Back in May, Closure In Moscow’s impressively expressive debut album, ‘First Temple’, reached double-digits. Ten years on, it’s still such a lovable weird, creative and colourful prog-rock record; still one of the Melbourne bands finest works overall. Speaking to us in retrospect about creating their first record back in 2009 and how they’ve come to view said release now, former drummer Beau McKee and current guitarist Mansur “Manny” Zennelli share their thoughts on Kris Crummet-produced ‘First Temple’ now in 2019, and the roller-coaster path that it has since set them on.
Beau, in terms of drumming, what particular sections did you enjoy playing the most? What parts were the most difficult to get right when you were tracking? ‘Deluge’ and ‘Kissing Cousins’ always stick out to me!
One of my favourite drumming songs from First Temple would most likely be Reindeer Age! It’s got some fun syncopation going on in certain sections, but still has a fun groove to it. There’s certainly a lot of fun sections to play throughout ‘First Temple’. There’s a reasonably fast tempo linear drum break in ‘Arecibo Message’ in two sections which was something relatively new for me at the time in my playing style. So we spent an hour on getting those sections perfect on the record! Another cool little Easter egg that a lot of people don’t know, is that Chris De Cinque [vocals] is actually a weapon of a drummer, and always kept me on my toes. Chris was super keen to get on the kit for a song on the album, so he had the honour of playing ‘Afterbirth’ and [he] really kicked ass!
Never knew Chris tracked drums for that song, that’s rad. What was your favourite part of writing and recording ‘First Temple’? What songs or specific moments stick out to you the most now?
The whole recording experience, having the record be produced by the man himself Kris Crummett was really cool. Closure was literally the first band to do a record in Crummett’s new studio at the time (Interlace 02), so this record was really special in that it was paving the way for a new sound with Kris and we had all this new gear to create with. A lot of great bands came from that same space (Dance Gavin Dance, Issues, Emarosa). I remember Kris had taken out this huge loan to deck out the new studio with all these crazy pieces of hardware that we implemented into the production. That was cool for sure. As a band, we spent a lot of time with pre-production, so when we hit the studio with Kris, we got to spend a lot more time being creative with different textures/ layers and sounds with the fundamentals fleshed out. There was also this amazing Thai restaurant not far from the studio, and I can promise we hit those spicy noodle dishes almost every day.
Whilst De Cinque was laying down his parts in the studio, we also took the liberty of creating an action movie. It was called “secret agent best friends”, and I’d bet it’s still somewhere on YouTube! We took inspiration from our favourite action movies of the 80’s & 90’s on that “masterpiece.” For our studio sessions, I had the choice of four different drum kits to go through with Kris, and we picked the best snare drums and kit pieces for the album! I literally brought my sticks in, and Crummett had all the kits and cymbals ready to go. I ended up using a mashup of different DW drum shells as well as a vintage Ludwig snare which really contributed the snare sound on ‘First Temple’ (the snare even had the original interior dampener still attached.)
That’s actually so sick, regarding the vintage Ludwig snare. Which of the 12 songs do you feel is the most underrated track on the record; the song that never quite got its full due? Any songs that still get to you and put you through the ringer when listening back?
It’s hard to say if one singular song was overlooked. Perhaps ‘Arecibo Message’, if I’m to pick one, [for it] just being near the end of the record? It’s got a mean key change towards the end, and lots of fun rhythm sections. Reminds me of a Led Zeppelin fuelled prog journey with Closure vibes. It has a lot of different parts, layers and changes happening. Chris’s vocal work and texturing is really on point. Manny nails the harmonies on this one live, it’s just a great live song. There’s some interesting cryptic lyrical content going on too. I really think “Had to Put it In The Soil” is still the perfect closing song to the album!
What would you say was challenging or nerve-wrecking about creating ‘First Temple’? It was the bands first full-length album after all. Did ‘The Penance & The Patience’ EP prepare you guys for taking that next big step?
When the ‘Penance & The Patience’ dropped in Australia, we started getting a lot of tour offers, particularly for U.S. supports in Australia and overseas. Although we had a strong EP under our belt, we realised that seasoned musicians who have done a lot of touring know how to bring a real live show. This certainly kicked us up the ass and we started really honing our live show by time the album was ready to be made. ‘The Penance…’ really helped set up our path forward. We spent a long time crafting and refining our debut album to be released through Equal Vision Records. We were never shy to open or play low on a bill, because we just made sure we brought our A-game and that really worked well for us in the end.
We planned to relocate to the USA for one year, and the ‘First Temple’ recording sessions were right at the beginning of our trip. Sacrifices were made – some of us ended relationships, sold belongings, and gave up career opportunities to pursue the dream of being a full time creative. It was a wild ride, for sure. I saw real snow falling from the sky for the first time.
