Youthful Californians are ready for the club, ready for your car, and ready for the radio
With their high-energy punk-hip-hop-alternative-electronica, IIIZ (pronounced ‘eyes’) are set to make some serious waves in the next year with their self-titled debut album. We caught up with frontman Ison Van Winkle to chat about writing their album, recording with a member of Cypress Hill, and staying true to their art:
Your sound is tricky to describe, so we’ll let you do it. How would you describe your sound to someone that has never heard you before?
Ison: ‘Well, I believe that there are two types of music: brain music, and feet music. Brain music is music that is intellectual and lets people dig into the meaning of the song, and feet music is the music you can dance to and have a good time. My goal, as a songwriter, is to incorporate both into my music. Terms I’d use to describe our sound: Fresh, High Energy, Off Beat.
Band names can be very difficult to come up with. What’s the story behind yours?
‘The band was originally known as the YIP YOPS, and we used that name for three years. After signing with Hood and Associates, suggestions were made to potentially change the name to something that didn’t have such a youthful feel. The band bounced around hundreds, if not thousands, of names before we landed on IIIZ. We liked that the name required a little thought to understand, and we felt it reflected a common theme in our current songs. It’s all about perspective.
The album’s opening track ‘Get Away’ features Sen Dog of Cypress Hill. How did that collaboration come about?
‘From the very beginning, the plan was to collaborate with an established artist. Several names were being bounced around, and during a recording session, the label was able to bring in Sen Dog of Cypress Hill (aka “Insane in the Brain”). At first, we weren’t sure that his sound and ours would mesh together very well, but after spending a day with him in the studio trying out different ideas, things just came together. Even though ‘Get Away’ is a very different-sounding song compared to the rest of our album, it was awesome working with him, and we look forward to more potential collaborations with other artists.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
‘I am the primary songwriter for the band. My process usually starts with an idea or theme, and I sit down with Logic Pro and start putting the ideas down using virtual instruments. I create each element of the song (drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals) and arrange the song until it feels the way I want it. Once the song has taken shape, I bring the song to the rest of the band. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by such a strong group of musicians that can take this virtual sound, use their unique talents, and bring the songs to life.
Who are some of your musical influences?
‘Many things other than music have influenced me, but some of my musical influences include Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, and David Bowie. When I first starting listening to music, at my dad’s suggestion, I sat in a dark room and listened to the entirety of ‘The Wall‘ by Pink Floyd. When I woke up the next day I felt like a different person. Music can be very powerful.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
‘Overall, I think the main highlight of the band is how we’ve been able to find each other and the way we work together so well. We started together when we were very young and have grown together both personally and musically. We set goals and constantly push each other musically to reach them. We’ve achieved a lot, but it’s all about the music and how it connects with our fans. You have to fight to stay true to yourself and to find true success.
Where do you get your inspiration from when you’re writing songs?
‘I get inspiration from many different places. Whether it’s a memory from the past, something that I’m going through, or just simply an idea that I come across in my day-to-day life. Sometimes, it’s just a word that has a unique meaning that conjures up an interesting theme for a song.
You have already collaborated with some impressive artists; is there anyone else you would specifically like to work with in the future?
‘If there were no limits, it would be a dream to work with Roger Waters and David Gilmour on a song to bring that genius songwriting duo back together. More realistically, we have talked about how amazing it would be to work with artists such as James Murphy, Dave Gahan, or Win Butler.
Do you have any advice for anyone who’s looking to make their own record?
‘The number one piece of advice that I would have for an artist making a record would be to stay true to yourself. Also, surround yourself with people that believe in what you do and why you do it. Throughout recording this album, we have learned that no matter how many opinions are thrown at you, you have to make sure that you love what you’re doing and stay true to your art.