I first glimpsed Lion Island by accident, walking back from a weekend Uni exam, not exactly in the best of spirits, where they were playing a free show in Brisbane’s King George Square. Their ability to fill a large stage with eight members and the cavernous square full of wondrous music bolstered my mood and had casual passerby’s on their way to the train, stop and listen. When seen again three months later at The Hi-Fi Bar my admiration for the band was affirmed and proved that Lion Island are one of Brisbane’s most ambitious and talented acts.

Here are a band capable of solo singer-songwriter mode, resembling a Brisbane Beirut by adding brass and violin to the acoustic guitar and drums to finally expanding for epic orchestral rock, as if Finn Andrews was fronting The National. Emotive and soaring, delicate and full of warmth its music based around the songwriting prowess and considered lyrics of Matthew Vale. While Matthew has already released the solo album Long Drive Lion Island have only one EP to their name. This should be joined by a long player in 2011 that hopefully manages to capture the elegance of Vale’s songs while incorporating the richness that the poly-instrumental band brings to their live shows.

01. Who are you?

Matthew Vale, lead singer and songwriter for Lion Island. I also write songs for my solo project under my own name.

02. What do you sound like?

When I approach writing songs for Lion Island, the instrumentation is a big influence to how the song turns out. We have trumpet, violin, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, bass and drums, so more often than not the Lion Island sound is big and complex but it revolves around simple catchy grooves. We sound like Neil Young meets Jeff Buckley covered by Delta Spirit sung by Paul Simon.

03. What do friends say you sound like?

Friends used to say that we sounded like Beirut, then they said we sounded more indie, like Arcade Fire, and a reviewer recently suggested that I must have the The Veils on repeat.. (I had never heard of them).

[I think we’re more like Cold War Kids or even a bit of Coldplay with a pinch of folk. But honestly I think if there’s a way to get the essence of all these bands and mix them all together, then that’s what we are.]

04. Full-time musicians or wage slaves?

A bit of both! We work full time at our music every week, but rather than divvying up the proceeds to pay the rent, we’re putting the cash towards bigger and better things like recording our next album.

05. Current band highlight?

Probably playing the song “Black Cab” with Jens Lekman when he came to Brisbane. I remember playing covers of that song 2 or 3 years ago, and then I was privileged to play it with the man himself on stage.

06. Favourite decade for music?

Hmmm… that’s a tough one. I really dig the 1920s for rhythm and blues. And I’m also heavily influenced by the ’60s when bands like The Beatles and The Stones and The Doors were coming into the light. But then the ’80s had stuff like The Cure’s Disintegration and Paul Simon’s Graceland and The Smiths. I think right now in my life I’d have to say (surprisingly) the ’80s.

07. Should music be free?

I think it should absolutely be free to listen to music. I think it there should absolutely be a fee to keep music.

08. Which 3 musicians would you invite round for dinner?

Robert Smith, Jeff Buckley and Chris Martin

09. Preferred tour reading?

Anything fantasy. Sean Williams Books of the Cataclysm or Terry Brooks.

10. Best mood for songwriting?

Hmmm… either deep melancholy or over-the-top Happiness.

11. Last record you bought?

The Best of Van Morrison

12. Five favourite albums?

The Cure – Disintegration
Paul Simon – Graceland
Van Morrison – Best of Van Morrison
Delta Spirit – Ode to Sunshine
Jeff Buckley – Grace

(not in any particular order)

13. Your biggest rock and roll fantasy?

To play at Japan’s Saitama Super Arena for like a million billion people.

14. Goals for the next 12 months?

Release our first full length album. Do an East Coast tour, write some golden new material. Have a cuppa coffee.

15. First time listeners, where should they start?

Start by coming to see us at our February residency at the Brisbane Powerhouse!