sleepmakeswaves (no, that’s grammatically correct) are ruling the instrumental scene in Australia at the moment. There latest album, 2014’s ‘Love Of Cartography’ was not only critically acclaimed, but also garnered numerous nominations for many prestigious awards (like their ARIA nomination for example), and they’ve been touring in support of it ever since. 2015 has seen them take their emotive and dynamic sound around the world, from home tours, to travels all across Europe and to parts of Asia. As the band had a recent day of in Wuhan (that’s in China by the way), we spoke with guitarist Otto Wicks-green about all things sleepmakeswaves.
Hey Otto, Alex here, how are you today?
Hey Alex, I’m good. We have a day off today in Wuhan, China. So I had a bit of a sleep in and am now feeling very refreshed.
Sweet as man. How is it over there right now?
It’s been really mild over here. Europe was fucking cold, but China’s been really humid. Unfortunately yesterday though, when we had a show here in Wuhan, it was just so rainy and windy. And we were playing outside, so water got everywhere, but aside from that it’s been really good.
Ah, man. Have you had many interviews today?
Just one, this is the second.
Sweet, that means you haven’t been worn down over time.
Yeah, I am feeling pretty good.
Sick, so how has this Chinese/S.E Asian tour been so far?
Oh it’s been awesome. We came off the back off about 31 shows in Europe, so by the time we flew in a few days ago, we were all pretty worn down and exhausted. But we met our promoter, Jeff, who is putting on all these show, and who speaks fluent English and Mandarin despite being Belgium, and it was clear we were in good hands. So not only have the shows been amazing, but we played to 500 something people in Shanghai before and Jeff has known all the best places to eat in the cities. So we’ve had a culinary tour of China mixed in with these amazing shows (laughs). Which has been the biggest refreshing hit to us after Europe, and it feels like we’re halfway home and on a holiday, even with playing all these shows.
That’s awesome to hear man! Is this your first time touring that part of the world?
Yeah, it’s the very first time for Tim and I. Alex and Kid [Jonathan Khor] have been here before on holidays. They were remarking how much it has changed since they’ve been here. In Europe, Alex and Kid we’re trying to prepare Tim and I for how different it would be. Saying things like, “People will be openly spitting in the streets, people would always sell your stuff, and they’ll touch your shirts”, yet the biggest surprise for me is how it’s not that different! Obviously the language is different and some cultural customs are different, but if you think about the experience you have at in airport – you arrive, look at the times, check in, go through security, show your passports, you board the plane – it’s the same everywhere you go. It’s gotten to a point now where so much of what we do is kind of the same everywhere. So, it all feels strangely familiar, even though we’re such a long way from home.
Cool man, has all of this been a bit of a culture shock for the band?
Yeah it has at times, but I think the biggest shock is that there are a lot of people coming to the shows. This is the first time we’ve played here and we’re playing to a lot of people, which is a pleasant surprise. I think that comes down to our amazing promoter. It’s so cool.
With the promoters, do you think that maybe it’s not about whether the band can pull a crowd, but that the promoter can do their job and pull crowds too?
I do think it’s a super important factor, especially in terms of touring internationally, when you’re not there in the scene and not on the radio, it’s important for the promoter’s to get the word out. Social media does make it a lot easier, sure, but it’s also using the networks of the venue and that local knowledge. We’ve been trying to hook these shows up for a long time now, and it’s great to have all these people coming along, but I’m sure it’s a combination. It’s down to the promoter to let those people know that you’re coming, and that can’t be undervalued.
For real, dude. Some of the next shows you’ll be playing are with This Will Destroy You – how do feel about having those dudes along for the ride?
This is a big coincidence for us. They happened to be in Australia while we’re doing this run, and they are a band that we respect massively. I can’t speak for the others, but for me personally, they are a big influence on my song writing. I started listening to them from about 2006, and especially listened to their self-titled album. It’s a beautiful collection of melancholic rock songs, and I find it really moving to listen to, and it’s really beautiful. I actually saw them live a long time ago in New York City in 2011, playing in quite a big venue and they just blew me away. Cut to seeing them now and we’re playing shows with them in New Zealand, Melbourne and Sydney, it’s just such an honor to share the stage with a band whom are widely considered pioneers of the genre.
