Adrift For Days‘ debut album, The Lunar Maria (released 2010), is undoubtedly my favourite Australian album of recent years. With it’s sedate, psychedelic, doom-laden sludge, infused with blues and tribal elements, it’s safe to say very few Aussie albums have impressed me both immediately and to such an extent that I had to ask just where the hell this came from; and by that token, what else I’ve been missing out on in this vast country of mine.
Who better to ask than the guys responsible for making me a born-again Oz music noob? Mick (Kaslik) and Lachlan (R. Doomsdale) were kind enough to spend a little time answering some questions, starting with how this all came to pass in the first place.
How did Adrift For Days form, and did you do so with a specific goal or intention for the band?
Lachlan: Steve (Kachoyan) and I played in a caustic grindcore band called Kill A Celebrity together for a few years. By mid-2009 we’d grown a little bored and a little less furious at the world. I think that kind of bitter disappointment and anger is really a teenage sort of phenomenon – after a while you learn to stop expecting so much out of humankind. The various gaping failures of mankind become far less surprising.
At the time we were really getting into groups like Electric Wizard, Isis, Cult of Luna, Jakob, Neurosis and Space Bong. I think that sort of slow, droning psychedelic music started to speak to where we were at mentally and philosophically at that point in time. We weren’t furious kids who were still surprised that the world was not balanced and perfect. We accepted it, and it was time to meditate on inevitability and introspection rather than just simply rage at a world we couldn’t change.
In late 2009 when Ron (Prince) fired up his amp and played his first improvised psychedelic lead in our very first jam together, we knew we had found our 2nd guitarist.
Mick: The original bass player knew me from years ago and we bumped into each other one night at a gig and he asked if I wanted to jam with a stoner/doom band. I always loved that style but at the time I was in a band called Intrepid which sounded kinda Slayer-ish. I said what the hell and ended up jamming with the guys and it was love at first sight, haha.
Lachlan: Mick’s voice was fucking awesome. We really didn’t want someone who was just going to scream monotonously for our 20 minutes songs. He was busy with another band originally, but I pestered him incessantly – I couldn’t let him get away. When he finally accepted and started talking about getting a vocal effects unit and buying a native American drone flute, we knew we’d found the perfect vocalist.
Mick: Things actually didn’t end up working with the first bass player. We ended up getting Matt (Williams) in, who is a damn fine player, who also plays in a few bands (ex-Captains / The Captains Package and The Hideous Demise of Detective Slate).
Lachlan: Matt really saved our asses. We were about 3 weeks out from our first gig, and very close to our first recording when the first bloke left. I knew Matt from his other projects and had immense respect for his playing – but I never imagined he’d want in on this style of music.
We got so incredibly lucky to find these guys. It’s still so bizarre that it worked out so perfectly. Everyone has such different backgrounds and influences.
Just on influences, you’ve cited a number of varied artists that had an influence on The Lunar Maria, (Electric Wizard, Alice In Chains, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, et al), but it also has a strong blues feel, which (in my experience) is a fairly uncommon – or at least under-pronounced – element in heavy psych/doom, so I’m curious as to which blues musicians and albums may have had a prominent influence on TLM?
Mick: If you put all the bands that this band listens to you would be reading the list forever. This is the most diverse group of guys I’ve ever worked with.
It’s hard to pin point what someone was listening to at the time of creation. I for one love Robin Trower (when James Dewar was on vocals – great blues vocalist), Neil Fallon (Clutch – also great blues vocalist) Dax Riggs (very underrated but great vocalist), thats to name a few.
Lachlan: I grew up on a lot of blues; Leadbelly, BB King, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf… I have always just been obsessed by the sound and feel of blues. Mixing that with sedated, downtempo sludge just made sense to me.
As well as the blues influence, there’s a few moments in TLM that have a distinct tribal or ritualistic feel, do the members of ADF have a general interest in tribal rituals or mythologies, or is there a specific religion (so to speak) you ascribe to?
Mick: I got really into Native American Indian flutes, drone flutes, etc, and we all have an appreciation for world music. I always loved chilling out listening to Enigma/Deep Forest and the tribal essence they had in their music. Plus we really wanted to achieve something that was unique and not just release what normal doom fans would expect.
Lachlan: I don’t think its a specific religion or mythology, but the concept of all of them in general. There’s something about the existentialist quest and mythology that just resonates with most human beings – and so it should; I think it’s an exceedingly fucking important thing. Somehow the things I have felt, thought or read about are shared on some level by the guys in this band.
Mick has brought a massive tribal feel to our sound with his droning intonations, his mystic lyrics, his drone flutes – its something he just spontaneously brought to the table. We all dug it, so we keep pushing that aspect. It just clicked.
One of the concepts inherent in tribal music, and particularly Indigenous Australian music, that intrigues me is that it’s a living entity, constantly evolving and built upon as songs are played and passed down through the generations. I get a similar impression from the songs on TLM – not just from the tribal aspect, but what seems like a carefully measured and intricate build throughout individual tracks, almost like a story that doesn’t necessarily end when the song does. So, I’m curious to know how long it took to write the material before it felt fully realised?
Mick: With the current line-up (which is the guys that play on the album) it was only about a month or so before we played the first gig. A few months later we recorded The Lunar Maria. A lot of the music was written before I joined and then I wrote all the lyrics and put my effects etc into place.
Bury All was actually a lot quicker when I first heard the demo, which kinda sounded more in the vein of Clutch/Down – but it just kept getting slower and slower. There was a lot of rearranging songs etc before we knew it was perfect for a release and I think it paid off. These days its hard to say you have released an album that’s original, but we all feel we have – don’t you agree?
