As you know, Yowie are sick. Parsing any Yowie is not always an easy feat; there’s a lot scrambling up-hill to be done in Cryptooology and Damning With Faint Praise. But behind the ugly vivacity and complex cacophony, there is something deep and very compelling. One must approach Yowie like they would a Thomas Pynchon novel. It’s difficult to swallow when taken prima facie. You need to chip away at it, really immerse yourself in it in order for the poetry to shine bright.
And it is much the same format in their upcoming album Synchromysticism, an album even more relentless than its priors. To prove it, we are proudly premiering ‘The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You’, the fourth track from the album. We also chatted to percussion wizard Defenestrator about Synchromysticism‘s impending doom…
Tell us a little bit about the new album. How long has Synchromysticism been in the works?
We have been working on these compositions since early 2012. One of them, Mysterium Tremendum, is a version of a piece we wrote to perform on our 2012 European tour, in support of “Damning With Faint Praise.” That composition was the first we wrote with Chris Trull (formerly of Grand Ulena). We massively revised it once we returned from tour. We spent another 3-4 years writing the rest of the album and nearly a year on recording prep. So that should give you a sense of the scope for this one. It’s far more ambitious than anything we’ve done previously.
What can listeners expect this time round?
For this album, we were insistent on doing something quite different than we have ever done before, while staying true to our identity as a group. At every juncture, we forced a sense of natural flow, of intuitive sounding movement into these pieces, which is not what people typically associate with Yowie, or with avant garde/experimental music. So this has been an extreme challenge to pull off, both compositionally and in execution. We took all of the non-intuitive and difficult processes we typically employ (e.g., serial drumming, various types of polyrhythms, a feral hostility to common time signature), which are usually angular and disconcerting to listeners, but we painstakingly crafted smooth sounding edges in order to create that sense of natural motion. But there is very little that is intuitive about this album; the sense of flow is an illusion. As we wrote these parts and meticulously stitched them together and sanded down the rough edges, we kept joking that we would know whether we had succeeded in our alchemical quest if the audience started dancing. And they have!
You’ve been away from the recording room for a while. Have you been playing music in between? Is it easy to step back into the recording environment.
Well, we have been writing and practicing these compositions, about 3 times a week for five years or so, so I would not call it easy. In truth, nailing this album was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I think the rest of the crew would agree. The studio, for this album in particular, was a place of extreme stress, as our engineer could attest. These pieces are especially difficult to pull off flawlessly, but even that aside, I personally hate recording more than any other activity. So the day I am finished with the studio for another few years brings a sense of tremendous relief. It’s much easier and more enjoyable for me to write, or to perform live. This time, I felt like I wanted to go to the hospital once the recording was in the can.
Most of your music sits loosely within the jazz/math/noise rock niches. I’m totally extrapolating here, but do you think working within a particularly niche style of music is an advantage? Or a disadvantage?
I am not sure what niche we are in. When I think of noise, I don’t think of this; I think of improvisational soundscapes, or alternatively, just sort of loud, raucous rock music that is usually pretty repetitive. And it’s hard for me to say this is jazzy in any way; there is no improvisation, and we are.in truth, using mutated and tortured rock idioms. As far as math, there certainly is a lot of mathematics involved in the compositions, but usually when I hear someone label a band “math,” I hear sort of melodic tap-on guitar music that repeats a lot (the common definition of this term seems to have changed from the old days, when Yowie started out, when I started hearing “math rock” used). None of these things seem to capture what we do. So I am not sure what niche we fall in, if any. We just play what interests and challenges us, and so that is an advantage; we are deeply engaged with the writing process and much of what we play is extremely physically and cognitively demanding. Maybe this is our own niche. I am not sure I know of other bands that sound like we do on this album. The disadvantage to playing extreme music is that very few people will hear it, no matter how good it is. There is a cultural/economic barrier to simply allowing it to be heard.
How does a Yowie song start? Do you each bring ideas into the rehearsal room, or do you just see where jams and improv take you?
In our 17 years of existence, we have never improvised anything. It is against our religion. We often start with a rhythm or set of rhythms in the most basic form- often times, just a series of accents, and then start dividing, and subdividing those until we find the desired effect. We will have a string of numbers or visually displayed accents on one of our dry erase boards, and we will keep playing it in the band room until it starts to give up its hidden essence. We record every single part we write, and then send it out to the band members after each practice for review. critique, and revision. Then next time we elaborate on what we found wrong or missing with it. We do this for each part, and each composition has dozens of these. We have a computer with many hundreds of parts on it, most of them waiting for their chance to get their 5 seconds of fame on the next album. So no, I think what we do is the exact opposite of jamming. Jamming is intuitive; what we do is meticulously planned and aggressively non-intuitive. That has always been the case for us, but on this album, we fool the listener. If you think upon listening this is maybe not so esoteric, try playing it. This album is filled with deception.
Have you got any tours lined up post-release?
No, not yet, which is disappointing. We were really hoping to line up a festival or two in Europe, but so far we haven’t achieved that (Dear Readers, send help). We are expecting that once people hear this album, they will start to take notice. Every time we perform this material live, we get a very visceral response from the audience, even when we are playing in front of crowds that are not necessarily into avant garde music. We have, I think, tapped into something that provokes a strong reaction, and deserves to be heard. We have played this material in front of metal crowds, in front of pop crowds, in front of just large gatherings and groups that you wouldn’t think are into something extreme, and they are responding to this material differently than for anything else we have done, by design.
But we are really hoping to get something together to support this album. Speaking for myself, I have never before felt satisfied with a Yowie album, but this time, we have really pushed ourselves mentally and physically, and actually have a recorded album that lives up to what we set out to do. I think this one is really unique, and has actually come to fruition compositionally, in execution, and in the technical aspects of the sound quality. We did something we think is important on this album. Hopefully listeners will agree and get us to their part of the world to play it for them. We have furiously, almost ascetically, devoted ourselves to this album; if it doesn’t impress, then I am at a complete loss for what does.
Synchromysticism is out on the 21st of April. You can pre-order the release right now over at the SKIN GRAFT Records bandcamp page. Prepare for noise.