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    sleepmakeswaves – Interview About the New Album

    "With 'It's Here, but I Have No Names for It', We’ve Summarised Our Musical Journey"

    Interview von Anne
    23.05.2024 — Lesezeit: 10 min
    Deutsche Version lesen
    sleepmakeswaves – Interview About the New Album

    Guys! It's Here, But I Have Now Names For It! I got the chance to chat with sleepmakeswaves bass and key mastermind Alex about their new album, the ongoing tour, and what's been going on in the band over the past few months! Please lean back and enjoy the read. I recommend listening to "It's Here, But I Have No Names For It" while doing so! Thank you, Alex, for sharing all those exciting insights with me!

    Anne: Hi! Thanks so much for chatting with me! It's a pleasure to finally get to know you guys! How are you doing today? I'm guessing you're in a pretty good mood with "It's Here, but I Have No Names for It" and everything!

    Alex: Hi Anne, very happy to be doing this interview with you. Thanks for your time. We recently finished some tour dates for the new album in Australia, and then at Dunk!festival in Ghent and a headline show in London.

    The shows went really well, but unfortunately, we had a spate of gastroenteritis during the tour. It was bad enough that our guitarist Lachlan had to sit out the London show, and then our guitar tech Matt and I got incredibly ill on the plane rides home. Perils of touring!

    Anne: I heard about it and felt so sorry. It's so good that everyone is doing well again! "It's Here, But I Have No Names For It" is already a candidate for album of the year, in my opinion. You must be delighted with your work, are you?

    "'It's Here, but I Have No Names for It' Is Our Most Song-Driven Record in a Decade"

    sleepmakeswaves – "It's Here, But I Have No Names For It"
    sleepmakeswaves – ”It's Here, But I Have No Names For It”

    Alex: Yeah, I am very happy with it. I think it is the most consistent, song-driven record we have done since "Love of Cartography" a decade before. The other albums in between were crucial to us expanding our musical horizons, and via "It's Here, But I Have No Names For It", we've summarised our musical journey with focus. We're also all seasoned musicians now, and I think our best performances so far are on this latest record.

    Anne: You already recorded the songs during the pandemic. After that, you had a tour and other stuff to organise before finding time to finish the album. How does it feel to hear

    the finished songs now? Do they sound different to you than when you first played them together?

    Alex: The pandemic was an opportunity to write a great deal of material (enough for about 2.5 albums) and record demos in our home studios. The compositions, honestly, did not change a great deal between those demo recordings and the final studio recordings. Part of what made the record creatively successful was that we had all the details locked-in before we started work in the professional studio setting.

    I love hearing the finished songs now because they have the creative inspiration of the pandemic period, where we were very prolific, combined with some of our best playing and a tremendous mix by Andrei Eremin.

    Anne: What did you have in mind when writing the songs for the record? They are very versatile and various. Each one tells its own story and has its own signature. As a whole, they form a beautiful instrumental narrative. Do you want to tell me more about this narrative, the story behind "It's Here, But I Have No Names For It," and the one it tells?

    "Our music tells a story"

    Alex: You are correct to call it an "instrumental narrative", as the music itself is the story, a tale for the listener to interpret on their own terms. We have attempted to sequence and write albums according to a concept before, but in this case, we wanted to present the music more simply and straightforwardly.

    Each song has its origin in a feeling or idea that is personally close to one of us as the original composer. We experimented a great deal with different track listings from a shortlist of (if I remember correctly) about 15 songs.

    We used the classic vinyl album timings of two 20-minute sides of music to guide our choices. Side A tends to be more aggressive and streamlined, while Side B is more expansive and wide-ranging.

    Anne: Do you have favourite songs on the record?

    Alex: Honestly, for me, at this point, I am really in love with all the songs. If I had to pick some today, it would be "Verdigris" and the title track.

    Anne: Did you decide to work with fewer lyrics again this time, or did it come about naturally?

    "Some lyrics here and there can be a refreshing addition"

    Alex: Otto writes vocals when he thinks they may enhance the atmosphere of a composition, so in that way, it is a natural decision. We treat them like any other part—everyone has to agree that they make the song better if they are to be included. Because of the genre conventions of post-rock, it is always somewhat challenging to decide how much/little singing to include in our music, even if, in general, we find it a refreshing addition to the basic elements.

