SUNDR’s The Canvas Sea came as the result of a lot of prior thought, precise planning and a tight deadline. The entire project has had a careful approach to certain elements of it's creation which breathes life into the music, their performances and the way that the band interact with each other. Chatting over a few pints in a quiet Fitzroy pub, Scott Curtis, Troy Power, Adam Turcato and Dan Neumann - joined by their friend and tour manager for Japan Luke Frizon - all seem confident with the final product. Yet as Power and Curtis explain to LIFE IS NOISE, the calm air hanging over this moment and the completed album might not have even happened without Neumann's arrival.
“We were pretty set – realistically if we didn’t find Dan, we weren’t going to start Sundr. It had to be the right person. It really had to be,” says Power. “It kind of came out of the blue – I started playing with another band, thinking ‘this is happening’. I was almost ready to commit to writing an EP with those guys and Dan just came out of the woodwork who we met through Luke.”
“With all the drama and shit with the album, the drummer, the old band, we started to focus on that darkness from that time and put it into the new band,” Curtis adds. “Dan then helped us re-write the Sundr stuff again.”
The band kept a focused approach on the release of The Canvas Sea to create something more than just an album, but rather a completed product that matched their vision. Elements such as smoke, lights and robes are added to their stage performance and specific album artwork was commissioned to keep a feeling of ominous dread lasting beyond the listening experience. Oddly enough, Neumann contributed to this vision beyond his drumming – his sister Imogen added haunting vocals for the record.
“You think that a lot of bands we listen to like Svalbard, Oathbreaker – all these bands that have these eerie pieces,” says Power. “We’d spoken about it, Dan had told us that Immy could sing and we got her on board. It just clicks again because Immy has her quirks. She’ll be more involved – there’ll be parts that we’re throwing in the air to get her more involved.”
“I think we were craving a little more melody with the material as well,” adds Neumann. “We’d done music that was dark and spacious, we needed a little more shade as well. Because we’re playing such slow music live, you need a little more to stimulate the audience while you’re performing – finding ways to mix it up to get people’s attention.”
“Beyond Imogen, the smoke and the stage lighting is all about trying to get people into our headspace,” says Power. “That’s where that came from. We want to create something to let people know that if they’re going to a Sundr show, it’s a whole package. We’re not relying on up-tempo beats or moving around, it’s all mood. We’re trying to get it as moody as possible to create a sense of resonance.”
Power continues. “What constitutes a good show for me is something that captures and keeps my attention. I get drawn in by people playing music that obviously love what they’re playing. I’m not all for bells and whistles, choreographed hyped shows – I’m more into watching or being drawn in by a bunch of guys playing country if they’re really into it, vibing it in the pocket. That’s just as infectious as watching Raised Fist jump around.”
Strangely enough, a large driving factor behind Sundr’s idea of a ‘good show’ is more about creating a balance between headspace and planning it out. The vibe for such dark and emotive music is equally as important as nailing the performance.
“We want to maintain that seamlessness – it’s for us as much as it is for the crowd,” says Power. "Because it is so guttural – we’ve all been through the wringer, we want people to feel that.”
“The more we get ourselves in that headspace, the better we’ll play,” adds Neumann. “It’s always been that way for me. We’re doing our best to keep it interesting for the audience, so much of that is about putting ourselves in a place where we can play that set.”
“It comes back to the question about what I want to give live is something infectious,” says Power. “TTDC – holy shit. That’s just three dudes jamming out. They’re funny dudes but it’s captivating. The half an hour that they play, they’re just like ‘wow’.
“When we perform, it’s always that head space thing. It’s why we have nerves. You need to get a little bit nervous as you need that thing to feed off.”
The recording process for the album saw Sundr taking deliberate steps to make sure it captured their live sound – the band are big believers that over-layering the music loses the final product’s authenticity.
“Everyone who plays guitar plays with an individual style,” says Turcato. “If you cut it down into three second clippets and put it together, you lose the way you play.”
“It’s that whole, not just instrumental style, it’s the same with Scott as well doing every second line and piecing it together in that run-of-the-mill recording process that most producers try to do,” adds Power. “I like it better without that, when Scott’s a little bit out of breath. It adds the angst. That’s Scotty. Why wouldn’t you want that on the record?”
For all the talk of inspired motifs and attention to elements such as stage presence, The Canvas Sea as a record was actually more of a shotgun recording - somewhat counterbalancing those other pre-planned elements.
“We weren’t as prepared as we thought we would have been," says Curtis. "We had the song, The Canvas Sea, still in the jammy stage and a few of the boys were going on holidays. We could have either pumped and gone into the studio and done it or waited two or three months. We went in early. There’s improv on the record, and we’re so much happier for doing it that way.”
“The title track is the best example of that, and that’s why we picked it as the title for the record,” says Neumann. “We didn’t go in there planning to do an album – Troy had a thing in a vague blueprint type phase and we had a few weeks to go, and we just said fuck it, jammed it out and lets see what comes together. By the time we hit the studio, it was so loose, it was barely a song. We turned Troy’s riff into this weird rhythmic thing and we just added this whole jam section in the middle for no reason at all."
“Especially me and Adzy, we come from that technical note for note shit which makes this so much fun,” says Power. “The Canvas Sea is my favourite track on the album. There were parts in there that came off as jazzy for example, and I just grabbed it. It wraps up where Sundr is now – I can’t get enough of this song. That’s very rare for me. Usually I’ll record something, put it down and I won’t listen to it, but I can actually listen to it.”
SUNDR begin their tour of Australia's east coast on Saturday, August 26.
Catch Sundr at one of the following dates:
Saturday August 26 - The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart w/ DÉPARTE, CASCADES, BREAK THROUGH
Saturday September 9 - Fat Louie's, Brisbane w/ SIBERIAN HELL SOUNDS, EMPRESS
Saturday September 16 - The Crown and Anchor, Adelaide w/ TOMBSEALER, SWAMP LUNG, FAITHEATER
Saturday September 22 - The Old Bar, Melbourne - SUNDR/CASCADES Double LP Launch
Facebook events for the shows can be found here. Tickets available from the venues.