I bet! As you mentioned you still listen to that band, do you listen to many other bands in this genre?
Absolutely. Nowadays, I don’t listen to that much instrumental music, save for a few albums from my youth that I still love, ones that you’d see as being the “classics”. But they’re all very different. When you think about a band like 65daysofstatic, they don’t have much in common with a band like Explosions In The Sky. One of them is really noisy, electronic and punk rock, and the other is symphonic and pretty. Nowadays, I don’t listen to that much; it’s now music more with singers.
But that doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t view bands as ones with singers and ones without singers. I just think of them as bands with music I love or music I don’t love. I just think it matters that the music has punch and can make an impact.
I agree with you on that. I’m wondering, are you aware of a band from Germany called Collapse Under The Empire?
It does ring a bell, but I can’t remember sorry.
That’s all good, I just suggested them as I think you would really like them. They do sound similar to you guys though…
Oh, awesome man.
(Laughs) you know what, man? Although I love playing in this band and I love the songs we write, if someone says to me “Hey, this other band sounds like your band” I just go “Eugh, yeah I might enjoy them but I’d rather listen to something else” (laughs). But I will check them out, thank you very much for the recommendation.
(Laughs) that’s okay! I can totally understand that.
I just listen to a lot of this music as we play so many shows. It feels like my entire I’ve been playing this kind of music. Give me some mild jazz, some Miles Davis or something.
He is THE coolest, man. With being in an instrumental band, have you ever found yourselves having to work harder, as you’re music can be considered more niche then other genres?
I don’t wanna talk ourselves up as I’m sure every band who tours works very hard, and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but yes. This band has been going since about 2007, and that’s a long time. There have been bands whose entire career has fallen within that space; bands who have gotten really big and then just fallen by the wayside. We are very aware that having a singer is a certain element of a live sound that people can really connect with, and having a frontman that can capture the crowd and provide a cohesive link between the band and audience. So we try to play these physically intense shows. We’re mostly inspired by bands like At The Drive-In and Converge, with the live context that is. You know, bands whom go out and give their everything for their audiences. I think that’s textual, dynamic, and energetic. Those three things are what hopefully makes the band’s live sound engaging and what will hopefully get people coming back to shows.
I think the right the band can make an engaging live show without having a singer. I think mainly of when I saw Animals As Leaders at Soundwave this year, and I was just captivated by them for the whole set.
Yeah, Animals As Leaders also have the added bonus of being immensely talented musicians. When I think about my guitar playing versus Tosin Abasi’s…there’s quite a difference (laughs).
Would you agree that it’s a testament to the music that you create that ‘Love Of Cartography’ was nominated for so many awards yet it isn’t a very mainstream style of music? [The album was nominated for a J award, 3 AU awards, an ARIA award, and an AIR award]
Yes, it was very cool for us. With music like ours, any kind of industry recognition from places like the ARIA’s or Triple J is not part of the plan. It’s not why we do this and not we expect. For me, when those nominations came in, I was so stoked. It was amazing. We got to attend the ARIA Awards and got to get drunk on their delicious beers and eat a lot of their deserts (laughs), and I got to meet some of my heroes. Like Ella Hooper from Killing Heidi, she was my hero growing up when I was like 10 years old. We don’t feel like we belong in those places. We feel like the people who get begrudgingly let in through the velvet ropes for one night and we walk in and see us with the beards and go “Who The Hell are these guys?”
(Laughs) sweet as man. Well that’s all I’ve got you for Otto, I think we’ll keep this nice and short man, hope the rest of the tour goes well dude.
Awesome, thanks so much brother, thanks for having me on, and hopefully I’ll catch you at a show sometime.
‘Love Of Cartography’ is out now.