I HAVE FOUR NAMES // Suspending Expectations & The Declaration Of Independence

i have four names hysteria

Driven by a love of catchy maximalism and razor-sharp aesthetics, Sydney artist I Have Four Names, aka William Raleigh Vere Evatt, is a true embodiment of being an artist’s artist. 

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First and foremost a lover of music, Evatt has evolved from staunchly one-man-band territory into opening up his creative world to allow outsiders to help colour and expand his world. Inspired by the likes of Kasabian, Everything Everything, Enter Shikari and beyond, it’s ultimately via the latest I Have Four Names release, a sophomore full length album Suspended Sentence, that one of Australia’s most dedicated independent artists illuminates ambition, exploration and plenty of offbeat indie rock, while also waging a crusade to bring physical music into the hands and ears of his self-cultivated fanbase.

machine head hysteria

“I can tell you, it doesn’t feel like the album’s out because the vinyl isn’t out yet,” Evatt muses. “I was speaking about this a bit in some press stuff I did before the album came out, the reason that the album’s called Suspended Sentence is because I spent about 10 years doing stuff on my own. And when you’re an indie artist doing stuff on your own, it can be a very lonely sort of time, and you feel like nobody’s listening. You put stuff on Spotify – there’s no listening. You put stuff on Bandcamp – there’s no listens. I did that for a long time, and then eventually, when it came to doing my first album two years ago, I just decided: look, I’m going to put together everything I did as a collection. And I love vinyl myself – so, I’m gonna put on vinyl.”

Evatt’s earlier forays into releasing on vinyl proved a stroke of genius in the extremely volatile reality that can often accompany completely independent artists, with the vinyl drop ultimately amplifying his reach exponentially, while also showcasing concrete avenues and, as luck would have it, sparking the inspiration for his second full-length release.

“That vinyl managed to reach, for me, so many people,” says Evatt of his previous vinyl endeavours. “For other people, selling a hundred or something is nothing. But for me, selling a hundred was a huge thing. And it felt like it sort of suspended my sentence of giving up and that sort of stuff. That became the whole idea behind this latest album.”

Collaborating for the first time ever in his career for a release, Suspended Sentence saw Evatt bring in live drumming courtesy of Stewart Geddes, Jack Garzonio on producing duties, and mixing by Stefan Du Randt. And while the end result is, as any pre-existing fan will tell you, an unmistakable I Have Four Names release, there were unexpected moments that also saw Evatt evolve well and truly beyond his comfort zone; a fact he has zero regrets about looking back. 

“The straightest answer possible is that I wanted it to sound more polished,” Evatt says of why he chose to bring in outside collaborators for Suspended Sentence. “That’s why I investigated getting it mixed, and when I approached some people about mixing it, they told me: look, the way that you record is that you’re stacking thousands of tracks upon each other, because it’s just me, you know, doing my own thing. But they’d say: there’s room here to tidy everything up. And that’s how I was introduced to Jack Garzonio at Studios 301 who guided me through. He’d say: look, I can take the music that you’ve recorded and we can sit together and we can strip it back. We can move bits and pieces. We can record extra things just to make it not only easier for mixing, but to make the sound a bit different.”

For other people, selling a hundred or something is nothing. But for me, selling a hundred was a huge thing. And it felt like it sort of suspended my sentence of giving up and that sort of stuff. That became the whole idea behind this latest album.
[ I Have Four Names ]

“I was like: okay, sure, let’s go along with it. Because when you record yourself, it’s all in your head. You might be listening to a song and, and saying: right, I know this amazing little guitar part I did is coming up, this song is amazing. But! Most people aren’t even gonna notice that, you need somebody to guide you and get you out of your head a little bit.” And that’s exactly what Jack did.

“It was very strange to hear something back that wasn’t maybe as I intended it, or how I would’ve done it myself, there was a lot of sort of trust involved in the whole thing. But you have to put your trust in other people, that’s honestly the way to make something sound better. And from the feedback I’ve received just about these new songs – I think I was right to give up that trust.”

With so many genre flourishes and tinges lying in wait throughout the eclectic 13 tracks on Suspended Sentence, one can’t help but wonder just what exactly gets a run in Evatt’s playlist these days, including the notable 2000s flavours on display throughout the album. 

“One of the things I found initially when I was recording by myself is that: I’m a huge music fan, and I also have a problem where it’s very hard for me to dislike music,” Evatt laughs. “When I say that’s a problem, what I mean is other people might laugh at me because of what I’d be listening to on shuffle. I might go from hardcore to J-pop to BTS or something. Whenever I listen to music with someone else, they reach a limit of like: okay, you’ve gotta stop, this is too much!”

