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Indie rock group Isles teems with musical moxie

When it comes to launching itself into the Bend music scene, wide-eyed indie rock quartet Isles has thrown conventional wisdom out the window.

Other than performing a brief opening set at Parrilla Grill a few weeks ago and making a handful of First Friday Art Walk appearances, Isles has yet to play a legitimate gig. Yet, in spite of its limited public exposure, the band plans to soon record an ambitious concept album—its first studio effort.

The only question to ask must be: Who the heck are these guys?

The answer? One of Bend's best new bands.

Until now, Isles has been performing completely improvised instrumental rock sets. Built around the driving bass of 26-year-old Allyn Dubief, Isles sets about the delicate business of adding in rhythm guitar from Tyson Vandenroucke—formerly of Cadence—and Elijah Goodall as well as drums from Jarred Schwake. The result is statuesque music that builds upon itself over and over, climaxing in an orgy of dark, willowy rock akin to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and slightly less anthem-like than Explosions in the Sky.

"The improv shows were a happy accident," Dubief said. "We're actually recording a live album of the instrumental stuff in a couple of weeks."

The band's impressive improvisation seems like second nature: While the bandmates rarely look at each other (Goodall keeps his eyes closed), each seems to understand where the others are going with their parts. Cues are most often found in the bass. The other members simply climb on board.

"We did the improvised stuff to attract attention," Schwake said, adding, "and hopefully create hype.

"Hopefully," he continued, "people will be stoked that we will have rehearsed stuff too."

But even that rehearsed stuff, Goodall said, was born of just playing around in the studio. The lyrics came later.

"The entire album is written from jams," Goodall said. "There is this whole narrative that we are building the lyrics around. The improvised stuff has helped us a lot because we feel that recording a song is not actually the death of song; it's more giving birth to something because six months later, when we play it live, it's not going to be the same thing."

The guys have a hard time wrapping their heads around how they are tackling the new music. One spouts off that they sound like Radiohead, another says Foals and yet another brings up Mutemath. But they all agree, it is a lot to bite off and they aren't going to share it until it's done.

With their first show at a real music venue coming up May 23 at The Horned Hand—opening for San Francisco alt-rock band Tartufi—Isles is definitely taking tempered steps toward that concept album. But if the prowess of Isles' instrumental music is any indication, Bend will be getting a locally produced record unlike any we've heard before.

8 p.m. Thursday, May 23

Horned Hand 507 NW Colorado Ave.

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