Photos by Joseph James
Photos by Joseph James
Recently, when browsing through my emails, I opened the newsletter from German label Pelagic Records. Imagine my surprise when I saw that they’d signed Wellington act Spook The Horses! Win for local music!
Now to be honest, I’m never been a big Spook The Horses fan. I cam appreciate what they do, but the heavy roaring often put me off. But their set tonight has completely made me reconsider. They are incredible!
They had some screens free-standing on stage, with a projector shining images onto the screens. The new music sounded mellow and sparse, with pleasant singing in place of roaring. In my head I started to compare their new sound to the likes of Blueneck and softer Opeth.
The band slowly started in increase the intensity, finishing the set with some of their older material. It was an interesting evolution, from ephemeral music with nice singing, to heavy post-metal with roaring. And because the transition seemed so gradual, I not only warmed to the roaring, but really got into it. Tell you what, I was thoroughly impressed! The drums sounded especially thunderous, so props to the sound guy.
Rosetta have recently come off a month-long US tour. I recently came back from touring across a America with a band as well, so I can understand the immense scale of where they went. Philadelphia is on the east coast, a few hours drive south from New York City. Their tour was mostly in the west coast region. That’s a long way from home.
And now they’re in New Zealand, which is almost as far as they can get from home. Speaking to Mike (vocals) before the show, he told me how the response in Asia and Australia on this current tour has been unbelievable. By the sounds of things, it feels more rewarding playing in foreign countries because people make the effort to see bands that don’t have the opportunity to play those places as often.
Clearly all that touring has helped them mesh as a band, because they are one helluva unit! Seriously tight, and delivering blow after blow of intensity. Rosetta’s latest album, Utopioid, is a dynamic exploration of musical textures and timbre. Tonight they brought those textures to life, pummeling us with searing riffs and busy beats.
Mike was a brilliant front man. Funnily enough, most of the bands I’ve seen in recent months haven’t had singers, and the ones that do usually have the singers playing guitar. It felt special to see a vocalist freed up to move around without an instrument to restrict him.
One of the most vital aspects of putting on a show is energy. It’s the difference between listening to an album and home, or seeing the band play it live. Seeing guitarists throw themselves around and flick their hair about, seeing drummers beat their kit into submission, seeing singers draw us in to sing along – that’s what it’s all about. And you can see from my photos, Rosetta brought their music to life. You could feel the energy.
Admittedly, I’d been apprehensive about a Tuesday night show. I’ve been worn-out recently, and I knew a late night wouldn’t do my body any favours.
As it turns out, the opposite is true. Not only did I have a fantastic time watching two brilliant bands, but I feel revitalised. There is something to be said for exposing yourself to things that inspire you. I just want to sit down at my drum set and smash something out, to create something new and exciting.
Rosetta made a point of touring extensively after writing their most recent album. This is their first time in New Zealand. And I’m grateful that they came this far, because it has been rewarding for everyone involved.
Words and photos by Joseph James
Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta have recently released their sixth album entitled Utopioid [Will Not Fade review here] – a portmanteau of Utopia and Opioid. Utopioid is a concept album composed of four distinct sections that explore the extremes of texture and dynamic. It is also the band’s third independent release, offered for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. This is an interesting move in the current age of streaming, but the band not only recouped recording costs, but also achieved top-selling status on Bandcamp.
Believing Utopioid to be an album worth hearing live, Rosetta just underwent an extensive tour across North America. After a short break, they will embark on another tour throughout Asia and Oceania in a month.
Will Not Fade’s Joseph James chatted with guitarist Eric Jernigan about the album, the band’s philosophy, and touring.
Eric Jernigan: Thank you! This is the first time everyone opened his contributions to direct criticism from another. As always the primary focus was to create something that spoke to us as individuals. But we also learned that each one of us does better work in collaboration, challenging as that process may have been at times.
With the four parts of the album, did you write each separate section in sequence, or did you write everything and then arrange them by mood? Because this album is cyclical, so I was wondering about the order it was written in.
We dedicated certain blocks of time to each movement, but if the creative fire went dark for a certain section we allowed ourselves to explore new ideas or tweak existing songs based on what we were in the mood for. Can’t waste time after all.
Does coming up with a concept make writing music easier or harder?
I think musically speaking many concept albums are born haphazardly and later sequenced to fit the story at the artist’s convenience. We avoided that by drawing the map for the concept shortly after we finished the first song structure, and we stuck to it religiously. It made certain aspects of writing feel more cumbersome, but we know it produced our strongest work to date.
Tone, texture and timbre are clearly important to you. What are some ways you try to achieve these things?
I’ve found lately that purposefully limiting the number of tools at my disposal can force some extra creativity to the surface.
To continue that discussion of collaboration, who’s idea was it to create the remixes of your songs included on A Dead-Ender’s Reunion? How does it feel hearing someone else’s take on music you wrote?
