Antiskeptic’s new lease on life
You may not recognise them from their new sound, but Antiskeptic are back after a long hiatus.
The three original members, Andrew Kitchen (vocals/guitar), Nick Coppin (drums) and Sean Daly (bass), have come together once more to release their new four-track EP Monuments. Daly left the group to pursue other interests shortly before the band’s second album Aurora (2004) was recorded, but helped out during this process after his replacement quit the band.
After an eight-month break and several touring bass players, Daly decided that being on stage with his two best friends was where he should be once more. “It is very odd to be discussing it now as a current issue because it was a long time ago,” Daly confesses.
“It was all around two years ago. The band was in a position when they were trying out some bass players and they were in a spot with some shows. They contacted me and asked if I’d come back as a fill in, which I was thrilled to do because I’d had a break and was feeling great about it. After one show they said we’ve got these other shows booked, how would you feel about filling in for those. Then those three shows became five and it became a case of why don’t I just stay.”
Daly wasn’t shying away from music when he went missing from the masses of Antiskeptic followers, in fact he began playing in another band. “I had a little side project band at the time. It was a lot of fun and I was able to keep myself musical at the time. But it was definitely a break from the extensive touring regime of Antiskeptic. Being at home, hanging out with my girl at the time, it was what I wanted to do. I ended up marrying that girl anyway. It was a worthwhile investment at the time,” he said.
“I am fully committed to Antiskeptic now. We’ve been through so many things that I think the relationships are well tempted and quite solid now. We are all kind of grown up.” The time apart has made Antiskeptic take a step back and look at how they do things. Looking down this barrel has made them change the way they write and the way they want to sound.
The band has turned into a long distance relationship, with Coppin moving up to Brisbane, and Daly and Kitchen staying put in Melbourne. Daly said it is funny situation for a band, but it suits them.
“When he (Coppin) lived in Melbourne, we didn’t really jam that much and we’ve never been a band that has needed to rehearse. We just didn’t notice a great change,” he said. “Now that he is gone we are like, “Oh, if you were here”. It was a case of we didn’t know what we had until it was gone. We still get together periodically to do writing together and usually that coincides with a show in Melbourne.”
When they got together to write the new EP, they were actually aiming to write their third long player as Daly explains; “We had predominantly focused ourselves on writing another album and we started doing that two years ago, but we found that the more and more we tried, the more and more we came up with, it was just sounding like Aurora part two. It was just an extension of the last record and that’s okay sometimes. Some bands really like to flow on organically from one release to another, but we felt we were just going to be reproducing. So we put ourselves to the task of writing something really different and that takes time.
“The whole way we write songs has changed. Andrew Kitchen our singer/guitarist is the primary songwriter. He would come to us with fully finished song ideas, you know melodies, words and guitars for us to learn a song and then we would contribute our ideas to it. That has been consistent for us in the last five years, but now we’ve decided to do things differently by bringing a song idea to a rehearsal, and then jamming it out together and everyone puts their input in. It sparks off this creativity that wasn’t present in our old material. We have really fired up with what happens when we get together because it only happens when we get together. None of us can really pull it off on our computers at home.
“We pretty much emptied our piggy bank to make the album. We demoed about 13 songs, maybe more. We did two different demo days where we went in and recorded loads of songs and that comes back to what I said before that we felt a lot of them were covering old ground. These four were the best four. There could have been a couple more. We all had different views and these were the ones that we agreed on. We thought four killer tracks; lets scrap the rest and start again. We didn’t want to put out a ten-track album with four mad songs and six fillers. We thought that’s just not cool. We are not that depressed yet. We still have the arty-farty integrity of an indie band to say, “Nah man, lets do it this way”.
“We’ve already committed to writing more material in the same fashion. Doing it live, writing it on the spot in rehearsal. The stuff we are coming up with is even further down a line and surprises me. I’m like wow!”
Monuments was recorded at Sing Sing Studios and Rangemaster, and was mixed by producer Matt Lovell, whose most recent work includes Eskimo Joe’s Black Fingernails, Red Wine. It has a different sound and different feel to any of Antiskeptic’s previous work and Daly believes that it is almost illegal to keep calling the band by the same name.
“Should we still call ourselves Antiskeptic if we are going to play this kind of thing?” he demands. “We are taking a journey and we are hopefully going to take everyone along with us. We are still Antiskeptic at our core and at all of our shows you are going to hear us play songs that belong to the other records, but I feel like we are cutting a new thing for ourselves to follow up with another release, and go out and tour and push ourselves into new areas and new directions.”
And they did, Antiskeptic has put everything they have into Monuments and I think old and new fans will agree. It is short and sweet and experimental, but Daly said it best when he called it “a fresh collection of songs.”
“I love it. I feel like it is a really fresh CD for us. The two things I like most about it are: that I love the really different mix we got. We used Matt Lovell to mix it for us and it sounds really different for us. He was a hot new producer and we thought this guy is going to pull a mix that doesn’t sound anything like what we’ve done, so lets go for it and in a way it was a bit of a risk because you can never quite tell where something is going to go. But we got him on board and said Matt go nuts, do what you think will sound good. I am really thrilled with just having something that sonically stands out from the rest of our material and then second to that: I just love the songs, they are really diverse, really different for us again. It’s fresh.
“There are two things that are different. Andrew has a lot more room to sing now because on his guitar he is playing less and is able to do more vocally. Nick and I are carrying the weight of the rhythm section. The other thing is I am singing a lot more on this release than I ever have before, so it is more of a two vocal approach then it is a main and backing approach, which it was in the past. I enjoy the two vocal dynamic a lot, so I am always up for the challenge to see what we can do with it ourselves.”
The single off Monuments is the opening track ‘Dancing On The Inside’, which the band has just completed a film clip for. The EP will be released with a DVD featuring in-studio clips to all four tracks, commentary from the band and a live performance from Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena last year. But after all that, the stand out on this EP is the epic final track ‘Hallelujah’, which goes for 8.39 minutes.
“There are a lot of cool bands out there that get to do those big long songs on the end of their albums and we’ve done it with out last two records as well,” Daly said. “The last tracks on both of our albums have been quite long songs because you always feel like it is the last track, you can get away with anything. A band like Jimmy Eat World has certainly set a standard for doing that. They have a lot of long ending songs as well and it is great to listen to. We thought we would put one of those on an EP because no one does that and it was a good song. We didn’t want to cut it down to fit any kind of pigeonhole.
“As far as the jamming thing comes along, the song goes for so long because when we wrote it, we were video taping our rehearsals. As we were doing that I would later on make copies of them and send them off to everyone so that we could keep track of what we were writing together. One time we were playing that song through and writing it, and we got to what we thought was going to be the end of that song, but no one really looked at each other and we kept playing and stuff just started to happen and fall together.”
Daly said they would probably play ‘Hallelujah’ first at their upcoming gigs to spin people out.
Catch Antiskeptic at a city near you:
Thursday, August 10 – The Troubadour, Brisbane with Angelas Dish
Friday, August 11 – Spectrum, Sydney with Angelas Dish
Saturday, August 12 – Northern Star, Newcastle with Angelas Dish
NOTE: A regional tour later in the year depends on the success of Monuments, so everyone get out and buy it.