In December Indieterria focused on Manchester to showcase you some of the newest artists on their local scene. We had a pleasure to sit down and talk with Witch Fever and Tin Mole. Now, we bring you third interview with a band that grabbed our attention from the first time we heard them on Steve Lamacq show at BBC 6 Music. They are called Ist Ist and we swear they belong to a different era.
Louder Than War magazine described them as “majestic post-punk, haunting and hypnotic”. This four piece blends alternative rock with cold wave elegance and they have been compared to The White Lies and Joy Division. Dark, brooding, mysterious and melodic at the same time, Ist Ist are fiercely independent with disregard for social media and all the hype about networking.
It was a bit of a challenge to find the right questions to ask but then again music requires effort from listeners and writers alike. So we had to dig around a bit, in an old school way. We questioned mutual friends in Mancunia for tips, went reading through printed interviews in Manchester Evening News in a Central Library and searched though pages of a label that would rather quote poetry than provide you with “about us” segment.
We also went down to Picadilly Records to “argue” to get a copy of the band`s EP on vinyl.
We visited Manc several times from Worcester…
The last time we researched a band like this was when Melody Maker was still a thing. But we loved every minute of the preparations. It only made our admiration for the band stronger. In a world where artists put their entire lives and privacy for everyone to see, Ist Ist are not just a band. Their approach is an act of defiance.
Adam Houghton (vox, guitar)
Andy Keating (bass)
Joel Kay (drums)
Mat Peters (keyboards)
Ist Ist built themselves a reputation as iconic Manchester performers. Can you please introduce yourselves to Indieterria readers?
Andy Keating: We’re Adam Houghton, Andy Keating, Joel Kay and Mat Peters.
You have started out in 2014 and from the very beginning this band is synonymous with complete control of your art: no radio plugger, no label, handling all the group related matters and tours. We were told you don’t have a manager. Yet, you easily sell out such legendary and sizable venues as Gorilla or The Deaf Institute and receive air play on national radio. Steve Lamacq champions you regularly on his 6 Music shows. How important is the DIY ethos to you?
Andy Keating: The DIY ethos is very important. We don’t really know how to operate any other way, either. We seem to appeal to a fan base who don’t want any bullshit and want to get behind a band who are real people making real music they can believe in. At the same time, we’re not without a manager by design, if the right offer came along or the right opportunity to work with a genuine label presented itself, we’d take it.
Ist Ist are also not very fond of self promotion on the Internet. Your social media are limited to announcements regarding tours and upcoming music. No funny posts, jokes or behind the stages shots. You try to keep a distance between your audience and the band. Aren’t you sometimes tempted to break the fourth wall or post something controversial like Slaves for example?
Andy Keating: We’ve never felt like posting something controversial just for the sake of it. What’s the point? If it’s just for sake of it it’s just going to be contrived and unnecessary. With regards to breaking the fourth wall, we like to keep it strictly business online. Bands posting photos posing in Christmas hats? No thanks. Stick to the music. Our fans would attest to us looking after them as best we can, we’ve always got time to sign a record, have a photo, have a chat or whatever at gigs but your online presence should be a snapshot of the band and their image. We’re serious about our music so we’re serious online.
We want to ask you about the visual side of the project. Your videos and photography are limited to the monochrome and all releases feature distinct photography, often of brutalist architecture or strange landmarks. There are other bands in Manchester who also have their own artistic direction but we have to admit, what you put out is the closest thing to what Peter Saville did with releases at Factory Records.
Andy Keating: Thanks, the artwork and style should always compliment the music. The Peter Saville influences are inescapable given where we grew up and what we were listening to when we all started playing instruments as teenagers.
You channel FAC also in another way: Ist Ist is yet to release their debut album but your catalogue is huge and highly collectable. You released five singles: “White Swan”, “Night Arms”, “Silence”, “Strangers” and “Right Before Your Eyes”, then followed it up with a single compilation “Prologue” and two live albums “Live at St Phillips Church” and “Live at Manchester Gorilla”. Then in April 2018 you landed your first EP – “Spinning Rooms”. Each release is limited between 100 – 300 copies, on CDs or vinyl. And once the stock is gone, it’s gone. Nobody beside you and maybe Idles cares to release their materials in such collectable formats. What made you take this approach to releasing your music?
Andy Keating: Listening to music should be an experience and much of that is lost with digital streaming. Being on streaming sites like Spotify and iTunes is necessary but it’s not an experience. The art of the album is being lost because of this. Sites like Spotify suggest an artist’s “most popular” songs, so unless you really want to get into a band, you’ll likely only listen to those suggested songs and you may never find some gems which are on earlier EPs or singles.
