Hailing from the nation’s capital, I Exist craft a brand of grim, sludge-influenced hardcore that’s seen them grow a devoted following throughout Australia. Having just returned home from their debut European tour and with new album ‘From Darkness’ out late November, we catch up with guitarist Aaron Osborne to get the lowdown.
You’ve been back a few months now from a tour in Europe with Harms Way and Twitching Tongues, how was that?
That was awesome. They’re both really good bands and really nice dudes and we had a great time touring with them and seeing Europe. It was pretty fun.
You also just wrapped up a couple shows supporting Every Time I Die, was it good to be playing back on home soil?
Yeah, that was a lot of fun. We always have pretty good shows in Sydney and Melbourne, and it was cool getting to play with them. It was good getting to play back in those places – I think the last time we played in Sydney and Melbourne was in June so it was rad to do that and play some new songs.
Your new album ‘From Darkness’ comes out next month. Going into the songwriting process, were there any specific ideas you wanted to get across?
I guess the idea for the record was just to do an album that came across better live than our last album. We felt like some of the songs didn’t apply as well live as the songs on our first record did, so we tried to mix the live element of the first album’s songs with the riffs and three guitarists we had on the last album.
It’s interesting you say that, one of the things I liked about the album was there was that live energy, especially on some of the shorter tracks like ‘In My Head’ and ‘Cold World Vermin’ and then it closes with this 11-minute, sprawling, slow-burning doom metal track. Did that happen organically?
It’s kind of weird, this is the first time we’ve recorded and written an album out of order. Usually the album either ends up being written in order or just placed in order naturally, whereas this time we wrote all the songs independently of themselves. We just put songs in that we thought worked and it seemed to work fairly well. ‘From Darkness’ was the last song that I wrote for the record, I only wrote it about a month before we recorded the album. That one being last was never really the plan but it’s quite long, has lots of cool riffs and parts to it so I think it being at the end worked out quite well. This time we sort of just wrote songs and worked out where they went when we were done.
You mentioned with the Every Time I Die shows, you tried out some new songs. How have they been translating to the live show?
Pretty good. We played two songs off the record live, and they’re both kind of energetic ones. We’ve been jamming these songs for ages and ages now. It’s definitely been the longest time between writing songs and recording them, so it’s cool to actually get to play them because we were pretty tight with them already. It’s always a bit weird when you first go see a band play new songs and you’ve never heard them before but the response was cool. People seemed to be into it, so hopefully once they hear the record they can recognise them a bit better.
You recorded the album, once again, with Jason Fuller at Goat Sound Studios in Melbourne, what was that process like?
It was a bit different. In the past we’ve recorded it all at his studio in one go, whereas this time we did the drums and bass at a studio he uses for doing drums and bass at. We had a week off and the guys came back to Melbourne and we did guitars, then had another week off and finished the guitars. Jake recorded all the vocals at home in Canberra. So it was different where in the past we’ve done it all in one hit and it’s been kind of rushed in some senses but at the same time we inevitably end up fucking around and getting drunk and doing dumb shit when we should be recording. It worked out a bit better this time where we had two days so we’d do everything we’d need to do in those two days, have a few days off, then come back and smash out another two days’ worth. "More efficient" is probably the way I’d describe it.
You guys have the ‘From Darkness’ tour coming up in a little while to launch the album. It seems like you guys have a fairly hectic touring schedule. How important is the live aspect to the I Exist output?
I’d say playing shows is more important to us than recording. I mean, obviously you’ve got to write songs and record them so people can hear them – I like recording, I understand the process and I like finding out new things about the songs and that sort of stuff, but playing shows is the reason I wanted to be in a band. Some people feel differently about some shows, and some people don’t have as much fun as other people and it’s always going to be different, but for the most part I think the best setting for our band to be listened to is when we’re playing in front of you. The music really needs that, I think. Playing shows is why I do this really. Sometimes we’ve got to play shows in places that aren’t financially beneficial, or it’ll be annoying to get there or something but we just do it.
I was talking to Stevie of Clowns recently about the fact they played Poison City Weekender last year, I believe you guys played it last year. I brought up the fact that the bill they were playing on was really diverse in terms of genre but it still worked really well. As far as you guys being on the Every Time I Die tour – and you guys have toured with a lot of different stylistic bands – do you think that kind of diversity is active and important in this scene at the moment?
I think so. I think the thing about Australian bands in my opinion is that lots of Australian bands sound the same as American and European bands, but I think for the most part the bands that stand out, do well, and last is because they’re not the same as those bands. They play shows with bands they don’t sound like and a lot of the time that means playing shows with their friends that are in other bands. I think a sense of community about having fun and playing ‘alternative’ music in general is something that’s pretty unique about playing this sort of music in this country. We’ve never been told we couldn’t play something because of what we sound like, and we’re often playing with bands we don’t sound like, and it’s always fun. I think it’s cool that Australia works the way it does. Having only played overseas once I’m no expert on it, but I know for instance when we were in Europe, we played some shows with fucking awesome bands that sounded nothing like bands I’d expect to see on a hardcore show, but I think in a lot of places people get stuck trying to sound like bands that are gonna tour there, and people get stuck trying to sound like bands that are from the same place.
I think there’s a sense of originality that comes from being disconnected from the rest of the world in the way Australia is, and even moreso for bands that come from weird places in Australia. Not that Canberra’s a terribly weird place, but when we started out there was only a handful of bands we could play with, and now we’ve basically managed to play with whoever wants to play with us or whoever we want to play, and I think that’s because we don’t really care about that stuff. If a band is good they’re good, and it doesn’t really matter what genre they fit into.
Absolutely. Just to wrap up, what have you been listening to of late?
I’ve been listening to the Twitching Tongues album a lot because I heard it every day for a month and it’s now ingrained in my mind. I’ve been listening to the new Portal record, that album’s awesome. I’ve been listening to the new Exhumed record, and I’ve been listening to the new Roots album, the hip-hop group, I’ve been listening to that quite a lot. That’s my current weird mixture.
Awesome. Thanks a lot for taking the time to chat.
That’s cool. Thanks for having me!
I Exist’s new album ‘From Darkness’ is out November 29 through Resist Records. The band will be touring nationally throughout November and December, check out dates here.