Love songs are timeless, whatever the genre. From The Beach Boys’ tear-jerking, balladic horns in ‘God Only Knows’ to the unearthly satanic tendencies of Black Sabbath’s ‘N.I.B.’, it’d be tricky to name a more quintessential songwriting trope. “It’s easy to write about, innit?” Island Of Love guitarist and vocalist Linus Munch shrugs to NME over Zoom as his bandmates fall about in a mixture of laughter and agreement.
Their upcoming EP, ‘Songs Of Love’, demonstrates the ease with which they’ve managed to match loved-up noise-fuzz with their own punk and hardcore backgrounds. The heartfelt four tracks explore unreciprocated feelings (‘Songs of Love’) and wanting to “lie down and die” over the thought of that particular person (‘At Home’) as scuzzy garage rock revival solos reverberate around. The record is decked out in so much lo-fi goodness that it’s no surprise that they’ve become the first act to sign to the Jack White-owned Third Man London.
“It’s been mad,” fellow guitarist and vocalist Karim Newble puts simply, with drummer Jimmy Guvercin adding: “We never expected anyone of that size or reputation to be interested. We set our aims relatively low, but [Third Man] were the first people to get in touch with us. It felt like a scam, like someone had set up a fake email to prank us.”
But they were far from being swindled: back in September, Third Man booked the band to headline the basement venue of their London record shop on the second day of trading. The only other musician to have played the 60-capacity venue at that point? Jack White.
“We saw [White] rip up the stage and thought, ‘How do we follow that?’” says Newble. Third Man offered Island Of Love as much equipment as they needed, which for most would be an exciting proposition – but the guitarist later realised his faux pas. “I stupidly took them up on using their guitars, so I didn’t bring anything with me. I had to piece together anything that I could, but it sounded great in the end. I ended up having to raid Jack White’s pedalboard for leads while the others were plugged in and ready to go,” he laughs. “It was stressful.”
White’s label weren’t flustered, though. While lighting cigarettes and toasting beers outside post-show, the band were called back downstairs to talk with label co-owner Ben Swank, who offered them a record deal on the spot. “Our jaws dropped. It was emotional,” sums up bassist Daniel Alvarez Giraldo, still with a sense of disbelief.
Six months on, Island Of Love are now just days away from releasing their first record with Third Man. While they’re now moving away from their DIY bedroom rock roots, ‘Songs Of Love’ acts as a “time capsule into a poignant point of our lives”. Not only is this EP the band’s first professionally recorded release, it’s also their first material to feature all four members.
“We spent so long sitting on it last year that it felt like it was never going to come out,” says Newble of the EP, which was recorded before they signed to Third Man. “I thought having a label would be, ‘OK, you wear this now, you do it this way’,” he adds, before Alvarez Giraldo continues: “Nothing’s off the table when pitching ideas, and it’s so nice to be surrounded by people that want to make our dreams come true. [Third Man] try and make everything possible, so if we want to work with specific people they’ll hook us up, or make something happen if it’s in our best interests.”
Sonically, ‘Songs Of Love’’s fast-paced rattler of an opener, ‘At Home’, honours the band’s existing comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub, while its title track features an outstanding turbulent guitar solo that calls back to early Strokes. But the record’s closing track, ‘Cut Your Losses’, consciously moves away from pastiche by tying together post-hardcore sludge with an off-kilter piano interlude. The band’s hardcore origins are still evident – take their metaphoric tales of love that hark to the “hardcore ethos of creating music people can relate to on an emotional level”, or their illegible medieval blackletter-inspired EP artwork – as is a sense of fun, judging by the KISS-inspired face paint that was showcased in the original ‘Songs Of Love’ video (“we are very goofy,” Newble laughs, having spent our whole chat with a bright blue goatee and bushy brow effect superimposed on his face).
Armed with a strong musical and personal bond, Island Of Love’s excitement to learn and develop together is intoxicating. Once embarrassed to share their alt-rock demos around the hardcore community, they now feel as supported as ever by each other and those around them. A year on from recording ‘Songs of Love’, the band are already preparing to “hibernate in the studio” and start work on their album. “It’ll be more ambitious and there’ll be even more solos,” Newble says eagerly, while Munch adds: “The EP is still us playing our influences, but the LP will very much be Island Of Love.” Prepare yourselves, then, to fall in love with guitar music all over again.
Island Of Love’s ‘Songs Of Love’ EP is out digitally on March 18 via Third Man Records