Brisbane's Sunset Junkies, who may well be Australia's answer to Tool, have taken a darker turn with their new music. Pentagram is the first single off of their up coming album 'Darkness Visible'. Byron Short and I caught up to talk about Pentagram and how Grammy award winning producer David Bottrill came to be involved.
You’re new single Pentagram is amazing.
You like it?
Love it. It wasn’t what I was expecting, a lot darker than I thought it would be.
Yes certainly . It’s the first taste off an album called ‘Darkness Visible’, it’s pretty indicative of where we are going.
I like the direction you are going.
I guess there are lots of influences from all over the place. With the year that has been and everything that has happened I guess when you sit down to write it’s pretty easy to tap into some dark, negative thought patterns. That is how things have sort of panned out. There is still a lot of colour and interesting things going on with the music even though it’s a bit grizzly.
I was expecting something more Cosmos sounding. Holy shit it was a pleasant surprise!
I think you are right there. We’ve definitely kept a lot of the hall marks of what made Cosmos, Cosmos. You know the big built up vocal layers and that sort of stuff. We had the same guy who mixed Cosmos mixing this one. There are a lot of the things in place that were designed to help continue in the path that we started with Cosmos and keep that same sort of sound. The material itself is a big left turn I guess into some pretty heavy stuff. The odd time signature thing, there are lots of different influences have come out in this one without me really knowing it until it was done. Then you go ‘Oh shit it’s like this or that.’
Listening to it you definitely get that Tool vibe and I think it’s because it has that dark tone to it.
The dude who mixed it, his name is David Bottrill, he is famous for mixing and producing a couple of big Tool albums so I guess he probably took our material and knew exactly what to do with it.
Pentagram is up there. I would put it right up there with a Tool song.
Thank you very much that is flattering. It’s lovely to hear. We are aiming for a world class sound; we think we are that sort of band. We just have to keep pushing in the right direction and keep making the sort of music that we make. Hopefully we can rub shoulders with some of these guys in the future.
The single is accompanied by a very dark video. You sitting in your chair looking devilishly evil!
Exactly! We had a lot of ideas that seemed to line up with the music. We wanted the visual to reflect the audio. We got a guy on board that I have known since high school who is a film maker. He usually does a lot of corporate work; he really knows what he is doing but was yearning for a more creative outlet. He jumped on board with us for not only this video but for the next one as well. He did a fantastic job; his name is Hugh Whitehouse. It started with he and I just throwing around some ideas and storyboarding it, he was there from the building block stage.
What is the story of Pentagram?
I’ll try not to be to nerdy but I guess the concept for this started as a bit of a nerd thing. I had this riff in 5/4 and then name Pentagram just popped out. The five sided star. I thought that it was pretty rich with connotations. If you have the five sided star turned right ways up it is supposed to be representative of spirituality but if you turn it upside down it has all these satanic connotations, not that I buy into any of it but it’s pretty cool imagery to use lyrically. The idea of the spiritual quest turning dark somehow and whether or not you should embrace that or run from it. I thought it was pretty fertile ground to write a song. I guess it is sort of exploring the idea of personal freedom and whether or not to follow that into the depths of what it might be. What the true consequences are of being totally free.
The end result is not always the best outcome.
That’s right. I guess you have to follow your heart and your spirit and be ready for what that entails I guess. I was in a pretty dark place last year; I was going through a marriage break up and all sorts of things happening around the whole lockdown situation so a lot of these songs on this album are pretty messed up. Sort of from a psychic, spiritual place and how I dug myself out of it. Even though it is exploring a lot of dark crevices I would hope it is a bit of a blueprint on how to get out rather than wallow in there.
How did you end up working with David Bottrill?
When we were just about finished recording Cosmos we were shopping it around to people who we wanted to mix it. It was a big, big project. Some songs had two to three hundred tracks on them, like vocal tracks, so it wasn’t just the drums, bass and vocal sort of thing. We knew we really needed a mixer with a lot of skill and some amazing ears who wasn’t going to be daunted by the track count and the scope of everything. It was tough, we were shopping it around to some people in Australia and getting some quotes that were pretty up there from an economic stand point. So Stef my bass player and co-producer, my studio guru, and I sat down and thought if we were going to pick the five dudes we would give it too, like total pipe dreams, we may as well flick it out to them and see what happens. We sent the album to Andy Wallace, David Bottrill, Kevin Shirley, Rick Wills and Nick Di Dia. Three of those guys got back but the dude who got back and was just completely taken with it and really into it was David. He was our number one pick anyway to be honest with the amazing stuff he has done with not just Tool and the metal stuff. He produced and mixed Silverchair’s Diorama which is probably one of my favourite albums. He has worked with Peter Gabriel who is a hero of mine. He has the amazing scope, so working with him again on this one it was really cool to be able to pick his brain because he has literally done everything during his career. So even though I produced it and we engineered it we still had David there as a sounding board and guide even through the recording process so by the time we got to the mix we were able to work together to make sure the mixing process was going to be smooth.
Especially if you had a lot of layers like last time.
Yeah. It takes a lot of editing and time really. You have to be careful when there are so many layers, you could have little blips and bloops and shit everywhere. You have to sit through every track and make sure its all good. Even before you get to the mix where you are adjusting levels and adding EQ and effects there is a whole bunch of editing that you have to do to make sure all the ‘fucks’ and ‘shits’ and the bang are out of there. It’s a big deep world and I’m learning every day. In this band I try to focus on the production and we have this amazing mix team with David and his working partner over there and me and Stef over here. It’s all a lot of team work, with the scope of it we basically try to delegate tasks. There is a lot that goes over my head because I just try to stay in the creative space and when these guys start talking about frequencies this, EQ that I just sort of tune out. I just say things like yeah I want this part to sound like a flock of birds or something and then they can figure out what that means.
What sort of feedback have you had from the release of Pentagram?
It seems to have struck the right chord with a lot of people. We are definitely excited to put out some more stuff because honestly I think Pentagram is a great taste of it. There is some really cool stuff on the album so we are excited to share that. We are working with Mish from Overdrive with our PR, and we would love to keep onboard with her. She is the best PR agent I’ll ever work with and I have worked with a lot. Mish has an almost neurotic dedication to like work ethic, she is the spreadsheet queen!! She definitely ticks all the boxes. I’m happy for you to print that. There are lots of exciting things going on behind the scenes and we will have a bunch of stuff to announce soon.
TRACKLISTING FOR 'DARKNESS VISIBLE'
1. Let It Out
2. I Wanna Be The One
4. Dark Dreams
6. Love & War
8. Darker Still