Fusing a classic post-punk sound with fierce lyrics and delivery, we chatted with the mighty IST IST ahead of their tour in March…
Hey guys, welcome back to The Bodega! It’s great to have you back, do you have many fond memories of past gigs here?
It’s good to be coming back. We’ve only played one show here, back in December 2021 but it was a sold out one and we loved it. Our album had got in the charts the day before and we were doing Wednesday to Saturday runs of dates for that tour and the Bodega date happened to be the Saturday, so after the chart success and it being the last date of the first run, it was a good blowout for us.
You’ve recently released a string of singles signalling the release of your forthcoming album. What was the writing process like for these tracks? Did it vary from the way you wrote tracks for ‘The Art Of Lying’ which was recorded over the lockdowns?
For the most part it was back to the traditional way; the four of us in a room playing music, but there were still a couple of tracks which started out remotely and were then brought into the room to be fleshed out. Or given ‘the treatment’ as we call it. You see a lot of artists saying that they hated doing things remotely during lockdowns but we’ve always had that dynamic where ideas are sketched down at home and sent on email and pinged around, it just so happened that during Covid that was the only way it could be done and it became tiresome and challenging. Our electronic tracks especially have always tended to be done away from the rehearsal room because of the nature of the songs, so nothing really changed there.
Where did the inspiration from the new record come from? There’s a lot of frustration behind tracks like ‘Stamp You Out…
We actually started writing it in mid-2021 and then picked up again in early 2022 after we’d finally got back out on tour, so looking back there was probably still a lot of pent-up frustrations with being relatively inactive throughout all the Covid stuff. As soon as we finished recording ‘The Art Of Lying’ we moved straight back into writing because there was still nothing else to do. It feels like our most energetic record yet and that’s probably because by the time we resumed writing we were back in the groove of playing live and were in that headspace.
What goes into tour preparation for you guys? There must be a lot of buzz about playing a hometown gig as the first stop, especially as it coincides with release day!
Lots and lots of excitement about that. We’ve played the Ritz four or five times before but it’s always been support slots. So we’re no longer the bridesmaid, we’re walking down the aisle in our own right. Preparation-wise, we start by picking a pool of songs that we’ll play on the tour, usually about 22 or 23, then just start playing through them all at rehearsal. Even when we’re writing we’ll still throw a set rehearsal in there every other week or so to keep going over the catalogue. For dates like the Ritz, we’ll decide the setlist way in advance, usually 4 or 5 weeks beforehand then we’ll start playing through that in order and just keep doing it and working on some of the transitions between tracks. When we’re on the road we tend to decide the set on the day in the bus to the venue. We’ll keep certain things in place, usually opener, closer and then there’s bunches of songs which sit well together, but it’s nice to mix things up, both for us and the crowd.
Have you had a chance to play some of the new tunes live and if so how has the reaction been to them? Do you feel that testing new material live is a good way to shape and improve songs?
We’ve actually played most of them live already, I think we’ve played eight of the ten tracks live and it might remain that way, the other two probably don’t lend themselves to being done live. The reaction has been great – sometimes new songs get a lukewarm reception in a set just because people aren’t familiar with them, but people seem to have latched on to these quickly which is encouraging. We started dropping a few in around the time of writing and recording because that’s what we’ve always done and it’s why the second album was a stab in the dark. We love to road test songs before recording, not so we can necessarily ditch songs if they don’t get a good reception, but so we can mess with them a bit, see what tempos work best and so on, so when you go into the studio you’re settled with them. We’ve found with the tracks from ‘The Art Of Lying’ that a lot have taken on new lives since they started being played live, just because they never had that live time prior to recording.
Enjoy the tour and we’ll see you soon! Before you go, what can we expect to see from Ist Ist over the next year?
Well we’ve got the UK tour dates, we’re off to Europe for ten shows then it’s summer, so hopefully a nice festival season then we’ll probably get out on the road again from September time. We want to take the ‘Protagonists’ album around to both familiar and new places as much as we can. See you soon!
IST IST play The Bodega on 15th April, with support from Young Decades. Tickets are on sale here.
Interview by Fin Heighton – Jupp