Interview: Is Tropical

Is Tropical - Photo courtesy of Is Tropical

Is Tropical - Photo courtesy of Is Tropical

Is Tropical is a band shrouded in a partial-obscurity. With a name that doesn’t quite make sense and a membership that performs with hidden faces, the band evokes a certain sense of mystery in its live show. But in reality, the three (Gary Barber, Simon Milner and Dominic Apa) are as accessible and down-to-earth as band members come; the members of Is Tropical love to skateboard, crack jokes, and sing along to Katy Perry songs.

“Native To” – the band’s first album – was released in August on Kitsuné, something which the band is excited about, after previously subsisting on the release of singles. Although the three have played Berlin in the past, the Is Tropical show this past November was a variation on shows in the past, with the group finally having “Native To” backing it.

“It’s nice that they’re anticipating a bit of something,” Barber said of playing songs for a crowd that knows the music. “[Whereas] beforehand, you know, you kind of play and [the] audience doesn’t really know anything about you, and you’re trying to win them over.”

While much of the press has extolled the contagious synth and pulsing beats of Is Tropical’s electro new rave sound, an equal amount has criticized the trio for being both too hip and too dispensable, a label which the band is trying hard to shake.

With the debut finally out, it’s the follow-up more than anything else that will help decide what becomes of the band. And under pressure to prove they’re more than a gimmick, the three have opted not to try and do something edgy and totally unexpected, but to instead continue straight ahead with the sound they feel defines Is Tropical.

“I don’t think we’re going to intentionally change anything just for the sake of changing it, because I think that is quite contrived,” Barber said.

He did reference that the songs undergo some kind of maturation between the first stroke of inspiration and the end product, but that’s hardly thought through. Instead, at some point between demos of the songs and the actual recording of an album, the music finds its own voice.

“Stylistically, your songwriting changes over time anyway, so it’s just going to be a natural kind of progression,” he said, referencing where the Is Tropical sound likely will go next.

At the same time, the three have paid attention to the notion of keeping on with a particular sound but experimenting with the approach to it.

“We’re definitely thinking more about the consideration toward, like production and stuff,” Milner said. “You know that’s something that’s ever-evolving. Because if you limit yourself to certain sounds that you’ve already had and found, then it’s gonna sound very the same, and we don’t want that.”

Admittedly, the tangible product is important to all three members, but Milner also shared that Is Tropical prides itself on playing shows.

“The live side, I think, is where our songs come through, personally,” he said.

In large part, this is because he acknowledged that the songs undergo transformation between the time they’re recorded and a year later, when they’re performed for an audience. He said this is due to the band adjusting and changing songs to make them suitable for the live format, and also keeping in mind that having several versions of one song is not necessarily a bad thing – nor is it untrue to the original version.

Another area the band has become involved in is remixing, having done remixes for Crystal Fighters, Age of Consent and Two Door Cinema Club, among others. This too is a way of experimenting with the interchangeable structure and integrity of a piece of music.

“It’s quite interesting to record a song in more than one way,” Barber elaborated. “A good song should hold up no matter how it’s played.”

Check out the video for Is Tropical’s newest single, “Lies”

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