“[Bands] lose sight of what’s really important. What’s really important is the music, and the …
Canberra’s Mental Cavity is a title fit for an age of post-truth, fake news, and social media with addiction built in.
A spiritual successor to fellow ACT-ians I Exist, Mental Cavity is sludge minced up and tossed into death metal and deep-fried in crusty punk. Their second album, Neuro Siege was aptly recorded in seclusion in “parts unknown” – well, parts far away from any modern conveniences such as Uber Eats or drive-through coffee. Producer Mike Deslandes (Pagan, YLVA, Tropical Fuck Storm) holed himself away to produce and record to make things extra siege-like. Speaking to guitarist Aaron Osborne (also host of the Oblivious Maximus podcast, which he assures us will be returning soon), we lifted the veil on their second album and the unconscious mind of Neuro Siege.
Hysteria: The biggest oddity of this record is that you recorded in “isolation” somewhere in Country NSW.
Aaron: For the last two recordings Mental Cavity’s done with Mike Deslandes, who has recorded all of our stuff, we just did at a studio down in Melbourne. That was all well and good. We, kind of, thought to ourselves, let’s not do the normal thing we’ve been doing for every I Exist record and every Mental Cavity record for the last ten years. Let’s try to do something fun and different. Let’s all be there and all knock it out in a week together and be fully swept up in it all. We hired a big house and turned it into a recording studio.
Wow, right on.
It was really cool. All the gear Mike uses to record, he can move around. So, we loaded up a van and drove up to Bungendore and set this house up in a way that we could record. We did the drums in, what was, the dining room. We had mics in the kitchen so it picked up all the reverb off the tiles, which is cool. We did all the guitars in a bedroom that, funnily enough, was referred to by the house as the “studio.” Mike had a little control room setup in the bedroom he was in. So, he was fully living and breathing and sleeping this recording for a week and a half.
I mean the band itself was started around a concept of just talking about things that are really draining on your brain.
[ Aaron Osborne ]
I could be off base, but this record sounds like a concept album. Although, it’s hard to tell if it is or isn’t.
Well, a little bit. With the I Exist records, we had concept ideas and those ended up flying out the window. I Exist ended up being a bit of a band that was more keen to have a laugh. I mean, we took the music seriously, but we just tried to do things that were funny. But, no, this one’s kind of like me and Alex [Young, bassist and vocalist] coming up with ideas. I mean the band itself was started around a concept of just talking about things that are really draining on your brain. That’s why it’s called Mental Cavity. Things that annoy you and stress you out that just seem to keep on happening, creating a ‘mental cavity’, as it were.
Me and him both watch a lot of sci-fi. So, there’s lots of songs about science fiction type themes, but all following that same theme of, I don’t know, stupid people doing stupid things that drain the sense out of you. Neuro Siege is about a person that just gets trapped in their own head. They’ve set up barriers in their brain to stop letting people fuck with them. Then, there’s other songs on the record that are about silly stuff. There’s a song on there that’s about The Matrix. It’s about if, from the perspective of the robots in The Matrix because human beings are driving them insane, so they’re taking over. That’s sort of the broad concept. It’s all songs about things that drive you up the wall that are driven by people being dumb, basically.
The video (which we premiered here) has a lot of psychological military experimental footage. It had that One by Metallica vibe.
So, we got this dude Wilson Bambrick, who does lots of music videos for lots of people. He’s very good at it. He came to Canberra and met up with us. He’s also doing our next video, which should be out in a couple of weeks. We shot them both at the same time.
The next one’s slightly different to this one, but similar in cut footage and things like that. We basically just told him what the songs were about, like I just explained to you. It’s about a person seeing all these things going wrong in society and then needing to shut themselves away from it for a little bit. Let’s say it’s something traumatic like going to war, or something like that, or having a traumatic experience with medical things. I supposed that’s kind of the overarching imagery that we’ve used a lot in the band already. But, in particular for this album, the artwork itself is all cut and paste stuff from a bunch of old National Geographic science editions.
All these different terrible things that happen in society and in the world can effect the operation of your senses, test your patience, and test your capacity to survive through them.
It’s an interesting point; we’ve only had social media for ten years. Our brains are ancient hardware running modern software. No wonder it’s making us crazy. Is that another theme of the album?
Probably not outwardly, but it’s definitely part of some of the thinking. I mean, that’s why a lot of the songs are about sci-fi stuff. One of the songs is about, it’s Searing Wire. One of the songs on there is about a short story that’s about a guy who is always seeking something better. He’s constantly climbing up a mountain to seek something better. Then, he finally gets to the edge of the mountain and the top of the mountain just becomes the bottom of the mountain again. He spends his whole life trying to get there and then he ends up just following this cycle.
Our thinking is a lot about how it’s created a routine. You often feel bad about the routine you have by spending time on your phone, looking on Instagram and seeing all the cool stuff everyone else is doing while you’re at work every day. My sister’s been travelling for the last six months. So I have a stark reminder that I’m sat in an office and she’s out doing fun things.
Back in the day, being in a band was an excuse to drink and have fun. We have careers and houses and kids now. Mental Cavity is now a great way to release some built up energy and some opinions you have about things that you have to go through every day.
Since Metal for the Brain is RIP in peace, what’s the Canberra scene like now?
Canberra had a little decent resurgence in the hardcore scene after Metal for the Brain. So, that popped off for a bit. Then, it kind of died out for a while. I think it wasn’t helpful that a lot of bands like I Exist, for example, ended up started doing tours more than previously. We were just playing in Canberra all the time. I think in Canberra, for a while, it was going really well with metal. Then, it got put on the map a little bit for international bands, and stuff. Then, it just got flooded and there was an international band playing in Canberra every other day.
Since around the time Mental Cavity started, we started having good resurgence again of lots of other little local bands. Once the older guys that were in the bands that played Metal for the Brain, and things like that, are now all in newer bands, as well. They had some time off and shit. Now, they’re back playing, which is really cool.
I remember when I first moved to Melbourne and people were like, “Oh, this is a really mixed bill.” When a hardcore band would play with a metal band. I was like, “You motherfuckers got to come to Canberra.” Because every show in Canberra’s a punk band, a metal band, a hardcore band, a this band, a solo noise act. When we grew up, it’s just what you did. Even our band members are from metal, punk, and hardcore scenes.
What’s on the horizon for Mental Cavity? You’re playing with Eyehategod in Canberra soon.
Yep, in November. Then we’re playing with Crowbar the day of the album release. We’ll hopefully try and hit Japan again, too.
Since you’ve done the band thing before, what are you doing now that’s different?
When you start a band after your other one’s done stuff, you do this one a bit differently. So, everything we do in this one’s as professional as we would have done for a band that had a lot more success. So, we really got to try and build this one up. So, we’re really keen and conscious to try and play as much as we can, and be out there, and get as many people to hear this music as we can.