We’ve been friends with Will Benoit (Living Phantoms) for many years and deeply admire his work as both a producer and a songwriter. It’s a real treat to hear your music filtered through the mind of a respected peer.
With the recent record, you stressed that this was worth hearing live, and have tried to tour it more widely. Is it hard living on the road so much?
As long as we remain cognizant of the privilege inherent in sharing our music with audiences around the world it’s not hard. No one likes operating on minimal sleep for 30 days straight or sitting upright in a van for hours on end, but the reward is worth the effort.
How was the American tour you just finished?
It helped remind us we live in an unbelievably beautiful country. We found a few hours to visit Yellowstone National Park on a cold day in late October and saw a bunch of geysers, a herd of bison, and a pack of wolves. And then of course we ruminated on the crushing power of the supervolcano lurking beneath us.
What are you expecting from the upcoming Asia/Australia/NZ tour? You’ve chosen a good time of year as we are coming into summer.
It’s been 5 years since we were in Australia and all the rest of the territory is brand new for us. Couldn’t be more excited. Hoping as always to find extra time to meet interesting people and check out whatever sights we can manage.
sleepmakewaves are opening for you in Australia, and Spook The Horses in NZ. They are strong bands, and I actually thought sleepmakeswaves showed up This Will Destroy you when I saw them play together once [Review]. What is your process for choosing support acts?
Actually we’re the support for sleepmakeswaves in Australia, so we built the rest of the tour around that. Spook the Horses have been on our radar thanks to Robin from The Ocean and Pelagic Records, so we were stoked when our NZ agent suggested them. In general we aim to travel with bands who push music somewhere new and hope to make friends along the way.
I recently attended dunk!festival in Vermont, where Pelican and Junius were among the top billing acts. One thing I noticed is that they appear to have more cross appeal than many other bands who played the festival because they cross from post-metal through to doom/sludge territory. But then there was also Russian Circle, who don’t have vocals, and still have managed to achieve similar success. I realise that when Rosetta formed, the idea of post-rock/post-metal wasn’t so prevalent, but do you think that including vocals affects how accessible you are as a band?
To be honest accessibility has never been among our goals so we don’t spend much time thinking about it. Many of our friends in prominent instrumental bands receive unsolicited offers from random singers no one’s ever heard of: “Hey, obviously you left out vocals because you just haven’t found the right front person yet.” Likewise I’m sure there’s a contingency of people who’d prefer we didn’t incorporate screamed and/or sung vocals. Truth is none of that has any bearing on what we create.
After parting with Translation Loss Records, all your albums have been released independently. Talk me through that decision. How does staying independent compare to the option of re-signing to a label?
Translation Loss is a great label that helped us out immensely over the years. Independence simply gives us a more direct line to our listeners and vice versa. We value that connection.
If you were to give advice to a band starting out, would you still recommend the DIY route?
There’s no other way for a young band as far as I know!
When you first decided to offer your music at a pay-what-you-want price, did you expect to earn enough to cover recording costs? Has this helped you gain more exposure?
No, there was a lot of trepidation within the band on the eve of the release of The Anaesthete. We’re lucky to have a wide-ranging group of supporters who understand that music and art are valuable. I doubt it’s helped us gain more exposure, but who’s to say?
How does it feel to have gained best-selling status on Bandcamp?
We are immensely proud of that achievement. Again, we owe that honor to our fan base for their contributions.
Bandcamp offers different formats like FLAC and WAV, and I noted that you recently re-uploaded Utopioid at a higher res.. Do you care about how people access your music (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play etc…)?
For me the idea of caring about how people access our music is tantamount to exploring how people devote their attention to the consumption of music in general. If caring means I wish people would actively listen to our records rather than stream them from Youtube while reading pointless articles online, then yes. But I also recognize music serves different purposes for everyone.
Do many people still buy the physical albums when they are made available? Is there still a demand of supposedly outdated media like cassette tapes?
Yeah, with each album we expect more digital and less physical but demand for CDs and vinyl is actually increasing. We manufactured a small run of cassettes for Utopioid and have been psyched to see them selling through our Bandcamp page and at shows.
I see that you have offered bonus tracks on a few albums for the Japanese editions. Now that the internet opens up access to a global audience, do you feel that you still have separate markets based on location?
That’s a good question. For the most part I think the internet has effectively leveled things in that respect. Nonetheless, it’s tradition in Japan to have some bonus material on a CD. So far we’ve always had the extra tracks around so it’s fun to release them with a great label like Tokyo Jupiter.
Rosetta has been around for 14 years now. How does being in a band now compare to back when you started?
As you might expect the responsibilities of life outside the band weigh a little heavier these days. Luckily the balance is manageable for the most part.
