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Pagan on stepping out of their comfort zone for debut ‘Black Wash’

It pushed me out of my comfort zone with the singing: I allowed myself to sing to a point where I felt insecure, when normally I hate to feel insecure.”

The blackened rock’n’roll of Melbourne four-piece Pagan may, ostensibly, elicit thoughts of its members exorcising internal demons or expressing anger towards the world.

However, the real fire behind their debut album Black Wash stems from a promise that vocalist Nikki Brumen, guitarist Xavier Santilli, bassist Dan Bonnici, and drummer Matt Marasco made to one another; that they would give everything to this band. This record is the product of a commitment fortified by an unwavering belief in each other.

“It started because we had all played in crappy bands before and we wanted to do a band with all of our good friends, with the commitment to make something bigger than we had ever done,” Brumen says excitedly, like she has a secret she desperately wants to spill.

“The boys in the band had played together in various bands for ages, and we had become reckless in what we were doing and knew that we had to do something different. Dan had known Nikki for a while and had been telling us for a while that one day we would have Nikki Brumen singing for us and it would be fabulous,” Santilli says, his enthusiasm tempered by the knowledge that he is the lone shredder in a band that sounds like it has two guitarists.

At this point Bonnici cuts in. “I had always wanted to do a band with just Matt and Xav, who I had become friends with from playing in other bands, to a point that was beyond the normal bandmate chemistry, but we needed a singer.

“I have always thought that Nikki was the best as far as front people go, so I knew she had to be the singer.” He pauses, a look of admiration washing over him before continuing. “I made my dream band.”

With emotions running high, Marasco curtly shifts the mood with a well-timed joke. “It started with an initial brief from Dan who said, ‘I want to play in a band that sounds like High On Fire.’ So we got together and had a jam, it sounded nothing like High On Fire.” Laughter erupts, and he adds, “but from that false start, it’s turned out so fucking good.”

Pagan are chatting to Beat prior to their appearance at A Day Of Clarity Festival in Adelaide in mid-June. This event was headlined by High Tension, Mindsnare and Tropical Fuck Storm – it’s not a punk or metal festival; however its lineup reflects a scene with a ravenous appetite for hard music, sans any genre-driven bells, whistles, trends or memes that many bands hide behind.

This same appetite is reflected in the unmitigated, almost belligerent trauma, to the hardness captured on the band’s 11-song debut. This is a result of each member challenging themselves to play outside the realm of what they’re capable of, and instead invest so much into Pagan that, at times, it brought them to breaking point.

Brumen is the first to pipe in when asked what song on the album they connected with the most.

“For me, the intro, ‘Il Malocchio Si Apre’ [‘The Evil Eye Opens’] and outro ‘Il Malocchio Si Chiude’ ['The Evil Eye Closes'] are equally as important because they go hand in hand.

“They’re my favourite songs on the album because they capture the basis of the album for me – what I am expressing emotionally and physically.

“In terms of when we recorded, it pushed me out of my comfort zone with the singing: I allowed myself to sing to a point where I felt insecure, when normally I hate to feel insecure – I mean, I have to shit with the door open.” At which point she’s cut off by her three friends and bandmates erupting into laughter.

Pagan’s debut LP Black Wash will be released on Friday July 6 via via EVP Recordings. They’ll launch the record at The Tote on Friday August 24.