Normally, the transition from the street to inside a gig venue is quite an unremarkable affair. Often the most exciting thing you can expect is a crude smiley face drawn on your hand, or trying to decipher if the perplexing stamp you’re branded with has any relevance to the show you’re about to enjoy. For promoters EVERISLAND, these are the minutiae that matter. At their first event of the year, held at the Williamson Tunnels, the gig-goer has to navigate a dark subterranean tunnel to reach the performance area, before being greeted by hula-hooping deep-sea creatures, iridescent in glow-in-the-dark leotards. With an eerie soundtrack bouncing off the damp stone walls and dripping ceiling, you’re transported to another world. This isn’t your average gig; this is Aquaria, the first of The Island Chronicles.
The event is the inaugural happening in the Liverpool promotions company’s year-long Island Chronicles project, and a happening it truly is. The idea is to do something more than your usual pint of lager, support and headline act; with The Island Chronicles, at each event you step into another realm. everisland founder Samuel Garlick explains: “We wanted to take people on a journey and really immerse them in the concept we’ve concocted around this element-based series.” There will be four events spread across the year in different locations around the city, with the limiting factors of each theme and venue forcing the organisers into producing more ambitious, meaningful events with greater focus and purpose. “Each Chronicle is formed around one of the elements,” Samuel elaborates. “Aquaria – water, Infernia – fire, Subterrania – earth and Cyclonia – wind. Each will represent a whole new and imaginative environment. Aquaria will be a tough act to follow, but we’re very excited by the challenge and the high expectations.” It’s an ambitious project which, judging by the beaming faces and enthusiasm of the Aquaria gathering, will be met with open arms by Liverpool’s gig-going community. It also helps that everisland already have a track record for holding extraordinary events.
Samuel formed everisland two years ago alongside Clarry Mowforth (now Assistant Manager of The Kazimier). The duo met writing for a certain pink-paged music mag and soon decided that they wanted to become more involved in the music scene they were tirelessly documenting. Seeing a gap in the market for shows that merged theatrics and music, everisland hosted Thirteen on 13th January 2012. The concepts (along with the event titles) have continued to develop in imagination and scale ever since. Hannah Colson joined Samuel at the beginning of this year and has given the whole thing a shot in the arm, sparking a reinvention for everisland. “We’ve always been lucky enough to have had a great reception to our ideas but audiences became a bit too familiar with what we had to offer, so we wanted a change and to possibly boost expectations, and Hannah has injected a whole new level of enthusiasm to everything,” says Samuel about his new partner-in-brine.
The journey that the audience goes on during a night at one of their shows forms a large part of the consideration that goes into building an everisland show, from both an aural and a visual perspective. Aquaria is a truly multi-sensory experience: you may be looking at a creature peering out of a coral cave when a drip from the ceiling interrupts the reverie you slipped into, aided by the ambient aquatic soundtrack composed especially for the evening’s event. “You can’t have an immersive experience without creative output aimed at as many senses as possible,” says Hannah glowingly, alluding to the soundtrack’s composer and his concept. The track was crafted by the elusive Liverpool producer Killøtto and certainly adds a further dimension to proceedings. With music being the most integral part of an everisland event, Samuel and Hannah have obviously taken care to ensure the line-ups at their events represent the brightest in Liverpool’s crowd of up-and-coming talent, as well as emerging acts from beyond the city. More importantly, they select artists who suit the mood of a particular night and buy into the vision of an immersive experience. Hannah explains that it’s not just a case of jumping on a bandwagon: “It is a celebration of the local scene, but they also have to fit with the atmosphere of the night.” “We tread the line between picking artists that are cohesive and flow well together, but also are different enough to offer an aural journey throughout the night,” adds Samuel. “It’s not as simple as the headline band gets the best slot – we try to anticipate how the audience will react to each act and plan accordingly to what suits the event best.”
A key ingredient to everisland’s success has to be the fertility of Liverpool’s creative crop. By The Sea are amongst the conspirators lined up to play the next Chronicle event, and they’ll join an impressive list of past eversland headliners that reads like a roll-call of the region’s most successful breakout artists over the past two years: Stealing Sheep, All We Are, Bird, Loved Ones, The Tea Street Band, and now VEYU and Southern.
The Island Chronicles depends on open-minded audiences, quality bands and extraordinary spaces. The choice of the Williamson Tunnels as the setting for Aquaria was certainly inspired. “A lot of research goes into location, as it is key to personifying the identity of the event. Aspects such as acoustics, aesthetics and malleability of the space are all considered,” says Samuel. Hannah adds that the importance of the city’s creative community is also vital to the company’s forward momentum. “It’s competitive in the best possible way. There are a lot of promoters who strive to deliver great independent entertainment in this city but they’re not out to tread on each other’s toes. There’s a nice sharing culture between the creatives and there’s a lot going on, but that keeps the scene healthily competitive.”
Rising Scouse starlet Låpsley is in the process of composing the soundtrack to the next Island Chronicle instalment, Infernia, an event which will see the Wolstenholme Creative Space brought back to life and transformed into a fiery furnace. “With the blessing of Priya and the other founders, we’re really excited by the possibilities of [WCS]; it was always such a fantastic and creative institution. We can’t wait to see what costume, set and visuals our design collective come up with for it,” says Samuel of Three Moons Collective, the design team who made such an impressive job of transforming the Tunnels. “The level of detail and thought that have gone into set and costume design [for Aquaria] is incredible; it perfectly encapsulates the whole concept that we envisaged,” Samuel adds, his enthusiasm matching that of the Harlequin Marching Band, who have Aquaria’s tunnels swinging as we reach the evening’s climax.
The project obviously means a great deal to Hannah and Samuel, whose mission is a simple one: to put on events that they would enjoy themselves. “The audience response has certainly been a highlight. People that come to our shows always welcome the imaginative, and often weird, ideas we come up with – it feels like they appreciate that we’re not latching on to trends [but are] creating something original.”
Samuel goes on to explain how everisland wanted to push beyond the stasis which is easy to succumb to as a promoter putting on regular gigs. “Events can sometimes feel a little meaningless – as though the promoter is hosting it just to keep on people’s radars, and we’ve been guilty of that in the past – but this allows us to produce vastly different and continually fresh experiences for each night, both visually and musically.” And with that we emerge from Aquaria inspired and elated, looking ahead excitedly to what everisland has in store next.
Infernia, the second instalment in The Island Chronicles, takes place at Wolstenholme Creatiove Space on 10th May, headlined by By The Sea.