Melbourne is known for its ever-growing artistic culture, spilling out from just about every creative alleyway, bedroom, pub and corner. Without its purveyors, this trait would be completely abandoned, so it is with thanks to those forward thinkers for keeping this cultural hub alive. Just take electronic three piece, I’LLS, for example.
Practising their craft for years now, Hamish Mitchell, Simon Lam and Dan Rutman have been exchanging ideas and creating ethereal electronica so dreamy and intricate, listening to it is almost like floating on a psychedelic cloud.
Now three EPs in, they’ve just dropped their largest body of work, Can I Go With You To Go Back To My Country through their very own label, Solitaire Recordings. Offering an expansion of sound, they’ve continued to bridge the gap between releases, in that a seamless flow of signature I’lls qualities have adapted and chanced new ideas and bolder avenues within this new found sonic realm.
Adopting an audio visual dimension to their live show, running a brand new record label and overall working harder than ever before, we caught up with I’lls‘ hillarious keyboardist, Hamish Mitchell, to chat about the new EP release ahead of their Splendour In The Grass festival appearance!
How did I’lls form? Was it just three friends coming together, or three strangers starting a band intentionally?
It’s just three friends. It wasn’t really forming a band, just three people who were at University who just hung out, and were making some jazz music and stuff together before starting to make electronic. Definitely just three friends.
Were you guys studying music, or was it just a thing you did on the side?
Yeah we were all studying jazz.
You’ve just released your third EP, Can I Go With You To Go Back To My Country. Does it carry a certain mood or theme?
There’s definitely a concept behind everything. I think that, thematically, [singer] Simon [Lam]’s definitely got something that he’s honed into. Sound-wise, like everything we’ve ever released and the way its structured, it definitely flows and there’s definitely some sense of mood and growth. It’s different.
I have noticed in all of your releases that they’ve been approached in the same way as one another, yet they all manage to sound different from one another. It’s really nice.
Yeah! I think it’s like, purposely done, especially in the way that it’s structured and everything, but like incidentally, it kind of happens?
What is the significance of the title, Can I Go With You To Go Back To My Country?
It’s just being somewhere in Japan; we were in a hostel in Minowa, Tokyo, and there was this card written that just had this really good sentence. I think it holds particular references to where we are in our early 20’s. It’s just great, I love sentences like that where it’s just like, so not right. I have no idea what it was referring to, we just read it and had a laugh, but it was like, that’s a really cool sentence, you know? That’d be a good name for an EP.
This is your first EP release through Solitaire Recordings. What do you find special about that label?
Well me and Dan [Rutman] run it so.. [laughs] you know we probably find it special. We did the two track last year through it so, it’s good! It’s like you’re in control of your own destiny type of thing. I really think that we’re actually building something with that label which has us really excited. Everyone who’s on there is a really special musician as well as a dear friend. I really think that we have a great opportunity and all the artists are getting such great exposure. The label’s only nine months old and it’s really starting to kick off, so yeah I’m really excited about it.
I don’t think that I’lls’ music really fits into, perhaps, a mould of any other independent, so it’s good to be able to cater to specifics. It’s a lot of work, but you’re in control of your own fate.
Would you call it a niche label?
I wouldn’t say it’s niche, it’s whatever goes. I feel that my perception of music just happens to be niche, you know, what I think is cool and popular is usually just the ten percent margin [laughs] I’m so out of touch with mainstream music [laughs].
It’s definitely not niche though, it’s just good music, you know like it’s good electronic, or stoner rock stuff, whatever.
I feel as though there’s a rapidly growing culture in Melbourne creating left-of-centre, electronic music. Do you think that your geographic placement has had any influence on the music of I’lls?
I think that geography is going to influence anything that you do, especially in music. I think with I’lls, we don’t have that particularly “Melbourne sound”, I think that there’s a lot of people doing a lot of future stuff at the moment, you know, like an Internet reference type of thing. That very new age, future-based music..
I’m referring to more the Electric Sea Spiders, or even The Townhouses who mould that culture, do you know what I mean? The more ambient electronica? I’m from Sydney, so compared, I feel like there’s more of that in Melbourne than what there is here.
