It was Day One of the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in San Bernardino, CA., and one of the up-and-coming bands destined to make a lasting impression would surely be Islander. Performing all summer long on the Victory Records Stage, Islander places a lot of heart and soul into their live show, and audiences are responding tenfold. A debut album entitled Violence & Destruction has been issued through Victory, featuring guest appearances by none other than Sonny Sandoval of POD and HR of the legendary Bad Brains. In the press area. we sat down to chat with Islander front man Mikey Carvajal to find out more about their impassioned new album, the new single Coconut Dracula, touring with Mayhem Fest, and other raging topic of interest. Read on…
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Islander.
My name is Mikey Carvajal and I’m the vocals for Islander.
Where’s your band based, and what’s your scene like there?
We’re from Greenville, SC. And our music scene, its just started thriving a little bit again. It’s been dead for a minute. I think a lot of the world is struggling as far as rock and roll right now and that’s kind of something that lit a fire inside of us to start doing this again. We had been a band for a while then we had stopped. A long time ago we were called something else. And then we were like, man, let’s be a band again. We have passion for actually playing our songs and not using backing tracks and just being a rock and roll band and trying to write the best rock and roll we can write. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. But we think that people are really kind of just restless and tired of everything that has been going on in the scene, so I guess for us, we just want to show people what our hometown used to be. And it’s slowly coming back. There’s like us and a band called ‘Brigades‘ and a couple of our other friends.
What can we expect from your live performance from Mayhem?
Well it’s a little bit different every day. We don’t like to pre-plan moves or something like that. So its a kind of thing where it’s all like heartfelt, passion, and we’ll be playing the single, ‘Coconut Dracula‘. But it’s Mayhem you know, there’s a lot of metalheads that just want to hear a riff so we trying to play our heavier songs too. That’s what’s cool about us – we feel like we can just adapt to whatever or wherever we’re thrown in. We’ve just never been apart of anything like this before, so we’re still trying to figure out what to expect at Mayhem.
Is there any story or concept behind the album title Violence & Destruction?
Violence & Destruction in the book of Jeremiah in the scriptures; Jeremiah says that he can’t help but speak violence and destruction and because of his sharing Christ with people, he’s become a household joke to just everybody. They said if he keeps it in he doesn’t share Christ that it burns in his bones like fire and he said I can’t hold it in. And this band, we all believe different things. I’m the only person that claims anything like that in the band. But it’s just kind of the idea too. It kind of goes to the idea of not sweeping things under the rug just because of difficult conversations or that we disagree. It’s kind of beautiful that we disagree, because we can come together, and let’s seek truth together and not tear each other down. That’s kind of what the album deals with – to change the fruit you have to change the root. I believe that we can become trees that bear good fruit.
Let’s talk about the single Coconut Dracula, what inspired the lyrics?
My uncle. My whole family actually on my dad’s side. They’re Hispanic. And we were hanging out one night and he said something in Spanish that sounded like Coconut Dracula. And he didn’t say that though. He said something else – I don’t know what he said. I told him, “I like the way that sounds. Is that what you said?” And he was like, no. And I was like, I’m going to write a song called Coconut Dracula. It’s funny though, because like once I came up with that, I needed a story to put with it, so it has to do with Count Dracula and one day he’s walking and he finds a coconut on the ground and he bites into it and he discovers that there must be something more in this world that is beautiful rather than hurting people or being evil. So he goes and gets his name legally changed to Coconut rather than Count. And he’s roommates with a mummy, a witch, a werewolf, and Frankenstein. And they’re all really freaked about his new nature, his new lifestyle of starting a garden, helping with charities, wearing Batman pajamas, stuff like that. The mummy, the whole song is through the mummy’s eyes saying “you know what I want, what you have, because you seem like you actually have a real joy now and you’re not having to be evil and all this stuff” and he’s like “I need you to teach me what you know man.” So, that’s kind of what it’s about.
Select any other song on the album and what inspired the lyrics for you.
There’s another song on the record, the first track and its called “Counteract.” The funny story about that is, no one wrote the lyrics to that song. My mom had a dream one night when we were on tour and when she woke up, she said in the dream we were singing this new song. She said she remembered all the lyrics so I wrote them down, she read them to me and I said thank you. I tweaked them, I added a few different things. In the song, it ends up saying, in the bridge “this is not a dream” but the chorus and verses came from a dream my mom had about me singing the song. I guess it’s not a dream anymore.
How did Sonny Sandoval from POD become involved with Violence and Criminals?
I’ve known Sonny for a little while. Actually a huge fan of that band, it goes way back. The thing that’s cool about POD is they’ve always cared about their fans. More than fans, it’s not just about music. It’s about something deeper, relationships and friendships. Like a heart to heart thing. Over the years, I was just going to their shows all the time and ended up building a relationship with Sonny and the guys. We were doing this band and thought, man it’d be cool if we could do a track with Sonny. We did an old, independant track with him a long time ago. It’s floating around on the internet somewhere on YouTube. When we had the new record, we figured we’d do it right. He had recorded some vocals on his Mac and we did stuff, sent it each other throughout the country. This time we actually got to fly to CA, he got to come out to the studio and hang out and write with us. That was awesome. He’s a standup dude, legit. Love those guys.
You also worked with HR from Bad Brains. How did that come about?
I got in touch with his drummer for his solo project and asked if it would be possible to get in touch with HR and he said yes. He told HR, this band wants you to do vocals on a song and he’s a big influence, you know? We had some dates booked for the recording process, but he missed his flights and we were like you know what? I’ve heard he’s recorded vocals over the phone before, let;s get him to do it over the phone. So I called him on his cell phone and asked if it would be OK, so we went through all that stuff. He’s like, yeah. Called him back and he did all his vocals through the cell phone. Doesn’t get more punk rock than that.
If Islander could open for any band either now or the past, who would it be and why?
I don’t know if I could pick just one band. I think a band that would be fun to play with, another thing that has influenced us is a band called ZAO. Somebody else, completely different style of music, maybe a Johnny Cash / Elvis show. Bjork? That’d be fun.
What would you like the listener to remember most after hearing your music for the very first time?
That whatever moment they’re in, when they hear the songs, whether it’s good or bad, that I hope it impacts them in a good way. That they’re inspired to seek truth, no matter their differences in beliefs, that they’re inspired to create art and seek truth. I’d like them to take that with them, that goes farther than just music.
Do you have any messages for your fans whom are reading this right now?
We love you guys, even if we haven’t met you, we genuinely thank you for everything you do for us. Supporting us, letting us stay on your floors in your houses. It sounds cheesy to even say it sounds cheesy anymore but it’s true, you guys are the reason that anyone can still do this, so thank you.
Andrew – Guitar
Eric – Drums
Doot – Bass
Mikey – Vocals
(Interview and Mikey Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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