Tuesday 13 September 2022

Ist Ist - Interview

Ahead of their debut European tour that starts later this week with sold out shows in Berlin, Amsterdam and two in Rotterdam as well as a return visit to headline Porto's Post Punk Strikes Back Again Festival, we caught up with Ist Ist for a chat about success at home and further afield, their Manchester headline show at The Ritz and other plans for 2023.

You’re about to embark on your first European tour with dates in Hamburg, Berlin, Groningen, Rotterdam and Amsterdam. How are the band feeling about that?

Predominantly excitement with a sprinkling of trepidation. We’ve been in rehearsals for well over a month so we’re not nervous about the performance aspect and ticket sales have been really good but it’s a big logistical operation so we’re just hoping everything goes to plan. I’m sure it’ll be alright on the night.

The first Rotterdam date sold out in seconds and the second one within a day. Amsterdam and Berlin have also sold out. How much of a surprise was that to you?

The promoter sent me a message on WhatsApp a few minutes after the tickets went live saying it had sold out. I just replied with a ‘lol’ because I thought he was joking. These European dates had gone on sale not long after those Oldham St shows so I thought it was taking the piss saying it had sold out as quick as those. He rang me and told me he was being serious and it had sold out within a minute and they wanted to announce another show. We thought maybe doing a venue upgrade was better but the promoter was confident the next one would sell out as well, which it did. 

You’re also heading back to Porto to headline the Post Punk Strikes Back Again Festival. The Portuguese seem to love you. What do you think makes them connect to you?

There seems to be a huge appetite for that alternative rock and post-punk scene and I’ve never been able to figure out what it’s all about, but it’s great. Record sales over there are decent, too. It’s an odd one because you look at another Mediterranean country like Spain and barring some big festivals there isn’t really much interest in our sort of music.

There’s been a lot in the news about the difficulties in bands travelling to Europe. You played some festivals over the summer in Belgium and the Netherlands. How was your experience?

It wasn’t really too bad and we didn’t have any issues as such but the whole thing is just arduous now after Brexit. We were well prepared, had all our documents for importing the gear sorted well in advance, but fucking hell it all just seems unnecessary, taking your backline to play a show and it being treated same as lorries hauling freight. There was a lot of waiting around but that was the worst of it. 

All this could have been avoided if there was something like a 30 or 60 day exemption agreed for artists. I don’t think we’ve actually seen the full impact of it yet either and over time more and more acts from outside the UK will stay away and UK acts will find touring elsewhere too costly. Bands without the funds just won’t be able to afford the carnets, travel and any extras such as needing an experienced tour manager to arrange it all.

Closer to home you’ve announced your biggest headline show to date at the Ritz on March 31st.Did that feel like the natural next step?

It had to be the Ritz really. After Academy 2 last December there wasn’t really anywhere else to go unless we went and did two nights somewhere smaller which wouldn’t be as much of a statement. Plus we’ve played a few support slots there and it’s nice to finally have our name at the top of bill there.

How were those shows with The Mission and The Chameleons?

Two of our favourite shows. The place was heaving both times and it was the right sort of crowd who got into our set and have become fans since. That’s exactly why getting the right sort of support slots is so important for bands on the way up. 

Your last tour saw you sell out the likes of Camden Monarch, Bristol Louisiana and Nottingham Bodega and your Hebden Bridge Trades show in November sold out months in advance. Does it feel like you’re establishing yourself across the UK now?

Yeah. We got a sense of that on the last two tours where we could go and play anywhere and know there’d be a good crowd there. That just takes time. It still surprises us though. I don’t think turning up miles away from home and people coming to watch you will ever get boring. London has always been kind to us and after the Shepherd’s Bush Empire show with The Mission we’ve already seen really good sales for this London show in November.

You’ve recently posted about completing album 3. That’s a very prolific work rate given The Art Of Lying is less than a year old. Are you constantly writing and recording?

Always. We write a lot of songs that don’t go anywhere but it’s still fun. Architecture was written over a long period of time and included some older songs, The Art of Lying was written throughout that 15 month gap of not playing shows and we made a start with the third album during that time too because there wasn’t much else to do. We finished album 3 after finishing touring last December before heading out again this April. We had a lot of demos but stopped writing to rehearse for tour and it was only when we listened to the demos in the bus that we realised how far along it was.

Writing the next record will be the interesting one because unless there are any major reoccurrences of Covid, which seems unlikely now, or some other unforeseen issue, we’ll have to write the next one during a full touring schedule.

Without giving too much away, are the new songs you’ve played live recently representative of the sound of the third album?

I think so. Are we ripping up the rule book? No. Have we progressed and honed certain elements of our sound? Yes. If anything it probably has more elements of our earlier sound than the first two albums did. There’s some tracks which are probably heavier than anything on our first two and that’s the sound of a band who are very comfortable in what we do and are letting loose more.

That’s being said, even this far in we’re still learning about ourselves as musicians, as people and how we work together. Ultimately there’s plenty in the new album for people who’ve followed us for a long time and there’s enough in there for people to get into us for the first time and know what we’re about as a band.

You recently had a top 20 vinyl album with your Live In Manchester double album. It’s a novel idea for a band at your level to release live records and clearly successful. What’s the thinking behind continually releasing these?

We’ve always seen ourselves as a live band and whilst our recorded output has come to represent us accurately over the years, we still think we’re at our best live, so want people to hear us in that environment. When we started doing the bootleg releases it was a way to raise funds for recording singles and then EPs, but our fans have come to enjoy them so much we just keep doing them. They’re also nice stop-gaps in between studio albums to keep active and there’s nothing to hide; we can do the business live so we’re confident releasing it.

You’ve had a top three indie chart album and top five indie and physical with Architecture, charted in the full charts with The Art Of Lying, sold out venues across Manchester and further afield. What’s next in the line of sight for Ist Ist?

It was only after the second album got to 87 in the charts that we mentioned getting into the top 100 was our aim all along. I think if we said what we were aiming for now it would put pressure on us and if we didn’t achieve that it might reflect badly on us. But we’re looking to chart again and on the live front we just want to keep growing the audience and giving the best version of ourselves every time we play.

Will you play Rats if you sell out The Ritz?


Photo credit - Trust A Fox

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter. Their albums including the Live In Manchester release can be ordered via their website. Digital versions of their previous limited edition releases and a number of live field recordings are available to download from their Bandcamp

Ist Ist play Hamburg Nochtspeicher (September 15), Berlin Schockolade (16), Groningen Vicefest (17), Rotterdam V11 (18), Amsterdam Melkweg (19), Rotterdam Rotown (20), Porto Hard Club Post Punk Strikes Back Again (24) and Manchester Ritz (March 31, 2023).


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