Ohhhhh! That makes sense to me now. Now I see what you’re saying, and I don’t mean that in an offensive way at all! The electronic scene in Melbourne is definitely opened to more of an arty kind of thing, whereas you’ve got people making bangers in Sydney? Like you’ve got your Wave Racers, and Basenjis, all of the super future people.
Yeah, with like the clean, photoshopped artwork and the like
Yeah, yeah, absolutely! Then there’s Melbourne with like Electric Sea Spider whose music has this dirty, unmixed, percussive kind of thing, whereas Sydney is the clean and glossy version. Yeah I definitely think that’s a thing, probably because of our fucking weather and everyone is miserable and cold here, and everyone in Sydney is just lovely and clean.
I think geographically, we’re influenced in that way. Most of our music references are probably leaning more towards the UK thing, so geographically I think Melbourne is definitely more open to that.
Who are some of your favourite Melbourne electronic artists at the moment?
Electric Sea Spider has always been one of my favourites, he’s a good friend of ours as well. He sent me some demos the other day that are just absolutely off the hook incredible.
Obviously a lot of the Solitaire guys; Wabz is around my age, he’s incredible. Asdasfr Bawd is 19, he’s amazing. River Yarra’s great, he’s a really fantastic DJ and a really nice reference point of house music, as well as just being a really interesting artist. Good Morning is a band also on Solitaire who are just incredible. I actually came down to the beach a few days ago and was hanging out and just working on my music, and those boys were tracking their record – it’s just unbelievable.
Felicity Yang – she’s really cool. She’s this girl who does composition and makes like futuristic kind of music.
Melbourne music is just fucking great.
And like the rockier scene, the guitar scene, is just fucking amazing. I saw Mining Boom the other night which was just insane. Like Ciggie Witch is such a great band, you’ve got The Ocean Party boys and all of their associated things. Simon actually used to drum for The Ocean Party.
I remember I was 19 at uni and I’d just met Simon, and we kind of instantly clicked, and he was like, “I’ve got to play a gig tonight as the drummer” so I tagged along. It was so funny, it must’ve been, what, 2010? It was just a different time, you know? Oh Mercy’s big, and they’re all wearing their little fucking tweed jackets and their Jack London get up. Simon put on this spotted, silky shirt with the top button done up. These were like the real trendy indies – nice shoes, preppy jackets. I got so drunk that I couldn’t go home and so slept at one of their places, it was so embarrassing. Soo yeah, Simon used to drum in The Ocean Party. Those boys are excellent, I can’t wait to hear the new record. That should be out in a few weeks.
Something I’ve always loved about I’lls is the consistent, dreamlike visual aesthetic to compliment the music, ever-present in your live shows, videos and artwork. I know that you’re an artist as well, so would you say it’s something you find important to the band?
To be honest, I think it’s always been important. We’ve always strived to have good art that mixes and represents. I think the first couple of records, was different, the second one was just this piece of art that Simon and I knocked up in an afternoon which was pretty shotty, but like the Fifty-Phiphti release and Can I Go With You To Go Back To My Country..
So Fifty-Phiphti was done by Angie [Pai] who is the dancer in the clip, and also Simon’s girlfriend. She’s an incredible artist and designer who owns her own fashion label. We met Angie in Japan which is where Simon had written the beat for the B-side, so it was fitting, it made sense.
And anything from now on, I’ll be doing all the art direction, all the trailers, directing the film clips, because I’m such a megalomaniac and need that ego boost ’cause no one else will work with me.
The boys just let me do whatever I want now, I think I’ve built a certain level of trust. I know the most recent clip, Simon was going to the UK for a few months, so we had like three hours. So I just got him in a room and quickly put something together. Dan was like, “We’ve got to release that video soon Hamish, can you just send it across?” You know? Like they just let me do my own thing, it’s really good.
As far as the artwork on the new record goes, it’s a collaboration between me and my good friend, Nick Keyes, who I also do some visual work with. He’s more of an Internet, like Tumblr wave kind of guy; he uses nice gripworks and 3D modeling.. He’s incredible. We knocked that up, and the process is pretty much like animating or designing something, then filming it and then in the analogue realm, there’s like a video synth and VHS.
It is important, to get back to your question… [Laughs] It is particularly important to me to have a strong visual aesthetic to your music. It’s something I definitely strive to and you know, it’s something I’m more interested in now as I’m not doing as much production as I used to, I just got really into video synths and visuals. It all links up and just adds another element.
