Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interview: The Island of Misfit Toys

Posted by Conor O' Hagan

Dads were at the top of the conversation topics when I talked with Anthony, Evan, Jonathan and Julia from The Island of Misfit Toys in the lead up to their Beat Kitchen show this Sunday, April 10th (all ages, $10, 6:30 p.m. Also with Yukon Blonde and Waterhouse). They met with me to put their feet up, play with the cats and talk not only about their dads, but also about their debut album Bear Hair and their place in Chicago’s music scene.

WCR: I’m excited for Sunday. Tell me about the show.

Anthony: Yeah, it’s coming up soon. It’s freaking me out. It’s going to be amazing 'cause the first band, Waterhouse…we’ve played with three times. They’re a seven piece -

Jonathan: Monster.

Anthony: Musical monster. Everything they do is so captivating. 

Julia: They’re so tight.

Anthony: It’s like math, jazz, soul, pop. They’re one of the best bands we’ve ever played with. They’re our buddies. And Yukon Blonde, from Canada, they’re actually popular. And it’s the Beat Kitchen and an all ages show. There’s probably going to be a lot of people there. We’re excited. You know when you’re dancing around and you can’t help but bump into somebody? That’s the best. It’s going to be outrageous.

You guys have eight people in the band. How does that work?

Julia:  Surprisingly well.

Anthony: There is no substitute for having the full lineup. I’ve made it so that I don’t have to play anything and I can just dance. It’s funny you say that because there’s a guy who’s doing our music video - he’s great, he knows what he’s doing - he admired the fact that we could get together. He asked how we do it, thinking we were organized. Everything’s operating on a shoestring, in a makeshift, circumstantial manner, but it’s the best. I stress out a ton, but when everything gets together it makes it a lot more satisfying.

And what about with the writing? You can tell there are a lot of different influences behind your music.

Anthony: I primarily write the IOMT songs. It started out as me on a four-track. I was proud of it, but it sounded claustrophobic. You can tell it’s me doing everything on those recordings. Then it started out as a favor, to have this live band. But then it transformed into something else. It’s got to the point where I was teaching people the parts, but they’d take them away and do something totally different to them. Julia, your guitar part for "Mature" is totally different. My original part wasn’t even on guitar, it was on piano.

Julia: Oh, sorry.

Anthony: No, that’s my point. Everyone took their parts and did something different. Evan is actually a drummer, so he took the drumming parts and they added loads more to it, and I realized that’s how bands should be. The way I see it is I write the platform or the idea, and then everyone else writes the song as people would want to hear it.

As for personal influences, I love everything Phish has ever done


No, wait, please don’t write that. Seriously, my favorite band of all time is Radiohead.

Jonathan: I’m pretty sure you can put that down for all of us. 

Anthony: But the problem is the band doesn’t sound like Radiohead at all.

Julia: We respect them too much to try to sound like them.

Evan: We have a wide range of influences and favorites. I like Sufjan Stevens and Anathallo, but also stuff like Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Jonathan: Or Tool, or Mars Volta.

Julia: Or Streetlight Manifesto, the best ska band of all time. They do an amazing cover of "Such Great Heights."

Jonathan: And it’s really good songwriting.

Julia: The Beatles. "Octopus’s Garden" is my favourite song. And Muse.

Anthony: The Used? I thought you said The Used.

Julia: No. Not The Used. Never The Used.

Do you feel like you’re involved in a Chicago music scene? And how does that impact on the band?

Anthony: Chicago’s music scene isn’t at those venues. We’ve found the most accepting communities to be outside of Chicago. They treat you like you’re a touring band, and those communities seem to love our music.

Evan: The big city attitude of Chicago seems to be very exclusive.

Anthony: When I email venues, I immediately name our friends' bands, hoping they can join us on the bill. Like Albatross, The Please and Thank Yous, Pisces at the Animal Fair -

Evan: The Paramedics.

Jonathan: Living and Wrestling.

Anthony: Yeah, it seems to be places like Lansing. There’s a community there that’s astounding. That’s where Waterhouse comes from. Places like Rockford, where you wouldn’t think it. Where else?

Evan: Milwaukee.

Anthony: Milwaukee. It’s just this raucous, politically active punk rock scene and it’s insane. And it’s places like that that we really feel we’re part of. Playing in people’s basements. And I just pray that some of those bands can come to Chicago and play with us.

OK, well, the next question for -

Anthony: Let’s talk about Dads. Their Dads.

OK, how are your Dads? Jonathan?

Jonathan: Yeah, my Dad’s good.

Anthony: Julia was just on the phone to her Dad.

Julia: I was. He’s also good.

Anthony: You should write that our Dads are doing well.

Evan: Our dads are doing impressively.

Anthony: Unbelievably -

Evan: Impressive performance from IOMT Dads.

Anthony: That should be the title. Impressive performance from IOMT Dads.

Jonathan: Maybe we should mention Rebecca Black.

Anthony: In general?

Jonathan: No, the cover.

Evan: Sometimes when we get bored and have a video camera, we cannot help but play.

Anthony: I had Rebecca Black’s "Friday" in my head.

Jonathan: The cover’s gotten over 25,000 views.

Julia: That many? Wow.

Wow, indeed. So, what next for the Island of Misfit Toys?

Anthony: Well, the album comes out in late June on Tandem Shop Records. And they’ve been nothing but supportive. Everything they do is professional. They album is mixed and mastered. It’s done. We feel like Nickelback whenever they generate another hit.

Evan: Generate is a good word.

Anthony: We have the Beat Kitchen show Sunday…and after that…well, I’ve been working hard. I have written the next two Island of Misfit Toys albums and am working on the third. And two EPs along with that. The reason I’ve been so busy with writing is because I’m motivated by the people around me and by myself. So it’s double motivation. Yeah, there’s a lot more in store.


Check out more WCR interviews:
Drawn From Bees
Tiger Bones
Brice Woodall
White Mystery

1 comment:

  1. Really good interview thank you and love the Rebecca Black cover!