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“‘Made of Breath Only’ is our ‘…And Justice For All'” – sleepmakeswaves

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In the relatively short space of time the band has existed (having first formed in 2006 and released their debut full-length album, …and so we destroyed everything, in 2011 via Bird’s Robe Records), Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves have – if you can excuse the pun – made significant waves in the metal world. This year alone has seen the band tour extensively over in the UK and across Europe, along with the release of their third studio effort, Made of Breath Only. HEAVY Mag had the distinct pleasure to catch up with sleepmakeswaves’ guitarist, Otto Wicks-Green to discuss the latest the band has been up to, as well as what to look forward to next when the band hits Australian shores again this December.

Opening up with pleasantries, we dove right into how their recent tour overseas was for the band: “[After wrapping] that up, it’s great to back on home soil once again,” Otto began. “It was probably four weeks on the road where we toured big capital cities. It was a step up from our last headline tour there, but it felt cool to go back on our own terms and to do something so bold.”

Sleepmakeswaves’ Australian tour this December will see the band joined on stage with support from Philadelphia’s Rosetta. I was interested to hear how this pairing came about. “We knew when we went into these shows what we wanted. For the first few years of setting up everything, we were playing bigger rooms and acquiring bigger things and taking in more, but we wanted to take things down a notch. We’d worshipped bands like At The Drive-In and Converge, and we wanted to do something that offered a real sense of community or participation. We were looking for the best kind of band that would fit that vibe and Rosetta had that for us. They were the perfect match for what we were looking for. They have this beautiful, atmospheric energy to them, with a dynamic and energetic performance that touches on that intimate vibe. We met them back in 2012 when we played with them in Philadelphia. I’d crashed on Eric [Jernigan]’s couch, with this scary-looking but friendly dog, and I remember all these times of getting up at 4 am to get to Austin, Texas. I remember us playing this gig in Perth at a place called Badlands. There were massive but good vibrations there, and you had records flying off the shelf! They were hastily organised, but great DIY shows!”

When asked about reflecting on how their UK/Europe tour and beyond was for them, Otto had this to share: “We like taking it as it comes,” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s been pretty hectic, man, when I think about it. We played a lot of rock shows! [laughs] Getting back to China was immensely cool! There’s just such an interesting and unique energy there. China has a massive appreciation for international bands. We got there, and we felt like Mötley Crüe [laughs]. You’re playing these big shows to really adoring crowds, and it’s a total headfuck. Here, you have this nerd band playing in a cupboard to people that really connected to our music.

“It’s like with the EP the band released back in 2008: we’re able to tap into that vibe a little bit with these shows. I’ve been in this band for almost eight years now, almost non-stop. In the best kind of way, it’s just taken over my life, for the last kind of five years. It’s been a slow burn and a steady burn, but I’ve really loved it.”

When Otto and I spoke, it was just off the back of the results for Australia’s important plebiscite survey on equal rights for same-sex marriage. Sleepmakeswaves are a band who have openly and actively shared their support for this cause since day 1. I wanted to ask Otto his feelings towards the positive result that landed 61% of citizens surveyed opting for ‘Yes’, and if there were anything he wished to add? “It’s a wonderful result after a harrowing four months for the queer community, and I have all out respect and solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community. I feel so great for the people whose lives and quality of living had been dictated by a bunch of strangers. I can’t imagine how it’d be to have someone dictate what it was like, for example, if someone told me I couldn’t drive a car. It was a really sorry and pathetic chapter in Australian political history, and it made me sick. I honestly could rant on it for an hour. I feel so happy and relieved, and I hope the legislation gets passed swiftly. I think it’s a great step forward for both the younger community, and I feel wonderful for the young lives it’ll touch. I hope this day serves as a memory to look back on for all those older individuals too whose lives were kept hidden under this black shadow for so long. I hope it gives them something to smile about.”

The band’s latest album, Made of Breath Only, has already been making a substantial impact, peaking at #15 on the ARIA Chart and #1 on the 100% Independent Chart. I asked Otto how this hugely positive reaction has been for him, and if he foresaw this result as the next natural step for sleepmakeswaves following the massive bouts of touring and the like? “We always take each new album as another step to the side,” Otto notes. “We took a lot of weird twists and turns and it was a challenging writing process, as some of those songs we really had to beat into shape. Made of Breath Only is a really expansive prog record. It wasn’t our intention to have that be so, and it wasn’t expected, but I really like how it turned out. The metaphor Alex [Wilson, bass/keys] and I like to use is it’s our …And Justice For All. It’s the pinnacle of how far we can push proggy-math metal. We wanted to see if we could make this album at 9/8 and still have it appeal to people. We experimented a lot on this album – and it really pushed us and our chops – but it’s some of the most complex and ambitious writing we’ve done.”

As we wrapped up our interview, I asked Otto what he is most excited about returning to Australia at the end of this year? “I’m really looking to a bit of a scaled down way of performing,” he opens. “There’s going to be a bit of a different energy in the room. We’ve become used to playing really larger rooms for our band, so it’s going to be great getting back and tapping into that vibe that we kind of grew out of. With all of our new songs, I hope it serves as something kind of cool for fans that perhaps haven’t seen us before or are only used to our bigger shows. They can see how it was for us back in the early days. There’s something special about being closer to the bands instead of being far in the distance. Of course, we’ll always keep trying to step up that production value and develop the quality of our shows on tour, but this particular tour will be really great for bringing back the vibe of our older shows.”

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