Low Island on their new single, ‘Search Box’, Google therapy, and adult breastfeeding

Low Island are an indie rock and electronica four piece band hailing from Oxford, UK. The city of dreaming spires has paid its dues to the broader British music scene in recent times, with the likes of Radiohead, Supergrass, and (more recently) FAULT featured acts Foals and Glass Animals all launching stellar careers from within spitting distance of this less-than-humble base.



Some musicians decry comparisons and attempts to contextualise a ‘scene’. Low Island (aka Jacob Lively, Jamie Jay, Carlos Posada, Felix Higginbottom) aren’t as petty; in fact, they’re endearingly eager to pay tribute to the places and people that helped shape their burgeoning success. It was that sense of community and kinship that led to their release of Low Island and Friends as a debut ‘collection’ in 2018. Original tracks are punctuated by collaborations with notable Oxford artists (such as T.E.E.D), and the corresponding tour featured fashion (from designer Shawn Soh) and performance artistry (courtesy of choreographer Sara Green) from some of the band’s creative contemporaries.

Beyond their respect for and desire to engage with their fellow artists, however, Low Island are admirable for their visible passion. Not just at a gig (where they clearly can command the stage), but also in their drive to forge a new, different experience for live music aficionados. They can take the comparisons and callbacks to glorious context, and they can make the collaborations and give credit where its due simply because they are confident enough that what they offer is something unique. Their latest single, ‘Search Box‘, is an extravagantly eccentric release that proves it.


FAULT Magazine: Pitch to the poor, uninitiated souls out there: why should people listen to Low Island?

Low Island (Carlos Posada): We set out to make music where the club meets the gig. That can cover everything from euphoric dance tracks to more intimate songs for the journey home. We grew up DJing and playing in bands, as well as writing music for plays and short films. Low Island is a way of bringing all of those worlds together.


Name some of your key inspirations, musical and/or otherwise?

Low Island: LCD Soundsystem, listening to Radiohead on the night tube, failed relationships, Talking Heads, the way technology has exposed our extremes, chance encounters, Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places and Things.



Congrats on the recent release of ‘Search Box’ – great track! Who came up with the lyrics to that? Were the questions based on anything in particular – like common search engine queries?

Low Island: Thanks! Those are mine. The verse lyrics are largely based on autocomplete searches (‘how can I…’ ‘is it ok if I…’), and then creating a tapestry out of those results, tweaking them to help the flow.

The song was semi-inspired by a not-very-good book, Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. The main thrust of the book is interesting though: where we might present more aspirational versions of ourselves in surveys, social media, conversation or therapy, Google searches expose a truer form of ourselves, where we feel able to ask questions free from judgement or shame.

In India, for example, one of the top hits after typing ‘my husband wants me to’ is ‘breastfeed him’ (I tried and failed to get that lyric into the song). I can’t imagine that’s something people spoke particularly freely about before Google came into being. The darker side, of course, is that our insecurities are being sold. As with every discussion surrounding the internet, the good comes with the bad.


‘Search Box’ is a darkly humorous reflection on Western society’s habit of Googling answers to anything from personal concerns to metaphysical quandaries. Do you see yourselves moving away from social commentary to jumping on any soapboxes with your lyrics in future?

Low Island: Jamie and I both write the lyrics, and we often come together around social commentary, be it to do with technology and how that is changing our relationships and the way we think about ourselves, or about more personal issues surrounding love or growing up. For my part, I’ve tried writing more directly political stuff but it always comes out trite and un-nuanced. I’ve got a lot of admiration for people who write great political music. I think it’s a difficult thing to do well.



How does the literal Search Box on your website work? Please tell me it’s not just auto-generated and one of you scripted some of those answers… ?!

Low Island: Our coding friend Will Fisher helped us to design to the bot, so you’d have to ask him exactly how it works. We wanted to create something that would let you get deeper inside the head of the song and see lyrics that didn’t make the final version. The bot plucks out loosely-related (or sometimes completely unrelated) answers and occasionally spits you onto another page, a bit like a drunk Google.

We use search engines in such an unthinking way, without asking questions like ‘Where does this data go? What dictates the results that I see? How anonymous am I really?’ Using bots can be a fun way of holding a mirror up to the process.

An answer from Low Island’s own online ‘Search Bot’ (available on their website)


I really liked DIY’s mini-doc with you guys, in which the central quote seemed to be Jamie’s explanation of how you ‘don’t really get off on the traditional gig experience’. Do you think that, increasingly, audiences expect more from live experiences (looking at the rise of immersive theatre, for example)? Is that something that you actively factor that into your approach to gigs?

Low Island: Definitely. Especially in pop, where solo artists have taken live shows to a complete extreme. The challenge for us as a small band is how to make something feel bigger than a gig without dance routines or flying Lamborghinis. For a headline show, we’ll always think about how we can make the most of the space, which can be anything from including a dance piece to an art installation.
In the size of venues we’re playing at the moment, one of the things we’ve tried to do is to make them feel different. We love the independent venues around the UK, but wanted to try to take the familiarity out of the black basements, hiding the drinks branding and bring in a more theatrical lighting rig. We’ve constructed a set that travels with us to the venues. It’s all about dark corners, desk lamps, backdrops and smoke. People need to be able to get weird and feel a sense of occasion. How an audience feels in the room is often the difference between a good or bad show.


On that note, we’re pretty pissed off at having missed the Low Island and Friends tour last year – especially the Corsica Studios gig in London with your audience-invading dancers! Any plans for similar cross-disciplinary creative collaborations in the near future?

Low Island: Absolutely. We have a Low Island Friends show at Electrowerkz in November where are planning an immersive-type piece. We just finished soundtracking a new dance piece called ‘Burnt Out’ choreographed by our friend Sara Green, and if you come to any of our shows over the summer you’ll see us wearing clothes made for us by Rosa Avilez, another great friend and incredibly talented up-and-coming designer.



What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Low Island: Supporting Crystal Fighters at Brixton Academy. It’s one of our favourite venues and Crystal Fighters have great fans. Hopefully we’ll get to play our own show there one day.


Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

Low Island: James Ford. He makes incredible sounding records.


Any musicians you think are underrated? More interestingly: who’s overrated?!

Low Island: David Thomas Broughton is both, and I think that’s what he wants. The industry calls him a genius; the public doesn’t seem to know who he is. We saw him play in Oxford in a pub to about 30 people and it was extraordinary. He has this beautiful voice and incredible songs, which he then loops and destroys by singing over them in different keys, creating feedback, running a metronome at a random tempo and putting an electric razor blade on his guitar’s pick-ups. People were walking out. It was uncompromising, unapologetic and brilliant. I wish more shows (including ours!) were as brave.



What can we expect from you in the near future? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to?

Low Island: We have started working on an album. I’m not sure when it’ll be released, but it’s something we’ve avoided doing for a while and I can already tell it’s going to be a good process for us. As a band who’ve covered a lot of styles, making an album is a great way of forcing us to make things cohere more.

We’re excited for our festival appearances too, especially Glastonbury as it’s our first time going and playing (except for Jacob who went as a teenager). We’re looking forward to seeing whether the myths match up to reality (although I plan on kicking reality pretty pronto after the performance).


What is your FAULT?

Low Island: We overwork and overthink everything. I think we could enjoy ourselves more.


Low Island will be playing at Glastonbury 2019 (Pussy Parlure – Saturday @ 1pm + Greenpeace Stage – Saturday @ 3.30pm)