In conversation with Ember Island

Swedish trio Ember Island have gained popularity with their unique downtempo versions of popular tracks. Influenced by Sigur Ros and Bon Iver amongst others, dreamy vocals and shuffling composition collide to create a cosy atmosphere which manages to transcend both indie and dance. We spoke to the band about how they achieve their unique sound.

Bizarre Culture: How did the band form – what brought you together as a group of musicians?
Ember Island: Joacim and Didrik had known each other for a couple of years, since Didrik did some production work for Joacim’s  post-hardcore band. A year later we decided to start making music together just for fun. After the first session we felt that we had something really special going on, so decided to bring in Alex as the vocalist. It felt like the perfect fit. Even though we all come from different places and backgrounds, we’re at a point with Ember Island where we all contribute equally to the entire creative process.

BC: What are your influences, both as individuals and as a group?
EI: We draw inspiration from all sorts of music and are not afraid to do so. We want to create something new that can’t be pigeonholed. Some acts that really inspire us are Coldplay, Bon Iver, Sigur Rós and Björk, but the list goes on. We also get very inspired by other things than music – things that happen in our lives, stories people tells us, and sounds we hear around us.

We’re hoping that Ember Island will be more to our fans and listeners than just another band. The concept behind Ember Island is that it is a place where fantasies are the reality. We want people to see and feel the music that they’re listening to and feel like Ember Island is a community, a place where they can escape to when reality gets too real.

BC: You have performed both originals and covers – where do you see the balance between the two?
EI: These covers are a great way for us to express ourselves through something that’s already familiar to a large audience. We always try to listen to the songs from a ’Ember Island’ perspective. We try to figure out how we would have produced and performed the songs if we were the writers. First we break the song down to just melody, lyrics and chords, then we usually go from there, producing around that.

In deciding to cover a song, whether or not the song makes us feel something is extremely important. One of the most appealing things to us about music is the emotions it can evoke. We also try to find songs that we can relate to in some way, in terms of both lyrics and melody. There’s a whole new sort of challenge involved with giving new life to a familiar song. It’s been really fun, but in the future we see us doing more and more original work. We love writing our own songs, and ’Stay’ / ’Need You’ are only the beginning.

BC: Describe your creative process of writing and recording your own music.
EI: Our creative process is very collaborative and differs greatly for each song. We all have different strengths, but we’re lucky that those strengths compliment each other. A song can start from anything from a beat, a phone memo, a vocal line or a guitar riff. After that, we just continue to record things we feel fit the vibe of the song and experiment in the studio until we are all happy with it. We arrange and produce along with recording, and usually don’t have much decided before we enter the studio.

BC: What’s next for the band?
EI: Our EP is coming out in August! In the meantime we’re writing and recording more now than ever before. This summer is about providing even more visuals and artwork to go along with our music.

Listen to the band’s latest release, a cover of band member Didrick’s solo single Smoke, above. Check out Ember Island on SoundCloud here.