    Anne: I also really like the return to strings. You've used them before (e.g., on "Made of Breath Only"). Will we also experience them at your live shows? Will Simeon accompany you?

    Alex: Returning to strings has felt really good. This is the first time that we have recorded an ensemble of string and horn players, as opposed to soloists. Simeon played a huge part in making that happen. He is a good friend, supporting us through this new experience with great sensitivity and expertise.

    We're not sure how to approach the strings in a live setting. They are so crucial to some of the songs, yet we can't tour a string section. It feels slightly off-putting them through the PA as pre-recorded backing tracks, but perhaps that is what we must do.

    Anne: Besides the strings parts, are any other musicians supporting you on the album?

    "You can hear our recording studio engineer in the song 'All Hail Skull'"

    Alex: Our recording studio engineer, Ethan Reginato, yells the wordless melody buried in the outro of "All Hail Skull".

    Anne: The Australian post-rock scene is quite versatile. How was it to evolve as a band in this creative environment?

    Alex: There have always been excellent Australian post-rock bands. Dirty Three have been virtuosos of the style since the 90s, and when I started out with sleepmakeswaves, groups like Decoder Ring, This Is Your Captain Speaking and Laura were proudly showing what our scene was capable of. Many fine bands have come into their own alongside us: Meniscus, We Lost The Sea (Check out the interview here), Solkyri (Check out the interview here), Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, plus more. I'm proud of this history and the way it continues today.

    Australian post-rock as a scene is defined, for better or worse, by the very limited opportunity for commercial success—even relative to Europe and the US. Some good things come out of this situation: you are healthily cynical of the industry's bullshit, focused on your own musical values, and hungry to prove your worth—knowing you will have to work two-to-three times harder to earn your place than other Australian musicians playing certain other genres. Because of this outlook, when opportunities from the music industry came our way about five years into our career, we were ready to take advantage of them.

    Anne: How would you describe today's music scene especially in Sydney compared to the early days?

    "Sydney's live music scene is under pressure"

    Alex: I think we are in a bad slump, but there is opportunity in the crisis. When sleepmakeswaves started playing live in 2007, Sydney's live music scene was already under pressure from poker machines and high licensing costs, but there was still life in it.

    There were many small-but-cool venues that ordinary people liked to attend. We cut our teeth at a particular place called the Excelsior Hotel, in the heart of the city, where people would go just to discover new bands. I am forever grateful to the promoters and fans at that place, who gave me a chance to learn and improve. We got to make fans who weren't our friends, and learn from our betters. It was invaluable.

    Today, ticket sales are poor across the board. Quality venues, with loyal attendees, that can support up-and-coming musicians who want to learn the ropes, are rare. Despite many people complaining about the terrible effects of social media, they continue to consume music primarily through scrolling feeds at home, rather than listening to albums in full and attending shows. A scene cannot survive on these practices. There are some small venues and organisations that are admirably doing what they can to buck this trend, but the focus of many musicians and industry people in Sydney remains on how to service the toxic algorithm.

    I expect we have another 10 to 15 years of people throwing their creative energy at a system that disregards and exploits them. Hopefully, after that point, they will realise that more good effort cannot go after bad, and will decide to try something different. This has happened several times before in music history—when creative people realise the status quo is no longer working in their interest, and it is abandoned.

    Anne: The part about the toxic algorithm sounds very familiar to me! It just feels like all creatives suffer from it.

    What has changed for you as a band since the early days? You played hundreds of shows on all continents, recorded at least ten records, and visited festivals of every genre together. That must have been quite formative.

    "I try to use the band as a vehicle to pursue some unattainable idea of creative excellence"

    sleepmakeswaves. Bild/Picture: © sleepmakeswaves
    sleepmakeswaves. Bild/Picture: © sleepmakeswaves

    Alex: I was 21 years old when I started the band. I am 37 now. I have been changed by the experiences in the music industry that you describe, but age has also changed my relationship with music at the same time. The experiences you describe have given me confidence in what we do. I know that we can play a show well, and I have faith in our capacity to write post-rock music that will not be a waste of the listener's time.

    At the same time, as I am more confident, I also hold the experience of being in a "good band" more lightly. The pandemic, among other things, forced me to rebuild life routines and self-images that were not based on the (narcissistic?) highs of live performance and touring.