“I’ve always loved all kinds of music since I was growing up. And one of the things I found is that it was very hard for me, what I wanted to do was sit down and create the music that I was listening to and loved the most.”

“I was very much influenced by 2000s British indie, you know, when there was that sort of huge boom of British indie music where they were making a lot of that loud, buzzy music, lots of bass, Kasabian and those sorts of bands where it’s really sort of like electronic, but also had rock elements and really exciting moments. There’s also a band called Everything Everything, their songs are very busy and exciting to listen to, they’re so catchy. And another British band Enter Shikari, they’re a bit louder than me, but again – catchy! They’re the things I like, it’s usually something that’s kind of maximalist but catchy. There might be a big bassline that you can hook onto, but it really sticks in your head and there’s a lot of layers to the music.”

While many artists dream of having a signature style and being able to effortlessly create accordingly, for Evatt his ingrained sonic trademarks made attempting to channel some of his influences difficult at times.

“I wanted to sit down and make stuff in the style of those bands I love,” explains Evatt, “But I found that when you’re recording by yourself, I’m doing it piece by piece, I might start with a bassline or whatever it is…and I kind of lost that initial inspiration. I lost the ability to replicate that sound I was chasing. It always came out sounding like something completely different, or at least just little elements of that. And for some people that may sound like a brag: oh whatever I did, it came out sounding like me. But for me it’s the opposite – I was really trying to sound like all those bands I love, but just because of the recording method, it came out sounding like my own spin on it.”

With a steady and dedicated fanbase to his name, the admirable strides Evatt has made as an indie artist, particularly in the current musical landscape, has undeniably made him a fervent problem solver alongside his ceaseless passion for music. But, as he explains, the realities facing independent artists in Australia still have a long way to go regarding support, opportunities and promotion.

“A lot of the songs on Suspended Sentence are actually written about my journey as an independent artist and how hard it is,” Evatt reveals. “One of the big things is that there’s so much music out there, right? Like you could be living next door to the Beatles 2.0 – and nobody could know! What if the new Beatles were there recording the best music that anybody had ever heard, and what if they couldn’t get it out there? They just upload it to Spotify and nobody listens to it? I don’t know how to solve the problem. I don’t think there’s enough being done within the Australian music team to support and promote indie artists. 

“For example, with me, I’ve never been able to get play on things, whether it’s FBi or triple j. Not that I need to, and it’s great that they play what they can. But it’s just one of those things where it feels personal, even though it’s obviously not. Things like Unearthed are great, but you can feel very isolated when nobody’s engaging with your music. For other people out there, they might have been discovered on Unearthed or given a play on triple j and it’s huge for them. I know that there’s been a trend away from triple j of late, I was actually just reading something last night about how they’re losing listeners, and they’re trending towards more pop these days, and there is a very cookie-cutter Australian pop sound out there. It’s actually a sound I really like, but there’s definitely a lot of homogeny and a specific sound for what many promoters and people in general are looking for when they cast Australian artists. And if you don’t fit within that mould, it can be very difficult to find support.”

And, as Evatt points out, it’s not just finding coverage or airplay that can trip up indie acts in an increasingly competitive market.

“It’s also a very predatory environment,” Evatt shares. “There are a lot of bad actors who prey on desperate artists, you know, people offering $500 for a playlist, or services trying to charge you money to put you on playlists and stuff like this. And it’s hard to resist because they target you so specifically! But the fact of the matter is that if you pay money to someone, then anybody can pay money to someone. And that means any music can get out there, there’s no editorial thing. But at the same time, it’s impossible to reach editors who might play your music.

“When you’re in the lower echelons of independent music, it can be a very sad place. As I touched on earlier, I feel really lucky that I was able to find a fanbase, as small as it is, with my physical releases earlier and found people who are passionate about my music. I remember times when that wasn’t there, and it can feel really personal and crushing.

“I just wish there were more avenues for independent artists to feel like their music is being heard and responded to and interacted with, and not pay for play.”

While Evatt’s latest release Suspended Sentence is a triumph of innovation and surviving and thriving against any odds thrown his way, the album’s journey isn’t 100% over just yet, with his painstakingly crafted vinyl set to be released to top off this rousing new chapter.  

“I’m excited to have the Suspended Sentence vinyl to promote,” Evatt enthuses. “Once the vinyl is out there in the world I feel like maybe I can think about moving onto the next step. I don’t know what that is, but I’m excited to get the music into the hands of people.”

“There’s a lot of mixed sounds on the album and maybe at least one of the songs has something for someone!”

Suspended Sentence is out now.

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