Depth Magazine exists because of the love of alternative music; including metal, rock, punk and other related genres such as electronicore. We create music reviews, interviews and other content relevant to the industry, and we do it all with heart.
I’d been too up in Unify mode to check out Holding Absence’s latest single “Perish” when it released last week. “Perish” is the second single from the band’s upcoming self titled debut album, following on from “Like A Shadow”. The long awaited and much anticipated album is due to release on 8th March via SharpTone Records. When it came to “Perish”, I wanted to wait until I could give the new track proper attention for my first listen. Insomnia unfortunately/fortunately helped me out in freeing up some time, so here we are!
The five minute twenty-eight seconds song length was the first thing I noticed about “Perish” and I got excited about another lengthy Holding Absence adventure like the amazing “Penance”. The second thing I noticed was the drumming that pulled the spotlight after the track’s atmospheric introduction. More complex and demanding than its easier vibing album-mate “Like A Shadow”‘s beats, the drums drew my attention through to the chorus on first listen. There was something hectic about it and it shared a rhythm pattern that my ears wanted to make friends with. I also appreciated the line-drawing statement that the intermittent four beats made, bookending the verses.
Though the drums hit hard and impactfully, re-listens turned my attention to the scenes lyrically shared in the verses, and in particular the delicately affectionate second verse. With metaphor-laden sharing, we’re drawn into reminiscing about sweet moments of love, that are recalled as something beautiful. Yet what eventuated for the two is in contrast to those moments, and jarring in comparison; literally having to realise that the romantic remembering is from a time very different to the present.
Even when things were pleasant and he was doting over his lover, the shadowy presence of mental illness was watching and preparing to take him over. When it finally did, he was rendered unresponsive. Stuck frozen and broken, his lover didn’t have the patience or desire to wait while he thawed. She had a life to chase after, and went for it without him, leaving him behind and alone, and perhaps leaving him stuck in time due to the impact of this.
“I had a hole in my heart and you didn’t have the decency to wait and see.”
As Holding Absence aficionados will know, themes of romantic wistfulness and being left have been shared over several songs the Welsh band have released so far (“Dream Of Me”, “Like A Shadow”, “Everything”). The songs form a thread of questioning combined with romanticism as well as darker shades of reality that work very well in linking the quintet’s music together. These pieces are also fittingly visually shared with a black and white aesthetic, including wilting flowers as a visible representation of something beautiful that has perished.
While we get to soak up confusions and questions about love via Holding Absence songs, they also create a relatively safe space for lyrical vulnerability formed by the use of beautiful metaphor, in particular inspired by nature; the moon, the sun, oceans, birds, flowers, fire, light, and shadow, as well as beyond this and into other realms, speaking of heaven and angels.
Returning attention to what “Perish” shares; left behind, he’s outwardly thoughtful about where he might go (once thawed), while still also wondering where she is and fully feeling the blindsided vibe of her decision to abandon him in need. The beautiful delicateness and softness of the second verse captures their innocence together at one point, and also the perishing of this when the darkness set in and the warmth turned cold.
It seems that there may have been things he missed; things that weren’t noticed as a warning that an end was nigh. In my mind, it’s akin to not recognising that the edges of a piece of paper are lit on fire before it’s become fully alight and rushes through to the middle, too rapid/dire to recover from.
In isolation, a cold and echoing atmosphere is all that remains as the track comes to an end. Over the five and a half minutes, Holding Absence hold us suspended in memory and observations with them. We’re blanketed by thick guitars and hefty layers of sound, vocalist Lucas Woodland’s wide spectrum of expression, and an atmosphere we can sink into. It’s yet another reason to be very excited for the album on the way. Watch:
Holding Absence - Perish (Official Music Video) - YouTube
New Orleans quartet Cane Hill have deviated significantly from the path that their Too Far Gone album seemed to be carving for them. Hitting the brakes and drifting sideways, the Cane Hill machine’s rumbling engine has softened and the terrain seems to be more about sightseeing than hectic thrill seeking, and more pensive than aggressive. And guess what – it’s stunning.
Personally captivated from the release of the title track alone, it seemed like Cane Hill were onto something very good that felt surprisingly organic for them despite their roaring history. Tucked in amongst their albums though was evidence of their capability to creatively bend, and with Kill The Sun Elijah Witt (vocals), Elijah James Barnett (guitar), Ryan Henriquez (bass), and Devin Clark (drums) seem to have decided to follow the creative crumbs wherever they lead in order to tell their story.
The band refer to the new music as a ‘weirder and mellower’ side that they are proud of having pursued, working in the studio with Kris Crummet. They shared “We wanted to embrace some leftover emotions we’ve been dealing with since getting our shit together while exploring our own musical limitations. We made this semi-acoustic record because we needed to for ourselves — and because honestly, why the fuck not?”
Cane Hill also worked with Drew Fulk on Kill The Sun, who they say encouraged an electronic influence on first track “86d – No Escort” and also “helped shape the rest of the EP”. Beginning to explore the EP with this track, our ears are met with a pulsing and distorted introduction. A shower of percussion and layered vocals lead to gentle acoustic guitar and a sense of wondering. Fans of music you might have heard bands like Everlast play in the late 90s would feel at ease in these sounds.
The second verse in particular draws my attention the most; sparse and echoing, it hits home with sharing an experience of disconnect and insular existence. A thumping bridge with a guitar solo and bass nudges feel like a collision with ‘electro land’ before a final chorus. With so many different elements and a light/fresh feel, it’s a somewhat dreamy/blurred/drug induced space where not much matters.
Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows that 86’d means that something has run out. Is this relevant with the title? Had Cane Hill 86’d themselves or their minds to the point of being vacant and uncaring?
Cane Hill - 86d - No Escort (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Second track “Empty” begins as completely stripped back guitar before expanding out with stunning light vocals, effects, and flamenco-esque guitar flourishes. The chorus of this track feels really GOOD with its sense of bounce and forward movement, something more free than the contained tension that the verses carry. Within only a few listens, I found myself feeling like “Empty” was a favourite due to the many many layers of sounds and effects, how unexpectedly different it sounds, and That Chorus. For example, the ocean waves, ethereal pulses, drum machine beats, and serene vocal harmonies from the 1:06 mark. Another favourite section is the bridge with an ethereal space that guitar seems to float within.
Though I typically consume my music with focus upon the lyrics and emotions, the (unexpected) creative effort that seems to have gone into “Empty” is unreal. This is a multi-assorted flavour pack of so many different things that manage to combine into something that feels like a giant question mark as well as sounding beautiful. Whether it happens organically or not, I welcome this song and its chorus to set up camp in my brain. The vocal isolation ending is brilliant.
By way of meaning, “Empty” comes across as a disintegration of a bond, with them existing in limbo. It wouldn’t surprise me if these songs on Kill The Sun relate to the inspiration behind “Too Far Gone” where Cane Hill shared about an ‘intense romance’ with LSD, from the perspective of how it has impacted their personal lives.
“I lost you and it’s eating me alive”
Third track “Save Me” begins with a piano looping which carries an ominous vibe and a drawing into the story that’s being shared lyrically. Clean and clear instrumentally, this is a surprisingly straight-laced ballad for Cane Hill. It’s beautiful, vocally in particular, while also carrying a darkness to it, akin to watching someone/yourself in a tough place and not necessarily wanting help to find a way out of it.
The track seems to peak at the bridge with wildness courtesy of a guitar solo with thickening layers. Crushing beats and tense percussion pushes the whole experience into damaging seriousness. I could see this song relatable for a situation of seeing a loved one enduring some kind of violence or abuse, whether at their own hand or that of another. The sudden strength and grandeur of “Save Me”‘s ending just drops away to nothing, leaving me with a sense of hopelessness about the ongoing hardship.
We’ve already doted on the following song “Kill The Sun”, and have kept it on regular rotation ever since. This piece of music just feels good to be with, like a warm sunrise, despite the sense of an unsettling inner tug-of-war and self-blame. Hand clap effects somehow work really well with sharp and adventuring guitar, and a looping riff rolling onward throughout.
We’re offered up vocal warmth and a searching story of self-sabotage and the negative impact of choices made. It hits a beautiful peak when voices join in elated harmony and lift upward into something more; a potential change? I found it as thoughtful as it is pretty on the ears, and this combination of honest lyricism and instrumental tension (with a side of floating in limbo) worked really well.
