Amid a hectic schedule including the impending release of their debut single, Show me the Way, on 23 March, and a string of live shows, alt-rock outfit Suzi Island (made up of Hugh Reilly-Smith and Matt Carter) found time to answer a few of my questions.
Hi guys, am I alright to dive straight in?
The name Suzi Island, where did it come from?
Matt: Originally, we were looking for a band name. We’ve had quite a lot of bands in the past, and usually we go for something a bit more personal, but this sprang up when we saw a place called The Susie Islands.
That stuck in our minds and we thought maybe we could make a few more connections with the name, make it stronger with our music and the idea of escape.
Hugh: Yeah, the aim was to create an immersive space that people can really get behind. The idea that the band name was also a place really hammered that home.
Just picking up on the point that you’ve been in quite a few bands already, have you guys always played together?
Hugh: So, I was in a band originally and I didn’t know Matt. We [the band] were in a situation where we were looking for a bassist, and somebody knew Matt somehow, so we got him in and he just never left. Yeah, that was a long time ago now!
Ok, and how did Suzi Island come into existence?
Hugh: We started out in Andover, Hampshire, and we’ve both always been bands growing up. We were with one band called Outside Central and got a couple of streams on Made in Chelsea and stuff like that, which was really exciting. Then, we took a bit of a step back from it and got this [Suzi Island] together.
Matt: I mean, it just sort of came along. We’ve done a few bits between then [Outside Central] and now, but never really anything…(he stops to think for a moment)… I think Outside Central was the biggest thing for us before this [Suzi Island] and now this has taken over.
Hugh: Yeah, but I mean, that was a long time ago now, about four or five years.
So, you starting out in Hampshire, what brought you to Brighton?
Hugh: I suppose we wanted to come to Brighton because it’s good to be somewhere larger, and it’s good to be close to London for recording and also for Brighton’s opportunities.
Matt: Before we moved here, we did think ‘this [Brighton] is a good, central place for music.’ There’s a lot going on, so for us we could come here and expand.
Hugh: You get the sea here as well!
Always a bonus! Now, onto your debut single, ‘Show Me the Way‘. I’ve had a listen and absolutely love it. How did you develop the sound for the track and for the band as a whole?
Hugh: I think any time we’ve been in bands before we’ve come at it from the angle of just being a band and performing as a band. Now, it’s more about the songs, and working to the songs we’ve got.
I suppose it’s more of a ‘Pop’ genre that we’re going for now, but it’s still coming from that same place. We’re a band and we just want to play songs.”
Listening to the song, and the lyrics in particular, I’ve made my own interpretations of the underlying meaning. I was wondering if you could put my mind at ease and reveal what your true, intended meaning was?
Hugh: I suppose, for me, I often write about more of a feeling than an actual event. But, with this song, it was more the situation of being in a relationship and struggling to get that feeling out when you can’t really…(he turns to Matt, gesticulating with his hands)… What am I trying to say?
Matt: Yeah, you’re struggling in a relationship and you can’t ask the question you really want to.
Hugh: Yeah, that feeling when you want something that you can’t necessarily have.
That’s a weight off, thanks! I also heard you had some prestigious help with the track’s production?
Hugh: So, we produced it with Pete [Robertson] from The Vaccines. We sent him the song, then he did his thing, worked it up, sent it back and it sounded awesome really. We went down there [Wiltshire, to visit and work with Mr Robertson] for a day and recorded some vocals and stuff like that.
Matt: At first it was just cool to be working with Pete, but we’ve been working with him more since then on some other projects.
How did the opportunity to work with Pete come about?
Hugh: It was sort of brand new with the song. Our manager was familiar with Pete so he put us together and it really clicked. So, hopefully we’ll be working with him for a few more songs in the future.
Exciting times! I saw on your social media that you’ve recently had a few live performances. How are you finding your new material to perform?
Hugh: We played The Green Door Store in Brighton, and that was our first gig which was awesome, then we played The Prince Albert, again in Brighton. Then we had a gig at the Old Blue Last in London which, again, was great.
We’ve got a couple more coming up. One private event for Gibson Guitars, and then our next public gig is on 1 May at The Star Inn, Guildford. Hopefully we’ll get another couple in before then too.
Matt: I mean, there’s always more stuff coming through, but nothing properly confirmed yet.
How are audiences responding to the music?
Matt: We’ve had a really positive response. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult because, at the minute, we’re just starting out, so it’s been mainly support slots and not headlining.
Hugh: We did headline The Green Door Store and that was really awesome. We got such a big audience engagement from that, I found.
Matt: I think when you play first, you don’t always get the biggest crowd, but they’ve always had nice things to say afterwards. At the minute, we’re just amazed that we’re growing as people haven’t really heard our music yet as we haven’t put it out there.
I also noticed in a recent video of you guys that you’ve expanded the band?
Hugh: Yeah, we’ve got two guys who perform and live with us, Harvey [Norman] on drums and Carlie [Randall-Smith] on backing vocals, which is great. It really helps us live and makes the whole show feel awesome.
Matt: Also, we’re all quite close anyway, so it makes performing and rehearsals really easy and really good fun.
What does 2018 have in-store for Suzi Island?
Hugh: Well, the single’s out on the 23 March, so we’ll be pushing it as much as possible. I think we’ve got a remix coming out too which will be awesome, but yeah, we’re just plugging away and trying to get people to listen to it really.
Are there any other releases planned for the year for fans to look out for?
Hugh: We want to put as much out as possible, we’re just really excited to get it out there. I would say we’ve got quite a few songs that are at a level where they’re almost finished.
Matt: There’s a lot of really exciting tracks that we’re really excited about. In the long run though, it’s all a bit unpredictable at the moment.