With the release of their 2014 LP, Love of Cartography, Sydney band sleepmakeswaves finally made it to the top of the mountain as far as Australian post-rock is concerned. Much like the music itself, it was a slow and steady ascent that paid off in dividends when the glorious view from the summit was reached. Upon wrapping up an extensive world tour nearly two years after the fact, it was time to see what the band had in the arsenal for album number three.
“It wasn't always the easiest process creatively,” begins Alex Wilson – bassist, keyboardist, programmer and sleepmakeswaves' sole original member. “I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to meet these expectations we had on ourselves after Cartography. We have more people that are aware of the band now than ever before. I think it brought up all of our anxious protectionism about the music and the band, so it was a bit scary in the lead-up.
“By the time we got into the studio, however, we realised that the songs were there and we can play them. Looking back on it, I'm pretty happy with how it came together. It feels like us, but it has a different emotional aspect to it than our previous records. I like that a lot – I think I'm getting more and more interested in the emotional core of a song, as opposed to what genre it fits into.”
Made of Breath Only is the album’s title – a reflection on both human nature and the nature of impermanence. It sees the band delve into heavier, denser territory than Love of Cartography, which Wilson initially wasn't sure about. Ultimately, it came down to mirroring what life had dealt the band's individual members between releases. “We thought deliberately about wanting to write a darker record,” he says. “It was an expression of some personal experiences we had gone through, so capturing that sound was intentional. Interestingly, the way the other guys in the band were writing kind of made me want to write some stuff on my end that was a bit more chilled out and a bit less intense. It was this kind of unspoken creative desire that was pulling me back in this direction toward writing the kind of music that ended up on the record.”
The album was their second release in a row to be successfully crowdfunded on Pozible, reeling in an impressive $45,000 to put towards its creation. Wilson was initially reluctant to return to the platform but as he watched through his fingers the numbers added up and once again got the project off the ground. “I will admit – as grateful as I am for all of the massive support that we had, I think everyone would prefer not to have that kind of pressure in an ideal world,” he says. “That's on both sides, too. It's a gratifying experience, though, having said that – you're basically saying to everyone that cares about the band that it's going to be tough for us to pull off what we want to do. There's a trust there in handing over your hard-earned in making that happen. It's a scary proposition, but I'm glad that we could deliver our creative vision. It's a massive privilege, and the fact it's possible for a band like us to do that is pretty cool.”
Production was handled by American-Australian engineer Nick DiDia, who has worked with everyone from Kasey Chambers to Korn. Having overseen Love of Cartography, he was the band's first choice to shack up with once again at his Byron Bay studio. “It only made sense to work with him again,” says Wilson. “He has an appreciation in his style for capturing the live energy of bands. He's interested in trying to use the studio and its equipment in an authentic way; free of a lot of modern preoccupations with editing and intense sound-shaping.
“He brings out a side of us that's really good – he has a very easy-going, uncomplicated feeling about making records. It's a very good balance to our tendency to over-analyse and worry to the nth degree. He has this phrase – whenever we want to go back and fix something in the recording, he'll say 'well, you could... if you want it to be less magical.' He's a calming presence when we're frenetic about making songs.”
sleepmakeswaves are touring nationally in support of Devin Townsend this month, for more information head to sleepmakeswaves.com. Made of Breath Only is out now via Bird’s Robe Records.