Australian sludge metal miscreants, Lo! have decided to celebrate the arrival of new vocalist, Sam Dillon by dunking him repeatedly into a vat of what looks like congealed Pepto Bismol in their brand new video, “Orca.” While some may see the video below as evidence of some cruel hazing ritual (whatever happened to the good ol’ days when Metallica got the Misfits to beat the crap out of Jason Newsted and trash his hotel room?), the other members of the Sydney quartet didn’t exactly get off that much easier, as they decked themselves out in radiation suits which, when they’re working like they’re supposed to be working, are heavy, air-tight, unbreathable and not designed to be rocking out in. “Orca” is a track taken from the band’s latest release, The Tongueless, a double 7″ set to see the light of day via Pelagic Records. Beneath the visually stunning video, please indulge yourselves in an entertaining interview with guitarist Carl Whitbread.
All right! First and obvious question, what the hell is going on in this new video? What is that pink stuff, a vat full of Pepto Bismol? What were the behind-the-scenes job hazards you faced in shooting this clip? Are you planning on making any of the elements from the video a part of future live shows?
Pretty crazy, huh? This was the brainchild of director Matt Devine. He works mainly on commercials, but is a fan of Lo! and was keen to sink his teeth into a clip for us. His idea was that we would be playing and generating sounds from our instruments focused onto a pool of goo. The sounds would then evoke the goo to take on a physical form and sing us a song. Kind of like the ectoplasm in Ghostbusters II that makes the toaster dance. Not really sure what the goo was made out of – we got a special FX company to whip it up. I think it contained some kind of milk powder or curd which smelt pretty funky as we were pouring it into the box. For all we know, it could have been Pepto Bismol. Either way, we were assured it was safe to submerge a person in. The shoot was quite physically challenging especially for [Adrian] Griffin [drums]. We all had to wear those radiation suits which are so thick that you start sweating instantly and, after one take, you can barely breath. Lucky, [Adrian] Shapiro [bass] and myself only had a handful of takes each, but Griffin was practically in every shot, so he had to drum hard pretty much the whole day – we felt bad for him (not really). Once he finished shooting, he took off his boots and literally poured out a litre of sweat. His hands were also shrivelled up like an old lady. On the contrast though, [vocalist] Sam [Dillon] had to sit in the box of goo for about four hours and was completely freezing. He also had to hold his breath under the goo multiple times and hang above it suspended by what looked like a giant pink nappy. He was very professional though and got through the shoot like a champ.
I’ve been told your bass player had a big ol’ hand in this production, using his film industry experience to nudge things along? Does he work on feature films, documentaries, television, or what? And how does doing a video differ from filming anything else?
Yeah, Shapiro works as a film producer – mainly focusing on TV commercials and has previously worked with Matt Devine on various commercial work too. When Matt originally approached us about the idea for the clip, we were expecting it to all be shot in someone’s backyard on a Sunday afternoon. Instead, Shapiro called in favours and struck deals from connections he has made, so we ended up with full camera and lighting crews, a massive soundstage complete with harnesses and a stunt coordinator. I guess the main difference between doing music videos and commercials or larger film projects, and especially doing a video ourselves, is we have all the creative control. Also, the budget is always smaller so the whole process becomes more DIY. For example, we had to build the box for the goo ourselves and Adrian did all the costumes, so it’s always a lot more hands on which is fun.
Tell us about your recent opening slot for Trivium and In Flames. How did you score that, seeing as you’re not at all on the same aesthetic plane as those bands and there are tonnes of other Aussie bands that are? How did it compare to a regular night out with Lo!? And how different are you predicting the mood/scene to be when you open for Eyehategod at the end of the month?
To be honest, it was all a last minute thing. Soundwave touring brought them out here and contacted us three days before the show asking if we could open. Not sure how or why they chose us, but it’s nice to know we’re on their radar and we were very grateful to be offered such huge supporting slot. The show was all-ages too, so there was a hefty younger audience – what I like to describe as ‘people who aren’t jaded about music yet.’ Most of the crowd seemed to be nodding their heads as we played, although there were a couple of stunned faces looking back at us, but we had a full room for the whole set and heaps of people came and chatted to us after we played and bought merch, so I think we went down pretty well considering the contrast in style. For Eyehategod, I’m predicting a lot of older, long-haired guys nodding their heads slowly with their eyes closed with an aroma of weed lingering in the air. It will be awesome.
What’s the story behind the departure of your original vocalist and the recruiting of Sam into the band? Have you dealt with much line-up trauma in the past and how have you found the adjustment with and to Sam to be?
Jamie really wanted to focus his attention on studying and I think he realised it would be too hard to do both, so he made the tough decision last year to leave the band. Sam was already the front man for a Sydney band called Snakes Get Bad Press (they unfortunately just broke up recently) who were friends of ours and had done a handful shows with us previously. We had always liked his vocal style and his stage presence and when the time came to think about a new vocalist, we knew he would be a great fit. Sam was very eager to join Lo! and fit in with us straight away. Not only does he share the same tastes and sense of humour as the rest of us, he is extremely passionate about what he does, which really helps push the band along. His vocal style is quite different to Jamie’s, but I feel like it’s a bit of a fresh start for us and has maybe pushed our sound in a slightly different direction.
