Adelaide's Steering By Stars is well into the final stages of having their sophomore record completely wrapped up. With a new single, "Ties That Bind", freshly released and some launch shows in the pipeline, these dark post rock producers are ready to unleash some powerful new music. Lead vocalist, Lachlan Wilson takes some time to answer some questions about the making of the record and how it's reflective of Steering By Stars as a band now.
The sophomore album is in its final stages now – I was able to take a peek at a trailer for the accompanying documentary and it seemed the whole recording and production process was quite the intensive one. How are you all feeling about the album now it’s on the home stretch, as it were?
Writing and pre-production for the album was quite an intense experience. A lot of personal events initiated a lot of the songs and by literarily locking the four of us in a rehearsal room everyday, all day for a month prior to recording, to finish it all off, made for an interesting journey. It’s nice to see the tail end of it for sure, and in someway being able to let it go is cathartic.
Recording a debut album is always an education for any band; can you tell me how that experience compared to this one? What were some of the lessons you took from the [debut album] Cables sessions that you knew had to be brought into making the second album?
We recorded the first record in two and a half days. It was demanding. We did it that way because we had no money, and at that point we had focused on developing a strong live atmosphere. The time restrictions meant we recorded what we played live, included all the imperfections. It was quite honest, and that’s what we wanted. Our tastes have now grown, as have our song writing abilities, allowing us to refine our sound. We were lucky enough to win a grant that enabled us 10 days in the recording studio. We could pace ourselves and get the takes right. It gave us confidence in our attempt to achieve a sound that is, I think and hope, more evocative.
“Ties That Bind” has only been out for a short period of time and already, it’s gained a great amount of kudos. That’s got to be comforting and indeed a boost for you guys, considering how hard and long you’ve been working on the record for!
Yes for sure. Initially when we wrote the songs and the reasons for writing them were purely personal and besides the four of us we didn’t care what people thought. I think this was a good mentality at the time. However at the end of recording and when it came to mixing, when you need to be a bit more objective, the idea of what people actually might think of what we are doing started to creep in. As such it has been really lovely that people connect with it, and in a sense connect with us personally too.
What was it about this track and “Shallow Breath” that you decided made it ‘single’ material? How much of an insight into the rest of the album do you think it offers?
I think "Ties That Bind" would have to be one of the lightest tracks on the album. The rest of the album is quite dark, overwhelming and oppressive in parts. I don’t think there is a moment of ‘optimism’ throughout it. When we wrote "Ties That Bind" we had a lot of energy, and where it sits in the album, it acts as a reprieve from the rest of the full on musical and lyrical content. It has a groove where you can bop your head, rather than be confronted with a heavy mood like the songs that surround it on the album. "Shallow Breath" is present in the last half of the album, and is indicative of things becoming more introverted as the album progresses, like the song itself.
Cables was raved about for the innovative and I suppose, complex nature of each arrangement and delivery; with the second record, would you say there’s anything on here that may come out of left field for some listeners who are now familiar with this grandiose style Steering By Stars have got going? Any creative directions you found yourselves heading in that you hadn’t gone down before?
Things have changed for sure. The songs are not as long. Things are more succinct. We have moved away from the post rock genre. It’s quite an overtly emotional recorded, and very honest in its portrayal I think too. A case in point is how clear my vocals are, with little reverb, compared to Cable. I felt I had something so say. At the beginning of recording Rory [O'Connor](our guitarist) came up and said ‘If I can’t understand what you are saying, then its too much reverb’, and that was the ethos throughout the record.
Was there any one thing or goal in particular you wanted to achieve, musically, with this second album? Do you think this has been done; now you’re in its final stages?
We wanted it to be well crafted, evocative and as succinct as possible. We also wanted to have space, and not cloud things up. We wanted it to still to be powerful and at times complex, but for it to appear simple and clean cut to the listener. The songs were often developed from a drum loop or a piece on the piano, and I’m really proud how they developed, where one instrument doesn’t lead the song, but the band moves as a whole, being quite orchestrated.
Steering By Stars stick out from a lot of other Adelaide bands in terms of musicality and style; did you find it hard when you first came together to push your music to get noticed/accepted in such a close-knit scene that is ours?
The Adelaide music scene is very receptive and quite supportive. Albeit a small community, there is some great bands that are developing and have prospered. I think we were quite well received initially which was lovely and I think in part that was because we were different. There are however small musical communities in the Adelaide, which harbour and support their niche, which is great. We have never really been embraced by that, but at the same time we don’t fit into those groups, so we don’t feel at a loss or rejected. We are happy doing are own thing.
Are there any local acts who you find you’re influenced by in any way? Who are your favourites at the moment?
I’m not sure we have influenced too many people in that regard, though it would be flattering if we did! There are quite a lot talented Adelaide bands going around. In terms of a professional act and great song writing Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! have always been at the fore. The power and textures of both Doe and Sparkspitter are inspiring. And the development and growth of Sincerely, Grizzly and Gold Bloom is great to be able to watch.
I have to ask about your slot at Laneway this year; it would have given you the opportunity to watch some of the great artists on that bill quite closely. How did you find that gig, in terms of battling the conditions and it being at that kind of festival?
Laneway was great. To be on the same bill as those bands, and to watch them and interact with them was really exciting. The weather was quite full on and the sound guys had a battle dealing with it, but it came off well. We didn’t expect there to be a large crowd, having to open the day, but in the end we were pleasantly surprised by the turn out.
You recently did some gigs in Melbourne – how did they go and how different did you find performing to their crowds as opposed to the ones you’d find in your hometown?
So far the gigs have gone really well. There as so many ex-Adelaideans in Melbourne, that you know half the crowd anyway! But the crowds have been positive and receptive to the music.
Now that the single is out for people to get familiar with, can we be expecting a tour announcement sometime soon? How viable is bulk interstate touring for you all at the moment, with your jobs and whatnot?
Yes, there will be lots of touring this year. We will be touring the east coast in September and should be doing a few more trip interstate before the end of the year for sure. We are lucky to have supportive bosses, and relatively good management of annual leave!
Finally, if you could sum up Steering By Stars as a band, NOW, and the second record in a few descriptive words, what would they be?
Beautiful but threatening.
Steering By Stars will be launching "Ties That Bind" in Adelaide on Friday, August 10. For more info, visit www.steeringbystars.com.