“I think playing the older songs after he’d gone was a real heartache, because we’d play the songs and his voice wasn’t there and you’d just imagine it,” says guitarist Matt Harvey. “But we’ve honoured him and carried on that memory through this record. A lot of people write to us really honestly and emotionally about it. It’s really special for a lot of people, because once they read behind the scenes and they know what the album’s about, they relate it to things in their lives. So I think this album will always be special for us and people out there who really like it.”
There’s always been an emotional weight to We Lost The Sea’s music, and this is true even during the delicate, stripped back moments on Departure Songs. You get the sense nothing is committed to tape unless it’s both significant to the band and capable of communicating something to listeners. This suggests the composition of WLTS material is a somewhat laborious process, requiring vulnerability from the band members as well as firm conviction in their creative decisions. As a result, writing music can be an unpleasant experience.
“It takes a long time to get to a point when everyone’s happy with it, then we revisit it later and see if it’s OK,” Harvey says. “It’s a lot of filtering, because it’s three guitarists with three different outlooks and attitudes and influences. Everything has its place and everything’s there intentionally – it’s not just because we need to really enjoy it, but sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to do it. When we started doing Departure Songs, because the songs are so long and a lot of us work at home before we bring stuff in, sometimes you sit there on the weekend going, ‘I don’t want to be in here. I want to be outside.’ But playing music for us is really important, and when songs start to come together it’s really exciting after months of churning through stuff.”
By virtue of the three-guitar set-up, Departure Songs contains several moments of great sonic intensity. This gives it similarities to hard rock/ progressive metal, and the grandiosity of orchestral music. There’s also a certain breadth of sound, an atmospheric quality, maintained throughout. Although it’s an instrumental record, each of the record’s five tracks – the final two of which form parts 1 and 2 of ‘Challenger’ – comes with its own story depicting “failed, yet epic and honourable journeys or events throughout history.” These narrative concerns are made manifest in the sonic breadth of Departure Songs.
“When we gave the songs stories it gave gravity to those songs and gave them meaning,” Harvey says. “The ‘Challenger’ for example, which is the first one that we aligned with a story, and now all I see is just a rocket going up. So for me that’s one of the biggest in terms of actual physical space. Then there are some times, like the quieter moments in ‘The Last Dive of David Shaw’, it really does feel like you’re in a dark space and you can’t see the walls, and it’s either small or large.”
Having left behind the more overt metal influences of their earlier work, Departure Songs has frequently been described as a post-rock record. Post-rock is a genre made famous by the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky, however this tag has been the subject of ridicule in recent years due to a surfeit of over-earnest artists crassly mimicking the leading practitioners. Harvey is somewhat ambivalent about its use with regards to We Lost The Sea.
“The band was a very post-metal band, very Cult of Luna-esque when the vocals were there. And I think the band was comfortable sitting in that genre because in Australia post-metal’s not a massive thing. I guess post-rock’s a more accessible format of that kind of music. I think [post-rock] is probably just the easiest way to put us into a genre. Also, I don’t also want to be one of those wankers that’s like, ‘Well, we’re genre defying, we’re heaps different and we shouldn’t be labelled,’ because if Godspeed’s labelled post-rock, I’m happy to be lumped in with them. But since the beginning, because the dudes in the band come from a variety of different bands, I think we can still play heavy shows, we can play post-rock shows, we can play with a kind of rocky pop band we can play with a prog band. And I think that’s a really handy thing that we have.”
May 27 – Rad, Wollongong NSW
May 28 – Beatdisc Records,Parramatta NSW
June 3 – Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW
June 4 – Hotel Gearin, Katoomba NSW
June 10 – Jimmy’s Den, Perth WA
June 17 – The Crown & Anchor, Adelaide SA
June 18 – The Old Bar, Melbourne VIC
June 24 – The Basement (Backroom), Canberra ACT
June 25 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
For more details, head to welostthesea.bandcamp.com.