Tucked away in the beautiful mountain landscape of South Australia lies the city of Mount Gambier. The second most populous city in the state, it isn’t all about wildlife parks, lakes and sinkholes. Independent upstarts Sierra are reflective of a strong music pulse residing in the town. As the ‘Earthwalker’ continues nationally, we chat with the band in this month’s Aussie feature.
Named after the peak of a mountan, Sierra have been making noise since their inception. Having changed significantly from their first release to second, the quintet has toured across the country consistently over the past year and a half, bringing their energetic live show and aesthetic to as many people who care listen.
Sierra are now opening the anticipated ‘Earthwalker’ bill, headlined by In Hearts Wake. However, before the current mainland shows, the group got the chance to cross Tasmania off their list of places to play.
“We didn’t have too many expectations as to how we would be received as we’ve never been there,” vocalist Brett Kennedy explains in an exclusive interview.
“It’s a hard scene to crack as it’s a bit disconnected. The response we got [however] was great. I’m not too sure people knew the music but they were willing to listen and get into it. We were able to have a look around which was really cool as we’ve been to most capital cities but haven’t been there.”
Despite the opportunity to play in a location that rarely gets to enjoy such solid shows, the excitement is equally evident as the band approaches the remaining Earthwalker shows.
“Mainland shows we’re really excited for. It will be cool to hang out as we’re doing it with some friends. We’ve been friends with Endless Heights for a few years and we’ve toured with Being as an Ocean before.”
Despite all the prevailing excitement and joy at the prospect of playing these dates, there was an obstacle the band had to sort out first.
“We heard that there was an offer coming our way for the mainland shows and we had something else teed up that didn’t pull through and in the final stages of it all, we got the mainland offer. But I guess the first thing that kind of went through our minds was, well we work full time so what are we going to do?” Kennedy further explains.
But, the offer was too good to pass up according to the musician.
“It’s the kind of the tour offer that you say, ‘Sorry, I gotta go’ and sort everything out when you get back,” he laughs.
“Our jobs are pretty supportive, which is great. But to then have the Tasmanian tour happen on top of that, well it couldn’t get much better than that. Especially being asked to jump on a tour with some of your friends. Just think how fun that would be with the sheer size of the shows!”
In conjunction with the aforementioned ‘Earthwalker’ shows, Sierra are working towards releasing a brand new EP. Punters will get a small taste of the group’s latest material on the tour.
“We’ve played two new songs [recently] and they’re so new they don’t even have names yet. Much like out first EP, the new EP is diverse. There are five very different songs on there and that wasn’t an intentional thing, we just wrote what we wanted and just took the time to experiment and make the music we wanted to play. For us, these five songs will be the [most enjoyable] to play live. They feel like they have a good live interpretation.”
Kennedy serves as the band’s chief lyricist as most vocalists tend to do nowadays. As we speak, he elaborates on the specifics regarding writing lyrics and the mechanics of the band’s overall writing.
“There’s a couple songs where there were parts that the others have written and I’ve instantly gotten a melody in my head or a line that I love and made around that. That was over time of course, some of the songs change before the recording. One of the songs I did while I was on holiday and our guitarist Jordan uploaded the track to the rest of the band and in about forty minutes I had the whole song down, which is exactly how it was recorded. And it turns out that that song is a bit of a different one on the record, but one we really think is great.”
Yet sometimes, time isn’t always on your side as Kennedy found out.
“With another song, it wasn’t written until the morning I had to record it; I had nothing. I had some idea of the pattern but not anything in concrete. So with my job as a journalist I’m good at finding the right words and expressing myself I guess.”
There’s no set formula for Sierra. Each song has its own face, its own personality.
“A couple of the songs I knew I liked instrumentally but a few parts I just wasn’t getting into and it was really putting me off them. We had eight songs and we cut three songs, so we have five songs on there. The other three just didn’t make the cut. On a few tracks, it really took some time for me to find the spirit and ideas. But once I get one kind of a bit, that one little bit that hooks and gets you excited about the rest of the song, I could go from there.”
If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing Sierra live, you will notice it’s a high energy, sincere-type of show. With a drive and presence bounding off the members, it’s makes the music more endearing.
“It just kind of happens I guess,” Kennedy says.
“It really started when we went in a new direction with the band and people didn’t really know us when we played live. The trend it seems nowadays is [the crowd] stands in a semi-circle around the stage and I just took it upon myself to go into that space and get to people. One thing we’ve always tried to put above everything else is being known as a good live band. We wanted word to get around that people should come see us live and as much as I appreciate people listening to our music, there’s nothing like recreating those songs to people in a live environment.”
“Our behaviour isn’t that different from before. I mean it’s evolved and it’s gotten to the point where you can’t help it. Part of it is that I just enjoy it. I enjoy getting everything out and spending every bit of energy you have for twenty-seven minutes. We never over perform where it’s detrimental to the music being played because in order to be a good live band, you need to be tight as well.”
Within the hardcore scene, this level of energy has become a characteristic of sorts. Bands such as The Chariot, letlive. and The Dillinger Escape Plan have raised the bar for other bands to aspire towards. Their stage presence is strong, engaging, and completely commanding – it’s a level of energy that goes above beyond that of the record.
These groups have started a trend for others to follow and as such, it has become a gimmick to some artists. A ploy to get attention and followers as opposed to a natural release and output to coincide with the music. Kennedy assures us that this is not the case with Sierra.
“It started as us just wanting to engage people and it has now evolved to the point where it just happens. There was one show on the Hundredth tour before Melbourne where we were all sick. We were all under the weather and right before the show we were pretty much just complaining and no one said anything right before. We just did our sound check, but then the feedback [in the amps] started and it was probably one of our wildest shows. Everyone just kind of sparked up. It’s proof to us that it’s not a gimmick; it’s just us and we all have our own thing. If one of the guys wants to focus on a certain part in the song or isn’t feeling up to it, they won’t force themselves to look a certain way; we literally just do it improvised.”
It’s an apt statement about Sierra. No gimmicks, no lies, no bullshit, just them; the way music was meant to be received and delivered.
IN HEARTS WAKE
EARTHWALKER NATIONAL TOUR
with guests Dream On Dreamer, Being As An Ocean (USA), Endless Heights and Sierra
Wednesday 4th June – YMCA HQ, Perth WA (AA) *
Thursday 5th June – Amplifier Bar, Perth WA (18 ) *
Friday 6th June – Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA (Lic/AA)
Sunday 8th June – Arrow on Swanston, Melbourne VIC (AA)
Wednesday 11th June – Zierholz, Canberra ACT (18 )
Thursday 12th June – Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW (18 )
Friday 13th June – Bald Faced Stag, Sydney NSW (18 )
Saturday 14th June – Bald Faced Stag, Sydney NSW (AA)
Sunday 15th June – The Tempo Hotel, Brisbane QLD (18 )