Gilbert Potts was impressed with the new album from Sydney’s We Lost The Sea so we sent him to talk to Nathaniel D’Ugo to find out more about the band, inspiration behind their latest album, “The Quietest Place on Earth,” playing live and much, much more….
When and how did you come to be?
We all knew each other from old bands that we had been in. About 2007 none of us were really doing anything musically. Mark use to hassle me constantly about starting a band with him. At the time he was a drummer so I doubted his guitar playing ability. But his persistence annoyed me so much I agreed to jam with him to shut him up and he was a much better guitarist then he was drummer. We had a couple of false starts with different line ups and different styles but finally landed on We Lost The Sea.
We Lost The Sea is a large band. How permanent is membership? Has it always been this size?
It actually started as a 5 piece. We were a 5 piece when we recorded “Crimea”. At our biggest we were 9 members. Now we are at 7 and I think we have found the perfect number to produce the sound we want. When we first started the band we were thinking of having a collective of musicians that come and go as we needed them. But the more we wrote the more we realized we need everyone all the time. We still have the idea of a collective that we occasionally toy with as we did with Belinda on ‘Forgotten People’. Possibly in the future we will explore this option more.
A lot of records are made by solo or two-person projects these days, generally using a lot of programming to fill the gaps in the instruments they play. What can a seven-piece band can achieve when recording that these others can’t? What about when playing live?
At last recording we were 8 members but with 7 members we have 7 people with 7 ideas of how a song should sound. Thankfully we are all on the same wavelength so while there are disagreements we usually land on the same target. It helps to keep things fresh. You don’t have the same two people coming up with the same ideas which ends up becoming stale. Seeing as though we are branded with the “post” label we try hard to not fall into that every song is structured the same like a lot of other bands we share that label with. Using the thought process of 7 (or 8) people to write a song really helps to bring fresh ideas to the table all the time.
As for live, apart from always being a sound engineers nightmare and always fighting for room on a stage, we wanted to be able to produce live what we have recorded. We have all been in bands where we have recorded 12 guitar tracks and then live we have one. To us having that extra person on stage to play that two notes is necessary. Those two notes are in the song for a reason so not playing them live is cheating your audience.
Tell us about your latest album “The Quietest Place on Earth”. What was the inspiration behind it? How long did it take to pull together?
We always start out with a general idea when we start writing and that usually stems from something that someone in the band is fascinated with at the time. When we started writing this record a few of us were fascinated with Pripyat (a ghost town near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – ed). There is an image of a ferris wheel that lays dormant that we saw while researching the town and the brutality of the simple image stuck in our heads. When we had Belinda write the lyrics for Forgotten People we gave her this image and basically told her to go from there. The album took about 2 years to get together and over that time other things peak our interest like Colonel Joseph Kittinger and his jump from space in the 60’s. Just the whole concept of that kind of feat in the 60’s is amazing. It’s just unfortunate that as we took so long to release the album some other bloke with Red Bull sponsorship comes along to ruin a great legacy. There are a few other themes that run through the album but it sums up a lot of our thoughts about the best and worst in humanity.
When I listened to the album what stood out most was the way contrasting elements interacted. I was never sure whether they would at any time fight with each other or walk hand in hand. Is this something you are conscious of when writing or does it just happen?
I guess we are always conscious of not being boring as we want to play music that we want to listen to. We never see the point in writing a song that we wouldn’t be happy to hear listening back to our album.
The focus shifts between individual instruments and vocals as the songs progress so none seems to lead the rest. Is this a reflection of how you write?
Yeah pretty much. We all have a finger in the pie when it comes to writing. We are all open to ideas from everyone in the band. We don’t just have guitarist writing guitars and drummer writing drums. To begin with this was quite difficult. Anyone who has been in a band knows that telling someone what they just wrote is rubbish can cause friction. And in the beginning we had this. But as we started looking at the songs as whole performances and not just a guitar/drum wank fest we were able to make suggestions to other people about what they were playing and know that it was for the greater good.
Having seven performers clearly wasn’t enough and you had help with songwriting and vocals from Belinda Licciardello on one track. How did that come about?
When Mark showed us the song originally he had said that he wanted a female to sing on the track. A friend of ours said that his girlfriend can sing and maybe we should ask her. Usually when a mate says that his girlfriend can sing I would avoid it like the plague but we trusted his musical judgement. We hadn’t heard her sing but we sent her a demo of the track with no vocals/lyrics and a loose idea of what the song was to be about. I remember when she emailed the track back to us I was stunned at what I heard. It was amazing. I took it to practice and showed the rest of the band. When the track ended we all sat silent not knowing what to say. Belinda had surpassed our expectation of what we thought we were going to hear. Even though the vocals were not in the spots we originally thought we wanted them it was just amazing to hear. We still get chills when we hear the song.
Engineer and producer Tim Carr is a name that is appearing on more and more of the records I listen to. What was his role in this album? What did you learn from him? It can be bad enough dealing with three band members – how did he cope with having seven with an opinion on the sound?
Tim is great. He helps a lot with bringing the 20 ideas we have for a song when we enter the studio down to one. There is always those occasions of what sounds good in rehearsal doesn’t sound good on tape. He is really instrumental in helping us mold what we have into something that sounds great recorded. We don’t really tell Tim what our opinion is on sound. The way we look at it is that we go to him for a reason. We know what he does, he knows the sound we are after. We really like to let him do what he does without to much interference from us. If you are working with an engineer that you have to constantly tell what to do either the engineer is crap or your product is crap.
Do you get much opportunity to play live? What do you enjoy about performing?
We do get quite a lot of opportunities but we do try to limit our playing live. You see a lot of bands that play and play and play the same set and spend no time writing. We don’t want to fall into that trap. If we weren’t in Australia we would play all the time as long as it wasn’t in the same town/country. We really do enjoy being able to replicate live what we have recorded in the studio. Seeing that other people are enjoying what we do also gives us a buzz.
What’s the most memorable thing someone has said to you after a set?
Nothing really memorable has been said but it’s more a reaction. Our first show back with the new line up was supporting Rosetta and I remember the reaction from the audience was amazing. I remember sitting on the stairwell back stage with Brendon listening to the applause for what seemed like forever. It was very humbling.
Is progressive/experimental rock and metal getting bigger and better in Australia?
I think so. People are starting to get sick of seeing and hearing the same old stuff. While the same old stuff was and still is great people are starting to have a thirst for something a little left of center But in saying that Australia also loves its fads. Hopefully this won’t be one of those fads.
Do any of you sky-dive?
I don’t personally but some of us have.