Starting out as a lockdown project between vocalist Tiger Nicholson and guitarist James Donovan (elsewhere seen playing for HMLTD), Bishopskin have become so much more than that: there isn’t quite another band, nor possibly has there ever been, that sounds like they do, or that tried to do what they’re bent on achieving. Anyone who has attended one of their intensely atmospheric live shows will have noticed, but for those who haven’t, this first single, I Was Born On An Island, released for the new – and equally bold – nonprofit label Isolar Records, is truly the perfect introduction. It was a daunting challenge to bring this song from the stage to the studio: more so than any other in Bishopskin’s repertoire, perhaps. This track is visceral, intense, buzzing with a specific type of energy that evokes dancing, and clapping, and overall a collective experience. Yet – also due to a crisp production which is remarkably clean while also leaving the song ample space to breathe – the studio version loses nothing of the intensity of the live one, or of its authenticity.
It is a deceptively simple concept developed into a complex, layered music tapestry, relying on the overlaying of vocals and the switching of rhythm to tap into something as primal as it is powerful. The band describes it as a callback to ‘the ancient folk songs that all music was born from’, and it certainly feels like that – from the tapping precision of its rhythm that makes it almost like a battle call, to the use of repetition and the evocative breadth of the tune which has something of folk music to it while also reprising the initial scale in a way that is akin to another old tradition, that of country music. The vocals are front of stage here, dark and soulful and devolving towards the end almost into a roar, an abandon which is most welcome in our time of over polished jingles.
Again in its use of broad vocals and of layered repetition, and perhaps in the vein of this band’s project overall, this song also has something of gospel music to it: not just in its formal structure, but in its spirit also. One has the feeling, as the song mounts and grows in intensity and then breaks like a wave, that the music itself is in a sense speaking in tongues, conveying something so complex to be indescribable through feeling rather than words. For a band which has decided to tackle the exploration of spirituality (a tricky subject today, if there was any, and yet a much needed one) from a decidedly innovative
angle, there can be no better calling card than a song stark and immersive enough to read almost itself a spiritual experience – or possibly the snapshot of one, photographed in sound and captured in the studio, describing something we’ve all felt but don’t have a name for. It is certainly a single which commands attention. Whatever will follow suit, we can be sure that it will be, if nothing else, bold and interesting.
Check it out, here
Find out more via the bands Facebook
And if you’re in London tomorrow night (Saturday 19th Feb) you can also catch them at
their single launch show at AMP Studios. Tickets available here