Nice! Lastly, Beau, how do you personally view the record now, ten years later? Are there things you’d change or are you still content and happy with what you guys created at the time and left on the final cut?
We had a completely different set of artwork for the ‘First Temple’, which got rejected by the label one day before deadline due to the logo being a concept associated to the Bohemian Grove society logo. It was a great art concept, and fitted perfectly the vibe of what ‘First Temple’ was to become. The label was concerned for backlash from a society that isn’t supposed to exist, but they weren’t budging so we had no choice but to accept a different direction for the art.
Artwork aside, I wouldn’t change a thing! I have the fondest memories of ‘First Temple’ and everything that came along with it. A lot of long time friendships were forged, Australia and abroad. Getting to live overseas and have lots of fun tour stories makes for great times too. I think the whole experience has really helped me out immensely in my current direction in life!
Manny, ‘First Temple’ often saw endless comparisons to The Mara Volta. Did that ever get old or bother the band? Do you think it perhaps drew in a new crowd for you guys?
The Mars Volta really pushed some boundaries and to be compared alongside them is quite flattering. I can see how some people came to those comparisons, especially with Chris’s high-pitch vocal. We both utilised octave harmonies heavily on both guitar lines and vocal melodies and messed around a fair bit with effects. The grooves and just overall breadth of musical choices on ‘First Temple’ definitely lent itself to attracting listeners who enjoy more of a musical journey in a song structure. I guess because of this, there are a fair few musicians who come out to our shows and I really like that element, a bit of something for everyone.
So what did the album do for you guys at that time? It’s a really fondly remembered record even now and it garnered a lot of praise at the time too – from KYS to Sputnik and beyond. People still love it even now! Does that blow take you aback at all?
It really does man! From people giving it praise back then, to people today discovering it and reaching out and showing us love, it’s still as surreal as ever. I kind of forget that people discover new music everyday and just because you wrote something years ago doesn’t mean it can’t be something totally new and undiscovered [now]. It’s so crazy when someone from a remote part of the world reaches out or posts something on their socials about it. At the time we released ‘First Temple’, we were thrust into this roller coaster of touring and travelling globally. We finished recording and immediately began what was a two year touring cycle to support the record. Our lives changed overnight. Every day was a new crowd/new city or country, it was so crazy. I’m really grateful for the entire experience, it was a really special time in the bands progression and we grew a lot from it, both as musicians and people.
That’s so great to hear, man. What was the response like for the albums recent 180g vinyl release last year? Why did it take so long for the record to get a vinyl pressing?
Vinyl is going through this renaissance of sorts, and I really love that. It really is an amazing way to showcase an album and really enhance the aural experience by providing a listener with a large canvas for visual art. Records are just more impactful and the ritual of putting on a record to listen is something I really resonate with. Everything from physically sliding on the needle, the crackle of the music to even the smell of the sleeve jacket, it all adds to the listening experience. People put on a record to really take the time to listen to it. There’s something powerful in that, it’s got soul man. CD’s really can’t convey that same experience. Our followers have been asking for a ‘First Temple’ vinyl for a long time, especially after the ‘Pink Lemonade’ vinyl pressing did so well. It took a while as there were some legal hoops to jump through before we could actually do a pressing on our own accord. But hey, the sound is remembered long after the wait is forgotten, right?
Exactly! So much of the guitar playing on ‘First Temple’ is super colourful, harmonic and expressive; there’s just so much going on in these tracks at the best of times. Is that you and Michael Barrett simply going all out to see how far, hard and weird you could go, drawing upon your influences, or maybe a little of both?
You have Barrett to thank for that! The guy is a wizard when it comes to writing guitar lines that pop. We both came from completely opposite musical upbringings and when we met it was like worlds colliding. We used to headcut (guitar duel) each other a lot and I think that really pushed the envelope. There are no boundaries with us, we draw upon everything that has influenced us from metal to RnB to even cheesy Euro dance songs with killer hooks. It all has a place. There’s always been this sense of exploration and melding of styles between us and that really came out on FT.
Lastly, what’s your top-tier favourite song off First Temple, Manny?
Each song we put out is like a snapshot in time for me. I can hear something and pin point exactly where and what was going on in my life and how I felt at the time and ‘First Temple’ is no different. I’m really proud of that record and love all of the songs on there for different reasons. If I was to pick a favourite: A Night At The Spleen. It’s super fun to play, gets a crowd dancing and singing and just takes me back to a really joyous time in my life where everything was really aligned and vibing high.