by Ian Anderson
Finally, a stocking stuffer you can give without hesitation. Set aside the jello and casserole—or Norwegian sweater—because just in time for Christmas, Islero’s new EP, Like You Mean It, puts the sarcastic “Jesus Christ” back into the holiday, our government and even the voting public.
Download an mp3 of Islero’s song Door to Door Knife Salesman.
Originally, the three-piece harder-than-indie-rock group wrote reflective songs
about personal issues. But now, facing down four more years of W in the White
House, Islero has made the switch from introspective to speculative, driven by
an overwhelming need to analyze the conflict within our country in song.
“Obviously, we’re pissed off right now,” offers lead singer
and guitar player Andy Elwell, 21. “There’s a lot of backlash right
now, so we just have to start from somewhere.”
You Mean It expertly captures this feeling of pissed-off alienation, both
personal and political. The first half of the EP is an exercise in self-examination,
each song leading to an even more angst-ridden follower—the second half
is pure pissed off political commentary.
Elwell’s almost primal growl overshadows two combating guitar and bass parts
contending for dominance, while bass player and backup vocalist Alan Church, 20,
supports Elwell’s forceful mic skills with appropriately balanced counter
melodies—alternating between spoken, staccato outbursts and desperate fits
of distorted screaming. Drummer Dale Kirvelay, 27, acts as a catalyst for the
aggressive centers of these songs, proving his control and accuracy by knowing
when and where to play loudly.
The record possesses an Omaha-esque feel with evidence of Dischord influences,
referencing similar artists like Cursive, Q and Not U and Desaparecidos with a
certain sense of fearlessness when it comes to melody and rhyme. Church and Elwell
aren’t afraid of singing themselves hoarse, just as long as their voices
are heard. Their songs also have an upfront quiet-loud-quiet dynamic, reminiscent
of countless replayings of Seattle-based grunge bands as adolescents, but with
some intelligence—creating a unique appeal with both hard-set emotion and
This complexity and thoughtful writing reflects Elwell and Church’s long
friendship, the frustration associated with growing up in Duluth, Minn., and eventually
moving to Minneapolis just over two years ago.
“We came here because it was the next big city that had anything,”
says Church. “Duluth is stagnant,” says Elwell, finishing Church’s
thought as he often does. “Duluth treated us really well, but we needed
a band with a stringent political mindset, Islero still speak with the same light-heartedness
and goofiness often associated with young, optimistic artists. Kirvelay began
retelling the many tales of doomed van problems while on tour the past few months.
Apparently, both times the band stopped in Kansas City, they faced a flat tire
and broken alternator.
“It’s an ‘86 Ford with an ‘84 engine,” explains
Elwell, describing the dilapidated van with as much pride as if he had made it
“We call it ‘Destiny,’” jokes Church, motioning his hands
through the air as if he was spelling the moniker across the sky.
“No we don’t,” counters Elwell.
“We call it Morrison. Van Morrison,” claims Kirvelay, putting his
foot down and ending the van-name debate.
The turning point of the record is during “Door to Door Knife Salesman,”
which Elwell uses as a literary playground to drop heavy-hitting lines like, “Here’s
that knife you borrowed, it’s funny where it ended up,” and, “This
is me, this is me giving up.” Acting as a transitional point in the record
as a whole, they begin to fuse personal and political opinion.
“It’s good to mix personal and political issues,” Church said.
“We’re trying to be true to what we feel,” Elwell finishes.
The anthemic “Door to Door Knife Salesman” should be on every local
music compilation this year. It really shows what the band is capable of, promising
a bright future for the band.
The rest of the record is solely stark political commentary. Elwell and Church
use this set of songs as a stage from which to preach behind a pulpit built on
angst and disillusionment. But the preaching isn’t forced, it’s an
honest plea for change, a hoping for a something better, a call to arms for all
those “enthusiasts with their homemade signs portraying true activists”
“I’m not going to force something that isn’t there,” Elwell
said. “When people fabricate how they feel, it sounds like it. If you feel
passionate enough about something, it’s going to affect your writing.”
Too often, the stigma exists that if you’re in a certain kind of band you
need to write a certain kind of song. However, even though they’re still
just a group of eager young minds, Islero doesn’t want to be subject to
such genre defining confinement.
“We’re not just entertainers, our political views matter,” Elwell
Islero plays the CD release show for their EP Like You Mean It
on Thu., Dec. 9 at the Triple Rock Social Club with Crush, Kill, Destroy and
Aviette. 9 p.m. 21+. $6. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. 612-333-7399.
Check out Islero on their official website at IsleroMusic.com.
Download an mp3 of Islero’s song Door
to Door Knife Salesman.