New Arkive, arriving a few days earlier than expected.
Arkive have spent the past two or so years working away on their kickass new EP, ‘Sonder‘ – a release that will position Arkive as one of the better up and coming heavy bands in Australia, for sure.
However, as you’ve already noticed by this article’s headline, ‘Sonder’ will now be coming out earlier than originally set. In fact, it’s out today (Wednesday, November 1st) instead of the original date of Friday, November 3rd because, well, let’s face it: Polaris will rule that release day in Australia with their much-lauded debut record, ‘The Mortal Coil’. Read our review of said album right here. (Not only that but Converge will also be dropping a new monster in the shape of the mighty LP, The Dusk In Us‘).
“We respect those guys [Polaris] a lot. They’re gods, and we all follow their music very closely”, says Arkive screamer Court Walters to me over the phone on Saturday. “But I think we swim in slightly different pools as well, whereas Arkive is leaning more proggy these days then Polaris. But they have a song also called their ‘Sonder’ on their album and the names are the same as some weird twist of fate”, he adds laughingly. (Look, if any band knows about weird coincidences, then its Brisbane’s Deadlights).
When I was kindly sent an advance copy of said Arkive EP over the weekend, I also listened to one of the newer clips from Mirrors, the token Gippsland-based metalcore band on the Unify 2018 lineup. (Much like The Weight Of Silence and Ocean Sleeper before them, they are a token inclusion on the lineup because of the local council’s requirements for the festival). And man, that track was some mind-numbingly average shit! Yet when I stack up Arkive’s music against their peers in bands like Mirrors and other such smaller acts, Arkive is topping that local level and they’re doing so very well.
“We’re really proud of this EP” states Court. “It’s all been hard work; just stuck in our bedrooms, stuck over our laptops and instruments, getting our demo and pre-pro process to be as good as it could’ve been before we went to the studio. Even the songs here that are a little bit dated, tracks that we feel aren’t quite the best of our recent work, we still really like them and we’re stoked that the mix has really brought them out. Lance [Prenc] really nailed it for us and a guy like Jamie Marinos also really helped us out on guitars and workshopped with us. If you’re going to those guys, guys like Beau McKee, then you need to do your homework first, and so we really focused on building up our songs and ourselves before ever talking to them.”
“I think we didn’t do that on our first EP, which let us down a bit. We didn’t really have songs that rolled together and we didn’t have hooks that caught in the air, we just had a collection of riffs. This time, Mitch [Burgess, clean vocals] and I would sit around at his place, drinking red wine and talking about song structures, lyrics and vocal hooks, and we had time to make it work. This has taken a lot longer than we would’ve liked between releasing ‘Everstorm’ and releasing ‘Sonder’ soon. Mitch and I really took our time and that’s been really rewarding.”
And this really shows in the band’s final product on this five-track EP. The songwriting and production is such a step up from Arkive’s past material and it shows that they’re growing into their own as people an as artists at an ever-quickening rate.
In a PR statement for the band’s “debut music video” for ‘Luminous’, Walters stated that: “For me the song is an internal conversation and is a progression, fear, anxiety and acceptance, recognizing and forgiving yourself and then moving forward.” Personally, I didn’t quite see such a motif line up with the visuals of the track’s clip (shown above) but thankfully, the vocalist was able to give me some clarity on their intent with the work.
“There’s a bit of artistic licensing with giving the clip to Nick [Kozakis, director] and Dillion [Pearce, producer]. In the video, the premise is that you wake up in the middle of nowhere, you’re looking for a light and you see it off in the distant. You work towards it and as you find it, you get sent back and you never really find it. The character in the clip wakes up on the ground and has to find it again – like two lovers that never really met up in the middle. It has some resonance in the lyrics I think too. And that’s what we hope without music; there’s not just one way for our songs and lyrics to be interpreted.”
Personally, I find that every band out there – no matter how big or small – has “their” song; that one song that’s their go-to set ender, their biggest, best song. For Arkive right now, that track is no doubt the monstrous ‘Luminous’. It’s an absolute banger, showing off every star-reaching element of their familiar but tight and effective proggy-metalcore sound. And that chorus, with Mitch’s vocal refrain of “And I am encased in cold and grey” is just so ridiculously massive, it’ll stick to your skin for days after you hear it.
