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“We put a lot of thought into that kind of thing. Being an instrumental band the title is the thing that people use to connect with the music and set the scene for the songs,” explained sleepmakeswaves guitarist Otto Wicks-Green. “The title is probably the most important one. We do that last –we write all of the music first and record it all. There’s working titles for everything but we decide on everything at the end which is quite a stressful process. With this album title we wanted to get across a few things. The whole album title comes from the line of a book which is ‘you cannot hold it in your hand, for it is made of breath only’. It’s the idea that as much as we try to control the things around us that we love, at the end of the day they all pass and all of these great experiences that we have are ephemeral. It’s also about letting stuff go, so it’s getting that across as well. When you put that title on top of an Antarctic landscape as we’ve done I think it also speaks on an environmental level to the fragility of those landscapes. I wanted to make the subtle point that we are at a turning point in humanity’s history, and the planets history, where we’re in grave danger of losing these things forever because of things like climate control. Although we’re not a political band I think that message comes across.”

Wicks-Green is talking about sleepmakeswaves recently released album Made of Breath Only, an album which he strongly believes is a true representation of where the band is at presently.

“Man, we’ve recorded something that’s darker, heavier, more technical and more cohesive than anything we’ve ever done,” he enthused. “We spent a huge amount of thought leading into it about what we wanted to create and then we spent two years creating it and nine days recording it. Everything kind of fell into place and I’m really proud of the artwork and the packaging and we are happy the music is finally out there and we can’t wait to play the songs live.”

“I think overall we wanted to… on previous records that the band has done the songs were sort of written in a fairly random way and at the end of a certain period of the songwriting we put a ring around the songs we wanted and made the record and that’s worked pretty well for us and there was quite a scope in our material. With this one the goal was to create something that from the outset was informed by a specific thematic direction – in this case something darker in tone and something that dealt with themes of loss and adjustment to that loss.”

“Absolutely,” he enthused. “With Node I was five or six months into being with the band with three or four of those months being on the road and rehearsing so there was very little time to prepare and hone in ideas. As well as that I was still trying to find my feet just performing because it was such a different environment to any band I had been in before so I was definitely finding my place through that whole period. I’m so proud of what we did with Node and I’m stoked with how it all went down but this time we’ve had a couple of years to gel and play together a lot more and it all felt much more comfortable. I was able to present more personal ideas on this album than I have before. It was a bit nerve-racking because I hadn’t done it before and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the right fit for Northlane but once I presented some of the more personal ideas to the band they were all excited which gave me a lot more confidence to express more of that side of me. I think people are going to find more they can relate to in their own minds be it through loss or whatever it may be and hopefully helps them deal with it.”

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For Made of Breath Only, sleepmakeswaves returned to producer Nick DiDia, and although he has had previous experience with bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Karnivool, Wicks-Green says it was more what he brought to the table rather than who he has worked with that attracted them to him.

“His experience is one thing but the reason that we went back to Nick – because he also recorded Love and Cartography with us – is that we really gel on the same level of how we approach recording the music with this band,” he explained. “sleepmakeswaves is fundamentally a live act. We’re a band who excels in front of audiences and with the music that we write, at the heart and soul of it is the live performance. It’s the energy that we bring to those songs on stage. Nick’s approach to all of his recordings is to try and capture that lightning in a bottle. His approach is really live, really raw. A lot of the music on the album… all of the drums were recorded live with the whole band in the room. A lot of the bass tracks were kept from those sessions and we were just trying to capture that energy. The fact that Nick has such an amazing pedigree with achieving those results is what drew us to him and the relationship was already established which made things easy for us.”

Being an instrumental band, sleepmakeswaves don’t have the luxury of having a vocalist to fall back on to enhance the music, but Wicks-Green says that while it isn’t necessarily easier or harder being instrumental in the writing process, the onus is definitely more on the music.

“We’ve all been in bands with singers, but those bands haven’t come to that level that this one has where it has become a livelihood and we have to treat it like a job,” he mused. “I know that we’re very obsessive and the process is difficult and involved and sometimes painful. The music has to do so much heavy lifting and the song writing has to do so much heavy lifting. It’s not just enough to write great moments. We have to string them together in ways that are compelling and make a song compelling for the listener. On this record we’ve gotten up to the nine and ten minute length songs and the challenge there is to write music that connects with people and keeps them interested and it’s hard. It doesn’t just happen. It’s never super spontaneous with this band. Its months of grinding and chiseling – like you’re building a statue and you’re just chipping away all of the little bits that aren’t needed to try and accentuate the bits that are. It doesn’t just fall out. I can’t speak for other bands and I don’t wanna say yeah its way harder (laughs) but I know that we do a buttload of work!”
In saying that, as much fun and effort goes into the creation of their music, Wicks-Green maintains the ultimate thrill is in the live performance.

“I think creating the songs there’s a different sort of joy when you get into that flow,” he said. “On a good day, when the sparks are flying, there’s definitely a joy in that but it’s a bit more subtle. It’s the joy of being completely focused in your work. There’s a different joy on stage which is a really big, much more bright and exuberant feeling. You’re in the moment, you’re thrashing around, you’re feeding off the energy. They’re two different things; different shades of joy, but the much more obvious one is the live performance. A great show is about as good as it gets.”

Written by Kris Peters

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