Alongside their May tour for upcoming EP, ‘The Mind’s Eye’ (out May 10th), Melbourne prog trio, The Omnific, will be partnering up with The Song Company.
Through this ambitious live collaboration, The Omnific – bassists Toby Peterson-Stewart and Matt Fack (minus drummer Jerome Lematua) will be merging their prog-metal dual-bass-assault with 12th century choral music with five classically trained vocalists from The Song Company. This set-up will see the varying sounds and styles of both parties merge together in a glorious mesh of bass and voice as they tackle classic repertoire and new and old Omnific songs.
This is an odd tour, a package that you just don’t see from other prog bands in the Australian music scene; something very different, indeed. It’s going to be an interesting run of shows, that’s for sure; seeing the tour hit up town halls and cathedrals between Melbourne, Hobart, Perth, Wollongong, among other stopovers along the way. Bassist Toby Peterson-Stewart kindly tells us all about it!
KYS: What sparked this choir tour idea with The Song Company? Did the inspiration come from other bands doing similar re-arrangements, or is this something that The Omnific has always wanted to do?
Toby Peterson-Stewart: The idea to perform with a voice ensemble was put forward to us by Antony Pitts from the song company. We haven’t seen any other band take this stripped back route of no drums, just two basses and a few vocalists creating music. It’ll be an experience for both us as the performers and the audience.
KYS: So how is rehearsal and preparation for the upcoming May tour going? Has it been challenging getting the logistics down and working out how this will all go down live?
Toby: Having our new EP ‘The Mind’s Eye’ come out within a months time, we’ve had to dedicate two days per week to getting the new material up to scratch, as well as persisting with jamming through the songs that we will perform with The Song Company. We have three full days of rehearsal up in Sydney with the crew a week prior to the start of the tour.
KYS: Are you guys feeling nervous about this May tour? This isn’t something that a band of your stature in the local scene tries to pull off – it’s ambitious, I’ll give you that!
Toby: It’s going to be a unique tour for sure, something we probably won’t get the opportunity to do again anytime soon. We’ve just got to savour it for what it will be, rather than getting rattled with nerves. We’re used to being the different ones in the local scene anyway! [Laughs].
KYS: How did this collaboration with The Song Company first come together? Who contacted whom first? Have you met these five singers and rehearsed with them yet?
Toby: Antony Pitts, of The Song Company, put forward the idea for these performances. We’ve had one 1-hour rehearsal with four vocalists a few months ago, going through some of the pieces of music they chose, as well as a couple of our own original music that we will be re-creating with them. But we are aware that the singers that we will be touring with are not the same as the ones we rehearsed with in that session.
KYS: Will we one day see full-recorded versions of these performances or perhaps redux’s of past Omnific tunes with these 12th-century choral arrangements added?
Toby: We do hope to be able to capture some of these performances and put them on the interwebs, in some way. You will hear four of our old and new songs re-created with choral arrangements in place of our usual backing tracks [at these shows]. We will have no click, and nothing re-enforcing us except five voices and bass.
KYS: Do you feel that an instrumental band like yourselves may have the mood or emotion of your songs altered (not necessarily negatively or positively) once those voices come into the proceedings? And vice versa when you guys may add to the singer’s of The Song Company for their performances?
Toby: There are some major differences between technicality of the voice and technicality of a bass, everyone in the performance will have to adjust for certain limitations of each instrument, and also allow the unique characteristics of the two shine when it calls for it.
KYS: Do you think playing town halls and cathedrals seemingly suits more chamber music sets, rather than a typical prog-metal band like The Omnific? Do you feel this will see the band reaching a somewhat new audience outside of Australian progressive music?
Toby: From this tour we do expect audiences to collide in some fashion, it’s only naturally seeing as we are doing it musically. We expect playing in cathedrals and town halls is going to be a completely different feeling to playing in a pub or club, and we’re looking forward to this new perspective people will be able to watch us perform.
The Omnific Headline shows:
Canberra: May 10th, The Basement
Sydney: May 17th, Crowbar
Perth: May 24th, The Boston
Melbourne: May 31st, Workers Club
With the voices of The Song Company:
Sydney: May 7th, Ara Dating Quarter Theatre
Newcastle: May 9th, Newcastle Conservatorium
Canberra: May 11th, The Street Theatre
Melbourne: May 13th, Melbourne Recital Centre Salon
Hobart: May 14th, St. Cathedral North
Sydney: May 18th, The Independent Theatre
Wollongong: May 19th, Wollongong Art Gallery
Berry: May 22nd, Berry School of Arts
Perth: May 25th, St. George’s Cathedral