INTERVIEW: Felicity Jayne, Loko McDonald and Jamie McVicker (INTRØSPECT)
They're the band who almost weren't; a group years in the making through chance encounters and like-minded connections, Sydney's latest prog powerhouse Intrøspect have sprung to life in elegantly heavy fashion after a horde of hurdles and determination with a thunderous debut single Ad Astra.
Drawing on influences from Northlane, Polaris, TesseracT and beyond, this ethereal female-fronted band arrive armed with a finely tuned blend of ambient tones and roaring riffs that offers utter sonic immersion that is both deeply personal and exquisitely universal. And while the road to existence has not been without its obstacles, this lot's patience has not been in vain, cracking over 10k views of their debut music video Ad Astra in the space of 72 hours, scoring their first ever gig alongside fellow prog behemoths Opus of a Machine and Glass Ocean in November (also doubling as their EP launch) while whipping up a heap of industry attention along the way - and all just within days of releasing their first ever single.
Looking now to the release of their debut EP, which shares its name with their lead single, this is undoubtedly the beginning of something truly special from this pack of passionate progsters. And just before the group unleashed their first single, Tiana Speter grabbed vocalist Felicity Jayne and axe-men Loko McDonald and Jamie McVicker for Intrøspect's first ever interview to chat origin stories, optimism and what's to come from this dynamic quartet. Full interview below.
AD ASTRA (INTRØSPECT)
TIANA: Well hello Felicity, Loko and Jamie! It's so awesome to chat to you all today, on a side-note I copped a listen of the EP recently and my jaw literally dropped...
LOKO: Yes, sick! That's good to hear. Jamie and I have been working on it for almost three years. And then Felicity came in as well obviously, not to deflect that. But yeah, it's been a long time coming!
TIANA: That perfectly leads into the first question I wanted to ask you, actually! Obviously you are "technically" emerging this year, but how did the inception of this project actually happen?
JAMIE: I guess it started with, more of less, a complete EP...well not complete, but the guts of the EP were there kind of from an early stage. I'd been in other bands and hadn't had much success with that, and I just took a lot of content that I felt needed to be turned into a thing. So I had all of these songs that I was sitting on, but no band for a long time...and I finally thought that it would be a good idea to try and make these songs so I approached Loko...
LOKO: Yeah! Randomly!
JAMIE: You can round off that story about how I met you!
LOKO: I met Jamie through James Ivanyi, a Sydney-based prog guitarist. And we went out to dinner one night for James' birthday, and Jamie was there and we had a chat, and it turns out we went to the same school! So we were just like "holy shit, this is crazy!". And then we got to know each other, hated each other more and more everyday, as the usual progression goes..
JAMIE: Yes, yes.
LOKO: (laughs) And then he contacted me and said "hey, I've got all this music, I really want to put it together, do you want to work together?". And I was like "yeah, that'd be unreal!". And this was when I was in a band myself, we were about to do tours so I was pretty keen to just sit down and write some music that I really connected with, which was Jamie's music. I've always been a prog fan, a prog-boy through and through. So, we just sat in my room, he'd sent me the guitar tracks and most of them were fucking impossible to play. But! We workshopped it and did the drums and recorded some stuff, and sent our first song off originally. Then it kind of fell on its feet a bit, but it was fine because we got a chance to sit back and really produce songs that we wanted to, and we felt a bit more connected to these ones. So - yeah, it was a long process, but we eventually got there. We had a lot of hurdles to try to get it recorded because we were learning more about it every single day, and it turns out we hadn't learnt enough when we went to the studio...(laughs). And that brings us to when Jamie met Felicity, which is the next part..
FELICITY: That was the longest answer to a question I've ever heard. So you guys met each other and wrote lots of music and connected with it, and then you met me.
LOKO: God we're good blokes!
INTRØSPECT: Felicity Jayne, Loko McDonald, Jamie McVicker, Hugo Rumore
TIANA: So, then having Felicity come into it, how did that come about, I mean obviously she's got a kick-ass voice, but did you guys have an intention of what you were aiming for with a vocalist?
LOKO: Yeah, you guys met at...was it Plini? The Plini gig?
