Photo Credit: Abbey Raymonde
Not even a minute into “Round” and immediately home videos with a sepia hue played in my head showcasing the valley of Los Angeles in the 1960s. Only, “Round” isn’t by a band that was alive then nor from California. Instead, Penelope Isles is a young four-piece band from Brighton that has spent a great deal of time on the road this summer. With a few festivals filling their time this month, they’ll get back into the full swing of things come August. In between then and now they’ll drop their debut, Until the Tide Creeps In on July 12. With the album out soon, we talked to them about family harmonies, conquering love, and more with their own Jack Wolter.
Kendra: Let’s start with Jack and Lily. My brother and I are the same distance apart as you two and well, there aren’t enough commonalities that would find us ever working together. Who was it weirder for when you two did realize that hey, they’re not so bad and perhaps we could be in a band…together?
Jack Wolter: We have always performed and shared a love for music from when we were really young. As soon as Lily was old enough to bang a drum in time I would use her for some kind of family after dinner show! Probably singing a Travis song or something! When I was 22 I moved back to the Isle of Man after living in Cornwall for a while and was itching to start a band rock band to play a bunch of songs I had written.
Lily had started writing songs and performing in bands whilst I had been away. It made perfect sense to teach her bass guitar. We practiced in our parent’s house and spent a lot of time obsessing over music. Pixies, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley. We formed a band called Your Gold Teeth and that’s when we really began seriously playing with each other. It was never weird having my 16-year-old sister in the band..but was weird when she would get kicked out of the venue after playing the set as she was too young to be there! We spent a few more years writing songs and eventually ended up in Brighton forming our own band Penelope Isles.
Kendra: How did rounding things out with Jack and Becky bring about the true essence of what you were trying to sonically accomplish with the band?
Jack Wolter: Before the band, we would write and record on our own in a bedroom studio. Performing all the instruments ourselves. Mainly plugging straight in and making things dynamic digitally and creating a certain sound within the computer. Kind of a scrappy lo-fi feel. You make dynamics in a different way when you have these limitations. Bringing songs to life and working on how to recreate the song as a band is a wonderful process. J Sow and Becky are an integral part of Penelope Isles and help bring the songs to life so we can perform them live. They are great players and are so important both musically and in terms of family. We all work really hard to make the songs sound the best they can.
Kendra: Let’s talk about the debut Until the Tide Creeps In. What were you most anxious about going into this? The writing, recording, people hearing the end result?
Jack Wolter: I think the main obstacle was at the beginning of the process of recording the songs. We had met an amazing producer called Dave Izumi that had just finished The Magic Number’s latest record. We started working with him in his amazing studio near Brighton. It was the first time any of us had worked in a real studio and we had a wonderful experience. The recordings sounded huge and sounded like nothing I could ever do in my bedroom!
But after a few sessions, I had a strong feeling within that I had to finish making these songs myself. The recording process is so exciting for me and it a very important part of the song as a whole. It didn’t feel right and I wasn’t ready to let somebody else produce something, especially when I knew exactly what I wanted. I would just like to add here how inspiring it was to spend time with such a great producer and this process of realization only made us a stronger band so thank you, Dave! I would love to work with other producers in the future but for these songs, I needed to do it myself. We met Simon from Bella Union around this time and he let us use his studio in Brighton. A year later we had a finished record and I’m so proud of what we made.
Kendra: You just dropped a new single for “Round.” What’s the story behind the handsome fellow on the beach in the clip?
Jack Wolter: That’s our Dad! We named the band after our Mum Penny, so it was only fair to have dad on the front cover! The picture was taken by Mum soon after they first met in Portugal. It’s a damn fine sandcastle right!?
Kendra: One of the best I’ve ever seen! Another song we’ve gotten to hear, “Chlorine,” focuses on love. Every artist will conquer this subject in their career, but who brought this emotion to the table for Until the Tide Creeps In?
Jack Wolter: A lot of the songs on the record are to do with love. I feel the whole album is the result of love in some shape or form from both mine and my sisters own experiences and situations. “Chlorine” is about a love that fell apart and a separation disguised by a summery nostalgic feel-good aesthetic. “Three” and “Round” are both reminiscing in the struggles and intensities within moments when in love. “Cut Your Hair” is less lyrically abstract in the way that it’s quite literal. But is still inspired by a love for wanting and needing to make music. “Leipzig” is one of my favorite songs on the record and is a simple love song. I’m not sure whether we have conquered the subject of love but its a motion and a feeling that forces you to feel and think in so many various directions. Love is all you need!
Kendra: I’m catching you right now between some touring. By June it looks like you’ll be out the rest of the summer. As someone who loves to travel, I’m envious but I’m also a bit of a hermit so I’d probably miss my couch within a week. How do you combat any homesick feelings when out for extended periods of time?
Jack Wolter: We have just started to get the odd hotel now and then when touring and most of the beds are way more comfy than my own so I’m happy and don’t miss much. I love the silence of a hotel room in the morning. I’ve always wanted to travel and never have done due to investing most of my time and money into music. So we are really enjoying visiting these new cities and countries! We’re only away for a few weeks at a time for now so it’s all good!
Kendra: Which cities are you planning on playing tourist a little more than usual if you have time?
Jack Wolter: There is talk of visiting Australia and New Zealand next year which would be huge! I hope we get to stop off and see some of Asia too. Places we have already been and can’t wait to go back is The Netherlands. Amsterdam is a wonderful city and the people there are so welcoming. There is a venue called Paradiso which is stunning. The backstage area opens up onto a hangout on the canal! We love Germany and love Europe in general. We are gonna be playing a lot of festivals there this summer. Slovakia, Norway, Copenhagen. But America has to be on top of the list!
Kendra: I’d ask what you have planned for the fall – but you’re still touring the UK and Europe. I can ask though, will 2020 have any US dates or still too soon to tell?
Jack Wolter: We have just confirmed a bunch of shows in America for October this year! We will be touring all up the East coast and then down all the West coast! We had the best time at SXSW in March and can’t wait to come back! We all fell in love with the States and can’t wait to see more of it. We are just finalizing a few bits over the next few weeks and will have more info really soon! But we are over for a few weeks so plenty of rock shows!