“Can we put you on speaker? We've got a few of us here.” Mixdown was scheduled to speak with Gravemind's lead singer, Dylan Gillies-Parsons, in order to promote the Melbourne band's debut album Conduit. The phone is instead answered by Michael Petritsch, one of the band's two guitarists, who reveals that he is there with both Gillies-Parsons and the band's primary songwriter, lead guitarist Damon Bredin. When we say that Mixdown interviewed Gravemind, it's quite nearly literal.
It's telling that the deathcore merchants are presenting a united front – they've gone all out on Conduit, making sure that their first impression as far as a full-length album is concerned is one that will stick. It's an all-out musical assault, bringing further emphasis to the band's machine-gun drums and churning twin-guitar attack matched with the belligerent, full-speed-ahead vocals of Gillies-Parsons. When asked what they wanted to get out of making the album, however, there's whispers of uncertainty among the band members.
“What do you reckon, Damon?” asks Petritsch. The quietly-spoken Bredin mulls it over for a second, before offering a succinct answer: “More metalcore.” The band cracks up. “It was really about proving to ourselves that we could do a full album,” Petritsch continues. “Everything that we've done before has been only five or six songs at a time. We wanted to double that and see if we could still create something as coherent as our EPs.”
Gillies-Parsons agrees. “It's also about wanting to create something that you would want to listen to yourself,” he says. “I think you can listen to five tracks of straight deathcore without any real worries, but you've got to make it more interesting than that if you're making a full album. We had to look at what we needed to do in order to diversify our sounds, so that someone can listen to it from start to finish and not just feel like they've been hit over the head the whole runtime.”
The band recorded Conduit over the course of a few months in the studio with local producer Scottie Simpson. Normally the guitarist for the band Alpha Wolf, Simpson knows a thing or two about creating something that strikes the balance between heavy-hitting and atmospheric. “The man is such a good producer,” enthuses Petritsch. “There are times where Damon is really hard on himself, and is ready to chuck a whole song in the bin. Scottie is the one who'll save it – 'Nah, nah, nah, let's work on this one a little bit longer,' he'll say. He knows how to turn a song around – he did that for a couple of the songs on the album, and they ended up being some of the best ones.”
For Bredin, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the creative process of Conduit came with finding new ways to keep the guitar playing interesting. One of the ways he navigated this was by writing new songs in different tunings, in order to keep him on his toes from a songwriting perspective. “We had three different guitars – an ESP E-II, an Ibanez [RG] XL and a fanned-fret ET Guitar,” says Bredin.
“What was interesting is that we took the XL and we tuned it up, which is not something bands in our genre usually do. They just tend to go lower and lower, so it was cool to change that up. That being said, there's still plenty of low-end on the record, and that's where the ET Guitar comes in. It really lets those low notes just breathe and ring out, and it sounds just so much clearer.”
It's at this point a fourth voice chimes in: “...and there's live drums, too!” It turns out drummer Karl Steller had been there the whole time. Again, the band cracks up. “We added a couple of extra china cymbals on top of what my normal set-up would be, and we rearranged the toms so that they ran lower. Instead of two rack and one floor, we changed it to one rack and two floor. It gave the drums a bit more body, and I think it all worked out for the best.” The hive-mind of Gravemind agrees.
Conduit is out Friday July 19 via Greyscale Records.