A moment with Ballarat progressive rockers Scyphozoan

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A moment with Ballarat progressive rockers Scyphozoan

2020 has been a rough year so far, pretty much for everyone. But it hasn’t stopped talented Australian artists from doing what they do best, creating art. February saw the release of Scyphozoan’s newest album Arrive – bringing their heavy/progressive rock sounds mixed with some cosmic melodies.

We sit down with Scyphozoan’s Eymon Smith and dive into the band’s creative process, influences behind the recent album, and the Ballarat music scene.

First up, in one sentence- how would you describe Scyphozoan?
Progressive, melodic, heavy and a bit creepy.

Congrats on the recent release of your newest album Arrive. Talk us through the creative process – did you all bring ideas together on this one? How long was it in the works for?
It depends on the song! Each song has its own developmental process. Some, like ‘Skipping Stones’, have been in development for years, being written and re-written. I just had to get it out of my head and onto an album so I could move on!

Each song has a story to it, either imagined or real, and through that, the music comes. The most important element of each story is the cathartic resolution and a hopeful ending.

Some songs I conceive and record mostly by myself. Naomi and Michael always contribute with ideas, feedback and production tips. Others, like ‘Arrive’, are much collaborative. Michael initiated that song with some excellent heavy riffs, and I was able to concentrate on what we call ‘chicken salt’. Michael bought the chips, and I added the salt.

All in, the album took a solid 12 months of work, with the final song written one week before release. We’re aiming for one release each year right now, just while we find and cement our sound.

You’ve injected some cosmic melodies to the album. Who are some of the band’s influences for this sound?
Melodically, a lot of inspiration has been taken from Tesseract. I wouldn’t compare my melodies to theirs, but I can always dream! There’s also the granddaddies of prog metal, Tool, and the best of the Australian alternative-prog in Karnivool and Cog.

In terms of lyrical content, is the music a direct reflection of personal situations when writing these tracks?
There are three tracks that have most definitely come from personal situations: ‘Rent is Free’, ‘One and the Same’, and ‘Flagg’. These have all been important ways of working through difficult situations for myself and others in the band. We’re lucky to have this outlet!

Other lyrics are more imagined situations or stories. There are several songs between our first EP and latest album that follow the same plot which is your typical ‘end-of-the-world’ kind of thing. One day we might re-record these songs and release them as an EP!

Who have you worked with on production and mixing?
Everything we do is home-based. This is probably not a good thing to admit, but our ‘studio’ is a cheap interface, a few microphones and a lot of trial and error!

We noticed a special cover of Tears For Fears 1985 hit ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’. Performed in your unique style, I did a double-take upon listening. Talk us through this one, what led to the decision to include a cover, and this song in particular?
Michael bought up the idea of a cover several times over the last couple of years, and decided that ‘Everybody wants to rule the world’ would be the best fit for us. He was right, and we had a fantastic time re-writing this one in our way. It really fits nicely with a lot of the music we create, with the rhythmic bass lines and flow between parts. It’s also has a very similar theme to what we write, so fits nicely with the rest of our dooms-day storylines.

It’s been three years now since Scyphozoan was formed. What are the biggest things that have changed or have been discovered in the band?
We’re still figuring ourselves out, but the last release has helped in that regard tremendously. Previously we’ve been concentrating on music as a means of just telling a story. Lately, however, we’ve discovered that the story is secondary to the ‘truth’ of the song. That change happened in the title track of the latest album ‘Arrive’, which doesn’t tell a story at all; It conveys an emotion. Now it’s about marrying the old Scyphozoan way with the new. That’s what we’re working on and I think the way forward.

We understand the band was born from the frustration at pressure to perform shows before being musically ready – for Scyphozoan, what defines being ready to translate to a live setting? Have you guys performed a live show as yet?
No live shows for us yet, partly because we don’t have a full roster of musicians, but mostly because we aren’t ready. Michael and I have been writing together since 2011, and in a band together prior to Scyphozoan. In that band there was a conflict of priorities, leading to less than desirable gigs. No one wants to see four or five dipshits play a half-arsed show! Once we’re fully prepared, and once we have a full contingency of musicians who are on the same wave-length, then we’ll be ready.

We believe you’re working towards release #3, set to be darker and more rhythmic as you hone in on your sound and push for a deeper and more immersive experience. Can you give us any more insight into this?
We’ve learned a lot in our last two releases about the sound we want to achieve and the way that we can produce it. It’s heavier, more emotional, darker and more progressive than anything we’ve attempted before. We’ve taken what we’ve learned from the tracks ‘Arrive’, ‘One and the Same’ and ‘The Fold’ and amplified it to create what we can proudly call our sound. So basically, lots of heavy guitars, melodic vocals (with some growling), and electronic drum-beats for accent! Also some weird shit but we’ll keep that under wraps for now!

Thanks for the chat guys! To finish off, what can you give us some insight into your opinion on the Ballarat music scene?
Ballarat has always had an amazing music scene, with some properly great bands. There’s been some sadness with the closure of Karova, but there have been rumours that there’s a new venue on its way. I’ve not been actively involved in Ballarat’s music scene (as a performing musician) for about a decade now, so it’s hard for me to guess how it’s weathered in the meantime but I know there has always been a really supportive network of people here ready to help and give unknown musos a chance. It’s always been less jaded than the Melbourne scene. It’s more willing to give a new band or musician a go, irrespective of potential ticket sales or people at the bar. I can only hope that it stays supportive of amateur musicians and unknown bands like it was in 2010 when I was gigging in Ballarat on the reg. It was a good scene, and I hope it remains to be a good scene.

Keep up to date with the latest from the band via Facebook.