Cane Hill - Kill The Sun (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Though I’d listened to the single before, I watched the music video for “Acid Rain” for the first time when I was writing this review. Putting down my headphones and saying “Whoa, that’s heavy” with an exhale, I had to explain to my partner who’d overheard me that for once I wasn’t meaning sonically. I remembered seeing somewhere on Twitter that Cane Hill had referred to Kill The Sun as being as emotionally heavy as anything they’ve written and I fully understand that now. If this is in fact about the LSD ‘rabbit hole’ (which would make perfect sense based on the title, and everything on the EP so far..), the band are going in directly in facing this period of time.
Through the video for the percussion focused song, we’re with the band as they confront their ‘habitual intentions’ with honesty and seem to present these escapes visually. The somewhat disorienting shifts from rapid movement, free falling, zoning out, while also hearing lyrics like “Sinking deeper can’t escape this hole” and the heavily altered “I’m sorry I was hard to love. It wasn’t you, it was the drugs.” – it all combines to feel like we’re existing inside something without control and both loving and hating it at the same time.
The all-immersive thunderous pulses of the chorus, vocal effects that feel like slips of time, and heightened “ahhh” vocals all add to a landscape of ‘habitual ascension’. Though the video could be seen as random and odd, I love it for this song.
Cane Hill - Acid Rain (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Kill The Sun ends with “Smoking Man” that takes on a tale of history that led to the present. Steady guitar and scene-setting sound effects add to the platter of influences and idols and the present day experience in contrast to them. It seems to detail stumblings upon mortality and also reality – of not being an unbreakable superhero. I love the harmonies/vocal effects of the chorus and how we’re held in uncomfortable suspense with unsettling sounds after the repeated lyric fades out.
Pulling in “reality dances in my eyes” from “Too Far Gone”, “Smoking Man” defines the fact that the cage they’re locked within is self-made. Assuming this cage is formed by hallucinogenic substances, “Smoking Man” seems to capture both ‘sides’ of the experience, and maybe is a take on the band’s experiences; at first desiring (“I wanna feel it”) and then refusing (“Don’t wanna take it”).
What follows after this – a wild cacophony of sounds with no rhyme, reason, beat or sense of grounding – has to be the psychological/mental/emotional experience of withdrawal and detox after no longer wanting to be in the self-made cage. With “Smoking Man” as the final track, it really shifted for me the entire EP into seeming more like a creatively driven release than merely a collection of songs. The track brilliantly rounds out the entire ride.
Though it’s not completely blatant, Kill The Sun feels to me like a creative expression capturing the experiences, moods, sensations, fallout, and finally refusal of hallucinogens or other drugs. Coming from a place where they have already overcome this (based on what was shared with the release of Too Far Gone) explains the sense of relative calm in doing so, and more leeway in how they chose to express it.
Musically, this is great, and it never felt like Cane Hill smashed uncomfortably against any barriers of creativity. It’s definitely unique, and at times takes more of an experimental approach, but it works very well. The band seem to have wanted to paint a full picture of their experience and have used their instruments and voices as thoughtful brushes upon the canvas. Samples, effects, harmonies, and layers were skillfully used to steer the listener’s attention throughout.
There’s nothing significant that I hugely dislike about this EP, but I feel that some of the guitar-focused sections were so mellow that they could be considered uninteresting, especially those that were repeated. It’s not an attention grabbing or hectic release and so will likely require additional focus from the listener to stay with it. I look forward to many re-listens to get more familiar with these songs and hopefully get to go deeper with the many layers available.
Sydney based Bloom have already easily won us over with their brand of melodic hardcore via their debut EP Past Tense. Today we have the absolute pleasure of premiering the music video for “Home Felt Better With You”.
An emotional face-slap of a confrontation between lovers is where the track begins, setting the tone and establishing the story for the whole of the EP:
‘Can’t you accept?’ she said.
‘Can’t you see I’m gone?
I don’t love you anymore.’
Coupled with the anguished vocals of Jono Hawkey, “Home Felt Better With You” is a dense and dark place for Past Tense to begin. Progressing more frantically after its stuttered introduction, with Jack Van Vliet’s drums setting an impossible pace, it’s easy to fall into the shoes of someone trying to grab on to something that’s quickly vanishing.
Bloom are creating from their personal hurt: They’ve watched a lover walk away. They’ve heard them say “I don’t love you anymore”, and they’ve felt that internal sense of urgency in wanting to do something, while simultaneously not being able to change what’s happening. Listening to Past Tense in its entirety continues this sharing of the emotional fallout at being left alone and heartbroken.
Bloom’s guitarist Jarod McLaren shared that it was seeing Watchtowers‘ “Hurt The Ones We Love” music video that inspired them to reach out to Billy Zammit, who produced and directed the new video. Never having worked with him before, they appreciated the emotionally dark vibe of the Watchtowers’ video that Billy had created, and felt that the style he’d created would be similarly fitting for “Home Felt Better With You”.
Visually, it’s an incredible capture of a difficult moment in time. Black and white and the viewer literally thrust face-to-face with emotional desperation, it is an impactful slice of impressive melodic hardcore. Shadowed and blurred at times, with Jono visibly wrestling within himself, it’s an unmistakable representation of loss that is easy to empathise with.
With “Tell me what’s the point??” searing our ears and anguished guitar tugging emotively at the listener, the gradual departure of instruments just adds even more impact to the fact that we are musically existing in the aftermath of being left by a loved one.
Watch “Home Felt Better With You” now, and be sure to share with appreciators of good melodic hardcore!
Bloom - Home Felt Better With You (Official Music Video) - YouTube
This is our experience from the second day of Unify Gathering 2019. If you missed the first day, it’s over here.
I woke up on Saturday very grateful for earplugs. There’s so many ways to spend your time at Unify and for some that includes talking and playing music at camp all night. All about the music, I had to have a good solid sleep. Warmed up in my tent, I was ready for more music to begin!
Pridelands had the pleasure of opening up day 2 and it was great to see that they had a decent crowd present, despite the early-ness. “Any Colour You Desire” felt like a really great way to start Unify day 2 and the guys of Pridelands were off to a strong and massive start. Continuing with “Boys”, Pridelands seemed really at home on stage. Moshing at 10 in the morning. Love it.
At this point I ducked away with my Brisbane based photographer Rowan Donohue to top up my Pitcoin, hang out and have breakfast with him and Alpha Wolf’s Sabian Lynch. People are still talking about the Sharky’s egg and bacon sandwiches. They also made the best hash browns I’ve ever tasted in my life. Unify food was very GOOD.
Yours Truly took to the stage next. Eagle eyed punters would have noticed the posters around the Unify grounds that casually announced the pop punk band’s signing with UNFD! As their set kicked off, we were instantly plunged into somewhat complex and demanding songs. Watching from a distance, the band seemed engaging enough on stage, but I found the vocals a little sharp on the ears. Vocalist Mikaila Delgado announced the UNFD signing and shared new song “Selfless” with the crowd. Though I’m not a big fan of pop punk in general, “High Hopes” was a stand out song for me; great instrumentally and easy to enjoy.
If you’ve been following Depth for awhile, you’ll know that we’ve been thoroughly enjoying After Touch and their You Wish This Was About You EP. Maybe you know them by their former name/identity Easy Life? Regardless, this was a set I was definitely keen to see! Starting with “You Wish This Was About You”, it was more of an atmospheric set than an in-our-faces hecticness.
Vocalist Max Pasalic offered up a really inclusive stage presence, a well as a more experimental take on the songs compared to the recorded versions, including some impressively long notes. It was great to see the crowd emphatically singing along with the singles “Six Feet Closer” and “I’m Fading Away”, with a few die-hard fans having a good time throughout. As the set came to a close, I was stunned to hear Max say that the last song “Use Me” ‘goes out to my friend Kel’ and point to me. It was a memorable moment that made my weekend!
Still on a high, it was time for Gravemind. With bristling electric growls and a full stage of band members holding guitars like weaponry, Gravemind assumed an intimidating stage presence. Frontman Dylan Gillies-Parsons knows how to craft mystique and it makes for a really unique live experience. Sonically it was a hectic assault at times, with blistering intensity on all fronts. Dylan saying “This one is bigger than all of us” is 100% correct!
The animation on the screen behind the band, combined with sound effects and an at-times still and pensive stage presence created something immersive, showing the thought that Gravemind seem to put into creating an atmosphere at their shows. As shade was hard to come by, I had to hide along the arena walls. Dylan shared that they’re in the process of recording new music, before playing “Lifelike” to close the set. It was great to see their guitarists active and moving through the track.
