Brisbane five-piece We Set Sail has been creating music that teeters on the edges of post-rock, emo, and grunge since their formation in 2008. With two LPs and coveted support slots for post-hardcore bands like Thursday, Balance and Composure, and La Dispute under their belt, the band is working on new music. “Ordinary” is the latest release from their forthcoming record.
We caught up with We Set Sail’s Andy Martin (guitar), Benjamin Breitenstein (drums), and Remy Boccalatte (bass) to talk about how they formed, their favorite bands, and their plans for the next album.
How did the band get together?
Andy: We had another band going with a few other members — me and Jimmy (guitar) — we were playing across the room from one of Paul’s (vox, guitar) bands and he heard us play and was like, “Hey, I wanna get in on that.” Along the way, we’ve had members join with Ben playing drums and Remy now playing bass for us. Everyone pretty much heard each other’s music and was like, “Hey, that guy’s really cool. Join the band, it’d be great!” We’ve been really lucky to have a lot of friends. Like when our last bass player left — Hayden — we pretty much asked Remy straight away.
Remy: It’s a really close scene for musos, particularly in Brisbane. The band Andy was just talking about now — that Paul left — was the band I played with him in 10 years ago. We’ve already known each other in the scene for quite a while now.
What’s the music scene in Brisbane like?
R: I’d say there’s a thriving scene. It’s a small city; if you play music, the chances are you pretty much know most of or at least one person in one of the bands. [The scene] is definitely growing. There are a lot of bands here that are just starting off and a lot that have held the same for the last 10, 15, 20 years as well. So yeah, it’s a good small scene. You don’t feel as though you get lost. It’s really supportive.
What drew everyone to music?
Ben: Well, I think like a lot of us we all just started playing music in high school and we’re the suckers who could never shake it off.
A: I don’t think we’re good at anything else (laughs).
R: I didn’t start playing guitar until after high school, actually. I guess it’s cathartic for me.
For people who haven’t heard your music, how would you describe it?
R: The songs are pretty simple in terms of their structures. So in that regard they’re kind of pop-oriented, like pop rock, but not really. There are so many influences that everybody listens to, I guess they sort of culminate together in what we do.
B: When I first started playing with the band, I remember after the first couple of shows we played together there were a couple of reviews and stuff that came out and people who kept saying how “proggy” we were. It’s just funny, I never thought of us as a prog band. I guess it was proggy in terms of it was a bit unconventional. Other people always talk about us in ways that we kind of never consider ourselves, I suppose, which is kind of interesting. It’s a lot of different things to different people.
A: We’re like post-rock for people with low attention spans (laughs).
B: Yeah, exactly (laughs). To be fair, I think our much, much earlier stuff was probably way more post-rockier. If you go on our Bandcamp, there’s a couple of little two-track splitty things which are even way more post-rocky. That was stuff that was written before I was in the band so I listen to it as a listener first, not as a member.
Bandcamp also has your debut LP Rivals and my personal favorite Feel Nothing. Both have movie samples sprinkled throughout. There are bits from High Fidelity, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Rocky. There’s also a snippet of an interview with Kurt Cobain. Can you talk about the band’s affinity for sampling?
B: Paul really led the way on all those things. He’s always the creative mind behind the sampling selections. I think there were a few bands that did that and it was something that really stuck out to Paul.
R: We just didn’t wanna sing as much (laughs).
A: There’s a band called Hundred Year Storm. I don’t think they’re that well known; they’re sort of a post-rocky band. They had some cool little samples in there, and we heard that and we’re like, “That’s really, really cool.” A bunch of Australian bands were sort of adding here and there at the end of songs. I think we just kind of talked about how cool it would be just to have throughout songs, and we really like movies and talking about movies and stuff. Also, we won’t have to sing as much (laughs).
What are you working on now?
B: There’s a third record that’s 99% recorded. [Jimmy] does all the mixing. He’s basically working through the mixes of the songs one at a time. I think we’re about three or four deep right now. It’s gonna be a longer album overall than the last stuff we’ve done, which is cool and it’s probably why it’s taking a bit longer as well. This band has always been low stress, low pressure. We just take bites at it whenever we can. In the meantime we just think about how we’re gonna deal with the release of it, I suppose, and all the promotion and all that stuff that isn’t very much fun but kind of has to happen.
When’s the projected release for that?
It’ll probably be like March next year or something.