29/11 Kaohsiung TW – Paramount Bar
30/11 Taichung TW – Sound Live House
01/12 Taipei TW – Revolver
02/12 Singapore SG – Analog Factory
03/12 Kuala Lumpur MY – Rumah Api
05/12 Perth WA – Badlands
06/12 Adelaide SA – UniBar
07/12 Melbourne VIC – Howler
08/12 Brisbane QLD – The Zoo
09/12 Sydney NSW – Oxford Art Factory
12/12 Wellington NZ – Valhalla
13/12 Auckland NZ – Ding Dong Lounge
15/12 Launceston TAS – Greenwood Bar
16/12 Hobart TAS – Brisbane Hotel
Alien Weaponry are not your standard band. The three of them – brothers Henry (drums) & Lewis de Jong (guitar and vocals), and Ethan Trembath (bass) – are all still at highschool. They are also known for their unique brand of thrash metal delivered in both English and Māori. Singing in Te Reo sets them apart, but is by no means a gimmick. The music not only stands up on its own, but it crushes. After gaining success in two national music competitions, the trio have begun to garner notoriety, and are now booked to tour Australia and Europe in the near future.
After a string of relentlessly good singles, they are working towards recording their début album, which they are using Indiegogo to help raise funds for. I’ve wanted to interview them for a while, and I figure that now is a great time to do so, catching them on the cusp of the next stages of their success.
Will Not Fade: How are you at the moment?
Alien Weaponry: We are absolutely hammered by media requests but it’s a great problem to have and are so grateful that people seem to like what we are doing and want to write about it. It’s very humbling.
Do you ever expect to get far in Rockquest and Pacifica Beats, considering the nature of your music?
In all honesty we totally expected to fail and be hated at Rockquest. Looking at videos of other years finals we couldn’t find any metal at all and entered as much to make a statement about what we wanted to do with no expectation of winning anything. It took a few years but to their credit Smokefree Rockquest embraced what we were doing and the rest is history. I think the turning point was when we entered Pacifica Beats (also run by Rockquest) and decided to write a song in Māori for that. Some mates had entered in to Pacifica Beats two years earlier and they were a ska band and they won so we thought let’s get noticed and enter a thrash metal song. We fully expected to get noticed but not win. We won, go figure.
Do you feel like a success story? You already have tours lined up overseas before you’ve even finished school.
It’s pretty exciting really, yeah it’s happening fast now. People think of it a bit as overnight success but we have been together now for six years and we have spent plenty of nights playing in pubs around NZ to small audiences. It’s really hard to get your name out there. We are real happy it’s happening now. The European thing is happening faster than we expected. We fully had a goal to be playing at festivals like Wacken Open Air in Germany and thought we might achieve that by the time Henry was 20. It’s crazy to be doing that shit next year – it’s booked and happening! We have five festivals already and counting. We were approached by a big festival promoter in Europe straight after we released “Rū Ana Te Whenua”. A friend of his had seen it and showed it to him on his iPhone at the airport in Athens … next thing he is messaging us on Facebook offering us a slot … Crazy. We are now signed to German music agency Das Maschine.
What are the biggest struggles of being in the band? Does age factor into it?
Not really our age, although we do have to go to school and that can be a major drag when we are trying to get band stuff done. On the other hand it gives us a context for writing songs about frustration and conflict. We have occasionally had people write us off as a “school band” without ever hearing us but that’s not much of a problem anymore. We are obliged to have our parents or legal guardians with us at all times on tour because of the legal stuff with licences venues so that’s a bit dumb sometimes but they are not really a problem and they are a good support when we need it. I think now that we are all over six-foot tall the “little kids” tag line can finally be shaken off.
Does it make it easier or harder having two brothers in the band?
It’s both. You go from wanting to punch each other hard to understanding exactly what they are trying to do or say with songwriting. We haven’t had a serious punch up in a while now but we do get on each other’s nerves. Living in the same house makes rehearsal easier but it’s hard to get away when you need peace. In the end we will always come to an understanding because we are brothers. We can be pretty rude to each other though at times.
Many of your songs reference stories from Aotearoa history. Are these stories something you grew up with, or do you actively seek it out?
We know most of these stories from our dad and stuff he told us when we were kids. He used to point out landmarks and important Māori battle sites when ever we went on a road trip. He has a lot of books too. A history of Te Arawa has some mean as stories in it about early Māori conflict with English settlement. We are from Ngati Pikiao so the Te Arawa stories are often about our tīpuna. Now we live in Northland (Ngāpuhi) we are learning more about the northern conflicts and songs like “Urutaa” are partly about Northland events.
Obviously, as well as honoring your tīpuna with these stories, there is underlying political subtext. What are some key messages you want to share with your listeners?
