Spotlight on In Isolation: Uniting 80s New Wave & Dark Alternative Beats

In Isolation (Photo credit: Simon-Parfrement)
Albums | Singles| Soundtracks by In Isolation
Albums | Singles| Soundtracks by In Isolation

How the band, In Isolation, has gone under my radar for so many years, is beyond me, but I’m thrilled to have been able to experience their music recently. It’s a fascinating blend of ‘80s New Wave and dark alternative sounds. They debuted their first single, “The Wrong Girl,” in 2007 and have gone on to produce a wealth of songs. This past June, the group released their latest project, Albums | Singles| Soundtracks, which delivers a retrospective of their past 15 years creating music.

For someone like me who’s listening to the band for the first time, this album proves to be the perfect introduction. The 28-track compilation offers a refreshing escape back into the 1980s without feeling dated or stale. Plus, the injections of synth-pop, darkwave and gothic rock spread throughout the selection highlight the ensemble’s versatility and ability to experiment with and transform retro sounds. I enjoy New Wave and have an appreciation for groups, such as New Order, Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, The Cure and Oingo Boingo, and In Isolation possesses the same indelible quality that has made their predecessors timeless.

Now, I have a few favorite tracks I want to mention here. “Not Noticing” has a dark, seductive opening, and the female background vocals infuse it with magic and exoticism. The next is song number seven, a cover paying tribute to a beloved goth tune, “She’s In Parties,” by Bauhaus. It’s well-done, and I love the interpretation they present in the accompanying music video, which is the band’s most streamed. The black and white recording has film noir and 1920s influences and features a starlet trying to make it in showbiz, succumbing to its malicious forces, then finally freeing herself from its grasp.

“Ghostburn. These haunting scars you left won’t heal”

“Ghostburn” by In Isolation

The melancholy romanticism of “The Letter” and “Ghostburn” caught my attention, and the lyrics of both underline the band’s clever, imaginative writing style. One standout line is, “Ghostburn. These haunting scars you left won’t heal.” Then, there’s the torture and frustration of affection not reciprocated in “Single Rotations of Love,” which I could easily keep on repeat.

I had the great pleasure of interviewing In Isolation, who hail from Nottingham, England. Members Ryan Swift, John Berry, Tony Ghost and Mike Sinclair open up about their journey up until this point, share career highlights and hint at what’s on the horizon.

In Isolation band members (from front counterclockwise) John Berry, Mike Sinclair, Ryan Swift and Tony Ghost (Photo credit: Simon Parfrement)
In Isolation band members (from front counterclockwise) John Berry, Mike Sinclair, Ryan Swift and Tony Ghost (Photo credit: Simon Parfrement)

Q: For those out there who may not be familiar with the band’s history, what brought you all together to form In Isolation?

A: Ryan and John decided to creatively hook up in the mid-00s as our respective bands Emma Conquest and Die Laughing had split a few years previous. As we were both living in Nottingham, had similar musical tastes and were heavily involved in the 90s U.K. Goth scene, it made perfect sense to start writing together. There weren’t too many bands around representing the scene after the turn of the millennium, so we felt we had a fair chance of making an impact in terms of recognition.

Tony joined us after we’d been writing and performing for a couple of years as he was a Notts resident and was also involved in Goth, having been the drummer for Every New Dead Ghost and was the driving force behind the early-90s ‘Day Of The Dead’ U.K. Goth festivals. Tony first drummed on the debut In Isolation album ‘A Certain Fractal Light’.

In Isolation has had a number of bassists over the years, including a past member of The March Violets, but our lineup has now been completed by former SugarBox and Dick Venom & The Terrortones low-ender Mike.

Q: The newest release, Albums | Singles | Soundtracks, is an impressive ode to your body of work over the past 15 years. Why did you decide to undertake this project and what was the process like making it come together?

A: Thanks! We were wasting way too much on annual digital distribution costs for all our former singles and albums so decided to compile them as one independent CD release. It also gave us a chance to get the songs out there to people who may have missed them first time around. The process was relatively simple, apart from deciding the order of the 28 tracks! The songs ended up being deliberately all over the place – we plumped for chaos!

We specifically decided to omit our remixes from the collection, however brilliant they are (mostly created by Dutch producer Matt Pop, best known for working with Erasure, Kim Wilde and RuPaul) as we’re stubborn purists when it comes to album content! The anthology nicely tied up the first wave of In Isolation, as we are now writing post-lockdown with a newly found confidence and developed creative style.

As it happens, methods of digital distribution have recently shifted in our favour, so we can get all the albums and singles back out there in their original incarnations, which is planned to happen before Christmas.

Q: Each member brings a vital component to In Isolation’s overall aesthetic. In addition to 80s New Wave and dark alternative sounds, what else inspires your creativity?

A: You can get a good sense of this aesthetic from our recent animated music video for ‘The Man Who Hides From Love’ – there are many stylised interpretations of our ‘look’. The pursuit of love to engulf the world, albeit not particularly realistic, fuels creativity greatly. You may notice that many In Isolation lyrics revolve around matters of the heart. This is deliberate and uncompromising. Ryan was recently married and during his speech recited some lyrics from the In Isolation track ‘Infinite’ (written about his bride) – this unexpectedly reduced him to a gibbering wreck! The soppy git.