You look after your own music with Solitaire, and now you’ve got that visual avenue as well. You’re essentially your own boss, it must be really nice.
Yeah! Absolutely. I’ve been doing a lot of visual work outside of that. I’m kind of heading more that way in my general life. Yeah it’s great, it’s fucking stressful though, cause it’s like, “Alright. What does everyone think of this track? / Is that bassline mixed? / We’ve got to get it to the master” you know? Instead of finishing a record and having it out of your hands, I then need to worry about the live show [laughs], “Where’s the press release? We need the promo.” Then it’s like, “Is the film clip done? Are we getting it done? Is everyone happy with the cut of the first test pressing of the vinyl?” So it’s just nine months of hell and then three months of, “ohhh thank god it’s done”.
I mean it’s great though, Dan and Simon work super hard. It’s not like a band you get into for fun and good times and doing drugs and getting drunk, it’s a band you’re in to fucking work [laughs].
You’ll be playing at Splendour In The Grass this year. What are you most looking forward to at the festival?
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t really thought about it that much. There’s a few bands I want to see, like Klo, but if you’re going, do yourself a favour and go and see Kirkis. Best. Band. In. Melbourne. Fucking amazing. They’re good friends of ours. They’re fucked. Trust me, I’m a real snob and a real live music Nazi, and they’re legit incredible. I have no idea why they’re not massive. They don’t have much music up on the net, but live it’s like, phwoahhhh.
I’m looking forward to seeing Shlohmo, too, and our old friends Sam Gill and Luke Neher are playing as Ara Koufax. I haven’t seen those guys in ages. They’re like the same generation as us, if you know what I mean? Like all those electronic musicians from Melbourne like us and maybe Oscar [Key Sung] kind of age, and probably Josh Delaney from Rat & Co. It’s all like the guys who aren’t Chet Faker or Flume and aren’t massive, but are still around? [Laughs] If you know what I mean.
Those guys are so lovely, and that new EP of theirs sounds fucking cool. Those boys are crazy intelligent, they’re so clever, it’s nerve-racking.
I’ve got a friend, Andrei Eremin. Everyone gets him to like mix and master, he’s huge, everyone loves Onny. I went to high school with him, and he was the only guy I could talk to about music with. He was into like metalcore and I was listening to heart-melting jazz [laughs]; we were just these weird little fucked up teenagers who were just real odd and very unconfident, just not right. Now he’s this big time producer, and he’s a genius. Just the nicest bloke and a very talented musician himself. So he’s on a conference apparently, on a panel? Apparently Splendour’s a music conference? Like why the fuck do they have a panel? [Laughs] What the fuck. So apparently he’s on a panel with Mark Ronson, so I’m going to go see that, I think it’d be pretty funny.
Really? I had no idea that was there
Yeah well that’s I’ve heard. That’s what a friend of mine who I used to live with who now lives with Onny said. He is a very unreliable source I feel, so probably don’t include that… Or do! Let people be disappointed that Mark Ronson and Andrei Eremin aren’t actually on a panel, and that Splendour isn’t actually a conference, it’s just a festival as I thought!
It’ll be on your back!
It’ll be on my back. Yeah, absolutely man.
Can we expect a national EP launch tour?
Ahhh yes. Yes! [Laughs] Yes you will. I’ve been on my managers back about it, but I haven’t heard anything. Well, not really I asked him once and he was looking into it. I think there’ll definitely be Melbourne and Sydney, no doubt. As for the rest of the country, I’m not sure, it’s very dependent on things. Like if we’re going to do a full AV show or not. I’m sure in the next few weeks it’ll come apparent.
Do you have any plans with I’lls for the rest of 2015, or will it be predominantly label focused?
There’ll be a few more special shows, but I think release wise, that’ll probably be it for the rest of the year. This EP has been a pretty massive piece of work, but we might do some remixes or something. I think playing a lot more gigs on the back half of this year too in support of the EP. I think we’ll be working towards the album now, because we’re three EPs and a two track down, so it’s probably about time for an album and seeing if we can get across overseas next year. I feel like that’s the plan; however you never know with this band, those guys are fucking crazy.
Words by Hannah Galvin. Photo by Angie Pai.