It’s hard to grow up in a Māori speaking whanau and attend a Kura Kaupapa without having your eyes opened to the recent history of this country. Anyone learning our recent history will in some way or other adopt an activist mentality. It’s inevitable. We try not to be one-sided and songs like our upcoming song “Kai Tangata” tell the story of Māori on Māori conflict and the musket wars. It’s important to say it as it is. talking about the difficult and ugly subjects is what thrash metal does well.
I think it is awesome that you sing in Te Reo Māori. It’s like combining the passion of haka with the heaviness of metal. What prompted you to sing bilingually?
As we said earlier we had mates who had entered Pacifica beats, They are in a band called Strangely Arousing. They had also entered in Rockquest as a band called Aftershock. As Aftershock they played metal and we thought they were cool. They made it to the finals one year but won Pacifica beats as Strangely Arousing and playing as a ska band and it got us thinking what if they had entered as a metal band. It came naturally for us to write a song fully in Māori, it was a no brainer, we didn’t even really think about it we just did it.
I saw a Wireless video that involved you playing a koauau [a traditional Māori flute]. Are you planning on integrating some traditional instrumentation that one wouldn’t expect to find in metal music?
Yeah we have already recorded an intro to “Rū Ana Te Whenua” that will probably end up on the album version. We recorded it last year in the Waipu caves. Tom Larkin came up with a mobile recording setup and we went out to the caves. We had to do several takes cause tourists kept coming through. They must have thought we were nuts doing this stuff deep underground. The reverb is awesome though and total organic. Sounds wicked with the koauau and purerehua.
Ethan, I read that you scored your spot in the band because you could play ukelele. Are we going to hear you thrashing it out on uke for any songs on the album?
Nah probably not. I have just landed a sponsorship with Spector basses in the USA so unless they do an electric Spector uke then i can’t see it happening.
Do you have other contemporaries who sing in Te Reo? This is something I haven’t come across much – or at least within rock music.
We have met heaps of Māori guys in metal bands but non singing in Te Reo. Johnny from Amachine is a pretty wicked Māori speaker too and an awesome guitarist, We played with them a couple of years back. Average Mars Experience have Māori guys too. Wicked musos. They are an instrumental band but these guys should fully do some Māori metal.
What has your reception been like in other countries? Does it compare to how we listen to bands like Rammstein? I played your songs to many of my friends when travelling in America recently and most people loved it.
Yeah we have been overwhelmed by the number of positive comments from fans all around the world. Metal is a good genre for “foreign language singing” I think as the vocals are often more of an instrument than in other genres. Really we have nothing negative coming back at all. We do sing a lot of stuff in English too so yeah something for everyone I guess.
You have some creative options for your Indiegogo campaign. Who came up with the idea of jumping into the Waipu river?
When we first looked at the crowdfunding thing we looked at what other bands were doing and a Polish metal band was offering to immerse themselves in the freezing cold swamp behind their house. I guess the Waipu river is our swamp, but cleaner.
What’s it like working with Tom Larkin? I’m a diehard Shihad fan.
He is a hard man. We mean that in a good way and he is really good at calling bullshit if he thinks things are not going as they should or reaching full potential. As a drummer he worked a lot on Henry’s drum technique and is a perfectionist. We have another producer also working with us and it will be interesting to compare their production styles.
What can we expect from the upcoming album? I’m loving the singles that you already have out.
We have a bunch of new material written after “Rū Ana Te Whenua”. Some of it in Māori like “Kai Tangata” and quite a lot in English too like “Holding My Breath” and “Cult of Sanitised Warfare”. We are pretty excited to be going into the studio next month to finish it off. We will probably be doing some Facebook live streams from our sessions too.
What are some of your career highlights to date?
We have had so much happen to us lately. Being included in the lineup for Soundsplash is pretty awesome given we will be the first ever metal band to play there. We have a number of cross genre festivals coming up over the summer. Also we are booked on some huge European metal festivals next year. The high light as of today must be the Apra Silver Scroll Maioha Award. That was so unexpected and such a privilege.
And what are your upcoming goals for the future?
We would really like to be in a situation where we are doing this full-time as a living. Touring the world and being recognised for our unique approach to metal. It would be cool to think we had inspired a younger generation not only to get into music but into te reo Māori too.
Alien Weaponry are currently raising funds to record their début album. To support them check out their Indiegogo account: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alien-weaponry-debut-album#/
All photos supplied, taken by Lisa Crandall.
Thanks to Niel Hammerhead for setting this up.
Perennial post-metal journeymen Rosetta began their sojourn into the dark recesses of cerebral rock in Philadelphia in 2003. In that time they’ve released some truly memorable records and became the godfathers of an underappreciated scene. They’ve now released their 6th album fully independently and continue their 14 year trend of challenging listeners with truly erudite songwriting.