Movies are a big influence also, especially those with dark and romantic tones; think Hammer Horror films for a start. This influence also manifests itself within In Isolation music videos, many created and directed by the band members themselves.

In Isolation’s music has occasionally included orchestration, highly influenced by movie soundtracks from composers such as Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, John Barry, John Williams, Alan Silvestri and Jerry Goldsmith. Look out for more of this type of instrumentation on future songs. Mike is a bit of a Vivienne Westwood fashionista (whom also offers creative inspiration), and Tony has a passion for Marilyn Monroe, which takes in the music, film and fashion aspects of creativity.

Q: Ryan, you were asked to speak at an astrophysics conference about the band’s track “TRAPPIST- 1: A Space Anthem” to an audience of scientists! What was your initial reaction to the invitation, and can you share a few details about the experience?

A: We had initially reached out to the astronomy community in a promotional capacity, as scientists are (luckily for us) prone to publishing their email addresses, resulting in the song ultimately finding its way to not only the manager of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (“here at NASA we are thrilled by your anthem”), but also Dr. Michaël Gillon at the University of Liege in Belgium who had led the team that uncovered the habitability of a set of planets in the Aquarius solar system and had named the system ‘TRAPPIST-1’. Soon after, the Liege University team had kindly added our music video to the official TRAPPIST-1 website, a scientific conference called ‘TRAPPIST-1 2019: Towards the Comparative Study of Temperate Terrestrial Worlds’ was arranged that gathered global astronomers studying the system.

One of the sessions of the conference was about the artistic/societal impact of TRAPPIST-1, and how it managed to link science and fiction and inspire artists, writers, and game developers. Dr. Gillon asked permission to show our music video at the conference and invited In Isolation to attend and explain to the room of scientists what inspired us from the TRAPPIST-1 discovery to write the song, its genesis, etc. We were taken aback by the offer, but I was incredibly happy and honoured to talk about our songwriting methods (including a free trip to Belgium!) As a musician, you rarely get to explain the creative processes of music and lyrics to interested ears, especially directly to an international conference of astrophysicists! The experience was very fulfilling, and the conference participants seemed genuinely interested and even threw out the odd question or two.

Q: You’ve performed at major festivals in the goth scene, such as Whitby Goth Weekend and HRH Goth. How does it feel getting to perform your music live in front of a crowd, and what have been some of the most memorable moments? Are there any particular events or cities worldwide where you’d like to perform your music?

A: Although we do not yet feel like we’re a name that pulls punters in droves, we often hold a crowd’s attention and the amazing feedback we can get in the moment of performance keeps us going as a live act, particularly when we’re supporting name bands such as Toyah, Balaam And The Angel, and Sex Gang Children. Performing live is a doozy and Tony in particular lives for it!

The Toyah show in Nottingham was particularly memorable as we were getting a great reaction to the music from a predominantly new audience, even though one of Toyah’s musicians had no qualms in displaying his annoyance at the general concept of support bands (woah, remember your roots, pal.) We also played an unplugged show with Mark Burgess from The Chameleons in Glasgow and had a great time (we’d arranged a selection of our songs for acoustic guitars, which worked very well and prompted the promoter to suggest we should consider playing some future shows half electric, half unplugged. Watch this space.) We reckon we’re improving at writing songs with every release and the reaction from our gig audiences seems to reflect this.

In our previous band incarnations, different members have toured Europe many times and have performed in the U.S., but In Isolation has yet to leave the shores of the U.K. to play live – hopefully this will change soon. Despite the restrictions put on working musicians in the U.K. since leaving the EU, we’re hoping that we can get our foot in the doors of European Gothic festivals. Playing Berlin is also a particular aspiration, a city to which we wrote an ode as a previous single.

Q: Are there any teasers you’d like to drop regarding future projects?

A: We are currently working on 15 new 80s-inspired songs (count ‘em!), some of which have completely returned to our Goth roots, and some which are much more synth-based than previous releases, so this exciting experimentation period mixed with our self-declared improved composition abilities means there’s some very interesting stuff on the horizon.

Thanks, Jennifer, for the interview!

TRAPPIST-1 Lecture by Ryan Swift

Where to Stalk In Isolation

In Isolation Bandcamp



In Isolation Videos YouTube

Note: Top image is by Simon Parfrement.

4 thoughts on “Spotlight on In Isolation: Uniting 80s New Wave & Dark Alternative Beats

  1. Great interview, Jenn! In this chat, as well as in the others, you always cover a fascinating range of topics in a relatively limited space.

    News of Ryan speaking at an astrophysics conference was particularly noteworthy, as it required both groups (the scientists and the artists) to veer a bit from their normal “comfort zones.”

    Of course, your history of the group shows In Isolation isn’t new to exploring (and to incorporating) new genres. No wonder they caught your ear.

    Liked by 1 person

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