It hass been a mammoth year already for Sydney post-metallers Lo! – having completed an extensive European tour as well as releasing sophomore album, ‘Monstorium Historia’. Ahead of the album’s launch tour next month, we caught up with the band’s guitarist Carl Whitbread.
So Lo! just finished a pretty massive tour over in Europe with Cult of Luna and The Ocean – how was that? What sort of response did you guys get?
That was such an amazing experience. The responses were really good pretty much the whole tour. I think Europeans especially have such an appreciation for heavy music. Everyone involved – the crew, other bands, the audience were just so awesome every night. Most of the shows, there probably wouldn’t have been many people who knew us at all, but people would always make the effort to watch us, and come up afterwards to talk to us. It was also great because every night you’re playing in a brand new place, so you’re always playing to a brand new audience, whereas back home you’re kind of limited in that regard.
It’s a different sort of scale. You could do a headline tour over here and only play eight, nine shows.
Exactly. It’s just such a whole different way of doing things over there. Lots of driving though. (Laughs)
I can imagine. Lots of the shows were festival dates, which I’m guessing is something you guys wouldn’t be totally used to – we just don’t have those kind of festivals on that level of frequency over here, did that vibe feel different?
Yeah, totally. It’s interesting, most of the festivals we played were not like traditional festivals back here. Most of them were indoors, in these big university-style complexes with different rooms in different buildings and different things happening. In Roadburn, for example, we actually played in a small stage that was probably half the size of the Annandale so it actually didn’t even feel like a festival – but then it’s like, next door Godflesh are playing you know? It’s just a whole different thing. One of the festivals we did in Poland, we were literally playing a huge auditorium with seats and stuff at 2am.
It’s hard to imagine that happening over here.
Absolutely, not at all. I think a lot of the local government and council over there put a lot of money into that sort of stuff and really get behind it and support. We played a festival called Impetus in France, where the venue had literally been built by the council as a specific music venue. They sunk a lot of money into that, which is amazing.
That’s really cool, yeah. So you guys just put out your second album, ‘Monstorium Historia’. What can you tell me about the record’s title?
Our singer came up with that one. I do artwork for the band and had started playing around with a few ideas and wanted to go down a specific path as far as the look and feel went, and then Jamie [Leigh Smith, vocals] found a book with a title of the same name, ‘Monstorium Historia’, which translates to ‘Book of Monsters’. It’s this really old book that’s basically, yeah, a book full of monsters, and we thought that it fit perfectly with the artwork and feel of the album.
It seems to me it’s a very versatile and expansive work but at the same time feels very coherent and thematic, was there a singular kind of theme or idea you wanted to explore with the album?
Not too strongly. We definitely didn’t want to write a concept album or anything like that, but we had rough ideas around the lyrics and visual aspect of it. Ultimately, we didn’t go in with anything set in stone though, and I’m glad it just sort of fell into the place the way it did.
It’s a pretty bleak, heavy and intricate piece of work – what sort of bands were you listening to during the creative process and what influences seeped through?
Most of us are really into Breach, they’re probably my main influence, which I think comes across. Bands like Old Man Gloom I really like, in particular the fact they use ambience, and instrumentals between their tracks. I’ve always loved that, and I’ve always loved the fact that you listen to their albums from start to finish, it’s not just a bunch of random songs. We definitely try and draw from that.
I definitely feel like the record is more of a “sit down, listen to the album” experience rather than a “listen to a track” experience.
Exactly, and I’ve always loved that ever since I started listening to music. Elsewhere, we all – especially myself and Jamie – all listen to a lot of “non-metal” music. I think there’s always things to be drawn from other styles, and more interesting songwriting and structures, even if they’re not heavy, have always been an influence on me subconsciously.
There’s some pretty cool guest vocal spots on the album – Tom Lyngcoln from The Nation Blue sings on a track, as well as Loic Rosetti from The Ocean. How did those come about?
Tom’s vocals came about really randomly. We’d already recorded the whole song, and we were doing backup vocals for that part. As we were doing them we were sort of like “Wow, that’s very Nation Blue sounding”, and at the time Tom was in Sydney playing with Harmony. We rang him up straight away and said “Hey dude, this part would be perfect for you, are you keen to sing on it?” He said yes, but didn’t have time to do it then, so he just recorded his parts back at his studio in Melbourne and sent them to us. I’m really happy with how it turned out. For Loic, after we toured with The Ocean here in Australia, we always thought it would be nice to have them involved on something on the album but weren’t quite sure what. We hadn’t written anything for him, so it was a matter of once the songs were developed, having a think about what would be good. I think having him on the last track in those last few bars just really worked and helped bring the album to a nice close.
You’re about to embark on a tour here on home soil to launch the album with High Tension from Melbourne. Are you a fan of the band?
Definitely. I’ve only seen them once, last time they were in Sydney, and that was amazing, they’re an incredibly intense band. Their vocalist Karina [Utomo] was super energetic and would get up in everyone’s face. We’re definitely looking forward to touring with them.
They’re an interesting band. It’s cool how many sort of ‘heavier’ bands are kicking in the country at the moment that are a little more unique and off-kilter.
Oh, absolutely. That’s the main reason we wanted them on the tour as well. We didn’t just want carbon clones of what we did. It’s nice to have that diversity, and a band not so heavy and from a bit of a different genre but with a similar kind of intensity.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Carl. Have a great tour.
No worries. Have a good one!
LO! – MONSTRORUM HISTORIA ALBUM TOUR
ALL SHOWS WITH HIGH TENSION (VIC)
Fri Jul 12 – Crown & Anchor, Adelaide SA guests
Sat Jul 13 – The Reverence, Melbourne VIC Jurassic Penguin
Fri Jul 19 – Crowbar, Brisbane QLD The Fevered
Sat Jul 20 – Spectrum, Sydney NSW Totally Unicorn