Interview: Sleepmakeswaves

Time Out talk to the ARIA-nominated Australian post rock band

As acclaimed Australian postrock outfit sleepmakeswaves hit Shanghai for a China tour, bassist Alex Wilson talks to Time Out about the end of the world and sacrificing day jobs for music

People usually associate post rock with slow, epic soundscapes, but your latest album, Love of Cartography, is really energetic. Was that a conscious move to do something different?

Our records prior to Love of Cartography were written when we didn’t tour as much as we do now. Our more euphoric, upbeat moments seemed to make more sense live than our slow, melancholy ones. In touring, we found the tightness to really pull off songs based off this momentum. Once we realised what was happening, it became a core idea that guided our writing for the record.

Members of your band come from really different musical backgrounds. What are some unexpected artists who’ve had the biggest influence on you guys?

Hardcore/emo bands like At the Drive-In and Alexisonfire were big influences on Kid (guitars) and I when we started the band. Otto (guitars) also loves The Used’s first album. We learnt how to make music both aggressive and beautiful from these bands, and how to go hard live. DIY punk-rock ethics play a big role in how we run the band off-stage as well. No egos, respect the audience and people around you.

You guys have had several line-up changes over the years, with two of your founding members departing from the band. How would you say that’s changed your sound?

We don’t play many of our old songs recorded with the old line up live anymore. Lacking 50 percent of the people who made that music disconnects you from it a bit. I feel both Tom (ex-guitars) and Will (ex-drums) contributed a darker, more metal sensibility to sleepmakeswaves that’s receded since they went. Otto and Tim (drums) joined because they were excited about our band and wanted to tour. The drums are now less jazzy, but more hardhitting and rocky. Otto’s guitar and song writing sensibilities lean into the pop world. You can hear both of these things coming through in the records they play on.

I read that one of the biggest reasons the previous two members left was because they wanted to get more stable jobs.Is that a conflict that the rest of you guys continue to face?

Yes. I was just asked to leave my job as a result of going on this tour, and two other guys in in the band have recently lost employment and partners for the same reason. We are musically successful and very proud of that, but sleepmakeswaves is nowhere near able to support us financially and probably never will. It’s a constant balancing act between kicking our band-related goals and at the same time trying to build a satisfying life back home. No easy answers to this one.

What can we expect from your live show here?

When we play live we want to have the reckless physical energy of punk, the tightness of metal and prog with radiant beauty borrowed from bands like Sigur Ros or Mogwai. Why not be ambitious? Sometimes, when the show is really good and the punters are vibing on the sounds, you are both connected with them while at the same time forgetting you’re even performing for an audience. You’re simply inside the music, and it’s the best.

If your music was the soundtrack to a film, what film would it be?

Maybe a film about the world being destroyed, but in a strangely uplifting way tinged with hope for the future. Like Interstellar crossed with Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

Liz Tung

sleepmakeswaves play MAO Livehosue on Saturday 18 April. See full event details