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Artist Spotlight: Mikey Carvajal of hardcore outfit Islander talks tour, Victory Records and new music

South Carolina hardcore group Islander have had quite the journey from their local beginnings to sharing stages with the likes of Korn and Papa Roach. The band is currently supporting Escape the Fate and Blessthefall on their joint 10 year anniversary tour, hitting Phoenix on October 9. We spoke with frontman Mikey Carvajal about the band’s origins (and shakeups), musical influences and new music coming very soon.


Atlas Artist Group: What’s the origin story of Islander? What’s it been like going from where you started to now?

Mikey Carvajal: We started as a group of friends in the hardcore scene in Greenville, SC. We were playing skate parks and coffee shops and all that kind of stuff. We ended up recording some EPs and some demos and I would sit up on Facebook every night basically Facebook-stalking all these different record label people and companies, sending them our demos. Finally we got discovered by the now-defunct Victory Records. We signed a record deal with them and found ourselves on tour with Korn and Papa Roach and all these bands that we never dreamed of even playing on the same bill as. We ended up despising our time on Victory Records.

I will say this- a lot of people want us just to say disparaging things about that label and whatnot and even though there were things that we really didn’t like and we didn’t want to be part of and at the end of it all, it wasn’t the best relationship for them or for us, there were people at the label that worked really hard for our band and that really cared about us. We just never want to ignore that fact because I think a lot of times, the people that worked there that were hustling for us every day didn’t get the notoriety from that in the interviews with other bands. Just wanted to throw that out there.  

After we got off that label, we jumped on a label called Outerloop and we were about to release a new record. Another label called Eleven Seven heard that record and ended up purchasing it off that label. Now, we’ve found ourselves in this position where we’re adding songs, writing songs, recording songs to add to that record and give the fans something to look forward to. It’s some of my favorite music that I’ve ever been a part of and I just can’t wait for everybody to hear it. So that’s where we’re at today.

Going back to all the member changes, most every single member is still a homie- they’re all friends. They’ll come out to the shows when we’re in their town. It’s just a lot of poor timing in the sense of people having babies and not being able to financially live in a van and support their wife at the same time. It’s really difficult for all of us out here, still, to do so. We haven’t lost hope yet- not to say that the old guys lost hope. It’s understandable on both sides so that’s just where it’s all at- no drama.


Atlas: What influences are you drawing from now when you’re making music?

Mikey: A lot of the same stuff that we always have. For me, I’ve always liked books and movies- more so books. When I’m reading a book, it keeps my attention better and I can imagine things for myself. It can be anything- emotions that I’m dealing with, things that I’m seeing going on in the world. I’ve been writing a lot about what I see and what I’ve experienced as of late with all the political-correctness and whatever it is going on in the world today. I’ve been writing a lot about that. 


Atlas: Do you all draw from other artists when you’re making music as well?

Mikey: It’s always subliminal- like anything we grew up with. We don’t try to sound like anybody, but anything that we grew up with- while making music, we were being influenced in the sense of these were our heroes in music. From Bjork, Depeche Mode, P.O.D., Deftones, Bad Brains- just anything that we saw a live show of, [artists] that were passionate and honest is what we always drew from and still do to this day.


Atlas: You’re currently on tour with scene icons Escape the Fate and Blessthefall. What’s this tour been like?

Mikey: It’s awesome. Like I said earlier, we’ve found ourselves on tour with a lot of legacy groups like Korn, Papa Roach and P.O.D. and that’s been incredible. It’s been a dream come true but we haven’t gotten to tap too heavily into the Warped Tour crowd. We’ve done direct support for Atreyu and gone out with The Word Alive and Volumes and bands like that. It’s been a couple years since doing stuff like that so I think being able to be out with a younger audience has been great for us because our live show is very intense. It’s nice to be able to have the crowd give that back to us. It’s been awesome, both of those bands have been great to us and it’s been easy-peasy. 


Atlas: What’s been the easiest or most rewarding part of the music industry? The most difficult?

Mikey: The easiest is when we’re on stage and people are singing the songs back or send us emails or DMs and messages letting us know that they’ve been thinking about suicide and our songs helped them move past that and not kill themselves. I think any band that’s ever gotten that kind of message can relate to that being the best part.

As far as the worst part, being away from my wife is the hardest part for me. I can’t speak for everyone on what the hardest part is, but being away from her is the hardest part. 


Atlas: What’s your master plan for Islander? How big would you like to take this project?

Mikey: I want it to grow as big as it can get and that our message of love and forgiveness reaches as many people as possible. I don’t dream of being a rockstar. I’m really turned off when I meet somebody that thinks they’re a rockstar- I don’t want anything to do with that and I don’t have time for that because we’re all just human beings living on this earth. Really the success, for me, is just seeing people’s lives changed. I think that’s the only reason I want to see my band get big.


Atlas: What’s coming up for you? Any new music in the near future?

Mikey: I don’t know when it’s coming out because we’re still in the studio recording it, but sometime next year for absolute sure. We’re doing a headline tour directly after this tour and then we’re focusing on the art direction of the record.   

Catch Islander with Escape the Fate and Blessthefall at Club Red on October 9! Tickets can be found here.


Story by Olivia Khiel
Photos courtesy of Eleven Seven Label Group