Belfast, County Antrim
Occupying the cleft between David Sylvian, Scott Walker, and late-era Bowie, Ex-Isles released their debut self-produced album Luxury Mass, to critical acclaim across Ireland and the UK in September 2018. Emerging as a collaboration between experimental composer James Joys and singer songwriter Pete Devlin, and later recruiting drummer Gerard Skelly, guitarist Owen Lamont, and keyboardist Claire McCartney for their stunning live shows, Ex-Isles have earned a name for themselves as purveyors of beautiful, intelligent, complex, and sly protest pop.
Following the impressionistic despair of their first album Luxury Mass, Ex-Isles have just completed their second album of explicitly angry invectives against both rising rightwing regression and craven centrist appeals for reasonableness and third way incrementalism. The band have taken inspiration from Ukrainian-American poet Ilya Kaminksy, and the music of Jessica Sligter, while still teasing at the musical thread that links Scott Walker, David Sylvian, and late-era David Bowie. Pete and James have made it Ex-Isles's mission to push at the fringes of pop, and quarry popular music's rich seam to push it in new directions.
Building on their uniquely unsettling sound world that gravitates around Pete's distinctive croon, they recruited Brighton-based jazz saxophonist Leroy Horns and Glasgow-based musician John Ayers on guitars to lift their sound into more texturally heavy and experimental realms. Working with producer Dave Lynch at Echo Zoo Studios (Ed Harcourt, The Magic Numbers, Kathryn Williams), they enjoyed getting deep into his myriad collection of rare analogue synths and percussion, and spent two weeks reconstructing their songs around their experimentations. The result is an album of singular lyrical and compositional ambition; oscillating between sound and song, which will be released later in 2020.
James and Pete are both prolific musicians and composers in their own rights, with Pete currently writing his second solo album, and James writing two works, one for operatic soprano, electronics, and ensemble, and another for experimental jazz ensemble. They have also recently collaborated on a work for choir, soloist and electronics called A Constellation Of Bargained Parts, and another project called Devil, Repent!