Baroness singer and guitarist John Baizley sounds as frustrated as anyone that every new release …
The Ark is a symbol of hope. As the story goes, Noah’s prescience allowed two of every animal to survive the wrath of God. Flash forward a few thousand years and Earth is a planet of prosperity and wealth. It’s our very own Ark, floating in the void around us. We’re all too quick to forget that, as we plunder and pillage it for short-term gain. The ship humanity needs to survive on? It’s starting to sink …
If our oceans die, we die. That’s the simple truth. For In Hearts Wake, Byron Bay’s other resident metalcore legends, they’ve kept the message of environmentalism true to their hearts from the very beginning. Flowing through Divination, Earthwalker, and Skydancer, they’ve compelled listeners to pay attention to the water rushing in to the ship. This time though, vocalist Jake Taylor says it was impossible to stay away from the theme. “I don’t know if it was always going to water,” he says from their hometown. “But after doing Earthwalker and Skydancer it was apparent to me—it was coming on [to] my radar front and centre—that water is this increasing issue that we have on planet Earth. So it felt natural, to be fair. We didn’t just go, “Oh, we should do water now,” it was there, and it was a theme. With this record, we wanted to draw attention to the water planet, that is the Ark. And there are so many different facets that are on this record. [We’re] drawing it to the Ark and in difficult times, talking about the flood, that the Ark survives the flood, and also the fact we are literally a ship surrounded by an infinite ocean of space. It’s all very metaphorical but it’s all very apparent what’s happening here on Earth.”
Although it seems a lofty concept, Ark boils down to the things that mean the most to Taylor. Unsurprisingly for fans of the band’s past two records, Taylor’s parents were a huge influence in shaping In Hearts Wake eventual direction. “It was a conversation with my parents basically,” says the singer. “We put two of everything into this ark and it’s supposed to be a time capsule of everything basically. That’s the idea of Ark, but in a sense, we don’t realise that the Ark is on this planet. We already have the Ark to protect what we’ve got here. We already have the time capsule, you know what I mean? And looking at the element of that, it is water, and that’s what binds it all together; that water is life. So the water stepped into that concept; it sort of said, ‘Hey, I’m here and I’m a huge part of this record’… To me, this record was just as big as writing two.”
Most aren’t lucky enough for the themes and drive to come to them so naturally. Taylor is no exception, but the spirit behind each record always manages to find its way into his mind earlier than what we think. “Now, when I write for each concept, you can’t always force them, it does have to happen naturally, and it can be difficult sometimes if you’re looking for these concepts, but I found that with the last four concepts, they’ve all presented themselves, and I don’t know what’ll be next. But I knew about Ark before Skydancer was even released. Before Earthwalker was even released as a matter of fact, and that one had been sitting there for a while.”
For each video that In Hearts Wake create, it’s clear that a direct vision of the final product has been thought out for months, even years prior. “I usually write out a story and a script treatment, and then I show it to my mum, who’s really creative and quiet … she’s incredible as well at working on these things, and we work really well together, and she’ll bounce back a whole bunch of ideas,” says Taylor. The family aspect is so intrinsically tied to the band, it’s no wonder that Earthwalker and Skydancer took precedent over the concept of Ark. “[My mother is] like a sounding board. So we often work together, and then we take that story to the videographer and say, ‘This is what we’re going to capture, these are all of our references,’ basically.”
Walking Hysteria through his mental process when creating a visual story, Taylor is steadfast in his role as ‘on set creative’. Rather than letting the videography crew do all the heavy lifting, he’s right in the thick of it. “I have a very specific idea in my head with visually what I want, and I’m on set and I’m co-directing or co-writing and producing, doing whatever I can to make sure that the communication is clear between story and the final product. I feel that needs to relate also to the artwork and all of that has to come through and be one whole thing, one message. That’s really important to me.”
