Sora Shima were staples in the New Zealand post-rock scene for some time. They shared the stage with royalty like Jakob and Mono, and put out some great music.
The band slowed down and fell into a hiatus about five years ago. You know the score – guys get a bit older, work commitments start taking over, suddenly they have families, and the band goes on the back burner. Their last release was the 2014 album You Are Surrounded.
I remember in late 2016 my friend David Zeidler (of Young Epoch fame) asking me to recommend some post-rock acts from my neck of the woods for an A Thousand Arms compilation, which were relatively new at the time.
From memory I suggested Jakob, Sora Shima, Hiboux, Into Orbit and Kerretta. Three of those acts made it onto the first edition of Hemispheres(Hiboux featured in the following edition).
Chatting with Jason from Sora Shima, the fresh surge of interest in his band as a result of that compilation inspired him to revive the band and get things up and running again.
They’ve had a handful of gigs in the past year and have been working on new material and getting back on track. Out of nowhere they’ve dropped two fresh songs.
“At the Edge of Hope Is Despair” is a brilliant return to form. A guitar line at the start reminds me of Tides of Man – which can only be a good thing. And the drums sound immense – really full and vibrant and spacious. So many drummers try to emulate that sound that John Bonham gave us in the song “When The Levee Breaks” and Sora Shima have come darn close. All the instruments come together in a searing, triumphant crescendo that leaves you panting for more. I’m reminded of the recent Hubris album.
“Loss” is more cinematic ambient, full of mournful swells and dense textures. A nice counterpiece to the first track.
There’s no story behind these tracks, no waffly bio. It’s just shy of 7 minutes worth of music. But it’s damn tasty and exciting to have new content from such a great band. Keep an eye out on the Shora Shima Facebook page for some news being announced in the next week.
While you’re at it, buy their back catalogue off Bandcamp. They’re only asking for $3 for their entire collection, which is criminally underselling themselves.
It has been quiet on the Barracks-front for some time, but now the Bay of Plenty band have returned with a different sound. Taken from the 2016 of the same name, Lovestay has been re-recorded acoustically. This stripped back version showcases Jared Ipsen’s stellar singing abilities accompanied by tender piano playing stunning guitar strumming.
The sparse new arrangement contrasts against Barracks’ usual post-hardcore style, but works well. Moody, chilling, and incredibly well produced, it serves to highlight the introspective nature of the song.
Will Not Fade has a wickedly funny chat with Jared and Tom to learn what Barracks have been up to lately, and get a better picture of how the world looks from their point of view.
‘Lovestay (Acoustic)’ recorded by Barracks at C&T Studios, 2016. Mixed and mastered by Nathan Sowter. Streaming video by Joe O’Connor. Cover art by Conor Coleman.
What have you been up to over the past few years?
Jared: At the end of 2016, we released the criminally underrated EP, em>Lovestay. Early 2017, we played a couple of big shows with Baroness and Alexisonfire in Auckland, and will probably ride those sweet waves for a while. After that, we were drummerless, so Hunter (bass / vocals) started learning how to play. We offered Jin an $1,000,000 advance to play guitar for Barracks. We weren’t interested in playing traditional guitar solos anymore, but there shouldn’t be, like, a rule of no solos.
Obviously opening for bands like Baroness and Alexisonfire has earned you someawesome bragging rights. Do you think you’re ever likely to go on tour with an overseasact as the support band?
Jared: I mean, that would require going on tour, wouldn’t it?
How do you make it work, with band members living in different towns?
Tom: We make it work like any family in an indifferent universe. But we still want to be there for each other… The occasional birthday card. A text sent to say “are you alive?” Or just a simple drum beat tapped out and recorded in the car at the traffic lights for the others to make a song out of. Regular people. Doing regular things.
Tell me your thoughts on music piracy. Is it even a thing anymore, now that streaming isso dominant? I ask because you featured predominantly on the Bittorrent site a few years back.
Jared: I think if someone is the type that doesn’t pay for music, they’re never going to pay for music, no matter how much they like it. For me, it was really the difference between people hearing our music for free or not hearing it at all. As far as piracy goes, one of the main ways that people rip music these days is straight from YouTube – we don’t have things like Limewire anymore. If people are just gonna do that, I’d rather them have a good sounding version that it be compressed to shit. Our last royalty cheque from streams was $6.79 for the quarter. Which then has to be split between five people. So you could say we’re doing pretty well.
This acoustic version is quite different from your other material. Are you officially sell-outs now, or did that happen long ago?
Jared: I think there’s an episode of The EPening where you can see the exact moment we sold out.
Tom: I’ve always wanted to sell out. I had to wait until the others gave up on their artistic integrity before joining me in the creative slums. But it’s nice to finally have company.
But in all seriousness, why an acoustic version of an old track, rather than a completely new song?
