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GIG REVIEW + INTERVIEW: False Eyed Dolls at The Hope and Ruin

Friday the 27th of August saw the debut live appearance of False Eyed Dolls (formerly known as ISLA) under their new name. The now-duo have returned more determined and focused than ever, rebranding as an unapologetically alt-rock powerhouse, ready to put their new-and-improved stamp on the scene - and we were there to witness it all!

False Eyed Dolls by Time For Heroes

The pair didn't come alone. First on stage were Mozkito, a heavy-rock 4-piece formed during lockdown. Despite it being their first ever gig, you wouldn't be able to tell from the amount of noise they made. Punk-rock duo SNAYX were next up, really setting the tone for their performance by coming on stage to classic 1999 hit, We Like To Party by the Vengaboys. We were super excited to see them (even before that), as their song False Friends made an appearance on the latest edition of our Discovery playlist - and we definitely weren't disappointed! Both Ollie and Charlie have an incredibly powerful, yet slightly unsettling stage presence, and the crowd fucking lapped it up as they performed tracks like Body Language and Deranged, as well as plenty of unreleased content - this is a band to keep firmly on your radar.

SNAYX by Charlotte Horton

For the main event, False Eyed Dolls blew the covid cobwebs off with their most popular release to date, Don't Love Me. The dirty, fuzz-fuelled anthem set a perfectly riff-laden precedent for the rest of the evening. The pair blasted straight into the unreleased You Can Be My Girl, followed by our personal favourite: Let's Talk, which had everyone bouncing around the room. The duo's most recent release Everything I Need was next up - a sultry, upbeat ear-worm that places Ed's melodies front and centre - and we were singing it all the way home, whether we wanted to or not! The final few tracks were all brand new, with standouts Swoon and Gloom sounding that bit more deliciously heavy than previous releases, getting us massively excited for what's to come from the duo.

It would've been hard not to sense the love and supportive energy in The Hope and Ruin that night. The Brighton music scene is overflowing with talent - and it's amazing to see multiple bands in the same room being each other's biggest fans, hyping up the rest of the crowd. The night was a roaring success on all counts, and a wonderful welcome back to live music. It really feels like gigs are getting back to normal now, and thank fucking god for that. The tentative, nervous energy of the first few weeks after restrictions lifted seems to have dropped, allowing everyone to breathe a collective sigh of relief, let loose, and finally have a great bloody time. Before the show, we sat down with Ed and Jed in the dimly lit green room to find out how they were feeling ahead of the event!

Hello False Eyed Dolls! Thanks so much for speaking to us, we're really excited to watch you play tonight! How does it feel to finally be back up and running, performing live?

Ed: It's been about 13 or 14 months since we've been in front of actual people - it's good, but it's also strange because we've got to try and get back into that mindset. It was weird playing to an empty room for the livestreams, so it's a lot more comforting knowing that people are physically coming to see us because it's not as awkward. But yeah it's good to be back, playing as a two-piece. This is the first time we've played in front of people for over a year, and also our first time playing as False Eyed Dolls so kind of a double-whammy - but hopefully it should be okay!

False Eyed Dolls by Charlotte Horton

So the real ones will know that originally the band was called Isla North, then Isla, and now False Eyed Dolls - how did you settle on the name and what prompted you to change it?

Jed: As we wrote more music and thought about where we wanna be in 5 years time, we just took a bit of a step back and were like "what part of the puzzle are we trying to fit into?" So we felt like we needed the name change and a bit of an image change, and then the lineup change came in hand with that. But yeah, the name ISLA was chosen way before I joined.

Ed: Yeah, and that name was just born out of nothing really! Like "oh yeah, that sounds cool" and we just kind of went with it. Slowly but surely it started to become more of a problem, because no one could find us on Spotify as it's obviously a person's name - and also the beginning of "islands" so any songs with that in would come up first, which became a right pain in the ass. You'd have to really like the band to be willing to sift through loads of stuff to try and find us. Most people will give up if they can't find something instantly, so that was the main reason. And I think ISLA had just run its course - we were heading towards a darker, heavier vibe and just needed a bit of a change - all for the better we hope!

False Eyed Dolls by Time For Heroes

I'm sure it will be! We're very into your new sound - who would you say your influences are, and how would you differentiate yourselves from them?

