Australian instrumental post-rock outfit sleepmakeswaves have taken it all before them in 2012. Numerous local and international tours, plus an ARIA nod along the way too. Killyourstereo.com recently caught up with guitarist Jonathan “Kid” Khor to discuss the year, the band’s roots in punk, metal and hardcore…and, sampling AC/DC wine.
G’day mate, Kane from Killyourstereo.com, how’s it going? Thanks for doing the interview.
No problems at all, I’m well thanks.
2012 has essentially come and gone. As always it feels like it has gone quick. How has the year been for the band?
Hectic would be an understatement. Many Australian tours, a tour of the USA ending up at SXSW, touring with some of our favourite international artists back home such as Boris, Tortoise, Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Russian Circles. A Western and Eastern European tour. Festivals abroad. The Karnivool tour in Australia and an ARIA nomination thrown in the middle there all while balancing full-time jobs and a collective lack of sleep…We achieved so much this year that I think we can all safely say it has been hugely successful.
As you mentioned just then, the ARIA nod. Being nominated for an ARIA must’ve been a thrill. Can you tell us what that was like?
The ARIA nomination came out of nowhere, never would we have imagined that the ARIA board would even consider a band like us to be up there alongside the other nominees. Going along was a great experience for all of us, we got to see some old friends and make some new ones as well as be amongst all that is truly great (and sometimes truly shameful) in the Australian music industry. The red carpet walk was hilarious and we all melted wearing our suits in the 30 degree heat. Stepping out of the limo to hundreds of teenage girls screaming at you only to subside seconds later when they quickly discover we aren’t the Taylor Swift or Russel Brand they were expecting, good times. Oh and we discovered that AC/DC have their own wine – it ain’t bad either.
You’ve got some shows coming up with 65daysofstatic. How’s the mood like at the moment?
We’re all getting excited, like little giggling schoolgirls. Being big fans of the UK band, it’s an honour to be able to tour with them in our own country and what’s more exciting is that our Aussie label Bird’s Robe Records is promoting the tour so everything feels real close to home. We are all pretty keen to make sure they have a good time in Australia so that they will want to return. After we opened for them earlier in the year at Belgium’s Dunk!Festival we can safely say that the Australian audience is in for a real treat. Expect the most energetic, relentless and inspiring live show you will see in 2013. We’ve got our dancing shoes on.
And where to in 2013? Is it going to be playing shows or are you going to write and record primarily?
It will be a combination of shows, song writing and recording, with the first part of 2013 focused on the song writing side of things. It’s something we haven’t had a chance to do much in 2012 with such a busy schedule, so now is the time for us to get our creative juices flowing for the next release. In the meantime however we will be releasing a remix album very shortly which we’ve all just heard for the first time. It sounds great! I’m personally hoping we will get to do some more international jaunts in new regions we haven’t been to before.
Instrumental music is really prominent at the moment. The response to a band like Animals As Leaders at the Corner Hotel was huge. I know it’s a hard one to describe briefly, but what’s your take on instrumental music at the moment?
Instrumental music comes in so many exciting forms but as you said we are seeing more and more at venues similar to The Corner, and the shows are selling well too. It seems this genre in its alternative music vein is really hitting a stride at the moment proving to the rest of the live music scene that it’s serious business and that people do want to feed their instrumental urges in a live setting. My take has always been that vocal-less music is always more accessible emotionally in a broader sense. There’s no hipster or rock star ego wailing on about how cruel the world is into your ears banking on everyone to sing along in some sort of agreement or try to subconsciously blot out the irrelevant lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, most of my favourite songs have vocals but accessibility-wise, it’s the first aspect of the band, which gets criticised, and makes it’s mark on the listener.
Perhaps Australia is a little late to catch on, but instrumental post-rock and post-metal in particular has been proven throughout the years especially in a live setting with acts like Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 65daysofstatic and The Dirty Three all proving you can rock out big festival stages vocal-less with ease.
What are some of your biggest inspirations as a musician currently?
My biggest inspirations are my peers, on and off the stage. Artists who work bloody hard at their passion and find new ways to overcome their hurdles. That’s inspiring.
As you said previously, you went to Europe earlier this year. How was that?
Pretty much one of my favourite tours ever. It was the first time any of us had been to Europe before and it was nice being able to do it all via road as well. We made so many new friends and visited so many towns across all of Europe that we would have never thought possible a couple of years ago. Plus kicking off the tour with Dunk!Festival was a great start. Getting to share the stage with our musical heroes like 65daysofstatic, This Will Destroy You and Pelican. Good times.
Ideally, where would you like to take the band next? Put simply, in 12 months time where do you want to see sleepmakeswaves?
Ideally in 12 months time we should have announced our next album release and an international touring schedule. I would like to have a real solid album recorded which we can all stand by and be in a position to tour by 2014.
Can you give an insight into what it’s like being a local band today? There’s a lot of sacrifice involved and you usually aren’t making much money. How hard is it to stay sufficient at times?
It’s hard but only as hard as you want to make it for yourself. If you want to be a local band who plays a show once a month at a pub, then really it’s a casual hobby. If you want to be a local band who tours nationally then you’ll likely be using up all your annual leave from your day job on the band. If you want to be touring nationally and internationally then you’re really looking at aspiring to do music full-time and unfortunately that means there’s an uncomfortable in-between period of finding casual, part-time or contract work to fund your musical aspirations, or being able to swing up big chunks of unpaid leave from your workplace. It’s kind of the sad reality of the music industry but everyone does it out of necessity and the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that eventually the band will be playing to more people and hopefully paying for itself, but even then you need to be thinking about life after being a touring musician and knowing you have skills and a career to fall back on. It would be nice to think that sleepmakeswaves can all live care-free off our royalty payments for the rest of our lives, but that’s simply not going to happen.
What have been some of your favourite albums of 2012?
Deftones, Chelsea Wolfe (although more late 2011), Tame Impala, Bat for Lashes, Converge… lots and lots of great albums in 2012 with an impressive list of Australian artists releasing in 2013.
What is the thing you are most proud of this year?
Setting goals and achieving them ahead of time. I think I can speak for all of sleepmakeswaves in those regards.
What’s one thing, if you had your time over, you’d do differently this year?
I would figure out how to more efficiently write and record music while on tour. Lots of dead time on tour buses and at venues, which you can always be using more efficiently. I think I spent most of it in 2012 nursing a hangover or playing games on my phone.
Any final words for the Killyourstereo readers?
A lot of people don’t realise but sleepmakeswaves all have roots firmly in punk, metal and hardcore. We all grew up with Refused, Converge, Botch and Slayer. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.
Thanks for the interview Kid, really appreciate it.