Jared: Last year we played a few acoustic shows and a live to air on bFM, and people really seemed to enjoy it – or at least they didn’t tell us they hated it, so it seems fair to make that assumption. We thought it would be cool to record a few acoustic versions of our songs because it’s easy and doesn’t take very long. We have around 10 new songs that we’re working on at the moment, we just haven’t quite gotten the bass tone right.
Lovestay was written a few years ago now. Do you still identify with the person you werewhen you wrote it?
Jared: Yeah, definitely. I’ve tried to keep a theme running through all the Barracks songs, so Lovestay is really just an extension of the ideas from Ghosts, especially in tracks like Fallaway. The EP is about growing up and my pathetic attempts at being as an adult, and I still suck at being as adult, and probably will do for quite some time.
Conor Coleman has his finger in a lot of pies. I can’t even keep up with all the musical projects that he is part of. He’s currently doing trap music. How did it come about that hedid the cover art for this release?
Jared: My sister took the original photo for the Lovestay EP over in France. I had been thinking about cover art for Acoustay when I scrolled past Conor’s photo in my Instagram and it was a perfect fit. Then, I slid in to his DMs and asked if we could use it. He said yes. Then I gave him my email address, and he electronically sent me a copy of the photo in the original resolution. After that, I put it in to Photoshop and cropped it into a square.
I adore your social media presence. Do you brainstorm funny things to post, or does it come naturally?
Jared: It comes naturally, unfortunately. All of the vlogs we’ve made have just come about from pointing a camera at each other while we hang out. It seems funny from the outside, but when you have to spend any amount of time with us, it can get pretty old.
What is the band’s consensus on Tenacious D? Is it good or bad to own multiple copies</strong of their CD? [Full disclosure: I’ve seen the D play live three times]
Jared: I mean, they’re fine. Say what you will about Jack Black but that dude has pipes, and obviously Kyle is a genius. I had one or two copies of their debut back in the day – it’s just one of those CDs no one remembers buying but every household seems to have a (two) copy(ies), like American Idiot. They’ve been nominated for Grammys and made movies and shit so it’s kind of hard to hate on them when they’re just doing their thing and having a good time. Wonderboy is a jam.
Tom: Personally, if somebody was in my car, going through the oooool’ CD Wallet looking for bangaz, and they stumbled across two copies of the ‘D, side-by-side, in the same wallet, I would be proud. Not only proud that I managed to convince someone to get in a car with me, but also that the lucky passenger could not only listen to the ‘D on non-stop rotate, but also hold the ‘D in their hand and appreciate the craftsmanship of that wee devil.
Why do you hate drummers?
Jared: They take too long to set up, they’re always playing around with other bands on the side, and you have to stop yourself from getting close in case they leave you again.
Tom: I wish Jared was a drummer so he would leave, too.
Do you prefer playing R18 or AA shows?
Jared: It’s a different vibe. As someone that’s been sucking at putting on AA shows for about 10 years now, I’m probably a bit biased toward them. R18 are usually pretty wild though, the only downside is making money for the Illuminati alcohol industry. The hard part of all ages shows lately has been getting people through the door – there aren’t too many young bands kicking around, so sometimes you just play to the other bands that are playing. We call it ‘communal band practice.’
Do you feel that the new Facebook react emoji things have helped you to express your feelings better?
Tom: It’s a step in the right direction, where people have kind of given up on written and spoken communication. Print is dying, nobody uses phones for talking anymore, and the average age level of spelling and literacy is decreasing. So it’s nice to see emojis step up to the plate and let people know how they feel – with zero effort given (either by actually expressing themselves in well reasoned, thought out sentences or, god forbid, letting somebody actually see their face). I’m rather looking forward to the next step in communication evolution where nobody does anything out of fear of being embarrassed or having their overall life rating decrease.
I think that something that helps Barracks stand out is the focus on melody. Is this a conscious effort to eschew the clichéd approach within the genre of trying to sound as heavy as possible?
Jared: I don’t think it’s been a conscious choice as such to be more emo – I’d say we’ve always been a post-hardcore band that have lumped ourselves in with heavier bands, out of necessity more than anything. With the size of our scene in NZ, it doesn’t really make sense to split all the bands up into single genre shows. Also, screaming is hard and hurts my head.
Does this new single signal a wave of new material to come?
Jared: Nah, probably not.
Tom: Jared’s overall nihilism gets me pretty jacked up, so I’m hoping to work with that and try disappoint him further with the doomiest riff ever created and maybe made into a song. Stay tuned. Just don’t hold your breath. Like, tune in… But keep the volume low so it doesn’t distract you. Then when you least expect it, maybe, just maybe…
What’s next for Barracks?
Jared: We’ve just started an alliance in Contest of Champions, so we’re going to be going really hard on that for a while, see where it takes us.
Tom: A new song. Please. Just anything. If anyone in Barracks reads this… I miss you guys.
Jared: If anyone would like to replace Tom as the guitarist for Barracks, flick me a text on 0279038596.