Ed: I'd say for me personally, Queens of the Stone Age are a massive one. The whole kind of desert rock thing, and the way that they write what they wanna write and not try and fit into a box. That's something that we wanna take on board and do ourselves. We're just trying to do our own thing and figure it out.

Jed: It's weird because I was never an avid QOTSA listener before the band. I've always been into slightly heavier stuff, more on the metal side, which works quite nicely from a drums perspective for writing this kind of music. It's heavy, but it's not so heavy that it's not accessible. My dad can listen to it, that's how I know we haven't written something too gross - because he's like "this is kinda cool!" so he approves, finally! I also feel kind of obliged to say Royal Blood.

It's the Brighton two-piece cliché isn't it!

Ed: Yeah, I think we're trying to steer away from that as much as possible. Being a two-piece in Brighton, we're naturally going to get compared, and it's nothing against them - they're amazing - but we are super different sound and lyric-wise. If people want to compare us, then obviously we'll take it as a compliment! But again, we're just trying to do our own thing. There's a fine line between making music that you know people wanna hear, and making something that already exists.

False Eyed Dolls by Charlotte Horton

It seems like 90% of the grassroots rock bands are coming from Brighton at the moment, why do you think it's such a hub for the genre?

Jed: Lots of our friends are musicians, or are in this industry one way or another. So it feels easier to not write like any of those people because we know them so well - it's hard to stand out in a city that's saturated with art, where being different is normal. So you have to be super different, which is something we're trying to work on more - just writing songs that feel like us and appeal to us because ultimately that's the only way to be truly unique.

Ed: There's a lot of friendly competition. We're lucky enough to be in a scene where everyone helps each other out rather than put each other down. We know if we were ever in a situation where we could help lift our friends up, we would do that in a heartbeat, and we know that they'd do the same for us. If you're given a big enough platform, you're almost obliged to use it to help promote people who you know deserve recognition. Everyone knows what it's like to be in that position, playing to empty rooms, travelling up and down the country, spending more money than you're earning playing shows.

Being surrounded by so many amazing bands all the time must mean you've got the hottest tips for new music, who are some up and comers that you're excited about?

Jed: One of the bands we're closest to is Gnarlah. They're slightly heavier.

Ed: They're a lot more established than we are, but we could easily tour with them because we have a similar sound. There's another band called Peace in Protest, they're kind of like a Lower Than Atlantis vibe. Monakis, SNAYX who we're playing with tonight - but again they're smashing it at the moment! It's just a nice ethos to have - sometimes as a musician you run the risk of getting caught up in your own little world and get tunnel vision, but if you support other people that's the best thing you can do really.

You've done some work with Black Honey too, is that right?

Ed: Yeah, they don't really need any plugging though! We worked with Chris and Tommy, that was fun. We recorded our five singles with them, but it's been kind of a sneak peek into what the next few rungs up the ladder are like. Just seeing the ins and outs of arranging tours and how the industry works at that level.

Audience by Charlotte Horton

Finally, the biggest question of all, what can you tell us about what we have to look forward to from you guys? Any plans for new music, or any exciting shows coming up?

Jed: We're going to be playing loads of new music tonight - at least half the set is stuff that virtually no one's heard, so it's a bit of a stab in the dark and we hope it goes well. We're starting off with stuff we've already released and then the songs become a bit more heavy, we're hoping the next few shows will give us an idea of how they go down. So we have 3 singles already out, 2 more that are ready to go, and then a whole bunch more that we've got plans to record. When we'll actually release it? Your guess is as good as ours. Obviously we're back into live shows now so I think we're going to tackle this, see how it goes, and probably towards the end of the year think about releasing one of the new tracks. We had loads of plans from when we were Isla, that are all still ready and good to go, but it's just a case of when.

Ed: Totally that yeah, we're just focusing on gigs at the moment. But there will be stuff to come, 100%!

Jed: Fingers crossed before the year ends!

Amazing, we look forward to it! Thanks so much for chatting with us and good luck with the show tonight!

Catch False Eyed Dolls live:

10th September - The Crypt, Hastings (supporting SNAYX)

11th September - The Bodega, Nottingham (supporting Black Cats & Magpies)

29th September - Green Door Store, Brighton

Listen to False Eyed Dolls on Spotify and Apple Music

Review and interview by Courtney Myers

Photography by Charlotte Horton and Time For Heroes

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