    I now try to use the band as a vehicle to pursue some unattainable idea of creative excellence, rather than using its achievements as proof of personal worth, as I did when I was younger.

    Anne: It's been a while, but I'm sure it was one of your milestones: How did it feel to play in front of the sold-out Metro Theatre in Sydney for the first time?

    Alex: It was a high-water mark for the band as a whole. For me, the honest answer is that I was experiencing a tremendous personal crisis at the time, one of the worst in my life.

    So that night was an incredibly ambivalent one—a sense of immense personal achievement co-existing with a feeling that my world and expectations were crumbling around me.

    When we were preparing to release the recording of that show as a live album, I couldn't—and still cannot—listen to it because the memories of that period were too painful. Following on from your last question, this experience was certainly a milestone in reminding me that fulfilling your ambitions can have a deeply ironic character. "These Are Not Your Dreams" indeed.

    Anne: The post-rock circus feels like a big family. After talking to bands from this genre for some years now, I've noticed it even seems to become closer over the years—between bands and also between fans. I think this is a circumstance that distinguishes this scene from every other genre, and it's so precious! Do you feel so?

    "If you're interested in being a musician because you're primarily driven by a desire for accolades, post-rock isn't your genre"

    Alex: I agree. We have tended to get on well with other post-rock bands. If you're interested in being a musician because you're primarily driven by a desire for accolades or money, post-rock is a particularly bad genre in which to pursue those goals. It tends to attract people who are—in respect of their music—earnest and focused on their own self-expression above what the majority of people are going to think of it ("cool I guess, but when do the vocals start?").

    Anne: As one of the defining acts in post-rock, you also played a very important role in this by connecting bands and venues and giving them the opportunity to go on tour in Australia. That's wonderful, and it also feels like you're pretty good at socialising. Have you always been interested in bringing people together?

    Alex: That's a very nice compliment. We have strong values around creating a positive and generous atmosphere on tour. We want people to have a good time with us, and benefit from any good fortune way may be participating in at the time. I think this is also partly due to our Australian mentality coming to the fore. We are a self-deprecating lot, and even if you are nominally in a 'better' position than others, it is considered immoral to act accordingly.

    Anne: You've already been on the road with Karnivool, COG, Devin Townsend, Underoath and Russian Circles. This year, you're touring with Meniscus and Elephant Gym. There are some real idols and great musicians on this list, and you're friends with many other outstanding artists. Do you still have any role models? Which musicians inspire you in particular? With their music and their personal way of doing things?

    Alex: Those bands that you mention have all been a privilege to share the stage with. One of my all-time idols that we got to share the stage with in Sydney was Opeth. We didn't hang out with them. But, during our set, I looked to the side of the stage and saw Fredrik Akesson intensely nodding along to us, arms folded. That was a great moment for me.

    In terms of musical idols today, I like Robert Fripp for his outrageous musical talent and philosophical approach to music creation and the music industry. I also generally really like the independent punk and post-punk scene of the 80s and 90s. Their careers and albums of musical integrity and discovery remain a huge inspiration to my creativity and drive. I am always discovering new bands and artists from that era that blow me away. The latest, from the past few weeks, is Shudder To Think and their outstanding "Pony Express" record from 1994.

    Anne: Thank you for the recommendation! I will definitely check it out!

    If there were one thing in the world you could choose that would change the way you wished to, what would it be and why?

    "All value generated by collective labour should be available for everybody!"

    Alex: That value, generated by the collective labour of humankind, be available to all members of humanity—for their physical and mental flourishing—rather than being diverted to a select few for capital reproduction. That's one thing, right?

    Anne: That's a beautiful thought. I think this could really make Earth a better place.

    You have a lot going on right now, with the album promo and your ongoing tour. Besides that, are you already working on new songs? Did I also hear rumours about some new amazing video ideas?

    Alex: We're hoping to release a new album to the public in less than four years. If we're successful, it will be a new personal best for us.

    Anne: Thanks very much for this pleasant chat! I wish you all the best for your plans and goals!

    Alex: It was my pleasure. Thank you for your time supporting our band.

    sleepmakeswaves – "Ritual Control"

    © 2024 · · Anne Reis