After recording Skydancer and Earthwalker in the frigid chill of Michigan, USA, In Hearts Wake decided it was time to get back to their roots. The band flew producer Will Putney from America to record minutes away from their hometown. Bassist/clean vocalist Kyle Erich claims it made a huge difference in the band’s writing. “Mate, it was massive. We actually recorded in my uncle’s studio where I basically grew up and where [my entire] musical career basically started. I used to play in a band with my cousin who is my uncle’s son and my brother as well, and we used to jam at the place we recorded like every single week from when I was 10 years old to 18. It was really cool to spend heaps of time there, and it’s beautiful, man. It’s in the countryside, so it was like the exact vibes we needed to create. You’d walk outside and literally it’s just wide-open spaces all around the studio, just beautiful paddocks, and cows mooing. There was a peacock across the road that I believe we called Penny. She was loud, man. It was such a great experience at home.”
Guitarist Ben Nairne also felt free in his surroundings. “It was really cool, sleeping in your own bed every night, waking up some mornings to go for a surf before going to the studio and there’s a big window at the studio that opened out to a paddock with cows walking around. So, it was a really relaxed vibe, which was really cool, and I think it shows in the record. It’s definitely different to what we do. Usually with the past records we’ve been to Michigan in the middle of winter to record them, and you barely go outside because it’s so cold and miserable, and it’s kind of hard to draw that inspiration. But when we’re in such a lovely spot here, yeah, it was really easy to draw that inspiration and stay positive about the whole thing. Think it had a big influence on the record.”
Listening through Ark there’s a definite sense of change from their previous records. It feels like the band have been somehow liberated. The sounds are allowed to breathe more; take Overthrow compared to Badlands. Allowing their practice space to inspire them led to experimentation echoing throughout the record. Asking Nairne, he agrees that vibe came through when the band listened back: “That is so true. And I think that we were kind of hoping for that to happen with planning and recording at home. We were hoping it was going to have a different sound to it because of that, and I think after doing it … I mean I’d love to do future records at home as well. I don’t know what it is, it’s like you say, it just breathes air into it and gives it this different kind of life … which is reflected on our surroundings, rather than being in the snow, freezing cold and there’s nothing going on.”
Has he noticed any similarities between their older Divination material and Ark? “It’s funny hearing that,” he laughs. “After we’ve released a couple of singles, I heard quite a few people comparing it to Divination, and a lot of people loved that record, and it’s funny because it’s not something that we did on purpose, it just happened to work out that way. I guess when writing the album, I was kind of just enjoying, sort of having those more groovy-er, bouncy-er rifts, compared to Skydancer and Earthwalker, and just thinking about playing it live and I’d sit there and really jam it in my room and feel it. And I think that’s sort of what has produced those riffs and heavy breakdown parts that are more like Divination. And yeah, I’m definitely stoked with that, because people are liking it and we don’t see it as being like our old stuff; we see it as a step forward, so it’s kind of a win-win for everyone.”
After we’ve released a couple of singles, I heard quite a few people comparing it to Divination … it’s not something that we did on purpose, it just happened to work out that way … we don’t see it as being like our old stuff; we see it as a step forward.
[ Ben Nairne ]
Although the older crowd may find a lot to love, there are still moments where newer fans can hear a genuine change. Erich’s vocals in particular have progressed significantly since their early days: his high pitched vocals are still present but there’s a meatier yell that first reared its head in Refuge from last year’s Equinox split EP with Northlane. Asked how he swaps between the two styles, the singer says, “We try to tailor the melodies and the vocals to whatever the song feels … and the lyrics as well, whatever vibe the song is trying to go with. So we really just try and create that, whatever that is. There’s a lot of different variety of songs on the record, like there’s kind of a more pop punk song, so I went with a bit more of a standard level for that. But then there are also heavier tracks as well … I learnt that kind of grittier voice from listening to bands like System Of A Down, and stuff like that. I guess like a nu-metal kind of thing … that’s what it is, man. Just whatever the song needs is what it gets.”
I learnt that kind of grittier voice from listening to bands like System Of A Down, and stuff like that. I guess like a nu-metal kind of thing … that’s what it is, man. Just whatever the song needs is what it gets.