Have you seen Pagan live before? It’s an experience! The blackened metal band kicked off with “Death Before Disco” from Black Wash and welcomed us to the ‘Italian disco’. Vocalist Nikki Brumen pulled a lot of the focus, stalking the stage proudly, lending her raw screams, and washing down red wine between songs, with the evidence left on her white shirt. Showing us what it’s like to be part of the Pagan cult, we were hit with a wall of pummeling beats, savage screams, as well as Nikki’s high kicks. Not afraid to play with controversy, Nikki landed a topical punch by saying “Let’s all share a red wine later, unless I’m too busy getting fingered in a tent.” Cheeky barbs and all, the set was a good time and a unique experience to witness!
We love Thornhill here in Depth land, so it was exciting for us that they were part of the Unify line-up. From the get go, playing “Sunflower” from Butterfly (our EP Of The Year 2018!), Thornhill were musically tight and the crowd seemed instantly won over. In front of a Tony Hawk styled video backing, it was aesthetically pleasing watching guitarists Matt Van Duppen and Ethan McCann going ham in relative synchronisation. Crowd surfing a-plenty, there was even a priest in full robes up on shoulders, brandishing a cross and holding a ‘Horny For Thorny’ sign.
Thornhill shared new song “Covet”, which we are SO keen to hear a recorded version of. Jacob Charlton’s stunning vocals soar atmospherically over the new track, along with a whispered backing vocal and strings. Shifting a gear from this into their heaviest track “Lavender” was a perfect cue for a dusty circle pit. I loved the focus upon Nick Sjogren’s bass during this (bass needs more love, people!), as well as the crowd adding to the “Take a look at my broken fucking hands” part. Finishing with the angst and massiveness of “Limbo” and a whole lot of moshing, it was incredibly satisfying to see so much crowd love for Thornhill after witnessing some decidedly low vibing crowds for the band in the past. More. of. this.
I made the mistake of talking about Stand Atlantic as though they were an international band before their set. For some reason, the Sydney based Hopeless Records signees have that feel to them for me, seeming well known beyond our shores. I’ve not seen the band before, and have only just recently come across them with the release/singles of Skinny Dipping. Sharing tracks from the album such as “Lavender Bones”, Stand Atlantic sounded great and were upbeat and energetic, with Bonnie Fraser nailing the vocals. At this point, a breeze was carrying water from the misting tent down the hill, so I happily stood there and took in the casual set and its big fat rock sound, easily sinking into the enjoyment of it. A dusty mosh pit seemed to agree, and “Coffee At Midnight” was where they finished up.
In the lead-up to Harms Way, it became obvious to me that everyone present was getting warmed up and ready to pit. From “Hey what’s up, we’re Harms Way”, there was dust flying. I’ve not yet taken quality time with the band’s 2018 album Posthuman, so I watched the set feeling like a foreigner. Regardless the set went from track to punishing track where tandem vocals plus drum craziness made it into something breathlessly BIG. The set seemed purpose built for people to lose their fucking shit to. Already hectic and huge, Harms Way dove even deeper and darker after a pause. The really darkly atmospheric track “Temptation” was a stand-out to me.
Sydney band Endless Heights are another who have won our affections, and many others’ affections, it seems, given that they won our Album Of The Year 2018 vote with Vicious Pleasure. Their set began with “You Coward” and felt amazing already with this wild and melodic piece of music. Vocalist Joel Martorana brings a lot of energy to the stage, as does guitarist Jem Siow, and Unify was no different. Continuing with the gorgeous “Come A Little Closer” and its majestic guitar tones, I managed to find a shady spot in the heat to take this set in. I’ve seen Endless Heights play many times over the last few years and never get tired of the perfection of “Come A Little Closer”‘s outro.
From up on the hill I could see an enthusiastic crowd joining in with the set as Endless Heights continued with the strong and emotive “Toxic”, and then “Pray I Fade”. Joel’s vocals were great throughout the set, as was his ability to draw the crowd into playing along with him. Of the entire (amazing) set, it was “Paralyse” that got me though. “Here’s one from the heart”, said Joel. It was a combination of being in the shade, of the breeze blowing over me, and this song wafting up the hill that was pure goosebump material and a special moment of gorgeous peace over a hectic weekend.
After Endless Heights I went and had a breather and a break, realising just how sunburnt I was, and only saw minimal parts of Clowns and WAAX. From what I did see, both sets were hectic good times and wildly appreciated by enthusiastic fans. Liam was there to shoot the Clowns set, however, snapping frontman Stevie Williams dangling from scaffolding and being held by the crowd!
The Citizen set was one I’d been hanging out for with bated breath. The band’s As You Please album was our Album Of The Year 2017, and I’d not had the opportunity to see them live yet. When I spoke with guitarist Nick Hamm recently, he shared that the band were last in Australia in 2016 and that they were keen to be here for some “really fun shows”, and needing to keep up with tour buddies Turnstile.
From Citizen’s first song (“Sleep”), I was already tearing up in response to Mat Kerekes’ vocals and the entirety of the experience that was unfolding in front of me. Performing their music with such precision and a zen-like sense of control was incredible to witness, and I’m struggling to think of any band I’ve seen that I could use as comparison. Hearing “Jet” and “In The Middle Of It All” live – and each song sounding so amazing – was bliss and I cried some more.
Though the set included emotionally more tense moments (such as “The Night I Drove Alone”), the stage presence remained exceptionally calm. A stand out for me was the bridge of “Fever Days”; just beautiful. I pretty much couldn’t believe it was happening, and with “The Summer” seeing them out, it was over far too soon. It will be well worth catching the band’s Australian tour if you can! This perfection of a set was my personal favourite of Unify.
Turnstile followed; a highly anticipated set for the crowd surfers/moshers, even with a stage barrier. Opener “Real Thing” was a punchy and vibrant intro to prep for the erratic wildness to come in the second song, “Big Smile”. I didn’t see the entirety of this set, needing to hibernate a little to regroup, but from afar it was a good time punctuated by impossibly high jumps in an energetic stage presence. I also spotted a wild John Floreani getting into the action of the pit and crowd surfing.
Returning for Trophy Eyes, the band took to the stage with Queen‘s “We Will Rock You”, kicking off a vibe of celebration and singalongs that felt like it lasted for the entire set. Fresh album The American Dream has seemed like a game-changer for Trophy Eyes and they’ve found themselves in a territory that they’re happy in, that suits them, and has gained them increasing amounts of attention. This year’s Unify is the third time around for Trophy Eyes!
Soaking in “You Can Count On Me”, “Lavender Bay”, and “More Like You” felt fucking great to put it bluntly, and we were all part of the celebration with the band. Infectiously, it felt amazing to see frontman John Floreani happy and dancing freely on stage. After “Something Bigger Than This” and all of us lending our voices to the band, John reinforced how much we were all part of this with them, and encouraged us to say “WE ARE TROPHY EYES!”. When they finished up with the well-loved “Chlorine”, with thousands of voices joining in, CO2 cannons, and confetti, Mitch Strangman beside me shared a memory of seeing Trophy Eyes play to two people. They’ve clearly grown so much and are onto a very good thing right now!
I was just about out of energy and focus but managed to stick it out for Every Time I Die. This was a hectic set featuring songs like “Glitches”, “It Remembers”, and “Map Change”, with crushingly heavy moments that were fully embraced by their fans in the crowd. From where I was standing, I witnessed a light sabre being wielded in the wild pit, as well as guitar antics on stage. Unfortunately vocalist Keith Buckley succumbed to the ritual that is the shoey, such gross additional punishment to the fact that they flew here for one set. No signs of jetlag with this band though, who rocked hard and relentlessly.
The baa of sheep woke me up on the last day of Unify. I thought it was people in a nearby campsite playing a sheep sound at first until I woke up a bit more and remembered that we were literally in a paddock and that there were other paddocks around us! It was going home day, and time to head back to reality. Some had already left, and the campsite was looking sparse. A competition by organisers for the cleanest campsite to win tickets to the next Unify seemed to have a direct impact, with the camp areas looking far cleaner than the year before. I loved this idea!
I ran into Unified’s Luke Logemann who was taking it all in. He shared he was not only really happy that the festival had kept its attendees alive and well, but that he was also ‘a little emo’ about the fact an idea had grown and turned into something so full and thriving.
I also spoke with a member of security who had worked other music festivals. He admitted he was intimidated by ‘all the tattoos’ at first, but shared that he found the people of heavy music to be far more friendly and supportive than other genres. I can definitely vouch for the inclusiveness of the event and its people.
The Sunday Sessions have been one of my favourite features of Unify. It’s basically a relaxed hangout with bands who share stripped-down versions of their music, or maybe even a cheeky cover. This year it was held under the smaller tent, which was perfect by way of shade. Unfortunately there was no clear access to the photo pit, so you just get my words for this part of Unify!