Rumour has it one of you guys lives in Hong Kong? Has this always been the case? We’ve repeatedly heard stories about how logistically inhospitable touring or even playing a handful of shows in Australia can be. How much more difficult does having a member in another country make things?
Yes, this would be our drummer, Griffin. Him and his partner moved over there a while ago for work reasons. It was a very tough decision for him to leave, but the opportunity they had was too good to turn away. Of course, we didn’t want to lose him as a drummer, not only for his drumming abilities, but he is a major contributor to the song writing process. We decided to try and make it work with him living over there. To be honest, it hasn’t been that hard. As far as song writing goes, we’ve always kind of done it remotely anyway, even when he was living here. I’d usually write demos at home them email them to him and we’d go back and forth that way, so nothing has really changed in that aspect. As for gigging, it hasn’t really been a huge problem either. Griffin will usually fly back for most of the shows we do. We don’t exactly do tonnes of them a year anyway. The metal/hardcore scene here is quite small compared to other countries, and we only have four or five major cities which are all at least ten hours drive apart. In America or Europe, you can jump in a van and tour for a few weeks all around the country, here it’s much shorter and becomes quite expensive, so it happens less often. We always try and make it worth his while though; either we try and book other shows around his stay or spend time writing or working on new songs. For those rare occasions he can’t come back, we have a young friend named Max to fill in, who drums in various Sydney bands. He’s a great drummer and really enjoys doing the occasion Lo! gig. I’m not going to lie, we all wish Griffin would move back here though – haha.
What information can you impart upon us about the writing of The Tongueless? Was the intention to do an EP and not a full-length? Did you have any particular goals you were looking to achieve with this recording?
The idea for the EP came about not long after Sam joined. As I mentioned before, he does have quite a different vocal style and we really wanted to start moving in a fresh direction and showcase him to the world as quick as possible. We figured writing and releasing another full-length would take too much time, so settled on a four-track EP as kind of a ‘taster’ of things to come. Most of the writing process was pretty similar to previous material in that I would write demos/ideas at home, then email them to Griffin in Hong Kong and go back and forth that way. We did try something different this time though – Griffin would send me a whole bunch of drum beats first, basically an hour of him just jamming on the kit. I would then just play random riffs over the beats and pick and choose things that sounded good and cut them up – kind of the reverse of how songs are normally written. It was a really great technique especially because it allowed for totally off the cuff song writing. We kept the recording process as natural as we could – the drums were all tracked live without a click with all of us in the same room. We tried to rely on as little processing as possible and really paid attention to nailing the sounds we wanted at the beginning. Vocal-wise, Sam prefers to use a handheld mic when recording so we used that approach this time which really added to the natural vibe. For the first time, we decided to use Brad Boatright from Audioseige to do mastering duties as he’s worked on some of our favourite albums (Old Man Gloom, Nails, Baptists, just to name a few). He really added that extra dimension and rounded off our sound perfectly.
Does the title of the new EP refer to environmentalism/animal conservation? Titles like “Orca,” “Litmus Beings” and “Megafauna” had me thinking so… How does the cover art connect to the title and lyrics? Or does it?
Sam is very passionate about environmental and animal issues, so there is definitely a strong theme of that running through the EP. “Orca,” for example was inspired by the Blackfish documentary highlighting the history of killer whales in captivity. Musically, we also tried to keep it as cohesive as possible and wrote the songs purposely knowing we were going to be releasing on a double 7” and needed to keep each track under five minutes a side for the best sound quality. “Litmus Being” and “Megafauna” was actually written as one long song, then split into two parts. We didn’t want to make this super obvious, but you can hear the same melodies and motifs on both tracks, which also translates down to the lyrics as well. To be honest, the artwork came before the lyrical content, or even the music. I had always toyed with the idea of doing a double 7” and this EP was the perfect opportunity to do it. I even had some rough designs ready to go straight away which I knew would suit the format perfectly. Double 7”’s are not very common and are generally hard to make, mainly because of cost, but we really wanted to do something a bit different and Pelagic Records really nurtured the idea. They did such an amazing job of organising the packaging, and we are really proud of how it’s turned out both musically and aesthetically.
Has the topical focus changed much or at all with Sam joining the band?
To be honest, we’ve never been too worried about specific topical focus. My theory is that the vocalist should sing about whatever they’re passionate about, so we’re happy to roll with any direction Sam wants to take. Being a vocalist is much more personal than any other instrument, so it’s important that he’s comfortable about his lyrical content. We’re all pretty like-minded anyway, so I’d never imagine us not agreeing with the subject matter.
What plans do you have on the go once the EP is out and about and making the rounds?
Once the EP is released, we’ll be doing a small run of shows along the east coast of Australia late February/early March to promote it. Other than that, we’ll see what other shows crop up during the year, and will always push to try and get overseas again. Hopefully, the “Orca” clip will help gain us more exposure. We’ll also be starting work on writing our next album.