Friday, 15 April 2011

Interview: Is Tropical

I’m not sure London has ever witnessed a band that divides opinion quite as much as dance-punkers Is Tropical. As famous for their mask-wearing and their insistence on standing with their backs to the audience as they are for their blissed out, synth-driven jams, as far as we can tell, you can either dig on their mysterious lo-fi vibes, or think they’re aloof, pretentious dicks. There really is no middle ground.

They've been knocking around the back streets of East London for quite a while now, but the world finally decided it was ready for Is Tropical back in early 2010 with the release of their debut single ‘When O’ When’ / 'Seasick Mutiny' on Hit Club Records. Spending the summer on tour with Mystery Jets, Klaxons, and The Big Pink, the band left a trail of confused-looking indie kids all over the country, and aroused the interest of legendary French indie label Kitsuné, who released the band's second single late last year.

Just as they're poised to play the massive Kitsuné meets Ponystep party over at Heaven this April, I talk to them about Justin Bieber, pounding fists and how they need to invest in some nit combs…

You seem to be having loads of fun doing what you're doing. Why are other bands so bloody miserable all the time?

We found a prescription book about two months ago so we're blithely working our way through that. But really, how could you not have fun travelling around and seeing your mates and being drunk in airports? It's impossible.

What's the best thing you've done lately?

A photo shoot with our mate Tom Beard. We got detained and nearly arrested by travel cops, but ended up getting out of trouble 'cos Tom did some wicked yo-yo tricks. Oh, and on the way home we decided to baptise each other in the Thames.

Once and for all – why the masks? 

Because being in a band isn't about making a series of lifestyle choices or statements. It's about making music and trying to play it live without your work being overshadowed by what trousers you're wearing.

Don't your management get all angry and pound the tables about the fact you still insist on covering your faces? Nowadays bands are supposed to be completely accessible at all times. You know, on Twitter and all that – telling us what they had for breakfast, or what the last sandwich they bought was.

Sometimes I Skype our manager and send him an animated gif of his own fist being pounded on the table. It seems to keep the wolf from the door.

What did you have for breakfast? What was the last sandwich you bought?

Alien head bong hit. Cheese and pickle.

You've previously squatted in places like the Toilet Factory. Are you guys more rooted now?

Yeah. Stoke Newington is the HQ, but it's like a permanent hotel. All of our mates come and stay on the floor for months on end because we figured out a way to get hot water. Even the rent game is a dangerous and exciting lifestyle, you know.

You guys are playing the Kitsuné Maison party on the 24th April. Who from the label should we be checking out right now? Or who are you looking forward to playing alongside?

Yelle are great. You should check out the new band The 23, too. I heard they’re quite good.

What else have you got coming up? Are you playing any festivals?

Our summer is currently being mapped out, but I’m sure we'll be out and about. So far all that's confirmed are some European ones that I can't spell.

You've previously said you think that this is currently a great time for pop music – would you see yourselves as fitting into a pop-style mentality or do you see yourselves as more subversive?

Pop music is the most subversive of all. People can rip the shit out of it all day and still, it keeps on creeping on, annexing and absorbing, relentlessly progressing in the face of what seems to be the cannibalisation of all that is culturally holy.

In that case is Justin Bieber our generation's Sid Vicious?

Justin Bieber is our generation's Bobby Vinton.

Finally, have you ever caught a tropical disease?

There was a time last year when we all gave each other head lice every two weeks.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Erotic porcelain, anyone?

Think, if you will, of porcelain. You’re probably picturing your nan’s mantlepiece, creaking under the weight of those disgusting clowns you’re hoping to duck come will reading time. You’re probably not picturing hooded youths beating a man to death, Snow White looking on shyly at Bashful’s hard on, or Humpty Dumpty getting his brains scrambled by the riot police. But then you’re probably not experimental porcelain artist Barnaby Barford (if you are then sorry)

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art back in 2002, Barford has been modifying a mixture of new and antique porcelain to create sculptures that make us reassess the nature of commemorative figurines. In his hands, a 19th century peasant boy becomes a 20th century teenage thug in a hoodie, and rustic maidens dancing on a bed of roses start brandishing guns.

Porcelain is no longer saved for best, but becomes an everyday tool in the artist’s cannon, something that can help them make a political or social point, or simply tell a tell of unrequited love. His 2008 series of works, which was filmed by Channel 4 for a short film, was entitled ‘Damaged Goods’. In it two porcelain figures, divided by class and separated by a shelf, try to find love in a bric-a brac store. Bless.