‘The Art Of Flying While Falling’: MayhemTom’s long-awaited album is an antidote for pain and grief

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‘The Art Of Flying While Falling’: MayhemTom’s long-awaited album is an antidote for pain and grief


In celebration of his debut LP release 'The Art Of Flying While Falling', which came out on September 9, the show will see him, and his six bandmates descend upon the stage on Thursday October 13.

The maiden album commences with an evocative string section overlayed atop the lyrics “look outside it’s a beautiful, wonderful day” in the opening track ‘Wonder. Crescendoing into a rather abrupt stop the next track comes in with a more brooding feel, but an equally dynamic arrangement that also features strings.

The single release ‘Falling’ then starts, with an uplifting piano melody ubiquitous throughout the duration of the track. As the album progresses the arrangements of the songs weave their way in and out of melancholic melodies and chord progressions that will have the listeners wanting to shake out any harboured pain and grief – a motif abundant in the album.

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When he isn’t working as the deputy director of Melbourne’s Peter McCallum Cancer Centre, MayhemTom is writing and constructing songs – a practice that despite an extended period of absence, has re-established itself as a dependable means of managing grief and pain for the artist.

“Writing and playing music has been integral to who I am,” says MayhemTom. “It’s been what I’ve done for years and years, so in some ways it seemed strange to have walked away from it when I did, so going back to it was great.”

A departure from song writing seemed necessary at the time for MayhemTom, as he ran the risk of failing medicine school.

“I was in fifth-year med school, out of six. We played this gig on a Thursday night at a little bar in Brunswick and we went on at 2am, we used to play for two and a half hours. By the time I got home and got to bed, it was 5:30am and I had an exam at 8am. I did this exam and I thought ‘oh I’ll be alright’ – I had managed so far. I failed and at that point I went ‘I really have to make a decision here, I can’t keep doing this.’”

“So that was when I left the band, after failing that exam, and I got completely engulfed in medicine after that. It was a fork in the road, and I couldn’t do both, it was pretty clear at that point. I just stopped playing and stopped writing or doing anything. [Medicine] became all-encompassing and I didn’t have time to do anything for years and years.”

It was the recognition of burnout that made MayhemTom reconsider his relationship with music, or rather the disconnection that had occurred due to his devotion to cancer research and medicine.

“You deal with the grief, [the patient’s] family’s grief. For years I never thought the grief affected me. And then about five years ago I think I just went through a period of burnout and the thing with burnout is you don’t know you’re going through it until after you’ve recognised it.

“There were periods where I really got sucked into grief and despair and found it hard to detach. That was when I went ‘I need to get back to what I used to do when I was feeling grief and despair’ and I went back to music and playing and then writing and this album came out of that. It’s very much a dark album.”

Despite identifying with the genre of dark indie rock as a means of describing his new album and its sound, MayhemTom acknowledges his early relationship with classical music, specifically the violin, as playing a vital role in his musical development.

“I’m quite into similar sort of darkish, indie bands, like The National, Radiohead – well I don’t know if you’d really call them indie anymore – Courtney Barnett, you know those sorts of bands that create music where the lyrics have some meat in them, that make you think or gives you an emotive response.

“But I started off playing classical music, I played violin for an orchestra and was able to feed that through. It was good to go back and use all that knowledge and information that I’d gathered over the years.”

MayhemTom has predominantly ditched the violin and recently simplified his song writing process, choosing to generate songs from poems and melodies. However, MayhemTom did manage to factor in a cello solo on one of the songs within the album.

“A lot of these songs [from the album] started with a melody and a poem,” says MayhemTom, “and then were built around it. Rather than starting with a set of chords, which is probably how I used to do things. I’d always be trying to put in chords that were strange or dissonant in some way, but this time it was the other way round, it was the melody that started things off rather than the chord.”

There are however tracks throughout the album that showcase the inspiration MayhemTom has found from other genres of music. For example, in the track ‘Noose’, the verse is driven by a bassline and guitar riff that draws parallels with funk music, only to build into a pre-chorus that establishes a tension so taut it snaps quickly back into the funk-fuelled sound that preceded it.

This process seems to be working for MayhemTom, in both a therapeutic and creative sense. Two experiences that are complementary.

“I’m hoping to put out another album. The process has continued and I’m still really enjoying it.”

Find out more info here, or buy tickets to MayhemTom’s launch show here. Follow MayhemTom on socials and listen to his music on Bandcamp here.

This article was made in partnership with MayhemTom.