Chris Pugmire answers the phone on a Wednesday evening with a quiet, thoughtful demeanour. “I’ve just put my son to bed,” says the New War vocalist. For the now, Pugmire has gathered a few precious moments of peace. Though with the release of New War’s self-titled debut full-length just days away, these moments of tranquillity Pugmire is enjoying could be considered the calm before the storm.
With the record’s deft and dreamy edge however, Pugmire is quick to note that these kinds of moments gave heed to exactly the kind of headspace required to construct the majority of the tracks on the record. “You need quiet, if anything,” he says. “It’s definitely necessary to concentrate.”
Allowing himself time to focus while navigating throughout his daily life with an honest and benevolent approach is another important element to many of New War’s tracks, continues Pugmire. “A lot of the songs are based around big ideas that I have every day. I write a lot, fragments of ideas, things I pick up while I’m reading, that kind of stuff. I’m constantly absorbing what’s going on in the world and that certainly finds its way into the writing. I’m not just into writing love songs.”
And that’s a relief, considering how much trite love songs have saturated the music industry. Pugmire and New War offer a different approach; their self-titled debut exercises don’t bludgeon listeners with obvious metaphors, instead allowing their dense sonic landscape room to grow with each listen. It’s a landscape that Pugmire admits took some time to master, and was not without input from the entire band.
“We approached each song on the record differently,” says Pugmire rather pointedly. “They all took their time, in different ways, to develop. I’d say it all took around three years from us coming up with the ideas of these songs, working on lyrics and stuff, to the recording. There was a lot of talk within the band about what direction we wanted the songs to go in, lyrically as well.”
Pressed further on how far the band will let their songs stretch in the songwriting stage and whether they face difficulty pulling in the reins, Pugmire again defers to the idea of New War as a unit. He acknowledges with ease that the idea of working towards a common goal is one that’s been present since the band’s inception.
“As far as the band, we try to spend as long as possible with the songs, letting things happen organically. We’re not into super-structured songwriting. When we get to a point where we want to take the songs further, we do. We played together for a good year or so before we even played a show. And then we played for another year before we even recorded. So there was definitely room for the songs to develop themselves. We let them go wherever they had to.”
It doesn’t hurt to have an extra set of ears, however. With the critical success of their 2011 12” single, the ethereal and successfully brooding Ghostwalking, expectations were high for album New War. So the band turned to someone who knows them almost as well as they know themselves. New War is happy with the results, quick to yet again give credit where it’s due.
“(The record) turned out as good as we could’ve made it, as we recorded it quite quickly. We wanted to work with (Producer) Lindsay Gravina because he had a really good grasp of the band. Where we were coming from and where we wanted to go with the songs. I think we worked really well together and everything became quite well placed.”
With New War out in the world, the volume of Pugmire’s life is about to be turned up an increment. Ghostwalking may have introduced New War to the world, yet Pugmire insists there’s much more ground the band can cover. And all the while, it’ll be done for the right reasons.
“Obviously (The Ghostwalking 12”) prepared us for the record as far as being able to see what happens. We got to test out a lot of songs during the release shows as well. As far as the industry, that’s not something we’re super concerned with. We like playing shows and we’re more focused on how we work as a band. Any success that comes along is great, but we’re not really doing it for those reasons at all.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
NEW WAR play the Northcote Social Club to celebrate the release of their debut full-length on Saturday August 11. New War is out now on Sensory Projects.