Q & A with sleepmakeswaves

Post-rock trailblazers sleepmakeswaves are still riding high from the success of their epic triple j Like A Version of ‘Children’ by Robert Miles and have now announced a whirwind tour of Queensland in between their heavy stints of international touring.

The band will perform at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND Festival for the first time on Thu Sep 7, followed by headline shows on the Sunshine Coast at Sol Bar on Fri Sep 8 and the Gold Coast at Minimum Wage Club on Sat Sep 9. The shows continue the epic worldwide ‘Made of Breath Only’ tour in support of their ARIA #15 album, which has included shows across Asia, Australia, New Zealand and venturing through the UK and Europe during August and October.

Known for the passionate energy they bring to live instrumental rock, the band will take their epic and climactic live show to Solbar for their first ever performance on the Sunshine Coast. They will be premiering new material from the album for the first time, as well as favourites from their previous ARIA-nominated albums ‘Love of Cartography’ and ‘…and so we destroyed everything.’

But before they head to Solbar, we wanted to catch up and see what makes SMW tick...

G'day lads. First things first, nicely done with Made of Breath Only. The new album sounds amazing - such beautiful sonic landscapes, with the right amount of intensity. How long was the process of putting all the pieces of this album together?

Thank you, really glad you dig the record. It took just over a year, and our work rate increased gradually throughout - culminating in a very hectic final month of polishing and refining and finishing. We write quite slowly and often scrap big sections of songs to go back to the drawing board or discard them entirely if we don't feel they're quite kicking enough ass.

You have a massive European tour coming up... do you feel that those European audiences connect on a different level with you than the home audiences?

It's difficult to generalise. There are subtle differences and patterns that I've started to feel are valid after having gone back there to play shows several times, but you never know if the energy is just that crowd in that room on that particular night. Sometimes you get really lucky and the stars align and the vibe is just perfect. We try to go into every show taking that optimism and energy with us.

What has been awesome to notice is that an instrumental prog band has been getting a lot of attention (including a triple j Like a Version slot), as well as getting added to Australian festival slots... why do you think there's been a larger acceptance of such a niche genre?

It's been pretty rad to get the nod for these bigger opportunities, but I wouldn't say it's necessarily representative of any broader shifts in attitudes towards this kind of music. Essentially we've just been around for so long that we've built up the kind of audience that justifies our inclusion on these lineups. It's still a massive tough slog to get this far, this band has been going for 10 years now, but we're grateful to be included on the festival lineups that'll have us and want to give our heavy weird band a chance. As for triple j, they're just naturally supportive of local and weird music, and really have supported us from early on. It was very special for us to get the opportunity to perform on Like A Version.

When creating the songs, do you often have a mental imagery of what you are trying to convey, or is it more of a situation where the songs tend to take you on a journey (in that they write themselves)?

It has varied over our career. With this last record we were quite intentional in setting out to write with this image of the Arctic/Antarctic in mind. This endless bleak wasteland of ice felt right as a visual metaphor for the fragile but often painful beauty of our relationships with one another. Other than that, the process of writing the individual tracks is more about trying to hone into a consistent and captivating emotional quality that links each section and drives the song forward in a compelling way.  It's not like 'oh this song will be about a boat' or whatever. It's more about keeping the mood right. We usually name the songs after they're complete, in a sort of reverse engineering of the track's aura. 

You're heading to the Sunshine Coast to play Solbar on September 8 (from memory, this is the first time you've played here?)... now, I've seen you live before (supporting Cog), but for those that have very little knowledge of who you are or what you do, how would you describe a sleepmakeswaves show?

Yes, this will be our first time at the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Quite a long way from our grim visions of Antarctic wastelands! But don't worry, we'll double down on the heaviness to make up for it. The shows are the most important part of this project, and represent the songs as we most want them to be experienced. It's a crushing wall of riffs, interspersed with moments of quiet electronic prettiness. We try to ensure everything is clear and audible but also immense and powerful. We're a heavy instrumental band with a lot of electronic influences and that pretty much sums it up. See you there!