(For the record, that would be a yes).
Lachlan: My memory is too vague. I feel like Steve and I were jamming directionless by ourselves for many months before you guys all finally joined. I can remember one particular occasion we holed up in The Hunter Valley with some LSD and just droned the fuck out for hours. By the time we finally had a full line up I just wanted to record a fucking album already.
I’m surprised and impressed to learn a lot of the lyrics and effects came after the music, particularly considering I’ve previously described TLM as having nothing that feels contrived and ultimately sounds very intuitive.
Lachlan: In regards to Mick’s vocals; that’s what really amazed me about what he does… He takes a song we’ve made and perfectly absorbs that mood and weave his own lyrics and vocals around that idea so fucking seamlessly. He can really feel what a song is saying (better than any of us really can), and then he takes that a whole lot further – it’s almost like adding an entire new dimension to the music. It consistently fucking floored me when we first got him involved in the band.
Do you start with a particular journey in mind to take the listener on, and construct the song writing around a developed concept?
Mick: For sure The Lunar Maria is a trip. Songs like Moonriver were constructed as a journey, there are a lot of sections that build up using chanting noises etc. Whatever musically or vocally or however we will use to build the song or create an outro that will lead us into a new journey.
Lachlan: Sometimes I might come to jam with a fully-formed song. Other times it might be a guitar line that Mick has come up with – or we might build a song around a jam-based piece that Ron tosses up and just improvise over and over again. We have a few different ways we write our songs, which will hopefully show a bit more on the new album. I know that I play riffs for months before I bring them to the band – and they’re usually just a representation of how I’ve been feeling over that period. I’m very much about trying to get dynamics into our songs; tempo changes, volume changes and so on.
It is funny; our writing process for some of our songs are like that – constant-evolution – just improvising and jamming endlessly. The only song that really reflects that on The Lunar Maria is Messages Through Sleep – we just started on a riff and kept jamming and adding and moulding the song. We’ve done that with a few more tracks on the new album, but generally my personal writing process is quite different.
I was interested to read elsewhere in an article praising TLM that it doesn’t sound particularly Australian – is that something you’d agree with, or do you think there is anything uniquely identifiable as ‘Australian-sounding’ doom?
Mick: So are we supposed to sound like INXS on mushrooms? What the fuck, haha. We play what we play, I don’t care if it ends up sounding Chinese we just play what we think feels right. We don’t say we want this part to sound Australian and this part to sound American or this part to sound like Linkin Park which is what a lot of bands actually do, but that’s why their album sounds exactly like the other 4,000 bands that released the same album this week.
Lachlan: I’m not sure… I mean a lot of reviewers have really strongly associated our music with the sparseness of the Australian outback – but like Mick said; we just play music for ourselves. The rest is for other people to decide and pick apart and label. (I do really want a didge on the next album, though.)
I don’t think Australian doom has a specific sound – how can it, we’re such an enormous fucking country with so few people – but I definitely think that national character rubs off in our music scene. One of the things I love about this place is that you’re sure-as-hell never going to make any fucking money from music – so you have no choice but play out of love. I think that really lends to a fucking brilliant underground music scene – whether it be doom, drone, noise, prog, grind, experimental music or any other style.
Do you think there’s anything other countries with a well-established doom scene could learn from Australia’s music scene?
Mick: Australia has so many great underground bands – Looking Glass, Space Bong, Helm, Agonhymn and the list goes on. The only problem is only the true music fans support it otherwise to get noticed in Australia you have to play in a band like Silverchair or Powderfinger, which is a sad true fact.
Lachlan: I love it man. I’m happy to play forever in obscurity to 20 kids in some burnt out warehouse in Marrickville. If people were making money off this, then it’d become commercialised and stale and boring. We don’t need to learn anything – the support for stoner and doom is pretty solid in Australia. Just keep going to fucking shows — but bring more peyote. We are spoilt for good bands in Australia – if you don’t believe that then you’re just not looking hard enough.
Other scenes internationally just need to get their shit in gear and discover the awesome fucking music we have to offer. They need the bands that Mick mentioned earlier to tour their country. I mean, take Earthless (USA) who toured lately; they have a pretty big name and a pretty big following. In my ever-humble opinion, Looking Glass (from Canberra) absolutely fucking embarrass them. People who dig what Monarch! do need to get their shit to a Space Bong show. I mean, I went to Stoned from the Underground in Germany last year and saw Garcia Plays Kyuss play with Weedeater, Brant Bjork, Ufomammut and a range of others. Honestly, I think the line-up from our Doomsday Festival in 2009 was far better than that show – the legends didn’t live up to the hype (except for Garcia).
There is just this illusion out there that international bands that get more publicity are some how ‘better’, and are on some unattainable level just because they’re so far away. I think that’s absolutely bullshit. Some of the best music I’ve come across is from outrageously obscure local bands that will never, ever, ever get the props that they deserve.
Lastly, there’s been a few mentions of a new album possibly being released this year, can fans expect similar things to TLM?
Mick: Look out for double hits of psychedelia with the forthcoming album, it will send you from the Back Of The Beyond!
Lachlan: After all the references to the Australian outback (despite the album being themed and inspired by lunar oceans) we are actually going to really embrace that idea of tribalism in the sparse desert. As Mick referenes – ‘The Back of Beyond’ – that is the concept he’s tying the next album to, and I think it works perfectly with the music we’re writing and some of the ideas we’re throwing around.
S4E extends sincere thanks to Mick and Lachlan for providing such extensive and thoughtful insight. And don’t forget that you can grab this album via Bandcamp as a ‘name your price’ download, which means you can get it for free, or send them some cash to show your support for awesome music.