As We Lost The Sea prepare their new album, we talk to guitarist Mark Owen
Sydney’s post-metal/rock juggernaut We Lost The Sea have just finished recording their 3rd album, which is their first since singer Chris Torpy tragically took his life in March 2013. The Quietest Place on Earth, the band’s breathtaking second album, was released only a few months before Chris’s passing, and it was a massive shock to hear the bad news after having shared the stage with the guys in January 2013.
Having first met the dudes in 2010 and getting to know them over the past 5 years, I wanted to reach out and see how different and challenging it’s been crafting an album without Chris’s input. Guitarist Mark Owen was gracious enough to play along and also discuss the extremely strong ‘post’ scene in Australia.
How’s the healing process been since Chris’s passing? I know it must still be so hard for all of you guys to perform without him; do you still feel him in the music when you do a live show? Is he still in your head when you are writing music?
The simple answer is that it has been really tough and fucking sucks. The longer one is pretty much the same. It was much more difficult for us playing shows and playing songs from The Quietest Place On Earth, and often live I would swear blind that I heard the vocals coming through. Playing songs he never heard or sang over makes it a fair bit easier, but I am always hearing the parts he would have sung over.
Chris was always heavily involved in the writing process, and was always experimenting and trying new things musically. He was in a way the most unreserved of us creatively, and I think his absence has definitely helped us recognise the gaps that he filled, and made us be better musicians by working out how to fill the massive shoes he left behind.
You have built such a great fan base and reputation in the few years I’ve known you. How satisfying is it to be able to share the stage with some of Australia’s and the world’s best bands, knowing the hard work, time, money and effort you have all put in to getting your name out there?
We have been really lucky to play with some of our favorite bands, and it’s pretty surreal at times. Being persistent and consistent has paid off a lot of for us – particularly last year – and it really helped us through an interesting period of writing and performing without a vocalist and working out our live show in line with that.
We had some really good experiences, some not so good, but are happy to take the good with the bad. I think that last year for us was really the first year we’ve had since the band started that hasn’t had a massive clusterfuck happen at some point, and it’s a nice feeling to know we grabbed the bull by the horns despite being in such a shitty situation.
The first time I saw you guys and played with you, you had four guitarists and two drummers and were loud as fuck! Recently you seem to be toning down the heavy-heavy a little, and exploring the more atmospheric side of your song writing. Was this a conscious decision as a band, or was it more of a natural progression as you grew together as songwriters and friends?
I think one of the things that separates We Lost the Sea’s music to other – for want of a better word, “post”-bands is that we are in essence a heavy band. All of us have come from a heavy music background (except our keyboard player who comes from classical), and we naturally want to get big and huge. Writing massive riffs comes fairly easy to us, and it’s usually where we end up, and to an extent nothing has changed with that, in that we still build to a big pay-off riff.
Dynamically we are constantly learning, and struggle a lot to write such long songs that have a dynamic build and don’t become static or repetitive, so half of it is that we are just simply getting better at being musicians and playing in a band. The other half has been calculated, and I think the new material draws in the widest range of influences so far. While we still have a familiar sound to those who have heard us before, we have both consciously and unconsciously made an effort to be more creative and fearless in our music. While we have a long way to go, this is definitely the most mature, and diverse sound for us so far.
You’ve posted online about doing some pre-pro for the new album. Are you recording again with Tim at 301 or trying something new? If so, how is the working relationship with him, and how intense is the recording process at 301?
Doing the album at 301 with the Wizard Timmy again. We’ve got a really good, comfortable relationship with him, and completely trust him as a producer/engineer. He’s also a really good mate of a few of us and was really close with Chris, so it feels important to have him involved on the record.
Tim makes the recording seem heaps easier than it probably is, and while at times its really grueling, it seems to be a lot easier this time around then I remember The Quietest Place On Earth being. Maybe we are better musicians, or just writing simpler songs.
How are the new songs coming along in terms of style? Will we see more of the ambient stuff with some heavy thrown in? Or have you felt like busting out some huge riffs again?
We’ve still got the heavy parts, though fewer and further between, but we’d like to think that they are worth the wait. The quieter, more ambient parts are longer, and although often simple I feel really capture the essence of the story we are trying to tell.
How do you see the whole post metal/post rock scene in Australia at the moment? There are some absolutely world class bands doing great things right now, I think, that rival any bands on an international scale – sleepmakeswaves, Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, Arcane, Dumbsaint and of course We Lost The Sea to name a few. What do you think has contributed to the rise in popularity of our chosen genre? Do you think people have finally grown tired of the generic meta core/deathcore style or is it that our peers are just constantly writing great records that can’t be ignored any longer? Is it also perhaps helped by people like Bird’s Robe Records and Life Is Noise bringing out stellar acts and choosing supports on merit and substance rather than just the same old bands every time?
Australia is killing it at the moment! We are producing, in my humble opinion, some of the best “post”-bands around – and thank you for including us in that group. Sleepmakeswaves are just tearing it up at the moment, and are really paving the way forward for bands like Solkyri, Dumbsaint, Meniscus etc. I don’t personally listen to heaps of post-rock bands, because I generally find most of them to almost be carbon copies of each other, and find it difficult to not feel like the emotional life of the music has been compromised to comfortably sit within a certain framework – which, since you brought up metalcore/deathcore, is the same problem with that scene just on a bigger scale.
The majority of the Australian bands I’ve seen keep the integrity and the passion in the music, and I think that’s the real difference. This resonates with people; people want to connect, feel involved and that’s what “post” offers: a real emotional connection via music. It also totally helps that people like Dave from Life is Noise and Mike from Bird’s Robe are such massive supporters of live Australian music, and really are helping to push homegrown talent to the forefront.
Speaking of Bird’s Robe, are you guys going to be releasing the new album with them, or are you going with another label or independent?
Bird’s Robe will most definitely be involved. Mike has been a massive supporter, and has shown more faith in us than we have probably deserved. What extent hasn’t been nutted out just yet, but it will in the coming weeks. We will be more than happy to take a gazillion dollar advance from Sony if they come knocking though.
Which bands, Australian or otherwise, do you think are at the top of their game at the moment, or are on the verge of doing exciting things this year?
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving make me want to give up music entirely. It’s such a lesson in dynamics and song writing; it’s really overwhelmingly good. The new record is uncomfortable, mesmerizing and totally boundary-less. They are currently my favorite band in the country, if not the world, and are about to leave a trail of destruction across Europe. I can see them equaling – if not surpassing – the success of bands like Sleepmakeswaves, Meniscus etc. and really being Australia’s premier Post/Experimental band.
And with that, here’s a glimpse of what to expect from the new album; a tasty live treat from a recent show at Sydney’s Blackwire Records. Enjoy!