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Interview: Otto Wicks-Green from Sleepmakeswaves


Its been an intense year for Australia’s instrumental prog-rock gem Sleepmakeswaves. They completed a gruelling American tour in the early half of 2016, powered through a national tour with COG, and now they’re on their own headline national tour! We talked to guitarist Otto Wicks-Green about touring, new music, the value gap, and video games!

You guys have toured across 22 different countries in the last 18 months, which is a huge effort! How do you think those overseas audiences compare to Australian audience?

In 2015 we went over to Europe and Asia, then this year we did America. We’ve definitely had the chance to experience the different vibes from different countries, which is always really interesting. We started off going around Australia, around and around and around, driving to Brisbane, driving to Melbourne. Australia is rad, it’s where we live but it feels quite similar after a while. You fly half way across the world to Perth and you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is like Sydney but the ocean is on the other side”.

Getting to Europe and places like that is really interesting to us. You don’t want to stereotype, but you do find some things that hold true. For instance, going to Poland people are always absolutely, insanely in love with progressive and post rock, which is always delightful! In Germany you get questions and people come up to you after the show. During the show you often wonder whether they’re enjoying it because they’re very quiet. Then at the end of the set you get this long, sustained applause which is how they show their appreciation.

German people will come up to you and say, “Yes, I have ‘Love of Cartography’ on vinyl! It’s definitely in my top 30 post-rock records that I own”. They say that like it’s a massive compliment but you go, “Awh thank you so much! That’s so great…but are there actually 30 post-rock albums out on vinyl?”. There’s always those little moments that are different wherever you go…

Then there’s America! The cities across that country are so vastly different going from Florida, to Los Angeles, to New York is a massive trip. Negotiating the varying personality types is always a lot of fun.

Talking about your wide reaching audience, you found massive engagement in Australia with ‘Love of Cartography’ but internationally you’re best known for It’s Dark, It’s Cold, It’s Winter which has more than seven million plays on Spotify…

Yeah, I almost spat out my coffee when I saw how many plays that had on Spotify! I wasn’t even in the band at the time. That EP was released in 2008, back when the boys were young, idealistic early 20-year-old’s and teenagers. The band has gone through several line-up changes since then. It’s a bit weird, that thing is still part of the DNA of the band, that whole EP, but it also feels like a very different band. Its changed a lot, not only the members but the direction as well. It’s a strange relationship.

For me, with songs like that, I look at them as a fan because I was a big fan of the band back then in 2008. Just going to my first concert. I remember catching Sleepmakeswaves and being quite impressed. But yeah, I spat out my coffee when I saw those numbers because I’m like, “Geez, must be making some money off Spotify!”. I’ll have to ask Alex how much he’s making off Spotify, probably still nothing…

Sticking with Spotify for the moment, it’s accused as one of the largest contributors to the Value Gap which is where more music is being consumed than ever but artists aren’t being paid fairly. Just from It’s Dark, It’s Cold, It’s Winter would you agree with those accusations?

Well, I can’t tell you about It’s Dark, It’s Cold, It’s Winter because I honestly don’t know. But more broadly on the whole Spotify thing, I think it’s a bit of a larger shift in revenue for artists from the physical sale of CDs and the sale of music to more live music sales and merchandise sales.

Spotify in particular is a company that is still running at a loss in its head office in Europe. It can’t really afford to pay its artists any more than it does. Which is frustrating because I think its criminally low what bands get paid per stream. I hold out hope that it’s a necessary evil for now, and as Spotify grows they will make good on their promises to pay artists more.

I’m encouraged by Spotify taking steps to push geographically linked tour dates alongside the music and to sell packages of merchandise from the Spotify interface. I think all of that tying in together makes a lot of sense. Now days, especially in this genre this kind of post-rock thing, you have to get a job. We all worked full-time for years and years. I only quit my job a couple months ago to focus on writing this next album with Alex.

Going back to line-up changes, you guys lost Jonathan at the start of the year but you welcomed Daniel, how do you think that switch up might change the sound of Sleepmakewaves?