Rosetta is a band perpetually at a crossroads. Never satisfied with representing one sound they venture to combine all the horror of a war torn landscape with that of the serenity of a deathbed. This is a band that has been dubbed as writing “metal for astronauts”. They are a thinking man’s band. Rosetta melds perfectly the 90’s hardcore sound of a band like Earth Crisis with the melodic undulations of If These Trees Could Talk. Layered on top of all these ingredients is a violent sense of urgency that keeps you listening.
The Philly boy’s 6th album Utopioid unabashedly continues the trend of never really letting you rest easy while listening. The first track “Amnion” is a perfect example. An instrumental piece, “Amnion” lures you in with it’s melodic stoicism giving you a false sense of security. When the final notes ring their end you go right into “Intrapartum” that begins with an almost choir like canticle. It isn’t long before you’ve realized your mistake. You’ve been too trusting. The snake has already deceived you with its poisonous tongue and there may be no way to go back. Songs like “King Ivory Tower” and “Neophyte Visionary” forego all pretense and immediately go for the throat. Interspersed throughout all the gloom is Rosetta’s unique touch of placing beautifully melodic passages in just the right places. These passages act like arteries that pulse new hope within all the savage din and cacophony, but just as you start to relax you’re thrust back into the melee fighting for air. It’s undeniably brilliant.
If you look at the song names and how they are ordered you definitely see a concept forming. Couple the lyrics with the song names and you recognize a story starting to unfurl. It seems to be a story about birth/rebirth. Of the rise to power and manipulating man’s desires. Of being taken advantage of and feeling culpable. Of wanting to believe but ultimately losing faith. Utopioid is about the futility of human effort. It borrows heavily from The Ecclesiastes, a book of the Tanakh that purports that all of man’s vanities and desires matter not one iota as death is the ultimate leveler.
You can recognize a lot of that futility in the song structures. From what lyrics I was able to discern there was a lot of gravity set on ushering in and building with light. Light in this case being a metaphor for knowledge or illumination of the mind. The Ecclesiastes hones in on this idea quite a bit. Gaining knowledge and wisdom is fine, but it’s all for naught. On Utopioid Rosetta does a wonderful job of conveying the duality of man through their ability to perfectly mix chaos with harmony. Clean and guttural vocals constantly do battle as the two opposing forces of dogma and living true come together to achieve the same goal.
Utopioid marks Rosetta’s third album while completely independent. The band and label Translation Loss Records dissolved their partnership in 2013. Since then Rosetta has continually been able to grow. They were able to fully recoup within 24 hours their self-funded album The Anaesthete in 2013 and were the top-selling release on Bandcamp for nearly a month. They’ve since decided to stay independent with the release of 2015’s Quintessential Ephemera and now Utopioid, giving credit to the old American adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
You can certainly hear Rosetta’s approach on their newest album. It was a collaborative effort from the first track through to the last. They’ve poured themselves put into every chord, syncopated beat and lyric. Rosetta may be a band 14 years in the making, but with Utopioid you can almost hear the band transcending to new heights in the empyrean firmament.
Utopioid was produced by Rosetta and Francisco Botero at Studio G in NYC.
The name dunk! may as well be synonymous with post-rock. dunk!records are one of the leading labels within the scene, and their long-running festival in Belgium has a fantastic reputation. Starting another festival in America was an interesting experiment. Would they be able to replicate the Belgium experience in this setting?
They were in good hands. David Zeidler, Arctic Drones writer and general post-rock authority, took it upon himself to run things. He’s a driving force behind the Open Language and Hemispheres compilations, so already had lots of contacts with bands around the world.
Burlington, Vermont, was chosen as the site to birth the American festival – mostly because that is where David lives. The rationale was that it is within tolerable travel distance for major East Coast cities like New York and Boston, and could also attract Canadians. As a non-American, I can’t comment on the most suitable location for the festival. However, I do know that America is an incredibly big country, so the reality is that no matter where you chose to situate the event, it will be a long way to travel for many people.
They chose to run it on Columbus weekend, which would give people the Monday off to travel home. While a good idea in theory, this didn’t help the festival because many Burlington hotels were booked out for the long weekend, making the festival more costly to attend for anyone from out-of-town.
Not that I, a New Zealander and dunk! virgin, understood any of those matters when I decided to go. As far as I was concerned, a band had offered to take me on tour around America, and there was no way I was going to pass up such an opportunity.
That band is Ranges. The tour has been brilliant to date, and dunk!fest was supposed to be the climax of the trip. Ranges have recently released their new album, The Ascensionist, so it made sense to tour America on the way to dunk! to promote it. CJ and Wilson from the band also run A Thousand Arms, a screen printing company that make merch and functions as a distro for bands and record labels. One such label is dunk!records, meaning that A Thousand Arms were responsible for the merch booth at the festival.
