Set on stages far too small for this enormously inventive lineup, nine-piece band The Island of Misfit Toys is nothing short of avant-garde. Although the group’s members may strike the audience as unconventional, that observation reigns a close second to the band’s ability to effortlessly captivate a crowd.
First formed in 2010 in Chicago, Island’s energy has since been full speed ahead. After four years of numerous gigs, an album, extended plays (EPs) and tours, the bands live show rules indescribable.
Perhaps some of the reason a mere description of the band’s live show lacks luster is due to front man Anthony Sanders’ stage presence. As Island’s main writer and composer, watching Sanders belt out his own gutty lyrics onstage exposes the audience to their true emotional magnitude.
“I’ve realized I’m a firm believer in delving deep into the past so I have a better understanding of my present,” Sanders explained. “When I perform, I’m knee-deep in the past, and I sort of have to accept it, even though it can be painful.”
From poetic verses to more intimate life accounts, Sanders has never failed to deliver a “feeling” to his followers, especially in song.
“The lyrics are only subtle when I think the person they’re about will never understand where I’m coming from, but oftentimes I’ve had people I’ve written about ask me about certain things,” he said. “It’s actually made my life and relationships better, which shocks me.”
Brimming with an almost spiritual deliverance, his articulate vocals and passionate shouts have often brought audience members to tears.
Alongside Sanders’ fervent lyrics, the ensemble successfully integrates unconventional instruments, supplying the music with refreshing singularity.
“The large amount of members in the band is amazing,” keyboardist Danny Radovanovic said. “We’re like a huge music playing family. It’s funny because I used to think that five people in a band were a lot. Now I don’t even notice there’s so many of us.”
Flute [Audrey Sanders], sax [Evan Loritsch], melodica [Ashlee Stewack], trumpet [Mark Jaeschke] and acoustic guitar [Julia Bard] are among Island’s members.
“We’ve got [performing] down to a science at this point and I think it builds a lot of suspense when people first see us live,” Radovanovic said. “They see this army of musicians, and I hope they feel something really epic is about to happen.”
In regards to songwriting, Sanders also explained as the main writer and composer in the band, he feels it is exactly where he belongs.
“I’m absolutely okay with writing all the lyrics and arranging/composing, because I think it’s what I do best,” he said. “However, it doesn’t mean the songs aren’t made collaboratively.”
While the band’s variety of instruments reinvents musical norms, Island’s ever-growing span of “sound” makes their definitive genre hard to come by. They span from a distinctive indie-pop sound to harmonious acoustics, from slam poetry-like arrangements to vehement breakdowns.
The band’s track “My New Room” off of the EP Furiouser and Furiouser displays Island’s more stripped acoustic side, along with “Knife Throwing Academy” on the band’s first album Bear Hair. Tandem Shop Record’s 2011 Holiday Mix included Island’s “When You Learn to Love You,” a track excellently combining acoustics and slam-lyric deliverance, featuring both Sanders and Radovanovic.
“[Sanders] is an amazing writer and knows how to use words in an incredibly beautiful way,” Radovanovic said. “So almost every time, the lyrics he writes are on point with what the whole song is trying to evoke. Whenever there’s an opportunity for me to do a part and write something, I get in on it because I have a super fun time writing and love doing vocal stuff in the band.”
“The Cockroach Song” off of a split EP incorporates a variety of instruments including brass, bells and guitar, giving every member on stage a chance to present their talents collectively. Accompanied with lyrics by Sanders, each song seems to display a range of experiences (the first few lines off “The Cockroach Song” being a personal favorite: “I’ll twist some words for you tonight/ Just to avoid the truth/ Only to protect you”).
The Island of Misfit Toys has previously released their first full length album entitled “Bear Hair,” along with a six track EP, “Furiouser and Furiouser.”
After embarking on three US tours, one of those including a gig at our very own Firehouse Pizza in Normal, the best is still yet to come.
Island will begin their fourth tour sometime this August, accompanying the release of their newest record “I Made You Something.” Containing 9 tracks, the album is set to release sometime late this summer.
Considering most album tracks have only been previously heard during live shows, the studio recordings are being wildly anticipated.
“The new album really sums up our sound perfectly,” ISU student and Island flute player Audrey Sanders said. “Each track definitely highlights all the different sounds we bring to the table.”
She continued, “In the song ‘Singing,’ for example, you can really hear the classical instruments come out, like flute and sax. ‘Architects,’ also displays everyone’s vocal talents in the harmonies.
In “Burble,” Anthony’s emotions really come through vocally. We’re such a versatile band; what I love most is that once you hear a song of ours, you automatically know its Island.”
You can listen and download Island’s music off their official “Island of Misfit Toys” bandcamp page, and support the music by liking their Facebook band page. Island’s next upcoming show will occur July 5th at Township in Chicago.