When Jonathan announced that he’d be stepping down Alex and I had already started working on the new stuff. We decided between the two of us that we’d keep working on it by ourselves. Dan’s made a couple contributions to the writing as well, and Tim’s starting to pick up the proverbial pen. I don’t think the sound will change too dramatically, but I think the sound will evolve no matter what. Each album we want to push ourselves in a new direction, and we’re inspired by new things. What’s going on in our lives pushes us into new sounds.

Jonathan was an excellent songwriter and we’re sorry to lose him. Dan comes from an amazing band, Meniscus, his guitar playing and his own personal style is really great. I think the sound is going to change no matter what, in this instance the line-up change will influence a little but not in a massive way.

Talking about the new album, is there any details you can talk about?

It’s still very early days. I’d say we’re about 50 per cent of the way through, kind of outlining the frameworks of the new songs and getting down the ideas. As a band, we have to rely on things outside of lyrics to get across a theme which can be quite challenging…so we lean on things like artwork and textures.

If you look back at our last two LPs, ‘And So We Destroyed Everything’ in 2011 which was a very Australian landscape and very bushy…we literally went out into the bush to record it, it was a very dark album. Then we had ‘Love of Cartography’ which was much more optimistic. The landscape there was the city from above and this idea of travel, optimism and idealism.

I think we’re returning to a bit more of a darker vibe for this next record. The imagery that keeps popping up for Me and Alex is the Antarctic and the Arctic. This sense of blue, the ice, these deserts of water. That’s the early thematic inspiration that we’re taking.

I think it’s going to be a polarising record. If you look at the heavier moments on ‘Love of Cartography’ we’re pushing more deeply in that riffy stuff but we’re also pushing more deeply in the more droning, long form, empty soundscape stuff. There’s a bit of both extremes coming together on this next album, that’s what’s happening at the moment. Who knows, we might change it all!

When do you think we might get to hear, or see some stuff from that new album?

We’re hoping to play some new stuff on this upcoming tour, we’re just going to wait and see if we can get enough time to get it all down. With Dan coming on board he’s had to pick up a massive workload of learning the entire back catalogue. On this tour we’re hoping to play a lot of songs that we haven’t even played in years, reaching into the old favourites. If not this tour, we’re hoping to record in October/November. Hopefully things will start leaking out early 2017.

What can we expect from your upcoming shows?

This is the swan song for the ‘Love of Cartography’ album cycle. We’ve had an amazing run of this record over the last couple years, so it’ll be a bit of a celebration of that. You’ll get to see Dan playing with us for the first time and we’re lifting up production again, going harder on lighting design. The set list is a really nice selection of songs throughout our history as a band, including songs that we haven’t play in many years. I’m pretty excited about how that is going to feel. I think we’ll be breathing some new life into some songs. It’ll definitely be some fun if you’ve been following the band for a while.

In addition to that, we’re joined by The Contortionist who are these absolute prog-metal masters! Their light show is exceptional and their song writing is some of the best I’ve seen today in the prog scene. They’re really on their way up to something really big, definitely a must see!

Last question, have you guys ever been approached to soundtracks for film or video games? ‘Cause Sleepmakeswaves definitely lends itself to that atmosphere…

We’ve had requests for licensing things for songs we’ve already written. As far as I can remember we’ve never been approached formally to develop a soundtrack for a game or film but that is ABSOLUTELY something we’d be interested in doing in the future. We’re 100 per cent focusing on the next album right now, but after that’s done we’re going to be looking to spread our wings a bit and branch out into some alternate projects.

Look at the success 65 Days of Static has found with ‘No Man’s Sky’. Not only did they get to soundtrack this incredible game but they also got to capitalise on that and package an album. It’s that kind of out-of-the-box thinking that bands need to make a living in this crazy world. I’d be really excited for a project like that from a making a living perspective and an artistic point of view!

Sleepmakeswaves National Tour
with The Contortionist

Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
ANU Bar, Canberra
Metro Theatre, Sydney
The Triffd, Brisbane

Get Tickets HERE

sleepmakeswavestour Press Poster 2016