Striking the Match: IST IST on the Spark Behind Their Latest Single ‘Repercussions,’ Their Fourth LP, and Navigating Post-Brexit Tours

IST IST has always been more than just a name in the post-punk scene; they’re a force of raw authenticity and innovation; as they prepare to release their fourth LP, Light a Bigger Fire, and embark on their UK and European tour, the band is set to amplify their distinctive sound with their upcoming single, Repercussions.

In this exclusive interview, IST IST delves into the evolution of their music, the challenges of touring in a post-Brexit world, and the relentless DIY spirit that fuels their growing fandom. Join us as we explore how they balance their post-punk roots with electrifying originality, and get a glimpse into the creative process behind their most ambitious record yet.

IST IST, thanks for the opportunity to sit down with you as you gear up for the release of your fourth LP, Light a Bigger Fire, and your UK and European tour later this year. The title of your upcoming album insinuates a formidable statement of intent after you have already set the post-punk scene alight.  Does your single, Repercussions, which will drop on June 14 set the tone for the rest of the LP? 

It gives you a bit of everything from the album really. There are the big synth lines, guitar breaks, drums doing big fills and the vocal hooks are probably quite catchy. We road-tested it on the recent tour dates and it landed really well which doesn’t always happen with new songs that fans are unfamiliar but it was cool to see the way the audience reacted to it.

How do you balance evolving your sound while staying true to the core elements that define IST IST?

The core elements which define IST IST are the four of us so for as long as we’re making music together there’ll always be familiarity. Adam’s voice is always going to make us sound like us. We all have a way of playing and whilst that might evolve, it’s still our way of doing things.

With every record we try to reach for new things and set ourselves new challenges. This time our goal was to make a record with no stone left unturned. On our previous three records, we recorded them in something like 10 days because we were all working full-time and whilst we were never unhappy with the end results, after living with them for a while we realised there were some undercooked bits and we might have left a bit on the table. This time we spent months in pre-production, tracking, overdubbing and mixing.

We’ve ended up with a record that sounds like us, but we’ve had the time and resources to fully use the studio as a tool, to make our best set of songs sound as rich and exciting as they possibly can.

What was it like working with producer Joe Cross?

It was our first time working with a producer. In the past, we’ve always just gone in, set up and played the songs how we’d been playing them in the rehearsal room. This time we recorded the demos and gave them to Joe, he picked them apart with us and changed some arrangements and structures, added parts and created a different palette of sounds that we wouldn’t have immediately thought of.

That was the key this time; to have someone with fresh ears come in and bring things out of us that we didn’t even know were there. There were moments that moved us out of our comfort zone but that’s surely what you aspire to do as an artist. Joe has got kudos so whilst we might have been pushed into areas we wouldn’t have been before, that’s the reason we did this album with him, because we wanted that.

You’ve notably moved out of the shadows cast by the post-punk pioneers and stepped into your own light; would you say that your electrifying sense of originality came easily to you?

It’s always been a double-edged sword having the comparisons thrown at you. When someone says we sound like this band or that band, very rarely do they mean it a negative way so you take the compliment. Especially if it’s a band like Joy Division or New Order which have clearly inspired us. But there’s a difference between ‘influenced’ and ‘sounds like’. Over the years we’ve experimented with lots of different styles, and that’s kind of come from trying to outgrow those comparisons and just become your own thing. As time’s gone on we don’t really think about who we sound like, but what we sound like and whether we like it. If you’re excited by it and it comes across in the music and on stage, then that’s surely going to excite your audience too.

There has been a lot of conversation around the difficulties independent artists face while touring, especially through Europe post-Brexit, what have been the most challenging aspects for you and what makes it worth it for you?

We only properly started touring Europe in 2022 so we’ve never known any different. Before post-Brexit regulations came into force we’d just played one-off shows in Berlin and Porto. Since we formally left the EU, artists, crew and equipment are treated as freight and everything you carry with you is subject to declarations and documentation which cost a lot of money to get. We’re just trying to go and play some shows, we’re not freight or haulage.

The flip side is that we’re at the point where the Netherlands is overtaking the ticket sales and streams in the UK so the fees we get from the big shows there prop up the rest of the tour. On top of everything though it’s just a really fun experience, to travel so far from home and there be big crowds of people who care enough about your music to turn up makes everything worth it.

To what extent do you attribute your DIY work ethic to your success?

The DIY thing is really what defines us, if not outwardly to fans it defines us to us, if that makes sense? It’s forced us to be patient but also persistent. It also means that we can make decisions quickly, even just being able to decide the design of record sleeves and make calls on music videos is a blessing. But we also don’t owe anyone anything. We haven’t got a label sending us the latest statement like student loan companies do, where you’re being told you’re still £50,000 unrecouped.

Maybe if things had been different and we’d been picked up by a label then we might have arrived at this point much quicker, but maybe having that pressure would have been problematic. Then again being under your own pressure to sell records, tickets and merchandise so you can afford to pay yourself is probably greater than any squeeze a label could put on you and we’re dealing with that pretty well right now. The reality is that we never really had an offer from any indie or major to consider though, so the DIY approach was a necessity. Our last album ‘Protagonists’ went to number 41 in the charts and it was funded and released entirely by us. Would it be nice if more people saw it for the genuine indie success it was? Yes. Does that really bother us and would we really change anything though? No.

Stream Repercussions on all major platforms, including Spotify, from June 14.

Visit the official IST IST website to purchase tickets from the upcoming UK & European tour and pre-order the Light a Bigger Fire LP, which is due for release on September 20.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

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