My first post-rock love, sleepmakeswaves, are a true gift upon this earth. That totally non-biased opinion of their music it that they can change from heavenly bliss into thundering screeches in a split second. This Aussie quartet is one of the few artists that just sort of “get” the post-rock ideology. With them, it’s all about the emotion that seeps from their hearts, into their instruments and then unto us, the listeners. The band is known for their captivating sound both on the records and in the live setting, creating engaging performances that stay with you long after you’ve left the venue. With an upcoming national tour, there’s no better time to witness this band’s energy. I got the absolute pleasure to talk to guitarist and quasi-frontman Otto Wicks-green about their developing third record and the setup that helps create their enchanting sound.
So I usually kick things off with this question to get us rolling, but whereabouts in the world are you at the moment and what are you doing besides these interviews today?
I’m back home in Sydney after finishing this run of shows with Cog. We’ve been touring for a while now and now I’ve hit the deck, quit the day job so I can focus more on writing this third album we’ve been working on for a while. I built this little studio in the back of my parents’ veranda in this office they weren’t using and I’ve hunkered down here to write this record and all that good stuff.
I’m so pumped to hear that! I’m a huge fan of you guys so I’m keen to know how far along you are with it all.
I think it’s at the point where it’s really starting to come together. About fifty-five to sixty percent of the way through where it’s all starting to take shape a bit. We went into this one a little differently this time. With ‘Love of Cartography’, although we love that record, it was definitely just a collection of songs and moments and this time around we want to really create a cohesive experience. An album that sucks you in from start to finish and takes you on a journey as a whole. We’ll wait and see if we succeed in that! We’ve had some preliminary chats with Nick DiDia about working with him on this one and so we’re keen to see where it all heads!
When you talk about that cohesiveness, are we talking about the song’s existing like a movement of sorts and fading into each other like ‘The Earth Is Not A Cold dead Place’ or more in the sense that each song feels like a chapter out of a book? Because it’s one thing to have songs as movements, it’s another to have them build together into a story.
It’s tough to say and I don’t want to pre-empt what we’re gonna do but our ambition is to have it feel like chapters out of a book. As to whether or not we’re gonna have recurring musical themes and motifs, we’ll have to wait and see but at this stage, we are interested in that idea of the album being one body of work yet divided up into different sections. That way the listener wants to experience it as a whole rather than just individual songs I guess.
That sounds really awesome! I definitely agree with you there even though I love ‘Love of Cartography’ – it was actually the record that got me into post-rock. I remember hearing it all and just thinking, ‘Fuck I have to find out more music like this!’
Oh wow, thank you so much!
No worries! My brother was the one who showed it to me and I just remember getting up to ‘Traced in Constellations’ when the octave melody comes in and it blew me away.
That’s actually so awesome, man, thank you! I think the great thing about that record was really getting to work with Nick and the sounds he was able to pull live from us. All that stuff we want to do again and better! When I listen to that album I’m always delighted by how everything sounds and feels and the liveness and the roominess of the drums as well as the way the guitars sound quite unique like nothing I’d really heard before – it really felt like us and that’s why we want to work with him again. The thing about Nick is that he wants to get the best sounding experience live from your hands directly in. He does most of the work to get these sounds upfront in the placement of the mic and getting the best performances out of us. And that really works for us because we really want that spontaneity and that energy in our music. In that respect, he just gets the best out of us.
I’m a huge fan of guitars, pedals and amps and I always love the attention to detail that goes into that stuff with post-rock bands. I’ve tried to watch your Audiotree Live session and pick apart what you’re using but I found it a bit hard so I was wondering if you could maybe run me through what you’re using and why.
Absolutely! The first thing that you’ll notice about my setup is the aluminium guitar which was made by a company called The Electrical Guitar Company which is really just one or two dudes in a small town in Florida. I got into that sound when some of my favourite guitarists like Alex Turner and Brett from Mastodon were using these all aluminium guitars and just really liked the tone. A mate of mine had one and I gave it a try and absolutely loved it! So I saved up and got those guys at EGC to build me that Jazzmaster style one, so it’s a custom job. Aluminium is such a great material for guitars because guitars are all about resonation and what frequencies resonate most strongly with what material. That’s why you chose different tonewoods and materials to what sound you want. Aluminium is an incredibly resonate material across all the spectrum from the highs to the lows and especially the mids. It just had a character that I loved. It sounds nice clean too, when I’m running it through some Strymon reverbs and delays but it also sounds great when I slam on the OCD Distortion. It’s a real beast when it’s dirtied up! I love that guitar and it’s a huge part of my sound now. When I first arrived in America this year for the tour was the first time I got to have the guitar. It was supposed to come a few weeks early but there were some delays so I ended up having to learn to play it on the fly for tour, which took a few shows to settle into.
That guitar runs into a pedalboard obviously where I’m using a Strymon Big Sky (Reverb) and Timeline (Delay). They make incredible pedals and are a really great creative tool. I find myself writing differently with those pedals and setting. For distortion, I sue a Full Tone OCD. That’s where I get all my heaviness. Those are the main ones I use and that’s all just running through a Fender Twin Amp which is what we use on the road because they’re available everywhere and we love it ‘cause the tone comes from our pedalboard. We just needed a really good transparent amp to make it all sing.
That’s sick. I remember watching the Audiotree Live session and seeing you guys just having these basic combo amps really stuck with me as so many bands come in with these huge arse rigs and shit.
That was a big selling point for us because they’re a combo so it’s just one piece to carry around and they are the same wherever you go. We also like that vintage feel they give off. If we had a bigger budget I may get something a bit meatier for the distortion but if it’s between a huge arse road case and tiny amp than I think the answer is obvious. [Laughs].
Thanks so much for that rundown, man! I’ve been itching to know for a while but I always felt that you were using Strymon pedals.
Yeah it’s funny Strymon, isn’t it? They have this incredible power and versatility for a pedal but you see so many bands using them now that I’m almost starting to detect in new releases almost like a “Strymon sound” coming through. And that really scares me like, “Oh my God is this starting to become a bit of a gimmick?!” But it makes me more disciplined with myself to not fall back on any pre-sets that are on the pedal and really build my own tones that fit the songs because they are becoming so ubiquitous it’s almost a double-edged sword.
One thing I wanted to finish up with before we go is where do you guys come up with the names for your songs? Because you have some seriously eloquent titles for your tracks like ‘Something Like Avalanches’ is one of my favourite titles for a song ever.
It’s a combination, as our early stuff was a lot of what you’d except, from poetry and old books we’d read and we came out with a bunch of cool sentences that we tried to match with the songs we’d written and their vibe. But with ‘Love of Cartography’ it was a lot more spontaneous because with ‘Something Like Avalanches’ when Alex played me the demo, I literally just said to him, “Wow that’s great! It sounds something like avalanches.” And he just wrote that in as the title and it stuck! But for all the others we just had an email chain going where we would talk in a thematic way about what each song meant to us and we’d try and come up with words and phrases that matched the vibe. It actually took a while! ‘Love of Cartography’ took a long while to get all the songs named. I remember going back and forth and back and forth and then realising one of them sounded too similar to something else til we finally had them all.
That’s awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Otto. Enjoy the rest of your day and good luck for the upcoming tour!
No worries, thanks so much for the chat Matty!
sleepmakeswaves head out on tour next week with The Contortionist. Snag ya tickets here and watch the beautifully animated video for ‘Traced in Constellations’ below.