Gilbert Potts recently reviewed the new release “A Forgotten Land” from Encircling Sea and we asked him to talk to Rob Allen from the band about the apparent connection their music has with the natural world. He came back having found out just how down-to-earth Rob is and the value of knowing what’s really important, like friendships, family and checking your ego in at the door.
Many of our readers will not have heard of you – could you tell us a bit about who’s in the band and your different roles, both musical and non-musical?
Well, I’m Rob. I am one of the guitarists and the vocalist. Dase plays baritone guitar, Dave does noise/electronics and synthesisers, and Matt plays the Drums. Encircling Sea, for us, is a place to explore the power of music, atmosphere and energy and how they correlate with our surrounding environment. The feeling on a mountain’s summit or the deep quiet in a wild forest juxtaposed with the chaos of modernity and its inherent angst and frustration. Those are things we wish our music, in the best fashion it can, to capture and portray deeply and honestly.
Our roles, and lives outside of the band vary greatly. From a Law Clerk to a Warehouseman, dog lovers to cat people, social beings to hermits. I myself am an organic farmer, a very proud new father and live rurally in NSW.
There is an air about Encircling Sea – a close connection with the earth and the seasons. It’s as though you exist for more than just to make music for entertainment, or am reading too much into it?
Not at all, I am glad that you can connect to our music on such a level. The three records tell a story, one that progresses very literally with my own life. Beginning at a point of deep disconnection from the natural world, to a profound awakening I had atop a beautiful granite bolder in the middle of a Victorian forest, to now reconnecting myself deeply with the seasons and cycles of nature. As such, yes, we exist for far more than entertainment and we hope others can connect with that energy too, but ultimately that part of the band is a selfish thing. It is something we strive for and that we try, first and foremost, to experience for ourselves in the rehearsal room, on stage, in the studio and in everyday life. If others can connect with that too, it is a great thing.
While some bands are very insular, Encircling Sea are one part of an enormous web of projects. Is this because some of you can’t sit still? Does this involvement in other projects help the band more through what it brings in, or by what it allows you to keep out by providing other avenues of release?
We are all involved in so many things musical and creative that it makes this band a very specific entity. We have many other avenues to explore the vastly different aspects of our musical and philosophical taste that when it comes to Encircling Sea, it can have a very deliberate energy. A communal and concentrated goal.
Your first two records were each just one song, but very long (48 and 37 minutes). They have a huge dynamic range with long periods of quietness and enormous explosions of energy and sound. Were they performed live in the recorded form, and if not why did you record them in this way?
Mostly, our records have been recorded with one guitar and drums performing live together. All the other guitar parts, noise, vocals and other elements are added in separately. Certain aspects of the songs have been recorded live as a full band to capture the right energy but then other times, layers were added to create that same feeling. It ultimately comes down to what suits each part of each song.
The new album was recorded more individually, instrument wise. This was done for both practicality and accuracy. We wanted the recorded outcome to emulate our live experience whilst reaching beyond that to a fuller and lusher sound that really captured the spirit of the songs and the band whilst maintaining a raw energy and emotion.
There’s a bit of pedal-love in the Encircling Sea camp. What gear do you use?
Too much to name.
Can you tell us about your new record? What has the recording process involved and are you all still friends?
Our new record is called ‘A Forgotten Land’ and we began the recording process in February 2012. We spent two days getting most of the music done and then I moved houses, to live 4 hours away from Melbourne. Then we spent the next 3-4 months doing the noise tracks and vocals and other odds and ends when we could arrange it. After we finished all the tracking, I then moved to where I am now, 9 hours from Melbourne in rural NSW. We then spent a lot of time mixing and finalising art ideas and so on. In the middle of all this my wife had our first child. So things had to take a little bit of a back seat, not to mention everything else that the others had on too.
Our recording process is a healthy mix of fun and stress, mainly fun.
This album is very special to us and for me personally, it is the cathartic exorcism of many years of turmoil and displacement. It tells the story of my physical and metaphysical move from an urban life full of stress and riddled with anxiety and depression, to finding my home now in the middle of the forest at the base of a beautiful mountain. It took a lot to get to this point and the album is the result of process that has taken many years and will continue for years to come. But, in the forest I can breathe, I can let the wind wash away those emotions and the sway of the trees calm my racing heart. It certainly doesn’t magically end all my woes, but it does put them in perspective and gives me pause.
This album is the musical culmination of a period of tremendous and extremely positive change my life. I am so happy with result and honoured that I shared this manifestation of that period of time with 3 of my closest friends.
It’s due out in limited run of CD and vinyl. Is this all a new direction for you and what’s the thinking behind it?
CD’s for the most part are a throw away element in music these days. I think there are some major negative repercussions to this and some great positives to it as well. The main positive for me, and I speak generally of musicians not only Encircling Sea, is that it compels us as bands and artists to make our music and its physical craft truly mean something again. To put more of ourselves into every part of our records and make the physical item something that people will want to hold in their hands, a true work of art in all regards. This is after all, our craft.
Our previous records have been quite different in that our first release was a run of 50 handmade self released CD-Rs and our second release was a label released run of 500 CDs. This time around we are working off of experience and somewhat splitting the difference. Keeping things as in-house as we can as to ensure that what we put out into the world physically is as it should be, a true reflection of the music and a piece of art in its own right.
Vinyl is the pinnacle of physically releasing music for me. This will be the first time that this band has released anything on vinyl and thanks to some really great labels in Sick Man Getting Sick Records from Germany and Replenish Records from the States, we get the opportunity to see our work realised in a beautiful format.
You have been slow to enter the world of social media to promote the band and your first two records took a while to get onto bandcamp. Why the reluctance?
Social media is a great method of keeping in touch with people and sharing your music, and it’s an inevitable part of the music ‘business’ these days in some way, shape or form. That said however, it too adds to the throw away culture and has the ability to water things down. I still feel conflicted about having it, but then would feel odd without it too.
You haven’t played a lot of shows recently. Is this something you hope to change or are you satisfied being a band that comes together now and then?
The lack of shows this past year primarily comes from me living so far away from the others and the birth of my son. A baby is a great tool for slowing down your life. We will never play lots of shows again; this is a direct result of that. However, it has also been a conscious decision in that the more we played, the less we felt that special energy for us as a group. We want to maintain that above all else, and if that means playing a few times a year, then we will be better for it.
The one time I saw you was supporting Heirs and Alcest with a blistering set. Who are some of the bands you’ve enjoyed playing with?
The bands we like playing with most are those that are our friends. We have such an amazing network of people throughout the country and abroad that we really consider to be true friends, nothing is better than when we can play a show together and share in that which we love so dearly, our music.
What’s something that people should know about Encircling Sea that they won’t find through google?
I think that you can find out the dry and technical aspects of Encircling Sea via the Internet with much ease. But to really understand us and hopefully connect with us in a meaningful way, listen, and I mean truly listen, to our music with an open heart and mind and if the opportunity presents, come and see us live and have a conversation after. This whole ‘scene’ we exist within survives through respect for each other’s craft and true connections made with the absence of ego.