Costa, Idra and Ema. Three kids in their twenties bursting with energy and passion, eager to make music without compromises, to stay true to themselves and nothing else.
I’m here sitting on a dune on the island of Fuerteventura with Costa - singer, songwriter and bass player of the newly-born Italian band Isla. Their genre can be described as indie/alternative pop and their first single, “D e m o 0 1”, was released just now, on the 5th of February. A new song will be released every month from now on and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
But let’s hear from one of them personally.
Isla is the desire to bring our listeners on a journey to our desert island, to share our loneliness, so that in a way we can all feel less alone.
First and foremost, can you tell our readers why you picked Isla as your stage name? Who suggested it?
Well, it is really tough to trace back the origin of a name. I might be wrong, but I believe it was Ema the one who came up with it. As I recall, we were all sitting at McDonald’s, straight out of the studio, when he blurred it out. But then again, a name is just a name - what matters the most is the concept behind it, and the concept has always been there, among the three of us. So, what is Isla?
Isla is “la isla”, an island of solitude, our island of solitude. More specifically, Isla is the desire to bring our listeners on a journey to our desert island, to share our loneliness, so that in a way we can all feel less alone. I like to call it a window into our madness.
Our lonely Isla is made of beautiful rocky shores, glassy waves and a landfill of plastic and fishing nets on the east side, brought in by the current and the tropical winds. And as the world revolves around the sun, when the evening sets on the west side, the sky bleeds all the lights out and the stars rise up from the horizon, you almost get shivers.
How does your new sound differ from the music you previously made?
In the desire to be dirty.
We have all been previously playing in some other band and I think it is safe to say that all of those projects shared a common feature: being kitsch, which means ignoring the “dirt”, playing by the rules. With Isla it’s the exact opposite. We worship the dirt, as broadly as the concept can be defined.
We praise everything that is wrong, but nonetheless human. So, if in one of our songs we mention a bomb exploding in Beirut as nothing but an opportunity to talk about something in the evening, well that would be considered such a bad thing to say. An entire city got destroyed, tons of people died, but in a way it is true: for us in Milan that bomb was nothing more than a newspaper article to talk about at night over a beer. And it is pretty sad, but true. Dirty and true.
Tell us a story about you three.
Well, the way we met is a pretty cool story. This is how it happened: Adri and I were in a band and we were playing around the clock in Milan’s main squares. You could say that watching us was great fun - Adri bled his fingers out on the guitar each and every time the funky jam started and I destroyed tons of strings slapping the bass on the groove and sweating. There were always many people in the circle around us, but only a few were affectionate fans. Among those, there was this weird guy wearing a Mexican poncho. We thought he was a Colombian shaman or maybe a kind of spirit from the Pleistocene. And that was it, for us he remained the spirit from the Pleistocene with shaman clothes for a couple of months.
Then, one day we were at a festival – the Nameless Music Festival - and there he was, the shaman jumping on stage in the same poncho and playing the drums like a mystical creature.
Some friends got us backstage, we met him and on the very same day we went into the studio and recorded our first song.
Music has to be live! It has to! Music is sweat, sound and screams. Music is groove and dance, dance, dance. Music is ancestral, it is the heartbeat, it is flash and fury.
How are you guys coping with the current situation, being that the musical industry worldwide took a huge hit?
It’s been tough. Not financially - we don’t usually make a lot of money out of concerts - but emotionally. For us, music has to be played live. There is no way around that. Yes, you can lock yourself in a recording studio until you produce every single noise that crosses your mind, but in the long run that is unbearable: either you go crazy or you get extremely lonely - and isn’t it the same thing?
Music has to be live! It has to! Music is sweat, sound and screams. Music is groove and dance, dance, dance. Music is ancestral, it is the heartbeat, it is flash and fury. And you cannot get all of that through your airpods.
Now tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Costa? And does he have any tricks up his sleeves for us when it comes to writing songs?
I am not the best person to describe myself. Who I am usually depends on how many cups of coffee I had.
When it comes to tricks, I would say that the most simple and underrated trick to write songs is to give it time. Most people going through their first lyrics have this romantic cliché of the crazy drunk songwriter who pours his poor aching heart on a piece of paper. That’s bullshit. Of course there are inspired moments, when words come out on their own and heal all that has to be healed, but those are exceptional moments. Most of the time, writing a song means sketching it, sleeping on it, erasing it and sketching it again.
Another essential trick is: don’t make it about you. As strange as it may sound, don’t write about yourself. Just write. It is going to be about you anyway. Instead of deciding that you want to talk about a heartbreaking relationship, for instance, let the song decide what it wants to talk about. Don’t get your brain too involved in songwriting. Just grab a guitar, close your eyes and let the words flow out - they will take you to places you didn’t know existed. Explore your Isla with no map.
First time live with @dareclan
What is the verse you are most proud of so far? The one that describes you best? And the one you wish you wrote?
I hate all my verses. Especially the ones I have already published. They really suck. I like to call it the musician bias - or more generally, the creator bias: within the time span of two full moons, you are going to hate everything you created.
The verse that best describes me wasn’t written by me, but from the Arctic Monkeys: “Dancing in my underpants, I am gonna run for government, I am gonna form a covers band and all”.
“I just want to love you in my own language”. I wish I wrote that. But I am happy I didn’t, so I can hear it without the musician bias and get emotional with it.
Dare Clan is based on the concept that all creatives should be able to express themselves freely, completely, no filters needed. Since you like to call your music “a window into our madness”, what does it mean to dare in music to you? To feel free to show your true colors?
One night we were producing in our home studio and we got really tired, so Ema and I went to make some coffee. Adri remained in front of the screen searching for a synth sound. I guess that at a certain point he fell asleep on the synth keys.
Of course he woke up immediately: he had his headphones on and the synth scream spoiled his dreams. When we came back with coffee, what was left was a nonsense synth sound, out of key, out of beat and out of mood. But instead of erasing it, we kept it. This is what daring means to me. Showing the ugly truth. If something is true, real, raw, it has to stay.
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Isla & Elisa Hassert