We arrived at the venue early on Saturday morning, slightly bleary-eyed, but excited for the weekend. Rages had played a show in Brooklyn the night before, and CJ had stayed up all night driving us to Burlington. I don’t know how he functions.
Higher Ground was a great choice of venue. They had two big rooms, each offering a stage so that acts could play continuously throughout the day. If a band was playing on one stage, stagetechs were setting up for the next set on the other stage next door. Initially there was a no pass-outs rule, but that was removed to allow people to get food. The venue was brilliant, other than the lack of food options on site. It sounded good, looked great, and ran smoothly.
Chinese act Zhaoze started of the weekend on the main stage, albeit slightly late due to sound issues. Central to their sound is a guqin – a traditional Chinese instrument that looks like a slide guitar crossed with a harp. The guqin is played with a bow or plucked, much like a violin. It was also plugged into various effects pedals. Their set didn’t blow me away, but the cool lighting foreshadowed the amazing light shows due over the course of the weekend.
Local band Sad Turtle baptised the second stage with their jazzy, indie-styled instrumental rock. It was instrumental rock music, but not like most post-rock we are accustomed to hearing. It’s refreshing to hear upbeat music that steers clear of restrictive genre clichés.
So far on tour, Ranges have been using their own lighting rig. It includes blinders, strobes, red spotlights and Edison bulbs that flicker and glow along to the music. The light show syncs up to the music, making a Ranges set an impressive audio/visual combo.
Which begged the question: do they use their own lights, or take advantage of the light show offered at a big festival? In the end they opted to use the blinders, but drop the rest of their lighting setup in favour of the stage lights. It’s a shame, because their own setup is impressive. The show looked fine in the end, but lacked a component that usually wows people.
However, they played great. Easily the best I’ve seen them play. I got a bit emotional watching them, seeing my friends reach a career milestone that they’ve worked so hard towards. If they were nervous it didn’t show, because they owned that stage. I still don’t understand how CJ can function without sleep.
If they needed any verifying that they’d done well, they completely sold out their first pressing of vinyl following that set, mere weeks after the album release date.
Of The Vine showed that you don’t need an impressive light show to look impressive. All the members wore black or grey, and the band was starkly backlit by white lights. The stage was alive, with all the musos whipping about with intensity. One of the guitarists broke a string, so the band had to pause between songs so he could re-string. Usually a moment of boredom, the band told jokes to pass the time, and the crowd laughed along. It was a nice moment that represented the culture of the festival.
This is the third time I’d seen This Patch Of Sky this week, having shared the stage with Ranges for two dates on their tour. Sadly they’d had sound issues and inadequate set up for the mix both times. But thankfully, this time they shone. Maybe, despite their recent album title, they suit bigger spaces better than small clubs?
Boasting easily the best light show of the weekend, the band played their tranquil tunes bathed in lush hues. They have a lot of members, so took up the space on stage well. And they sounded great. I prefer energetic songs over dreamy music, so my favourites were the ones that featured heavier drum beats, and melodies on the cello, rather than mournful swells.
Similar to Of The Vine, Appalaches rocked the stark black outfits. Five members on a small stage looked crammed, but that didn’t prevent them from moving about erratically. The guitarist on stage right had long hair that looked fantastic as he head banged. Take note bands: long hair and frenzied movements make your stage presence so much cooler!
Tides Of Man have shared the stage with Ranges for four nights on tour, and we have grown tight with the lads in the band. They are the best dudes, and their music is phenomenal. I joined the Ranges guys on the balcony overlooking the stage as we watched our friends show how it’s done.
Tides Of Man have a few songs that feature sweeping melodies that I find irresistible. They fill me with bubbling, intense joy. That, and the fact that the band members are so talented makes me rate them very highly.
As a drummer, I’m drawn to the rhythm section. Josh is a monster on drums. His little flourishes and fills are the best. And Alan doesn’t just play bass, he plays lead bass. There is a difference. His parts stand out.
If you can’t tell already from my fawning, the set was superb. The band played four unreleased songs, making me very excited for the upcoming album. It was bittersweet though, because as amazing as it was, it was the last time I will see them play for a very long time.
The Eye Of Time is a solo project. I didn’t catch much of his set because I’d been helping Tides Of Man and Ranges pack their gear away. He had visuals projected onto a screen behind him, with music coming from a laptop and cello.
Perhaps an odd fit for a post-rock festival, Emma Ruth Rundle brought variety to the day. I applaud whoever opted to add her to the lineup, because it’s nice to have a break from the same style of music after a full day of it, and because female artists need more representation at events like this.
Rundle, backed by her fiance’s band Jaye Jayle, looked the part. The room was thick with illuminated stage fog, making the atmosphere palpable. And they were all dressed sharply, with a cohesive image.
