A Year In The Life Of Isaac Indiana

by Laura Clarke

One year ago I attended a summer ball at Mill On The Exe. It was a gorgeous June evening; the sun was setting beautifully over the river and there was a jug of Pimms on the table – with actual pieces of fruit in it (just as it should be). Yet what I remember most clearly about that night was how great the band was. A week later my friends and I were freezing our butts off in summer dresses at the Enchanted Garden Ball when that same band took to the stage – the whole atmosphere changed and our moods improved remarkably as we danced and sang along to the well-executed covers. Isaac Indiana have since played a significant number of gigs over the city, and shall launch their third studio record, Memoirs Of A Memory Boy, at the Cavern on 11th June. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to interview them. We met at student-favourite Boston Tea Party to discuss the band’s journey and plans for the future.

Band members Andy, Tom, Sam, Ben Houghton, and Ben Homer all attended the University of Exeter. This is how Isaac Indiana was born. While the majority met through their various courses (consisting of Biology, Engineering, and Physics), Tom and Andy actually met at Beach Break Live – poetically they performed there together the very next year. While none of the boys are from Exeter originally, the band’s potential influenced their decision to stay. Drummer, Sam, observed that opportunities for musical progression are vast given the copious campus-run events such as society balls – I myself have seen Isaac Indiana play live at least three times in the last year. According to lead singer, Andy, this exposure has secured the band’s position in the ‘networking game’ of the music industry.

There are some terrific venues for live music in Exeter, which Isaac Indiana have utilised fully. The band considers the Cavern an ideal place to perform at, with its chilled atmosphere and acoustical advantages (they played here at PearShaped’s launch night back in September of last year – if you weren’t there then sad times for you). The sound tech guy at Mama Stone’s was also applauded for providing their performances with a particularly rich resonance.

With an abundance of memorable gigs including the Enchanted Garden Ball and the opening of the Forum (I’d like to take this moment to give a shout out to the Queen who was in attendance), agreement upon a clear favourite gig was a struggle. The majority concluded that the Bath Snowball was particularly unforgettable. Thousands of students attended each of the two nights and the event oozed grandeur. Frank Turner even graced the stage at Bath Pavilion beforehand, making the occasion all the more special. The band jokingly mentioned that they “felt like VIPs” with their exclusive lanyards. Contrarily, Ben Houghton claims that his favourite gig was the graduation ball last year. This was hosted in the Great Hall which added a cool, deep droning sound to his bass guitar. Needless to say, the last year has had more than its fair share of remarkable live performances.

Despite the seemingly daunting task of playing for hundreds, even thousands, of people, I was informed that nerves are no longer an issue for Isaac Indiana. While there consistently remains a buzz of apprehension five minutes before a performance, this energy is more akin to exhilaration than fear. Likewise, their upcoming EP Launch at the Cavern is an exciting prospect for the band members, whose close friends are expected to attend. Although presenting particular songs to a live crowd for the first time stirs apprehension, Andy muses that these trepidations will be overshadowed if the audience is able to connect with them on some sort of emotional level.

This is likely to be achieved since the band has a genuine connection to the songs. According to lead guitarist Tom, “Memoirs Of A Memory Boy feels like us”. Given that their previous EP was fairly rushed, quality over quantity was the overriding theme; fewer tracks allowed for greater time to be spent on the production. While Ben Houghton contests that Tempest is the greatest track on the record, it is agreed that Madiba is “lyrically powerful”. The song is written about Nelson Mandela’s life – largely inspired by the fact that Andy grew up in South Africa, and his mother was arrested during Apartheid. A music video for Madiba, produced by Chris Filsell, will be released soon.

Isaac Indiana’s style has progressed from pop-esque to a heavier indie sound which the band feel represents them right now. Many artists have inspired the band’s make-up. Kings Of Leon have been a growing influence on them – though not clear from their first EP, this has now become more apparent. Alt-J, Biffy Clyro, and Fightstar have also been shining beacons of inspiration. Andy observes that bands can go down one of two paths; strictly covering other musician’s songs or writing originals. While they were previously a bit of both (I particularly enjoyed their cover of Bastille’s Pompeii), Isaac Indiana now embark upon the latter route by playing their own songs at venues. They have thus settled as a band. A more coherent song writing process has facilitated this; while Andy writes most of the songs, Tom and their producer collaborated on the lyrics for Peaks.

How, you may ask, did the name ‘Isaac Indiana’ come into existence? I discovered that this was merely a stroke of creative randomness at its finest; a unique staple, kind of like the name PearShaped. So what’s next for the band? Isaac Indiana’s future plans mainly concern securing a record label. In addition to this, the band mates will be busy playing plenty of gigs and pursuing their individual interests. Tom is currently studying for a PhD in Physics (rather you than me, Tom), and many of the band mates are actively involved in sporting activities such as hockey and snowboarding - Sam is even a qualified snowboarding instructor (even though he hasn’t utilised this niche skill in quite a while). Ben Houghton will probably spend a significant portion of his time re-reading Harry Potter while Andy and Tom dabble with producing songs on the computer. Oh, and Ben Homer is getting married in July - congratulations Ben! Buy a pear cider on us.

While we chatted over coffee and a suspicious-sounding soy hot chocolate I was struck by what an intensely busy year it has been for Isaac Indiana. Hopefully the year to come will be equally, if not even more, successful. These are five talented young lads with an incredibly bright future ahead of them. So come on down to the Cavern on 11th June to support Isaac Indiana – you can even be super eager and get in for free before 9pm.