What’s your favorite album from start to finish?
B: I love this question. I guess for me it would have to be Siamese Dream by the [Smashing] Pumpkins. I think the reason why that question is really good, at least for us right now, is because something that we really, really, really want to do with this new record that we’re making is for it to be a journey from start to finish. It’s not just a mix tape or collection of bangers, you know what I mean? That’s the hope at least.
R: I’m still stuck in the ‘90s, I guess. Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity. The first American Football album. Thematically and just really holistically from start to finish. Yeah, once you put it on, you’re in for the long haul.
A: I’ll be really lame and say Silverchair’s Freakshow. It’s just a really good album that experiments so much with weird tunings, and the melodies are really amazing and still quite, quite aggressive. It gets that teenage angst out of me.
B: Andy loves a riff (laughs).
A: I’m really big into riffs (laughs). Just kind of like dirty, almost nu-metal kind of riffs that come out of that album. So good.
Nu-metal gets a bad rap, but there are some gems from it like Deftones and Wes Borland, who’s one of my favorite guitarists.
A: It has sort of a nasty connotation, but I love those kind of dirty riffs. Wes Borland’s guitar tone on those albums is one of my favorite guitar tones. It’s so beefy and saturated, I feel like Kurt Cobain himself would be like, “That’s a nice guitar tone.”
What else is everyone listening to?
B: Something that was just on my mind is a band called Criteria. They only put out two albums. The last one came out in 2006; it’s one of the guys from Cursive. They’re just a criminally underrated band. The reason they were on my mind is I was on Spotify and it said they only had like 800 monthly listeners and I’m like, “That’s nothing! Why aren’t more people listening to these bands?” (laughs) But it’s just so, so, so good. So that would be my tip because I sort of rediscovered their album this week. Some mates of ours who we help out and they help us out a bit, literally just last week put out a new record, is a band called Brief Habits. They’re sort of in a similar vein of what we do, although it’s a little bit more laid back.
A: I’ve been listening to Microwave’s new album Death is a Warm Blanket. They’re kinda like a weird rock, grungy sort of Smashing Pumpkins-ish kind of thing. Really good. That and a band called You Blew It.
R: I’ll probably speak for Paul and myself and talk about The Appleseed Cast. Their new album, after not having done anything for the last six years, is such a return to their best stuff. Just their kind of take on drum patterns and breaking song standards…And not really underground, but the fact that David Bazan has redone the Pedro the Lion name. He’s definitely one of my favorite lyricists. Top five for sure. Those two would be mine currently.
You share a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and are generally pretty open with your fans on social media. Can you touch on that?
B: It’s probably me and Paul who try to keep stuff coming through on the social media. I guess every band feels that pressure that they just need to be posting even if it’s nothing interesting or whatever. There’s kind of that constant pressure to be in front of people because your numbers start to drop if you don’t (laughs). But I think the reason for that kind of candidness is that it’s just way more effort to put on a persona, you know what I mean? And to try and pretend like you’re some big huge band, which a lot of bands do because I think they probably feel like they have to look like they’re more than they are. Whereas for us, it’s easier to just be like, you know what, we’re just five working-class dudes approaching middle age who like to get together and play music sometimes. And I don’t think we have any shame in just being quite honest about that.
A: We know we’re not cool (laughs).
R: The film clips work better when you don’t have to pay for anybody else, that’s why they’re so DIY (laughs).
What’s the overall goal for the band?
R: I essentially just want to keep writing good music. And from a really basic point of view, it’s just about doing the music that we like to play and bringing out the best in each other as musicians, and whether that connects to other listeners is largely inconsequential, really. There’s no delusions that we’re trying to be the big thing. As long as we can continue making music and growing as musicians together, then that’s all you can ask for.
A: I just really like sharing music with people. Writing music is one of my favorite things in the world. So I just like doing that and getting to share with people is just extra special, especially if it helps someone going through a hard time. That’s pretty much my favorite thing. So it makes me feel good knowing I’m making other people feel good.
B: It’s that thing of what I was saying before. Having an album that you can put on from start to finish and kind of just get lost in it. And then as well as that, it’s just holding that record in your hands. Yeah, it’s that sense of accomplishment, I suppose. It’s always weird hearing something that you made, but it’s kind of satisfying as well, I suppose. It’s always been therapy for us. It’s the reason to get together and hang out and write music for the sake of that thing that is fun about writing music.
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