Chatting to one of the guys in the band after the set, I asked how he would classify the music. He said he doesn’t like pigeonholing their sound with specific genre – he just plays music. Fair enough. The music was eerie, touching on gothic. And it was spellbinding. Everyone I talked to raved about how great it was.
This is when the night started to get wild for me. Joey from Ranges beckoned me to the bar and handed me two beers. Turns out he’d just bought 10, and someone else had bought a round of whiskeys. “We’re double fisting!” someone shouted, and a group of us including Ranges, Tides of Man, myself and David Zeidler made our way upstairs to the balcony overlooking Astronoid’s set.
I’d already been helping myself to the beers in the green room for a few hours, so those extras I got given was enough to send me over the edge.
Astronoid played a blistering set. Again, a guitarist on stage right was a highlight, turning into a flurry of long hair. Cousin It crossed with the Tasmanian Devil.
Mark, the Ranges drummer, was having the time of his life. He was air-drumming along to the Astronoid set like a madman. His enthusiasm was infectious, and we were all cheering and yelling. After a few songs I decided to make my way downstairs to see the band up close.
I didn’t make it that far though. I spotted Joey backstage and went to see him. Next thing I know, I’m chatting with Emma Ruth Rundle while she has a smoke. Turns out she used to live in Wellington ten years ago, which is where I’m from. I got caught up in talking to her band and missed the rest of Astronoid’s set.
Ok, I’ll admit that I’m super hazy on Pelican’s set. Too many beers are bad for you, boys and girls. I remember enjoying it, and thinking that the photos I took were really good. Sorry that I’ve let you down on the journalistic front. I also asked a girl to dance, and she politely turned me down, saying that it isn’t really dancing music. She had a valid point.
After the set I made the most of any beers left in the green room, the last of which was confiscated from me by security.
The same crew who had been on the balcony during Astronoid gathered behind the venue. It was the last night Ranges and Tides of Man would be together, so we were all doing drunken goodbyes. Two men from Quebec joined us. No-one knew where they had come from, but it was in a backstage area, so we assumed that they were in a band. Eventually we found out that they just wanted to party. We all took a group photo together to commemorate our time together on the road.
All the beers in the green room had been exhausted so someone made the call that we head to a bar. CJ, who had been awake for roughly 30 hours straight at this point, wanted none of it. He just wanted to sleep, and understandably so. He climbed into the van to catch some zzzz’s and texted Joey: “Don’t let Joseph in the van or I will punch him”. Opps, maybe I was being a menace.
The rest of us piled into the Tides of Man van for the drive into town. One of the Quebecers asked us to sing one of our songs, so we all joined in to “sing” a rousing rendition of Tide of Man’s “Young and Courageous”, shouting the tune to the guitar line at the tops of our voices.
I can’t believe I was allowed into the bar, being as intoxicated as I was. I don’t remember doing much though. Jared found an X-Men arcade machine that he played for a while, before smashing a glass. Someone rang David Zeidler to tell him the hotel had messed up bookings, so Ranges conceded their room and we headed to David’s to sleep in his lounge.
As you could expect, I felt worse for wear the following day. A bagel or four from a nearby café helped my body replace what it needed though.
Started the day off with a bang. Easily one of my favourite sets of the day. They made a speech before starting about writing music with a message, despite the lack of vocals. I agree with their anti-gun sentiment, but don’t know if it was an effective way to share their thoughts. Asking the government to regulate gun laws and then saying “Fuck the Government” with your next breath is an interesting move.
Politics aside, it was a killer set. They deserved a later slot in the day. Seriously good stuff.
I was beginning to notice a trend. Most bands on the second had minimal lighting, but crazy energy. Case in point, Unconditional Arms threw themselves around the stage, backlit by a stark green light. The guitarist was headbanging so hard that his glasses went flying. The slow songs bored me a bit, but I loved it when they were rocking out. And I loved the clean guitar tone.
I didn’t like Set and Setting’s sound. Something about it was too discordant for me. I decided that my time was better spent trying to nap off my hangover, so I headed upstairs to crash on a couch in the green room. I slept through my alarm and completely missed KYOTY, which is a shame.
I woke up feeling groggy after about an hour. I zombie walked to the balcony to see who was playing. It was Pray For Sound. I have a copy of their latest album, and to be honest I never got into it much. But now I’m converted. Their set was great. The drums were especially good, and I think the drummer even broke his kick pedal half way through the set.
Reminding me of The Eye Of Time, thisquietarmy is solo show featuring projections up on the wall. He improvised as he played, building dark layers and textures of drony sound.
David Zeidler had told me that The End Of The Ocean were the party band at dunk!, so I was excited to catch this set. They started off on a good note, promising to play Nickleback and Creed covers for us during their sound check. Sadly, it was a lie. I still appreciate the humour though.
The thing that I enjoyed most about The End Of The Ocean is that they mixed things up. Whenever I’d expect them to launch into a crescendo they’d pause, or shift direction. I like how they avoided the conventional clichés of the genre.
