Interview: "Of Blood and Star" - ISYLA
Your new song "Of Blood and Star" evokes chills with haunting, melodic vocals. What's the meaning behind this song?
ISYLA: As we moved into creating our second collection of songs Amy tried hard to channel Lizzie's spiritually driven perspective into lyric themes. In one sense this song is a dance between the two of us. Lizzie is hugely rooted in her soul but Amy can be much more head in the clouds. It's also a love song that reflects upon our human need to rely on each other for comfort, strength and rootedness. Humans are made to be a team. When we look at what is happening to our beautiful home we can see what becomes of us if we try to operate on a 'I'll do me and you do you' basis. We are all connected when we share the same sky.
What is the meaning and story behind the name "ISYLA"?
ISYLA: It's just a pretty word! It sounded soft and feminine to us. Though we did later realise it was a combination of 'Isla', which was Amy's name for the first few hours of her life before her parents did a switch up for a name that was vastly easier to spell) and the iz of Lizzie!
From your website, I understand your project aims to raise awareness about climate change. How have you seen that goal realized in the last few years? What kind of plans do you have to continue with this mission?
ISLYA: Pretty hard to measure, we would say! We started as artists from a total standing still. Gaining attention is a slow burn. We feel pleased to have got to a point where the music is being heard and enjoyed. We stand by the hope that brought us into being that music is a great way in to the issues as it reaches out in such an emotionally appealing way, Artist Es Devlin says 'The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.' It's got to be, frankly, sexy, to be fighting for people and planet. Or at least this is one way in which people can be mobilised to engage. We absolutely have plans to continue. It kinda feels like we are just getting started as it has taken time for us to get to know each other and where the sweet spot musically between us lies. The next collection will have much more of Lizzie's soulful, ethereal influence, which is very exciting for us both.
How do you navigate the generational gap between the two of you? How do you see your age gap represented in your listeners?
ISYLA: It has proved to be surprisingly powerful to be able to take ideas and channel them through the lens of two people and two generations. We can't really explain it, but in terms of our bond. there has not been any navigation needed as the 21 years between us fell away over our first coffee together. There's a bit of mothering goes on but it's on both sides as is natural in a friendship.
Our listeners span our ages. I think Of Blood and Star has a heavy dose of alt pop and folk influences from across the 60s though to the 90's so will certainly be enjoyed by those who enjoyed them on the first go round. But we hope Lizzie's soft, folkier vocal, fused with a more pop-rooted sound and contemporary, soundscape elements make for a new combination that will appeal to a young audience as well.
How do you two go about collaborating on and creating new projects?
ISYLA: Of Blood and Star was a more fractured process than we would have liked. With so many new music and industry skills to master and a pandemic raging, collaborative opportunities were squeezed. However, over the last few months we have started on new material, been much braver and tried out various ways to share the creative process, from passing snippets and ideas between us and more recently improvising together at the piano or guitar. It's about taking risks and leaps of faith, letting go of the control we are both used to and also feeling able to be honest. We know that either of us can say, nope that's not for me/for ISYLA without injury. We don't align neatly in our musical tastes with Lizzie gravitating towards vibier, darker beats and layered harmonies and Amy searching for a more structured, hook-driven ride, but we think this works for us as we are always stretching out into the magical space between us where we can both get really excited by something.
If you weren't musicians, what do you think you would be doing?
ISYLA: Lizzie's art extends into lots of other areas including fire spinning and make up. Amy knows the answer as she had 20 wilderness years away from music! Something else badly is the proven answer! We both love visual media and our brains don't do well at very structured, repetitive tasks. So for both of us the answer is probably something else creative that is always evolving.
Interviewed By Hannah Conkin