I arrived in time for the second set, Far Away Stables, which was beautifully emotive. Vocalist Brendan Sheargold shared that he had hoped that we had felt something emotional this weekend before playing the familiar “Phantasm”. It was a chilled vibe and beautiful high vocals floated over us gently, with sweet guitar, and subtle percussion. An acoustic ‘breakdown’ still worked well in “Caldera”.
Stand Atlantic‘s Bonnie asked if we were still dusty and still hungover, crunching away on a carrot in between singing (“for the vitamins”). Playing acoustic versions of “Coffee At Midnight”, “Skinny Dipping”, and more, it was a casual hang out that felt relaxed and comfortable.
What a treat to see Endless Heights do an acoustic set! And it was just as stunning as I’d hoped. I love this band and I appreciated that the stripped down versions had some differing elements that sounded great. I’m living for even more acoustic breakdowns and the brilliance of Endless Heights’ guitarists. “Paralyse” was already beautiful and made even more beautiful acoustically. Joel is a dreamy singer, no question about it.
Little Brother was the last act of the Sunday Sessions. I hung around after having had a really great time at the Little Brother show at Cherry Bar. As expected, this set was more ‘John Floreani Story Hour’ than songs, sharing tales of Unify and being ‘smashed’ before doing this last time. He shared the difference in himself; how he’d had a drink or two after a decent sleep, decent food, and felt good in himself and in his life. It wasn’t a lecture or a cautionary tale, just a guy sharing his experiences and we could do with it what we wanted.
Aware of the fact that he only had 30 minutes, John said he’d better play music “or they won’t pay me”, before sharing songs such as “A Distance” and “Chloe”. In this casual setting, we could be spellbound by the songs and join in, or we could zone out and relax. Before sending us back into the world with the impressive “Cleveland, OH”, John dropped the quote of the festival in response to the predictable “SHOEY” prompt:
“I’m going to drink my drink out of a can like a civilised human being, you fucking uncultured swines!”
And with that, it was time to head to our respective homes.
Until next time, Unify Gathering. Thanks for having us. x
If you’re unfamiliar with Unify Gathering, it’s like a summer camp/party for alternative and heavy music fans. It’s one of the greatest events in my calendar! Held annually in country Victoria, people come from near and far to soak up two big days of music featuring local and international acts. We then get eased back into civilisation with acoustic sets on the last day: Sunday Sessions. This year, an additional event was added to Unify: A pre-Unify Emo Night run by AM//PM.
Pre-Unify Emo Night
Of all the good ideas I’ve ever had, arriving to Unify Gathering 2019 early was definitely proving to be one of them. The drive in to Tarwin Lower was a breeze compared to the gridlock for kilometres of the previous year. There seemed to be heightened security upon entry, but after a car search getting my wristband and loading it with Pitcoin was easy. Phew!
Once in, I practically had the pick of the place and chose prime tent real estate near the arena to set up camp. Getting my bearings, I was temporarily adopted by “Camp Darwin” (the dudes from Tapestry) and then feasted on beautifully decadent potato cakes before the pre-Unify party began.
DJ sets to open events unfortunately never seem to attract much interest. Music was played but no brave souls took to the smaller tent space where the event was being held. It took for Caged Existence to begin before Unify’s pulse quickened and it felt like “YES. This has begun.” Bringing jagged edged intensity and stuttered rhythms, Caged Existence were a perfect fierce dive of a welcome. They nailed tracks like “Demonise” and took thick breakdowns and took them progressively deeper and darker as their set came to a finish.
Aburden were on stage second. Seeing Aburden light up in response to an excited pre-Unify crowd was an absolute pleasure to witness, and it’s clear to me the Melbourne band are on the rise; proving their stuff as more than just a bunch of emo sadboys. With their The Last Goodbye album carrying polish and professionalism, it seems like they are growing into a skin which includes anthemic singalongs with BIG crowds that was happening in front of me. All of us wild and happy, they ended strong with the fan favourite “They Say”, with Christopher Vernon singing his feature (as he was filling in on guitar for Caged Existence).
I finally got to meet Sydney-based Depth team member Andrew Cauchi in person after the set (YAY!), as well as caught up with ‘music friends’. I also surveyed the food stalls for some dinner. From what I saw from afar, Between You & Me got a lot of crowd love with a bouncing pit in response to their active and entertaining pop punk presence.
The All Nighters were an interesting addition to the line-up, really adding to a full fledged emo night. Not going to lie, I love a good cover band, and that’s what it was. Kicking off with blink-182‘s “Rock Show”, a steady set of favourites had the band drowned out by loud nostalgic voices and it was a really good excuse to dance. This made the tent feel like party central and it was a really good time!
Having said that, the pre-Unify event worked equally well for watchers opting to stand still, chatting with friends, or those fully lost in the music. I’m not sure about others, but I loved this smaller tent being there at Unify and bringing everyone together in whatever capacity they were comfortable with. It really felt like a perfect way to ease into the main event!
Though it was tough to sleep (I ended up moving my tent! And learning to wear earplugs at night. The ‘prime’ involved the intermittent slamming of portaloo doors around the clock…), I started my Friday with a green smoothie, a soy latte, and a few games of Smash Bros and Mario Kart at the Nintendo Switch stand. Very nice comforts for a camping festival, hey?! I.. did not win any of those games unfortunately.
After a sweaty wait in really harsh sun, we were then allowed into the arena. A solemn and respectful Welcome To Country ceremony was held in the stage area. An Aboriginal elder shared the intention behind the ceremony and burned different eucalypt leaves, which carried unique properties, such as healing. Smudging us all with the smoke, we were acknowledging the traditional owners of the Bunurong land that the festival was being hosted on, and also being welcomed.
Better Half then began their set, opening up Unify Gathering 2019! With bouncing intensity, they were off to a relaxed but strong start. Favourites “Fixate”, “North”, and “Rest Your Head” earned a lot of crowd love. The Melbourne band also played a new song, complete with yearning guitar and a searching vibe. Casual and relaxed, this was a great way to ease into Unify day 1.
Locals Ocean Sleeper followed, feeling strong and crowd-enthralling with opener “Save Me”. The guys threw out inflatable balls to set the mood, and the hefty crowd singing of “Worthless No Purpose” showed it as a clear favourite. I would love to see this band break out into more innovative and emotionally impactful music in the future. I feel that this would have taken their set from ‘okay’ to ‘wow’ for me.
I saw Drown This City next, who started with “Bend and Break”. Feeling precise and strong, the band came across unified and cohesive, especially in breakdowns. With the crowd commanded by the stunningly-voiced frontwoman Alex Reade, there was dust flying and circle pits happening. Musically, the band created fiery paths with strength, leading into a pit of intensity. They shared a new song (“a love song”), and finished with most recent single “Third Law”. The whole set flowed smoothly from end to end and was topped off with a last circle pit as Alex shifted easily from screams to honeyed compassion.
Coming to Unify all the way from Wales were UNFD’s Dream State. I believe it’s their first show in Australia? It’s definitely my first time seeing them in action anyway! I’m probably going to repeat this, but it was HOT. I’m not sure how Dream State were coping with it, but the crowd was being hosed in an attempt to reduce the dust and keep us cool.
As well as sounding great live, Dream State were clearly having a good time. It was contagious to watch, even if someone wasn’t familiar with their songs. Frontwoman CJ Gilpin’s voice sounded amazing and she was all-in and connective with the crowd – literally at one point, by jumping in. Her on-stage expression (exaggerated movements while singing) made it feel like we were being guided through the songs with her, and easy to get into what is being shared in them. I was pleasantly impressed by this set and it was one of my favourites of the day.
Hand Of Mercy were featured on the Unify bill, reuniting for a one-off set. When it was time for this must-see set to begin, flocks of people literally ran down the hill to the stage area, just in time to see the band coming in hot and loud after an orchestral intro. Vocalist Scott Bird was full of energy and the crowd mirrored this easily, showcasing the fullest mosh of the day up to that point.
Regardless of their hiatus, the set vibed as if they were hot and active in the scene. A massive crowd collectively jumped with the beat and energetic riffs and the vocalist dropped down off the stage to connect with the crowd. As the set progressed, with craziness in the crowd, mic-swinging, and punk-jumping stage antics, it was tough to know where to look. From my vantage point during “Chump” I noticed two distinct pits, most clearly in action during “Absence Makes the Heart Go Wander”. It was a massive finish for Hand of Mercy; with thunderous beats, lots of company singing along with pointed fingers, and some sweet sweet riffage.