[ Kyle Erich ]
Fans have responded positively to Erich’s experimentation, talking about the ‘singalong’ concept of Refuge, Passage, and beyond: “We knew as soon as we finished recording the record that Passage was going to be one of the songs that we wanted to push the hardest, just because it’s got more of an epic feel to it. It’s got almost like a rock anthem-ish feel at times. I really think we all were really vibing that part of our record, but I think Passage is a good [sign] for where we want to go towards. Kind of like big, epic sounding choruses, and big risks … It is a really powerful thing man, getting all those people in a room. Everyone’s there. Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter what colour you are, doesn’t matter what race you are, doesn’t matter what … nothing matters … everyone’s there for the music, and it’s really cool to have all those people there unified about the music. It’s cool to see that.”
Because that’s the thing with In Hearts Wake. There are elements that can be expected, but as we’ve seen with the hidden Skydancer record and the lofty aims of Ark; no one can predict what’s next. When asked if even he knows where they’ll head, Taylor is in the dark. “I’ve got a couple ideas, however I’m not committed to any of them, because if I do that then I’m really locking myself away and we’re locking ourselves away to commit to that.”
With the world still spiralling towards impending doom, there’s a wealth of material In Hearts Wake can draw from. And as our Ark begins to take on water with little signs of slowing, it’s doubtful we’ll have to wait long for another mission statement. “I’m still open to other areas that may present themselves, and we do have plenty of time given that we’re just about to release this record, so I’d like to think that in the next year I will have found whatever it is that needs to be said on the next record … you just have to trust that the right things are going to present themselves.”
I’d like to think that in the next year I will have found whatever it is that needs to be said on the next record …
[ Jake Taylor ]
The Waterborne Identity
The concept of keeping our Earth alive isn’t just restricted to lyrics in a song. In Hearts Wake have always been about pushing their message out into the world by whatever means necessary. For the release of Earthwalker, they planted a tree for every pre-order fans made. For Ark, the band have partnered with waterway clean-up crew Tangaroa Blue and have called upon their fans to assist them in cleaning up some of the East Coast’s most polluted waterways.
Nairne says of the concept behind their environmental initiatives: “We always want it to mean something to us. We always want to do something that creates awareness and that [is also] something good for the world. We want In Hearts Wake to be like a positive force that we send out to the world. And we’ve always wanted to do something physical with our hands, and we haven’t had the chance to do that yet. With Earthwalker, we planted the trees, but we didn’t get to do it ourselves, which we really wanted to do but we couldn’t get it done without help. With this one, we’re going to get out there, get our hands dirty, and we’ve always wanted to do that. It’s a unified effort to make a difference and it’s gonna be big.”
We always want to do something that creates awareness and that [is also] something good for the world. We want In Hearts Wake to be like a positive force that we send out to the world.
[ Ben Nairne ]
Erich, when asked whether they’ll just keep the Waterborne initiative as a one off, is optimistic about its future: “I think the Waterborne initiative will just be for as long as Ark‘s course runs, but we’ll be planning something else for the next one, I’m sure of it. There’s no way we’ll stop trying to spread positivity and awareness in the world. There’ll definitely be more after it then I think just the Waterborne initiative will be. We’ll try to do it worldwide—or at least in America and the UK and Europe—and we’ll see what happens after that. I don’t know. We’ll see what the future holds.”
The Loneliest Whale
With so much inspiration taken from the environment, there are bound to be unique stories that Taylor has in his back pocket on a day to day basis. His favourite moment from the record is early cut Frequency that feels like a special connection between man and (huge) mammal. “I really feel Frequency was just a moment of inspiration, from being out alone surfing and watching the whales crossing by and taking that story of what it would be like to write it from a whale’s perspective. Then evolving that through an article I read about the loneliest whale that actually sings at a high frequency out in the middle of the ocean, and it can’t communicate with any other herd, and then drawing that into lyrics from [the whale’s] perspective. And just running with the idea, and really going to the deep end with it and allowing it to just be what it is without trying to judge it too much. It was quite special how it turned out. Really happy with it.”//
I really feel Frequency was just a moment of inspiration, from being out alone surfing and watching the whales crossing by and taking that story of what it would be like to write it from a whale’s perspective.
[ Jake Taylor ]