Pepe Jeans London closes a year of 40th anniversary celebrations next month following a string of European gigs lifting the lid on the most unique emerging acts right now. For the anniversary closing party – and the final act in this year's Pepe Jeans S1ngular Music Festival, Is Tropical will play the Oval Space. Whether sounding angst-ridden, desolate, jubilant or a mixture of the three, Is Tropical's house-flecked indie is infectious. From the band's humble beginnings wearing hessian bandit masks at their gigs, to travelling the world and releasing one of the most NSFW videos of 2013 in "Dancing Anymore", Is Tropical have sought to challenge people's perceptions. Playing as part of Pepe Jeans S1ngular Music Festival in December, vocalist Gary Barber tells Dazed about the band's steady rise to dancefloor domination, working with production team Megaforce and club culture in far-flung places.
Dazed Digital: Is it safe to say 2013 has been a defining year for Is Tropical?
Gary Barber: It's been the year we've pushed things forward as a band I think. The reaction to the second record (I'm Leaving) has been really awesome, the video for "Dancing Anymore" has been a big deal. And we've done so much travelling.
DD: What were your highlights?
Gary Barber: Ghana was great, we went over there for a bit to do a show but stayed out and hung out for a bit. We were completely surrounded by people who were into all kinds of different music, we got completely immersed in it. One night we went to watch a football match and all the fans get involved, they bring some instrument with them or just get a rhythm going with whatever objects they have to hand. The culture is incredible.
DD: What was it like playing in Tokyo earlier this year?
Gary Barber: It was a huge culture shock when we got there. We've been before, just after the tsunami in 2011. I've heard that a lot of audiences at gigs out there are polite and gracious, but when we played it was completely off the hook. We were Djing at this place with a huge swimming pool out in front of us. People were just throwing themselves into it and going crazy. Our label, Kitsune, put on these big nights out there, very late nights, that's the stuff we go to. I remember playing ageHA, too, and there was this huge soundsystem that came down from the ceiling. It was brilliant.
DD: Are you pleased with the reaction to the video for Dancing Anymore?
Gary Barber: Of course, that's been really amazing. Megaforce did the video for the song "The Greeks" on our last album, so it was good to work with them again on this one. They've worked with some huge names (Madonna, Metronomy) but they don't have a really specific style, so we wanted to let them express themselves. The best thing to do with Megaforce is give them creative license, not impose too much. I suppose we can't really take the credit for how well the video turned out.
DD: How did the production of I'm Leaving differ from your debut album Native To?
Gary Barber: When we first started out we used to be more introverted. We'd face each other on stage and wear those veil-mask things. I think we wanted to keep the focus on our songs and that anonymity added a bit of theatricality to our live shows. It wasn't like we were trying to be stand-offish with the audience. But people perceived it as arrogance, and the production of the first record influenced that too. We made it ourselves, on computers, with no real idea what we were doing. With I'm Leaving we wanted to do things more naturally and break out a bit. We let off a bit on the reverb and distortion, so it sounded a bit less cloaked.
DD: Does being on a French label influence your music?
Gary Barber: I'm not sure, I mean, the main reaction has been that we sound quite British, with the guitars and stuff. But there's a slight influence of house and dance music, even techno, on tracks like "Dancing Anymore". I guess because we DJ around Europe a lot, the music we feed into our sets influences what we make as a band.
DD: What are your plans for 2014? Are you working on any new music?
Gary Barber: Not yet. This year we're flying off to a few places and doing some shows. We're Djing in Milan, Rome, just trying to do as much as we can. The good thing is it's hard to define us, but that's exciting, there's no need for us to sound like Is Tropical. Our approach is that nothing has to fit in, or fall in line. Nobody's going to be upset, or surprised, if we change direction.
DD: What is your favourite moment from 2013?
Gary Barber: There are too many to name. But we went out to Mongolia and that was really special. There's a funny story when we went out to a club and they were playing Sex On The Beach, but everyone was singing it wrong, they kept going 'I wanna have Sex On The Bitch,' which is the most degrading thing ever. Everyone thought the song was about having sex on your girlfriend. We said to them it was 'Beach' not 'Bitch' but they kept saying 'what's a beach?'. They couldn't understand, because Mongolia is landlocked. They'd never seen a beach before.
To win one of five pairs of tickets to see Is Tropical play the Oval Space as part of Pepe Jeans S1ngular Music Festival 2013, tweet using the hashtag #S1ngular. Stay locked to our twitter and retweet for a chance to win. Closes November 29th