“Who would have thought this many people give a fuck about us, huh?” – Hand Of Mercy
Last time I saw The Plot In You was at Corner Hotel in April last year with Polaris. At that time, the band seemed to just be hanging on to whatever energy they had available due to their intense touring schedule/jetlag. This one-off Australian show seemed to have them faring better, with the festival stage seeming to suit their fullness of sound. Opening with “RIGGED” and then heading into “FEEL NOTHING”, The Plot felt in strong form and it was a pleasure to move along to these songs. Really easy to sing along with, the band nailed tracks from DISPOSE as well as previous releases, before ending with “DISPOSABLE FIX”. I personally enjoyed this set, but the crowd reaction around me wasn’t off the charts. They’ve promised to return later this year, and I’m looking forward to that.
Dream On Dreamer were a(nother) set of the day that positively surprised me. Witnessing the spectacle of the band sharing “Let It In” with black confetti raining down upon us felt really good. Playing “Runaway” (another track from their latest release It Comes and Goes) shone attention toward vocalist Marcel Gadacz, who was nailing it. The song and Marcel’s approach felt really connective and tender and encouraging. He joined the crowd for an older song which I’ve since researched was “Hear Me Out” from the 2013 album Loveless. I’d never heard the song before but I was moved to tears by it, with the sense of relief and hope being palpable.
Dream On Dreamer go hard; hitting shattering breakdowns and with Marcel and Zach Britt’s vocals working so well together. In my notes I wrote “Something about this band touches me deeply”, and that I enjoyed it more than I had expected. “Stay” is where they ended, and the contrast of white confetti to the black we began with felt free and open. Loved it.
“It’s like every breath I take is a debt. How am I going to pay it back by myself?” – Dream On Dreamer
Recent single “Anti-Social” was a huge way for Sheffield band While She Sleeps to start. It sounded great live and carried an infectious intensity. Looking around at the time, a crowd was building slowly with people gradually drawing in. The intensity eased back with “You Are We”, while Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor kept things moving (and circling) with his great stage presence. From where I stood, I could see dust flying, occasional busting out into blast beats, and drum jumping theatrics. “Who is high as a motherfucker?” Loz asked, and invited people up on shoulders for “Four Walls”. Mega-hit “Silence Speaks” was great to witness, despite muffled sounding vocals, and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone there in the surprisingly sparse crowd. It was “Hurricane” to end, and this short and sweet set felt nailed. I was a big fan of the crouched down eye contact/connection, where Loz watched the crowd sing back at him.
Crossfaith had brought so much hype relating to their live show, and the darkening arena was buzzing for them to begin. With a dramatic voice over counting down from 10, and an EDM-esque build up, the Japanese band took to the stage, heralded by flames, orchestral instrumental, a massive flag, and CO2 cannons. Even at the point of them having played one song (“Catastrophe”), SO much had already happened, including blasts of flames to accentuate the beats. To me it felt like the six piece had asked themselves “How can we play music, but make it as dramatic as humanly possible?” for every facet of their show. It was ridiculous and impressive. Rapid-fire video display and circle pits were slices of the spectacle. They clearly know how to put on a show and take us all with them!
Crossfaith’s band members were off-the-charts active on the stage, including the keyboardist Terufumi Tamano, who climbed up on the table while playing. Unfortunately this eventually led to a laptop propped on the table to fall down and require some intervention to get working! But even technical difficulties were handled with delicious drama for Crossfaith; introducing themselves, putting on a wild drum solo, and making it seem like part of the show. Thankfully they didn’t understand the “SHOEY!” requests. Somewhere in here, the Unify rowing team showed up!
The flame-heavy set continued intensely, with the crowd looking pretty rowdy from afar. It was a treat to see Ocean Grove‘s Luke Holmes do the Rou Reynolds feature of “Freedom”. I watched the set feeling that the extravagance of the stage show created more fascination than the music itself! Orange confetti and an orchestral electro entanglement saw us out.
When the sun sets on Tarwin Lower, the temperature droppppsssss and it had become a predictable routine to head back to camps and layer up. It was dark by the time Ocean Grove‘s set began. The first we were seeing from the Odd World dudes was flashes of footage from what looked like Ocean Grove tours. It was something beautifully nostalgic and moving, considering that this would be the last show for vocalist Luke Holmes and guitarist Jimmy Hall. While it’s undefined what is ahead for the band, that didn’t stop the set feeling exciting.
We were hit with The Rhapsody Tapes songs “What I Love About a Natural Woman” and “Beers” in familiar quick succession, instantly kicking off a massive set. Their incredible newbie “Glass Gloss” snuck in there (god I love that song), as did older favourite “Lights on Kind of Lover”. I think I danced the entire time. On stage the guys were relatively hidden by foggy lights, with flames blasting out at the front of the stage, but it was enjoyable OG antics and they were having a really good time together.
With a short set, it felt a little rushed for this to be a farewell to two band members – something that needed to be handled with significance. Regardless, “The Wrong Way” was dedicated to the departing guys, and from where I was standing it was emotionally moving. It is clear how much love the guys have for one another as well as the music and our scene of brilliantly odd people doing odd things. Closing with “Stratosphere Love” and confetti, this set left me feeling great as well as a little heavy hearted. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings for the entity of Ocean Grove.
Hellions were up next. This may be a little sketchy because I took ZERO notes during this set due to being thoroughly squished at the barrier. As one of my favourite bands (who pulled off one of my highlight sets of Unify 2018, and earned my pick for album of the year), I just wanted to take it all in! Hellions’ freshly released Rue album was front and centre of the set, with “(Blueberry)” and “Odyssey” forming their introduction to the stage. Older favourites snuck in too, such as “Hellions”, “24”, and “Thresher”.
I found the experience spellbinding. There’s something magical about Hellions. Their specific combination of people and energies makes them able to spark unity with an undercurrent of gentleness, while also being real enough to be direct, flawed, and honest in their questioning of life and human nature. This was echoed back toward them by affectionate “I LOVE YOU!”s being screamed out toward the stage, and an orchestra of voices and bodies joining in with the songs with heartfelt effort.
My noticings of the set included how often Dre Faivre was having to untangle the microphone cord that insisted on getting caught on everything possible, as well as how guitarist/vocalist Matt Gravolin has grown in his singing, perhaps even since I last saw Hellions at the Rue launch. I noticed too that even though Dre has an quality to him as the host and MC of the show, that it was truly a team effort for the band when it came to their banter between songs and moving through their set. To me, Hellions reinforce the importance of the collective in more ways than one. A Hellions set is just as much about the connection with the crowd and their experience of the music as it is of the performance itself. This great band nailed it, as they always do. Keen for more of this this year!
Unashamedly, Liam and I took a considerable break at this point after what had been a very big day running on not much sleep. At the VIP bar were extremely comfortable Jack Daniel’s bean bags, and that’s where I spent the In Hearts Wake set with a Smirnoff Pure Lime & Soda in hand. I did happen to hear a beautiful moment of a marriage proposal though! What a way to do it! Congratulations to the couple.
Karnivool were on stage next, and it was my first time seeing the Perth-based band live, admittedly not knowing their music intimately. Taking it in, their music vibed like an intricately woven fabric, with Ian Kenny’s vocals continually looping back up for air and interweaving. In my notes I wrote “How do we take this complexity? Try to keep grasp of it or let it wash over us?”. The lighting and flashes added an extra layer to it also, adding to an erraticness that I’d felt.
Though I wasn’t entirely sure how to put these songs into words, Karnivool sounded amazing; full, clear and huge, sparkling, and finding their way into my heart. “Themata” in particular stood out as brilliant and crystal clear. “New Day” closed their set – a beautiful song with multiple paths of sound taken. To me it’s the audible version of trying, failing, and trying again, before finally succeeding. I fully understand the many people who have told me that this was their favourite set of Unify.
I’d been looking forward to Underoath after thoroughly enjoying their Erase Me album. Unfortunately from the beginning of the set with “On My Teeth”, there were sound issues. I’m no sound desk wannabe, but there seemed to be distinct elements missing, even though I could get into the song because of knowing it so well. Instrumentally intense and busy, the set continued, with Erase Me aesthetic guitars.
It became really clear how tired we all were during this 1-2am set after a full day in the hot sun. It’d be really tough for an international band coming a long way to get here and having such a sleepy audience, but what else could we do? Underoath tried hard to energise us, but they themselves were jet-lagged. It seemed like the sound/mix was a lot better on the band’s older songs, but still struggled on songs like “Rapture”, “ihateit”. They ended the set with “Writing On The Walls” and hopefully had at least a few hyped and active people up front and centre to see them off.
On 1st December, followers and fans of Welsh quintet Casey were delivered information that was tough to swallow:
“The time has come to say that although there are aspects of the band we all still love dearly, we have to be honest with ourselves, and admit that now is the right time to draw Casey to a close.”