They were fun too. Half way through the set they threw a dozen inflated beach balls into the crowd. And the two girls put on a show by whipping their hair around. Tara on keys got so into it that she fell over and sent her keyboard off the stage. Thankfully I was there to catch it, and helped her set it back up. Not all heroes wear capes.
The coolest part was a sample that played during an interlude. It was a quote from Walking Dead about how brains function.
Bonus points to The End Of The Ocean for having the most incredible hospitality rider. Read what they requested and enjoy how brilliant it is!
Portland crew Coastlands were fun. Consistent with most second stage bands this weekend, they had good energy. The drums especially were great – dude has chops!
Junius played in a gloomy haze, lit only by a few dim Edison lights attached to their amps. It made taking photos a nightmare, but it was super effective at creating atmosphere. Hindsight is 20/20, but after seeing how cool that sparse lighting was, it is clear that Ranges should have used their own lighting rig the previous day.
Dimly lit in front of their backdrop, the band delivered a pummeling set. I was surprised that the vocals were not as sludgy as I’d expected, but sounded great.
I missed most of this set. I was busy chatting to guys from Coastlands backstage, and lost track of time. It’s a shame, because it looked like a cool set up. They had an electronica vibe, courtesy of many racks of keys and synths stacked upon each other.
Although Russian Circles are a big drawcard, I wasn’t that excited about seeing them .This is mostly because I’ve already seen them play in my hometown of Wellington a few times already.
They played well. You don’t get to this level by being sloppy. But the stage fog was so thick I couldn’t even see them. I love watching technically adept drummers play live, but I couldn’t see him. The music was fine, but to me it didn’t feel like much of a show. I preferred seeing them play a small club in Wellington.
It would be nice to see more variety in the lineup – it felt like I saw the same band four times over the weekend. Post-rock has become clichéd, and bands need to work on having a point of difference in order to standout. There are also some bands that sound fine on record, but need to put in more effort onstage if they don’t want to bore their audience.
That said, there was still a good mix offered – local, international, solo projects, bands with vocals, heavy, dreamy… It must be hard as a promoter to decide upon which acts to book to draw a crowd with wide appeal, and they did well.
It has been a while since I’ve been to a big scale concert, so seeing things like the impressive light shows you only find at larger gigs was great. Refining still needs to happen, including changes like perhaps changing the date and offering food options for attendees. But for a first attempt, the festival was amazing. Hopefully there will be another next year!
Words and photos by Joseph James
Poster by Error! Design
The End of The Ocean hospitality rider courtesy of Bryan Yost
I first heard of His Master’s Voice when Mathias Hallberg reviewed Into Orbit’s latest album release show. I had been in the South Island at a sporting event, and came back to Mathias raving about this bluesy band from Auckland.
Needing to make up for missing the show, I made a point of seeing the band next time they visited Wellington, and Mathias was 100% right. They’re damn good.
The band sent me Woman yesterday. I’ve been playing it on repeat non-stop since.
Take the blues and revive them with dosage of danger. Add filthy southern rock riffs. Swirl in a generous serving of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Drop in a few drugs. And then, amidst the swirling haze, you will find you have produced His Master’s Voice.
They play with such a swagger. Whether laying down a doomy groove, or ripping into a fast-paced swing section, the music is saturated with infectious feel.
My personal favourite is first track, “Burning” – a slow burner with a smooth, rolling riff. That is, until frontman Jesse Sorenson cries out “Come the groove!” And that’s exactly what happens. It all kicks in. If the bass line doesn’t get you moving then wait til the tambourines start ashakin’ and the primal drums kick in. And then, just to send you over the edge, we have a guitar solo.
There is no denying how much Black Sabbath have influenced His Master’s Voice’s sound. The title track on this EP reminds me of “Electric Wizard”. Sorenson channels his inner-Ozzy as he wails over a sweetly picked guitar melody. The rest of the band joins in, and the soaring guitars and organs elevate the music to the next level.
The only problem with Woman is the duration. 20 minutes is not enough! But I’ve been playing it on repeat and I can’t see myself tiring of these songs anytime soon. But honestly, what more do you need? Groovy blues with a heavy edge. Music that will possess you to dance. It’s just fantastic.
His Master’s Blues have pulled it off again, and Woman comes with my highest of recommendations.
Woman is due out digitally on Bandcamp on 1 October 2017, and will also be available through the usual streaming platforms. The CD will be available at the EP release show at The King’s Arms on October 28th.
His Master’s Voice are:
Jesse Sorensen – Vocals and Guitar
Brandon Bott – Bass
Az Burns – Guitar
Renè Harvey – Drums
(Plus Paul Lawrence – Keys on ‘Evil’ and ‘Woman’)
Words and photos by Joseph James