UK electropop four piece IS TROPICAL are set to release their third album Black Anything. Originally formed in 2009 as a trio- Dominic Apa, Gary Barber and Simon Milner- the band has now added vocalist Kirstie Fleck, who was featured on the 2013 track “Dancing Anymore.” Working alongside producer and collaborator Luke Smith (Foals, Depeche Mode), IS TROPICAL set out in the summer of 2014 to record across five continents; North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and South America.
The result, Black Anything, will be released in five 10” transparent picture disc installments, containing 2 tracks per vinyl. The artwork is a visual representation of both the recording process and the release with each 10 vinyl displaying the continent in which the tracks were recorded. The five vinyls when displayed on top of each other create the globe, unifying the concept as a whole with each vinyl existing as an art work and tribute to the continent it was recorded in. The band started the project in North America, building a studio during the label’s foundation in Brooklyn.
IS TROPICAL was a bedroom band formed by original line up Dominic Apa, Gary Barber and Simon Milner. Barber and Milner grew up together in their home-town of Bournemouth, Dorset before both moving to London in their early twenties; later in 2007 they met Apa and newest member Kirstie Fleck (singer of 2013’s Dancing Anymore) who joined the band full time in early 2014 and is now a permanent member of the band. The trio began making music in a squat in Peckham, South London which they also turned into an art gallery. The art gallery became a hub of creativity and was written about in Dazed and Confused magazine as the most important movement in the development of the South London art scene.
After years of practicing their art the trio decided to bunk up in a cold dark basement to start making music and IS TROPICAL was born, the name was used as a form of escapism linked to their ambition to travel the world. Further to the idea of escapism the band wanted keep an element of mystery towards themselves, the band took to wearing masks; “When we first started out we used to be more introverted. We’d face each other on stage and wear those veil-mask things. I think we wanted to keep the focus on our songs and that anonymity added a bit of theatricality to our live shows. It wasn’t like we were trying to be stand-offish with the audience. But people perceived it as arrogance.”
The band worked tirelessly in 2009 doing local shows and were soon to be picked up by French label Kitsuné.Kitsuné understood the band’s aim was to travel and as little as 6 months after signing to the label, the trio played Kitsuné club nights in Russia and Japan; traveled to Brazil to play SWU Festival in Paulinia and that same year played debut shows at Melt! Festival, Popaganda and Lovebox Weekender.
The band entered the studio in the autumn of 2010 with Jimmy Robertson to record their debut album Native to, and released the single South Pacific in January 2011 on Kitsuné / Cooperative Music. Around this time they toured the UK and Europe as special guests of Klaxons, The Big Pink, Mystery Jets, Good Shoes and co-headlined a tour with Egyptian Hip Hop.In June 2011 their debut album Native To was released, preceded by the single “The Greeks.”
“The Greeks” video was filmed over two days (in four-hour work days, per France’s child labor laws) in a French suburb. After the release of Native to and of second single “Lies”, the band spent the rest of 2011 and part of 2012 touring Europe, Japan, South America, the Far East and the USA with Crystal Fighters, where a ‘brotherhood was formed.” The two bands’ have gone on to play other shows and tours together.
IS TROPICAL produce all their own artwork, the album sleeve for Native to features the body of a naked girl holding a mask by the foot, the body is that of Kirstie Fleck.
Writing their second album, IS TROPICAL released an EP, titled Flags in January 2013- comprised of a bunch of electronic tracks that were “rattling around inside our laptops.” The tracks featured collaborations of some friends Get People, Visions, Drugzndreamz, Goodbye Leopold and Owen Pratt (the band’s erstwhile live and studio engineer).
Around that time, the band made their back catalogue available online for video producers to submit treatments – out of this came the video by Pablo and Josh for Oi Peru which was distributed as bonus content for the EP. The band later commented that for us the Flags EP was an eye-opening experience on the power of collaborative and open-ended production” and contributed to the group’s developing ethos on their songwriting process, moving away from the traditional studio environment and incorporating more found and field recordings in their material. “Flags” was about exorcising some of these dance floor-based demo(n)s so we could go on to work on our record with fresh ears. The Flags EP has never been toured by the band.
May 2013 saw IS TROPICAL become one of the first Western bands to ever perform in Mongolia. The Mongolian trip was inspired by a conversation with American producer and Mongolian resident Brian Offenther.
The band met Offenther in Shanghai and told him they were looking for somewhere more unusual to perform. Offenther, familiar with the country from his time in the UN Peace Corps were he he worked on breaking down the social and cultural divides between China and Mongolia; Offenther suggested Ulanbator and Darkhan as the perfect destinations for a band looking to explore uncharted territory. The band used the opportunity to not only play live but also experience the real side of Mongolian culture, visiting the Mayor of Darkhan City, orphanages and living with traditional Nomadic families.
The band released their second album I’m Leaving on 20th May 2013 on Kitsune / Pias produced by producer Luke Smith (Depeche Mode & Foals). The first single, “Dancing Anymore”, again accompanied by a video in which the adolescent imagination is explored. It was made by previous collaborators Megaforce. It quickly gained notoriety and was removed from YouTube within hours of its release due to its graphic depiction of imagined sexual acts between a young man and naked CG characters. The video is the conceptual sequel to “The Greeks.”
In keeping with the more focused songwriting on I’m Leaving, the band began reinterpreting their material as acoustic and unplugged versions at festivals and houseparties – something that was not explored on Native to. IS TROPICAL performed “Dancing Anymore” exclusively for Right Guard as part of their OFF GUARD GIGS at Bestival 2013. The second single from the album, “Lover’s Cave,” was released on August 26th, 2013. The video was shot and produced by cult New York photographer and director Richard Kern. This video was successful and featured the band’s most performative and ‘visible’ appearance in an official video. This marked a categorical end to the anonymity they had encouraged until that moment. “Working with a videographer like [Richard] Kern, who had done amazing work for bands like The Virgins and Sonic Youth, we wanted to really go back to the classic image of just a band playing in a room. That was something we felt unable to do for a while, and in some ways embodied all of us coming out of the ‘shell’ of this aesthetic we had courted for so long.”