With this beautiful and respectful announcement, it was clearly undeniable: Casey were coming to an end. I had curiosities about the decision, even after the honest statement, and Casey’s frontman Tom Weaver was kindly obliging in sharing some of the behind-the-scenes thinking. Our interview:
I am wondering if this closing of a chapter crept up slowly and gradually, or whether there was a moment of ‘doneness’ for yourself and the band?
The conversation actually started with me declaring that after a final headline tour I would be stepping away from the band. We already knew at that point that Liam wouldn’t be joining us on the Never Say Die Tour due to a health issue he needed to take care of, and it shortly thereafter came to light that Max would only be playing a handful of the shows too for personal reasons, so I felt it wouldn’t be fitting to bow out on that note.
By that time, however, which would have been early October last year, I’d personally come to the conclusion that my time with music was nearing a close. And further on from that, after a little more back and for, the rest of the guys decided that not only would it not feel particularly appropriate to have another person singing the lyrics I’d written, but there were also a few other obstacles arising that perhaps would have been surmountable in isolation, but in the grander scheme of things made the split more rational.
The conclusion of the band, or at least my involvement with it, was always something I’d envisioned though. When we first started writing music together and playing shows in 2015, I’d already told the guys that the moment it felt inauthentic, I’d walk away from it. Popularity and financial gain were always totally irrelevant, it was an exercise in emotional investment from the outset.
And further to that, I feel like the decision was both gradual and instantaneous, in the same way a candle will flicker for a while before finally snuffing out. Shortly after our headline tour in April, I started to feel a departure from the investment I’d always placed in the band. It waxed and waned over the summer, then by the time mid-September rolled around my mind was made up. I don’t think there was a particular morning I woke up with an epiphany of leaving, but I’m sure it could be narrowed down to a week or two.
Where I Go When I Am Sleeping comes across as a release of thoughts and experiences from exceptionally challenging moments. Do you feel like the album’s honesty was part of this factor of having evolved from the ‘angry, conflicted man’ you mention in the statement, or is it just time passing and other healing experiences?
I feel like WIGWIAS was still, at least in part, a product of frustration on my behalf. A lot of the experiences I talk about on the album were being discussed from a place of anger and futility. There were, however, a lot more opportunities for the reprieve of acceptance and personal growth to shine through.
With Love Is Not Enough, I was angry that it took me so long to acknowledge the toxicity of my situation, and how I was blind to the impact it was having on my relationships with others. Then with WIGWIAS, I was frustrated that regardless of trying to help myself I was still experiencing difficulties that were beyond my control. However, in addition to that I allowed myself the praise that I was still trying, and if that was all I could do then I’d have to consider it as a personal victory.
The various events described on WIGWIAS span just over 10 years, with the most recent of them being February 2017, but I think writing the closing statement to “Wound” (which was the final piece written for the album) really put everything into perspective and made peace with it. Then by the time the album came out, and we’d toured it across Europe, it was evident to me that I’d internally laid that anger and frustration to rest.
If you think back to early music making for yourself and Liam Torrance, you shared in our previous interview that you felt your earlier lyrical content was ‘rubbish’ because you didn’t have anything of meaning to say. Does it feel like progressive dark/challenging times kind of became entrenched with the Casey entity? As that was where it seemed to work for you?
I think Jeremy Bolm covered this topic better than I ever could on the song “To Write Content”. Writing about hardship has always come far more naturally than writing about a plateau of contentment, especially when a standard of song writing has been previously set. I feel like if I was at place in my life where I regularly experienced euphoria, then Casey would continue as I documented it. But trying to describe a feeling of being happy with getting by just doesn’t interest me at all, and I can’t imagine it would make for particularly compelling reading haha. Casey was never intentionally destined to discuss the darkest of my experiences, but that’s what’s always felt most comfortable and the most creatively fulfilling. I suppose some people would say that I’ve had my fair share of bad luck, I’ve encountered a lot of medical difficulties and I’ve endured emotional hardship on more than one occasion, but without that I wouldn’t have had the muse to create Casey, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the emotional effervescence to write in the flamboyant way I do.
Further on that same thought, does it feel like without those dark and challenging themes that it’s ‘just not Casey anymore’?
This is definitely something that would cross my mind occasionally after the release of WIGWIAS. I don’t necessarily think that Casey would be dependent on the writer’s sorrow, but certainly on the superlative of what they were feeling. In the same way that David Bowie’s Blackstar was a very self-aware documentation of his impending passing, it’s not necessarily grounded in sadness, but still reaches the superlative of his experience. That’s why I can’t imagine that complacency would make an interesting focal point for a Casey record.
As a side note to the entity and identity of Casey: I’m curious as to how Casey would appear to you if it were a living breathing person or creature?
I can’t image what single entity would embody Casey. In truth I’d like to think, as a collective, it’s merely an extension of the members. Because it’s always been so hyper-personal and even self-contained in a sense, it’s a perfect reflection of those that have had most personal input toward it, which would be the five of us.
To what extent do you feel that listener/fan expectations come into the identity of Casey? As in, does it feel like you couldn’t branch into something very different because of what you are known as sounding and feeling like?
As a creative project I don’t feel like fan perspective has ever played a role. We’ve never sat together and considered what we think fans would like to hear, it’s always been entirely self-serving in the sense that we’re our worst and only critics. Brad (Wood) gave a lot of his perspective and insight when making WIGWIAS, but even then, it was the band that had the final say in what would fly.
However, if we were to become conscious of the fan expectancy during our writing process, I don’t believe a great deal would change. Since the beginning of Casey we’ve tried to exercise a flexibility with our sound that prevents us from being tied to a single genre or demographic, and that extends into the band name, the artwork we chose, the original press releases we would write. We wanted everything to remain as ambiguous as possible because once you start really treading down a path with certainty, it’s difficult divert to another. As a result of that, the Casey fanbase has always been incredibly receptive to variations in our sound. Obviously we’ve received the occasional sideways remark or dull criticism, but again, Casey has always been self-serving, so they were largely ignored.
I love the honesty that has come into your announcement, with openness toward the possibility of future projects. Does creativity creep in and find you? Or maybe a lack of that has inspired this deliberate ending too..
To be honest I’ve never been an overly creative individual, in the sense that I couldn’t just sit down and begin to write lyrics without purpose. Well, actually that’s not necessarily true, I could definitely open a Word document and just jot something down that rhymed, but it wouldn’t fulfil me in anyway and therefore I would never do it. The bulk of the lyrics for both Casey records were written in the studio, while recording the albums. I remember how stressed Brad was getting during the WIGWIAS recording process because even up as far as Day 8 (out of 13) in the studio I’d barely written more than about 3 songs. I’d be sitting in the lounge trying to speed run Half Life 2, and he’d come in during recording breaks to check on me. Every single time he’d ask for an update on the lyrics and I’d just say “yeah I’m gonna start them in a bit”, but “in a bit” would never come haha.
Then when the instrumental recording was drawing to a close I locked myself in my room and wrote the whole thing in about 3 sittings. Inspiration has never been something I’ve been particularly short of, but motivation and investment are finite resources for me. If I can get myself into the right frame of mind, and I’m wholly invested in a project, I can write however much I need to. Getting me into that place, however, is something that takes a lot of emotional investment.
You mention the mentally challenging situation of having to take on the emotional investment of something that isn’t authentic to you anymore. Do you feel this is a common situation that plagues bands, in particular vocalists often? It would be a balancing act between authenticity and self-safety.
I’d say that would be entirely dependent on the vocalist. I know plenty of singers who will frequently perform songs that they have absolutely no attachment to, it’s just a job to them, and they take that very literally. Then on the other hand I know performers who can’t bring themselves to perform particular cuts from their back catalogue because the emotional weight attached to them is too great.
It’s always a disappointment for me when a band traverses from an exceptionally emotional record, or a record written from a place of intellectual complexity, into using a far less refined and more generic palette. I suppose that’s what it came down to for me. I know exactly what I’m capable of lyrically; when I’m truly invested in a theme or tangent, I know how captivating the product can be. I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for writing purely through obligation, to deliver songs that a sub-standard to my capacity.
Perhaps a dumb question, but are there similar emotional impacts for non-vocalist musicians also? They go along with you on the journey but also sharing some decidedly heart-wrenching pieces of music.
I would absolutely imagine so, but again I feel it depends on your motivations. If you’re writing music purely to make money, and you’re able to keep yourself emotionally detached from your art, then I don’t feel there would be any moral conflict in writing garbage, providing its garbage that sells. There would definitely be musicians who couldn’t do that to themselves though, whether it’s a case that they’re notably invested in their music, or whether it’s a matter of pride in again showcasing anything that doesn’t live up to their potential.