We wanted listening to music to be fun and something you commit to. Getting hold of a vinyl record and putting it on whilst you look at the artwork and cover notes should be special. Receiving a new record in the post should be special. Streaming sites serve a purpose but they’re not particularly fun.
The limited edition thing works well because people like to be part of something exclusive. There’s some people who’ve bought everything we’ve released and there’s some who maybe came on board around “Spinning Rooms” and missed out on the initial limited runs of singles and want to get their hands on them but can’t.
Ist Ist was for most of the time a three piece but recently you added Mat Peters as a permanent member of the band. Do you think your sound changed because of introduction of keyboard into the mix?
Andy Keating: Barring “White Swan” and “Right Before Your Eyes”, every song we recorded in the studio had keyboards or extra on, but we either didn’t use those elements live or we occasionally used backing tracks. After the tour in early 2018 it felt right to bring an extra member in to play keyboards because the new songs demanded them. So the older songs haven’t lost their fundamentals and Mat gave them a lift – but we’ve really developed our sound with him. The new EP will show that.
The release of “Spinning Rooms” was followed by an extensive tour that took you around the country and abroad (playing in Berlin). It also received rave reviews. Nigel Carr wrote in Louder Than War: “This EP will stand as one of the best debut releases by any band; simply stunning”. Are you satisfied with what you accomplished with the record? Would you change/ correct anything on it?
Andy Keating: It’s always a bit of a wasted exercise to deliberate over something which has already been committed to record. We’ve sometimes discussed what sort of impact Mat would have had on the record if he was in the band at the time, but we love “Spinning Rooms” and it perfectly encapsulates who and where we were when we recorded that in early January 2018.
Your sophomore EP “Everything Is Different Now” will see the light of the day on Friday, 25th January 2019. What can we expect?
Andy Keating: It’s a progression from “Spinning Rooms.” It still sounds like Ist Ist but it was the natural progression. It’s probably actually slightly more accessible. “Spinning Rooms” was relatively niche in places but there’s two definite “singles” on “Everything Is Different Now.”
“Everything Is Different Now” is being promoted by a single “Exist” and a video filmed in France. It was created and directed by Natalia Bedkowska and Matthew Boone. Can you tell us more about the idea behind this video? It seems to follow the same concept as “Right Before Your Eyes”, showing ordinary life and streets of urban dwellings.
Andy Keating: Our keyboard player Mat knows Natalia so he got in touch with her and the only brief really was that it needed to fit in with our style, we left the rest up to her. She was on a trip to Paris so decided to film it there, she sent it across and we were happy with it. Boone shot the live footage at our show at St Philip’s Church back in August 2018.
We want to ask you about your label – Kind Violence Records. They seems to share your interest in high art and dislike of social media hype. Their website is minimalistic and quotes “Darkness” – a poem by Lord Byron. We noticed that photography on the record label’s page is done by Tom Houghton whose images also can be found on the covers of your releases. It’s hard not to notice that Tom bears the same surname as Adam, your vocalist. Is it a coincidence or rather a family owned enterprise?
Andy Keating: Someone’s done their research… Adam created Kind Violence to use as a label to release our EPs and to potentially release other music he and we liked. The surname isn’t a coincidence either. Tom is Adam’s brother. He takes some really cool photographs which always seem appropriate for our artwork.
Surely after the EP is out, a tour will follow. Where can we see you playing live next?
Andy Keating: Yes, we’re heading out on tour soon after the EP is out. We’re playing:
30/01 – Hebden Bridge Trades Club Venue Tickets
28/02 – The Lending Room, Leeds Venue Tickets RSVP
01/03 – Sebright Arms, London Venue Tickets RSVP
05/03 – The Polar Bear, Hull Venue Free Entry RSVP
09/03 – Cafe Totem, Sheffield Venue Tickets RSVP
15/03 – Rough Trade, Nottingham Venue Tickets RSVP
16/03 – Gorilla, Manchester Venue Tickets RSVP
30/03 – Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh Venue Tickets RSVP
Last question. Will you ever release song “Rats” in the form of a single? It seems to be a fan favourite of sorts.
Andy Keating: No, definitely not.
Despite not being fans of inter-webs, Ist Ist keeps a healthy online presence. You can visit and follow them at:
Or you can follow their record label, Kind Violence Records
The upcoming tour dates/tickets can be found here:
Additional reading for anyone who – like us – finds Ist Ist to be an incredible band.
So there you have it. Ist Ist`s new EP “Everything Is Different Now” will be out on 25th January. Get your copy before its gone! The only thing we could not do while preparing this chapter of Indieterria was to see the band live. That may change in the coming months!
We hope you enjoyed our first interview of 2019 and we will be coming back to update this blog in the future.