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We Lost The Sea

Sydney six-piece We Lost The Sea are on the cusp of a national tour where they’ll be playing last year’s Departure Songs LPin full. Departure Songs was the band’s first record since the passing of vocalist Chris Torpy. The loss of a dear friend will inevitably influence the sort of music one subsequently creates, and this is especially true when that friend was also a band member. Departure Songs isn’t quite as heavy as the band’s first two LPs, but it’s certainly an emotional affair.

“I think playing the older songs after he’d gone was a real heartache, because we’d play the songs and his voice wasn’t there and you’d just imagine it,” says guitarist Matt Harvey. “But we’ve honoured him and carried on that memory through this record. A lot of people write to us really honestly and emotionally about it. It’s really special for a lot of people, because once they read behind the scenes and they know what the album’s about, they relate it to things in their lives. So I think this album will always be special for us and people out there who really like it.”
 
There’s long been an emotional weight to We Lost The Sea’s music, and this is apparent even during the delicate, stripped back moments on Departure Songs. It feels as though nothing is committed to tape unless it’s both significant to the band and capable of making a substantial impact. It figures, then, that the band’s writing process is somewhat laborious, requiring vulnerability from each member as well as firm conviction in their creative decisions.
 
“It takes a long time to get to a point when everyone’s happy with it, then we revisit it later and see if it’s OK,” Harvey says. “It’s a lot of filtering, because it’s three guitarists with three different outlooks and attitudes and influences. Everything has its place and everything’s there intentionally – it’s not just because we need to fill time.
 
“But it’s a pain in the arse sometimes,” he adds. “I really enjoy it, but sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to do it. When we started doing Departure Songs, because the songs are so long and a lot of us work at home before we bring stuff in, sometimes you sit there on the weekend going, ‘I don’t want to be in here. I want to be outside.’ But playing music for us is really important, and when songs start to come together it’s really exciting after months of churning through stuff.”
 
By virtue of the band’s three guitarists, Departure Songs contains several moments of great sonic intensity – waves of soundthat are poured onto the listener. This prompts thoughts of hard rock and progressive metal, as well as the grandiosity of orchestral music. Though, there’s also a certain breadth of sound, an atmospheric quality, maintained throughout. Although it’s an instrumental record, each of the record’s five tracks (the final two forming parts 1 and 2 of Challenger) comes with its own story, depicting “failed, yet epic and honourable journeys or events throughout history”.
 
“When we gave the songs the stories it gave gravity to those songs and gave them meaning,” Harvey says. “The Challenger ones for example – which is the first one that we aligned with a story – the end riff, the big ending, now all I see is just a rocket going up. So for me that’s one of the biggest in terms of actual physical space. Every time I listen to it, it just feels like this rocket going up and you look at it from a distance. Then there are some times, like the small, quieter moments in [The Last Dive of David Shaw], it really does feel like you’re in a dark space and you can’t see the walls, and it’s either small or large.”
 
Having left behind the more overt metal influences of their earlier work, Departure Songs has frequently been described as a post-rock record. Post-rock is a genre made famous by the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky, however this tag has been the subject of ridicule in recent years due to a surfeit of over-earnest artists crassly mimicking the leading practitioners. Harvey is somewhat ambivalent about its use with regards to We Lost The Sea.
 
“The band was a very post-metal band, very Cult of Luna-esque when the vocals were there. And I think the band was comfortable sitting in that genre because in Australia post-metal’s not a massive thing. I guess post-rock’s a more accessible format of that kind of music. I think [post-rock] is probably just the easiest way to put us into a genre. And I don’t also want to be one of those wankers that’s like, ‘Well, we’re genre defying, we’re heaps different and we shouldn’t be labelled,’ because if Godspeed’s labelled post-rock, I’m happy to be lumped in with them.
 
“But since the beginning, because the dudes in the band come from a variety of different bands, I think we can still play heavy shows, we can play post-rock shows, we can play with a kind of rocky pop band we can play with a prog band. And I think that’s a really handy thing that we have.”
 
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY

WE LOST THE SEA are playing at the Old Bar on Saturday June 18. Departure Songs is available now via Art As Catharsis Records.