“I’d agree with you!” says Court in response to my glowing statement. “It’s funny, that song was a last minute creation in the studio – that chorus took us like 20 minutes in the studio to do. It was also an after-thought for the video too. We were going to do a clip for ‘Acquiescence’ but ‘Luminous’ is longer and has a better chance of building a story with the larger sense of lyrics.”
Another song that really caught my eye (or rather, caught my ear) on this EP is the track that directly follows ‘Luminous’ – ‘One’. The track opens with Jimmy Carter’s 1979 Crisis Of Confidence speech, which reads:
“In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”
This sample taken from the former U.S. President is at the very core of what this EP is about: finding what really matters in this interconnected life and not just the figures in our bank accounts or our material possessions. This theme of our pure yet non-unique lives runs through the entirety of ‘Sonder’. Court echoes this, saying that “The opening lyric of ‘One’ is “We all live the same lives through different eyes” and then Mitch’s first lyric is “All of our stories have been told”.
He continues. “It’s very popular these days to say that we’re living in a society of consumption and that we live in a world of capitalism is, so important. That’s such an easy statement to make but when you think about everybody in life going through the same things at different time – that all of our stories have been told, that this has all happened before – and that your actual day-to-day empathy is something we were really thinking about when writing. It’s easy to change your profile picture when there’s a tragedy, but how are you actually giving back? When you’re acting, are you acting with your ego or are you acting as a human being that’s actually empathetic with the world? I think there’s a disconnect with people these days, where it’s easy to step back and go “wow, that sucks” but it’s a lot harder to stand back and go “wow, that sucks, but I’m going to do something about it”. Hence why we try to do things with other groups, like working with beyondblue. And while we’re not the most socially conscious band around, we’re trying to promote thinking about being empathetic with the world as opposed to being sympathetic, as they’re two different things.”
Court’s right, it is very in-vogue within heavy music circles to just say “Society’s fucked, man” but it’s interesting to go beyond that and look at a deeper level of how we all live our lives and how all of our experiences aren’t really that unique but have been lived through everyone else’s eyes; the very meaning of the word sonder. And I know that he knows that too, as it’s why Arkive titled the EP as such!
“That stuff just gets crazier the more you think about it. Which is something I really like”, says Court. “We look at bands like Circa Survive and artists like Anthony Green, as we’re very into the lyric writing of people like him, the intangibility of it all. And also how at different points in my life, the same sort of songs have been relevant in different ways and we hope to carry something similar with our own lyrics.”
Away from their solid new EP, following the sudden, tragic passing of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington back in July (if you missed it, stream the band’s tribute show to their fallen bandmate here), both BANG! and Your Local held a joint event called ‘HEAVY: MUSIC FOR MENTAL HEALTH’ to raise money for beyondblue and raise awareness of the seriousness of mental health. At his respective show, Court joined by Tom [Clarke, drums] and some other former bandmates, they ripped out an hour and a half of Linkin Park covers. While doing so was a lot of fun, what was really rewarding was the impact these events had.
“We raised about $11,700 at BANG! for beyondblue and around $1,300 over at Your Local in Knox. At Bang!, there was wristbands you could buy, $10 from every door sale went to beyondblue and over the night there were about 1,000 people there, and they made it happen. I felt super emotional about the night and was also feeling angry, as I’ve lost friends to suicide in the past and I’ve had friends who have struggled with their mental health. I don’t tend to get very nervous but in that space I was and so I just said “This is for Chester” and we started the cover set.”
As for Arkive themselves, they won’t be doing any cover songs ever – not of Linkin Park or another band. Mainly because, as Court and I agreed, doing a cover and having it get mass attention can end up sticking to your band’s career like slick mud. But in terms of Linkin Park, there is one song that he’d love for his band to cover.
“We’d probably cover ‘A Place For My Head’, as it got that really crazy guitar riff and that super heavy section in the middle. A track like that would be sick and those older songs were the most fun to play that night actually.”