It might be an overused term when it comes to describing new music, but for Melbourne act Obscura Hail, organic is the only term that does them justice.
One moment soaked with post-punk, one moment abstractly folky in the vein of Andrew Bird, with a healthy dose of Sufjan Stevens splashed over the top, it’s no surprise that the band has been turning heads over the past few years with their unique and clever arrangements.
Of course, music like that of Obscura Hail requires time and effort, something the band certainly focused on for new EP Zero. However, while the band is certainly growing by the day, it’s still a surprise to hear from mastermind Sean Conran that he’s able to focus his efforts into the band pretty much full time
“I have a Patreon that provides material for the band, as well as a side business with recording other people’s stuff – but it’s been a while since I’ve done that, so it’s a business in waiting more than anything,” he says at the start of our interview.
Was there ever a sense of spending too much time on this new release, given that you had no other distractions? Was over-cooking it a fear of yours?
The amount of time would be the same regardless of what else I was doing. To repeat something I heard recently – there are only 24 usable hours in a day, and I can eat into my sleep if I have to.
I have the freedom to do anything whenever it comes to me, especially when I’m set up in front of my PC. Writing is very difficult when I’m away from this environment – for me at least. If I’m out then I can’t really follow thoughts that could eventuate into songs.
Do you pull the old singing into your phone trick if your PC isn’t nearby and you come up with an idea? Or do you have to wait until you in a constructive, creative environment before you can really dedicate time to writing music?
It’s impossible for me to follow it if I don’t have the tools because I’d hate to be disappointed otherwise. Sometimes I hum into my phone and record a riff, but those sorts of things don’t usually become anything – it’s just for memories’ sake.
When you sit down to write, do you ever impose stylistic limits on yourself?
I almost think of it as the opposite, because all the tunes are in different forms before they gain a backbeat or become chunkier or whatever. Things can start off as acoustic and become really gnarly after a while – things can just gain momentum that way.
Experimenting with other people and producers has been interesting too. This EP was the first time that I’ve ever worked with any other producer, to see if they could take ideas that I thought were good and make them better.
Obscura Hail – ‘Goth’
What made you want to bring someone else in on the experience?
I’m usually completely in control of my work, so I think that it was great to bring someone into my space. In my room, I usually have complete control over what I’m doing.
That means things might naturally have their limitations, but there were some things that I was interested in finding out when it came to how other people worked – even down to the details of what order people do things in the process, as well as tricks for mixing, etc.
Swear Jar has some really poignant lyrics when it comes to how we deal with conflict. How does Obscura Hail deal with conflict – what do those words look like in your own life?
The words are extremely specific to my partner and me – it’s a reminder for both of us that we can be reactionary as long as we understand that we can continue on. With the band, I think that we get through those times without having to make the connection to the tune.
We don’t fight really about anything – everyone wants to check in with each other because we want to do this forever. We want to include each other in different ways and get each other’s ideas, as opposed to me just filtering the world through my mind and ideas.
Check out the entertaining video for Swear Jar below
The band started on the south coast of NSW before moving to Melbourne, correct?
That’s true – it was just me when it relocated down south, and at that point, I had been doing music for 10 years. I’ve been writing and recording as an inseparable process since 2006, but moving to Melbourne just made things really clear.
When you’re in a different environment you have to figure out what skills you are going to use to survive – so I realised then that I really didn’t want to let the music go. Everyone has kind of come into the project over time – I still create the stuff, but now we’re all clear on where we’re at and focused on doing it really well.
Do you think when it comes to pop music there’s a lack of risk-taking? Because your stuff is so hooky, yet so experimental – one moment it’s channeling Paul Simon, then Bright Eyes – and not a lot of acts take in that spectrum.
Some people just really, really like doing a certain style and follow it to the end. I wish I had the stamina to follow something further than one song, to be honest.
I know that I have the stamina for lots of different songs, but often I really get unsettled if I spend too much time at the same time. At the end of the day, I guess it’s just more about really enjoying what you’re doing, and if that happens to be within the one style then that’s cool.
I enjoy heaps of different stuff as well – I enjoy lots of punk and techno and video game soundtrack- or even my own stuff.
Obscura Hail – ‘Come Down’
Obscura Hail ‘Zero’ Tour
Friday, November 29th
Low 302, Sydney
Sunday, December 1st
North Gong Hotel, Wollongong
Friday, December 6th
Saturday, December 7th