April and May will see you touring EU and UK on the ‘It’s Time For Us To Bury Our Love’ tour. I expect these will be intensely emotional shows, giving fans an opportunity to say goodbye however they see fit. What is your outlook about these shows for now? I’d ask if it is daunting to think about a string of sad shows ahead, but maybe it is what you’ve come to expect…
I’ve actually never allowed myself to get too worked up over a series of shows before actually being on the road. It’s probably a product of my colitis, which reacts very badly to stress, but I’m generally quite a placid person, and I keep my expectations low wherever possible. That being said, having both London shows sell out so quickly really took me and the rest of the band by surprise. We knew some of the shows would probably sell out closer to the time, but to have it happen in a matter of days was really humbling.
By this point I’ve grown accustomed to our shows, particularly headline shows, being quite intense emotionally. I’ve sat at the merch table at pretty much every show Casey’s ever done, so I’m used to interacting with fans quite intimately. Sometimes that can be a really wonderful and personal interaction, and other times it can prove to be incredibly intense and sometimes overwhelming. I’m sure that emotions will be running high at the shows, but ultimately, we just want to give people, including ourselves, the opportunity to say goodbye to the band and lay it to rest.
When it comes to Casey’s live shows, what do you suspect will stick with you about them, years from now?
For me personally, Casey shows are always just a dizzy blur. I have a really hard time opening my eyes when I sing, so for the most part I don’t see anything that’s going on around me. I can’t count the number of times people have come up to me after a show and said “oh my God, did you see that kid do that thing?” and I’m just like…no, I didn’t hahah. However, creatively isolating yourself like that, and then having your little bubble perforated by the sound of an audience singing louder than the band, that’s a feeling I think will live with me forever.
Separate to the shows themselves, what have been some really memorable or impactful experiences when touring?
The travelling was always a huge motivating factor for me. I’ve seen so many cities I’d probably never have bothered going to had I not been in a band. The fact that when friends now go travelling across Europe, I can give tourist recommendations on a tonne of cities and towns. I mean, Australia is a perfect example. I’d actually been to Melbourne and briefly to Sydney as a tourist a few years ago, but getting to see so much of the country, getting to swim on the Gold Coast, getting to make friends so many cities all because I’d written some songs in a tiny recording studio in South Wales, 11000 miles away, it pretty ridiculous.
When thinking about memories, what about things such as creating music videos or working with fellow creatives behind the scenes – would love to hear some of the special moments.
Meeting Martyna [Martyna Wisniewska (aka gingerdope)] and allowing our relationship with her to develop very organically was a wonderful thing to witness. Especially in moments of creative doubt, where she may ask us for our opinion or perhaps for any limitations we may have, and for us to place total faith in her really meant a lot to both her and I.
I remember in the final days of the WIGWIAS recording process where we were winding down on tracking and talking to Brad about how we imagined it being mixed or what references we had for the sound of the record, Martin asked me what the plan was for the artwork of the record. I turned to her with absolute confidence and told her that she was responsible for it and could do whatever she saw most appropriate, all she had to do was send us the bill. By this point Martin had been to every show with us for two years, she’d been to some of the writing and practice sessions for the album, stayed at the studio with us for the whole process, and she’s in our main band group chat too so she saw every discussion from start to finish. She knows that record just as well as any of the five of us, so to me it only felt natural that she would be the eyes of the album.
The rest of us aren’t particularly visually creative, Max and Adam are both great artists but in a more tattoo style art sense. When we started working with Martin, I told her that she would have complete creative control over the content she created, and that we may give feedback from time to time, but in the grand scheme of things she was responsible for how the band was presented visually. That’s a role that she really took to heart, and she’s done a more incredible job than any of us could have imagined.
With Casey resting peacefully, do you feel you’ll still be kept busy in the world of music in other ways? Such as helping other bands with merch as you have before, or might you feel free to open up completely new doors?
At this point in time, and to be honest for quite a while now, I’ve been fairly disenchanted with the industry as a whole. So with that in mind, I think I’d like to distance myself from it for a while. I’m not saying I’ll never return to another creative endeavour, or that I wouldn’t help a band out with a third-party role they may need filling. But for the time being at least I have no intention of sticking around. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been able to go on holiday without checking my phone every 10 minutes, so I think my first goal will be to allow myself to relax a little.
Much love, Casey! Thank you, Tom, for such honest sharing. I’m grateful for the memorable experience of witnessing the Casey magic here in Australia on the tour with Belle Haven last year. UK/EU friends can farewell Casey on their final tour in April and May, as well as US fans getting a one-off gig in Chicago!
It’s only a few sleeps now until Unify Gathering 2019 begins! The camping music festival is our favourite way to kickstart a fresh new year of music. We’ve all found belonging in music in some way, whether it’s the words, the emotions, the energy, or the community of like-minded people. Unify has us all come together from our individual walks of life and celebrate together!
To get sorted for the big event, we’ve collected information together from the good people at Unify, and put it all together in one place! Bookmark this baby and you’ll be set!
As of this morning, we’ve been told that the event is SOLD OUT – This is the fifth year in a row that all tickets have been snapped up prior to the festival! You might still find people trying to sell theirs on the UNIFY GATHERING 2019 event page on Facebook HERE, but do be wary of any opportunists. Ticket holders should make sure they have their E-ticket PDF or phone handy for the big day!
How are you getting to Unify? Options:
Banana Bus Festival Transport – With so many pick-up points across Melbourne, this seems like a really handy option for the car-less. Book HERE!
Driving – It’s a scenic view and the perfect time to brush up on your favourite Spotify playlists in preparation (Here’s a good one)! You could enjoy the serenity solo, or carpool with friends who also have good taste in music to keep everyone alert and focused and entertained, and save money on petrol and car pass at the same time. Make sure you grab a car pass HERE!
Vanessa are THE organisation working hard to ensure festival goers arrive safe and sound! Driving festival-goers can find Vanessa pitstops on the way to Unify at Cochranes Park and Leongatha Centenary Park.
But wait – Where IS Unify Festival?
The festival has a new home, but is still nestled in Tarwin Lower. Walkerville Road in Tarwin Lower will have you on the Unify doorstep. We’ve created a Google Maps map to include the Vanessa stops and also give a straightforward route from Melbourne CBD to the festival.
If you want to get in ASAP (depending on the ticket you have), these are the gate opening times:
THURSDAY – 2pm
FRIDAY – 9am
The weather gods are smiling upon us this year, with seemingly extremely LOW chance of it raining?! Regardless, anyone that knows Melbourne will know to be ready for potentially anything.
Here’s the forecast for Unify weather from the Bureau of Meteorology at the time of writing this:
THURSDAY – LOW 13 | HIGH 23*
FRIDAY – LOW 13 | HIGH 32*
SATURDAY – LOW 21 | HIGH 27
SUNDAY – LOW 16 | HIGH 29
* Extreme UV days: Use extra sun protection!
What To Pack
We like the list that the Unify folk shared (below) for music festival basics! Your water bottle can be used at the water station for unlimited refills of chilled/filtered/still/sparkling water (this was a godsend in 2018!).
I’ll also be packing:
Phone & extra power brick
Clothes for 3 days (+ extras just in case)
A cheap rain poncho
Tent, sleeping bag, air mattress and anything else you want at your campsite
Toiletries (Note: There are showers at Unify but baby wipes are a really handy alternative!)
Convenient snacks that won’t melt or go off
Bag for rubbish
Now is the time to coordinate and plan your costumes, wigs, hats, inflatable items, or just a few comfy outfits that will fare well in the pit. And don’t forget the UNO cards. Also feel free to add to this list all the things like beer bongs that sensible music festival reviewers wouldn’t be packing because they are working hard and being good and angel-like.
Maybe you’ll be hanging at camp for a lot of your time at Unify, or maybe the Arena will be your home base. Regardless, here’s the map of your home for Unify! Check it out.. There’s bars, food vendors, rides, special space, hydration stations, and more! I’m excited just looking at this.
Rebranded from Unicoin, Pitcoin is the wristband setup for paying for goods at the festival. Once onsite, this is the process for all punters to get Pitcoin happening:
Show ticket/phone on arrival
Be provided the Pitcoin wristband in exchange
Tap the wristband to pay for food, drinks, merch
Top up at stations to add funds to the wristband
Once the festival is over, any unused credit will be refunded; either at The Convenience Store on Sunday 13th, or online up until midnight 27th January. Too easy, yeah? Let’s hope for technological blessings and ease.
