboration with any of my favourite musicians leaves me feeling anxious to the bone!! But I would love to produce a record for Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene. I would love to write with Adrianne Lenker, Romeo Stoddart or John Martyn and would love to jam with Jonny Greenwood or John Frusciante.
What are your views on sexism in the music industry?
I haven’t really experienced it to be honest. We are 50/50 gender split in our band and I’ve never noticed any kind of discrimination towards the girls or to the boys. Maybe that’s because it’s not as common now? We work with loads of people in production, runners, label people, promoters, agents and musicians everyday and I wouldn’t think twice if they were male or female.
Can you tell us about your debut album?
It’s absolutely ace and you should all buy a copy!! Haha! Nah, it’s a record we are all really proud of and feel it’s a collection of songs that sums up where we have got to in the last few years. It’s homemade and made to the best of our ability. We wanted to keep the lo-fi aesthetic, as well as it sounding full and colourful and dynamic. It was important that it was the best I could make it. I produced the record at Bella Studios in Brighton and co-mixed it with Iggy B at Strongroom Studios, London. Lily and I play most of the instruments on the record but J Sow and Becky were heavily involved with the performance side of things too.
You say its about moving and leaving home and transitions, were the songs written as a document of these experiences?
Yea over these times the songs gradually appeared. All the songs were written over the last five years of finding our feet as youngsters. I’m 29 now so feel as though I’ve lived certain situations, relationships, locations, pressures, lessons and moments. It never feels like documenting until you actually go to record the song. I think the writing process is a way of processing these moments in life. A way of getting your head around the love or the sad or whatever it is!
You produced the album yourself, was it a learning curve?
Always! I used everything I have learnt over the years to make this album and felt it was the right time to make a ‘proper’ full length LP! By that, I mean through a label! I really refrained from cutting any corners and wanted it to be the best that I could make. I learnt a huge amount whilst mixing the album with Iggy B. We instantly began bouncing ideas off each other and I loved finishing making the album with him. The wonderful thing about music is you’ll always continue to learn as long as you love what your doing. I’m more excited about producing music than I’ve ever been.
What’s the best act you have played with so far? What new artists do you dig?
We went on tour with a German/French band called Lingua Nada a while back. Amazing live shows and the record they were touring was constantly on in our van in between shows! The Twilight Sad blew us away at Pointu Festival in France the other day. Pom Poko rule live as well as Lowly. Listen to Michael Clark, CIEL, The Golden Dregs, Hannah Cohen and Lowly.
Are you playing any shows/festivals this summer?
Mon 15th July – Rough Trade Nottingham – UK
Tue 16th July – Pie and Vinyl Portsmouth – UK
Wed 17th July – Resident Records Brighton – UK
Tue 23rd July – Rough Trade East London – UK
Fri 26th July – Deershed Festival – UK
Sat 27th July – ILMIO Festival – Finland
Sun 28th July – Kendal calling – UK
Thu 8th August – OYA Festival – Norway
Sun 11th August – Boardmasters Festival – UK
Fri 16th August – Greenman Festival – UK
Sat 17th August – Pukklepop Festival – Belgium
Tue 27th August – Perfect Sounds Festival – Norway
Then a load more shows of our own to finish the year!