Ellis Island Sound

On my return to London, I also had the good fortune to meet David Sheppard through mutual friends – this became Ellis Island Sound. What brought us together in that evening in the Three Greyhounds was our mutual enthusiasm for the new music of Tortoise and a whole slew of strange new things coming out into the world. While our peers discussed the relative merits of Dylan or Mott, we bonded over a love for music that was trying to exist in new ways. For us, Ellis Island Sound (and The Wisdom of Harry) became a way to make music that took into account our love of artists like Can or Thelonious Monk, musical mavericks, rather than only the guitar-based pop that I loved then and still love. So, we decided to make some music in a new way. I’d been working on tracks on an Atari and an Akai; we also had some Emu Vintage Keys, so we used these along with guitars and drum machines to create instrumental music, with an implicit brief to make everything melodic and emotional. On the recommendation of Too Pure’s Paul Cox, we sent four tracks of this new material to Thrill Jockey in Chicago. As it happened, they loved it and, in the end (well, 1998), we put out a 10” on Thrill Jockey subsidiary All City, home to Bonnie Prince Billy and more. Bullseye!

After that, we started making singles for Faux Lux and for labels like Static Caravan, as well as working as remixers for everyone from Andrew Weatherall’s Sabres of Paradise to The Manic Street Preachers. We signed to Heavenly who released a round-up of some of our scattered releases as an eponymous album in 2002, and we followed up with a mini-album, Home Service, on Static Caravan in 2003. The following year, we decamped to rural Suffolk to create The Good Seed, an album of agrarian electro-acoustic mysteries recorded on an eight-track tape machine with one microphone in a deconsecrated chapel. EIS then went into a short hibernation while we attended to other activities, although in 2006, Static Caravan released Gene Pool, a super-limited EP of remixes (by the likes of Pan*American and Susumu Yokota). We signed to Peacefrog who released The Good Seed in early 2007, then set about assembling a live band comprising anywhere between 12 and 15 musicians (including Nick and Louie, future members of Dry Cleaning), and, a mere nine years after forming, took off on the band’s first ever UK dates, including festivals appearances at The Green Man and Big Chill.

Other things took precedence for a while after that, although we continued making tracks for compilations on labels like Second Language, Lo Recordings and WYAIWIA. Cut to 2012, when we signed to Village Green (home to David’s Snow Palms project) and started pulling West African, Jamaican and German ’70s influences (all musics in which texture was more important than chord changes) to make the album Regions, released in 2014, with an accompanying mini-album, Divisions, following later that year. Another hiatus followed while we worked on our main/other projects, but in early 2022 we regrouped yet again for the highly limited lathe-cut single ‘Tape Deck’/’Streets in the Sky’ released on Faux Lux, the harbinger of renewed EIS activity as we approach our 25th anniversary.