Thursday 10th January
While Unify Gathering officially starts on Friday, we have the pleasure of a pre-Unify event. The AM//PM legends are easing us into it in an emo and heavy fashion, with some of our favourite artists putting on some special sets to get us into the spirit and a dash of DJ-ing. There’ll also be food and drink options on the night.
Friday 11th January & Saturday 12th January
This is it. Two big days, stacked end to end with artists we’ve been dying to see. Some for the first time! Some long-awaited. We are beyond hyped and excited to show our appreciation in the arena! (More about each HERE)
This year Unify punters can also get up close and personal with some of their favourite musicians at the artist signings. Scheduled over Friday and Saturday, make sure you note the signing times you don’t want to miss.
Unify visitors that aren’t done when the bands are done can dance into the night at the Silent Disco! From 2am to 4am, the campsite hub is where it’s at. It’s $10 entry and sounds like it’d be just as fun to watch as it would be to participate.
Sunday 13th January
Winding down this mammoth event is the perfect cruisy hangout: Sunday Sessions. If it’s anything like last year, this will be a really enjoyable hangout with your favourite musicians while they share some more sedate music. Perfect recovery session before we head back to civilisation!
Lastly, leading up to the festival, the Unify Gathering team wish to remind us of key elements to keep us happy, healthy, supported, as well as aware of our surroundings. Music unites and we can enjoy it respectfully!
Old touring pals from way back and Greyscale Records label mates Alpha Wolf and Justice For The Damned have joined forces for the ‘Survival Of The Riffest’ tour. Bringing together heavy music’s finest over six dates, we caught the tour at the all ages show at Mooroolbark Community Centre.
Opening procedings was Caged Existence. The Melbourne band have gained a lot of attention over the last 6 months (at least), earning support slots for bands such as Antagonist A.D., Endless Heights, and Deez Nuts. They’ve also continued to keep busy releasing music, dropping The Body Prison: Cantos last month. If these things aren’t impressive enough, they’re already off to a solid start for 2019: Caged Existence will play at the AM/PM pre-Unify Gathering event, and have been announced as supporting US heavyweights Stick To Your Guns, TERROR, and Harms Way early in the new year.
The band’s stage presence is fierce, and Mooroolbark was no exception. Stalking the stage, frontwoman Steffanie Adele is unwavering in her sharing lyrical themes of bitter distaste for humanity. Unaffected by anything around her, she gets the job done and owns the stage, whether skipping freely or striding purposefully across the stage.
The fierceness comes across instrumentally as well as visually, with slow builds akin to deliberately combing over grotesque bones. Shifting tempo on a whim, Caged Existence holds focus through moments of punishing high pace, blunt force attacks, or pace that’s so slowed down that it’s agonising. Everyone around me was mesmerised the entire set (which also included Belle Haven‘s Christopher Vernon filling in on guitar). Feedback squeals with relentless stepping down riffs ground this set to a halt slowly and deliciously, making for a drawing and incredible experience.
Diamond Construct followed and made it abundantly clear that they were not content whatsoever with a complacent audience. Frontman Kynan Groundwater was demanding for all of us to move forward and be part of this thing with the band, unafraid to keep intimidating eye contact with us until we complied. The Taree based band are fellow Greyscale Records ‘siblings’ of Alpha and JFTD too; with their signing to the Melbourne based label announced with the release of “Submerged”.
Though ridiculous drumming and blistering rawness featured in the set, songs like “Paradox” crafted their own journey of sorts by combining dreamier instrumental sections and ethereal vocals with the heaviness. It was a ‘dance’ of us getting hooked in and allowed to get lost in the soundscapes, before angular guitars and alarmist riffs amped us up into a bouncing entity. “The Omega Project” was another instance of pummeling ridiculousness and guitar neck fingers flying while the fog-lit crowd bounced along.
We must have done a good enough job of being up front and attentive, because “That’s the fucking shiiiit” was Kynan’s response to the crowd activity in front of him. Diamond Construct shared a new song “Say It To My Face”(?), which vibed as them being angry spokespeople on behalf of those that face doubt. Looking forward to hearing this in the new year sometime! Newie “Submerged” was the big finish for Diamond Construct’s set, coming across as a favourite courtesy of its circle pit, and the fact it had the entire room bouncing along with its urgent pace and plunging sense of overwhelm.
DREGG then leapt out of the gate with “Weirdo”, dressed in their full garb. [If you want to understand more about the DREGG culture and ideas that drive the band, THIS is a good place to begin.] With the crowd already warmed up and ready to go, it was a pleasure watching frontman Chris Mackertich bounce and dance around the stage, with a ‘come as you are’ vibe emanating from the band as a unit.
Darting from song to song without pause and sharing music from 2016 to present (including “Sorry Daddy” and “Goof Troop”), the five piece brought a mammoth sound and blazing riffs, and vibed as being on stage for a good time, not a long time. Cursive fluidly rambling rap rhythms married with metal hugeness and formed an intense stage presence with a LOT going on. But I’ve come to expect this from DREGG!
Vicious and moshy, raunchy pit calls before drops into fierceness kept us all on our toes. And it wouldn’t be a DREGG set without Chris sharing a slice of his perspective of life; reminding us of the power we have in all of our separate parts and within us as a whole. The set ended with the Melbourne band’s newest song “RETURN OF THE DREGG” (which I can no longer hear without thinking of a Nissan Micra…). With pride in uniqueness and doing it their own way on stage, this vibe seemed to be echoed by everyone singing it with them. It felt like a great place to end the whirlwind set.
Sydney heavies Justice For The Damned had “Please Don’t Leave Me” as their opening number, instantly having them feel too big for the stage as well as the room – potentially threatening to blow the doors off this suburban community hall. No nonsense frontman Bobak Rafiee was present, commanding, and controlling, ready to direct this event.
With their music seemingly designed for moshing/thrashing, this is exactly what happened. The room opened up for zig zagging two-steps (and even cartwheels), and naturally this open space was a breeding ground for circle pits, and letting loose with arms and legs going everywhere. Though there were plenty of gaps in the crowd, people still did their best to get up on shoulders or stage dive.
The drumming was off the charts insane (with “Dragged Through The Dirt” as one example), with piercing cymbal attacks providing the only sharpness to break through the otherwise solid wall of sound. It’s tough to put into words the punishing heaviness that unfolded in front of us that seemed to be further multiplied by the intensity of flashing columns of light.
With gratitude toward ‘the future of music’, Bobak gave a nod to the supporters of all age gigs and those who took advantage of the gig. There were definitely young fans learning the ropes at the show! It was a good feeling to see everyone present and getting into this – all of us celebrating heavy music together.
“No Brother, No Friend” continued the metallic intensity of the set and pulled my focus toward the impressive guitar work of Nick Adams. Diving into his craft emotively, it was a pleasure to watch him go at it. Finishing strong and intimidating, Justice For The Damned stood staring out at us. What a set!
Their freshly released single “No Name” is where Alpha Wolf began their set. This offered up a slamming and fiery start which drew people in from the corridors. Ripping out familiar singles from Mono made it easy to join in with the Melbourne band; soaking up their breakdowns, watching frontman Lochie Keogh in action, as well as singing and screaming along with the band (“I’M SORRY IT’S LONELY SPENDING YOUR TIME WITH ME”).
Though I adore Mono (released last year), I couldn’t help think while watching the set that Alpha are thoroughly ready to shed some of their earlier skin to evolve into what they intend to be now with Lochie – who is more than just a replacement frontman but a band member bringing his own unique vibe to the band’s identity and feel. I’m very keen to see what this new configuration blooms into with further releases, hopefully more strongly solidifying their identity and loosening ties to their previous incarnation.
Once Scottie Simpson had rescued himself from an unfortunately timed guitar issue, it was “Failvre” that hit us, with thunderous drums, leering and sliding riff savagery, and bass distortion off the charts. This lonely anthem of hecticness rolled forward into “Golden Fate; Gut Ache”, with John Arnold’s clean vocals on the choruses standing out to me.
The quintet then rumbled into “Devon Street” which I don’t think I’ve ever heard them play live before. The dense piece of music ripped into two-step territory and featured an amusing pit call of “KILL!”.
A breathless Lochie shouted out the bands on the bill with them, before bursting into “No. 2”. This featured a circle pit and then a wall of death (which seems to be a regular event at this venue!) on “Eyes visualise ruining a fucking home”. The looming and doomy “Golden Fate; Water Break” came off cleanly and strongly.
It was great to see Alpha Wolf play “Black Mamba” to finish on a high and in strength, and the song seemed to also boost the energy of the band. Lochie played with the appreciative crowd, changing “Fuck that” to “Two step”. The tension was thoroughly and deliberately built with the “Not enough, never was, never will be” being a siren’s call for losing our shit.