JAMIE: Yeah, I was filming Plini's gig, and a mutual friend of ours, Emmy from Music Feeds was there. I spotted her and went over and started chatting. And she was with Felicity and Emmy asked me how the band was going and I was like "oh it's alright, we just need a vocalist". And then Emmy was like "well, Felicity is a vocalist and needs a band!". And so we just sent her some stuff and she started singing over it and it all sounded really good. It was really a magic moment for me because by that time our previous vocalist had left the band and, to me, it was almost a dead project at that point. And then Felicity breathed new life into it. It was really nice, actually.
FELICITY: You know what's funny, I was looking in my calendar before and we actually met, that Plini gig was on the 8th of September...and our single is being released on the 13th of September. So give or take three or four days, we're literally releasing our first single twelve months after we met!
TIANA: Oh, stop it! It's too beautiful!
FELICITY: I know! We should've picked the 8th!
LOKO: Dude, that was like the last gig I had with my best mate Cameron before he left for overseas! We all went and I saw Jamie and gave him hell, obviously. I was like "oh, you should be working, I'm gonna feed you beers!". And I didn't end up meeting Felicity. But yeah, then I did the next week. It was a good sesh!
TIANA: And here we are twelve months later with you guys releasing your first single Ad Astra, and then of course the EP of the same name due out in a couple of weeks. As I mentioned earlier I have been oh so lucky to have listened to it already, and what I really ended up enjoying about it was the continuously shifting light and shade. And obviously there's a heap of optimism as well as lot of really emotional themes being touched on...but yet, you don't walk out feeling really bummed out about it, which is not a trait you always come across in the heavier worlds. I guess a couple of questions could come out of that fact, but I think ultimately I wanted to ask if the writing process was pretty fluid for you guys, did you have this pretty clear direction in place from the start about what these songs were eventually going to become?
LOKO: I think Jamie, you definitely did, I think you had a clear idea.
JAMIE: Yeah, the spirit of each song was intact from the beginning, but it's been shaped by instrumentation, with Felicity's voice and what Loko could bring as a lead player. I wrote the lyrics and they haven't changed much, and they were formed off my personal experience. There were things I thought I had to say, but Felicity and Loko have shaped it so much. We've re-written entire parts, taken bits out and changed lyrics to suit Felicity's voice, and also changed stuff to suit Loko's playing style. So it's kind of organically grown. I definitely had stuff that I wanted to say, but it's been shaped by us all along the way and I think that we all have equal share in it now.
FELICITY: That's what I love, the spirit has remained the same. It's kind of like that heartbeat of each song, that spirit or the vibe, the energy...it's never really changed, and that's the one thing that we really have is a huge connection as a band. I think literally since day one when we all met and started even talking about all the bits and pieces, listening and sharing and whatever - we've always been on the same page. And I feel like these songs are a big symbol of that. Even though they've been years in the making for Jamie, I think the spirit has been absolutely captured, and that's what's made it possible. We all have that connection to it regardless, and it's stayed there the whole time.
LOKO: Yeah, there were a lot of moments where, like, for the third full straight day in the studio where you're just like "oh man, this is just such a huge workload". But then when you hear the final result...I just had the biggest smile on my face when I heard the full version of Nyx (opening track for Intrøspect's upcoming EP Ad Astra) for the first time, I was just...oh my god. It was surreal, because that was the first single we worked on, do you remember Jamie? It was back in April 2017.
JAMIE: Yes, I've got an Instagram post from that session, I took my camera to it. Oh my god it's been a journey, and even before then, before we were doing that stuff...the main riff from Ad Astra I wrote in 2015, or 2016 I can't remember. There were a lot of times throughout this project where I thought maybe being in a band wasn't for me (laughs).
LOKO: You just gotta keep going though! Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going!
JAMIE + LOKO NYX SESSION, 2017
TIANA: Wise words for us all! But it's true, and you do get this sense from it, it's not a rush job, you can clearly tell a lot of painstaking effort has gone into it. And beyond just releasing this new music, and I say "just" when obviously it has been such a huge endeavour...but there are also plans to bust these tunes out live in the near future. While you're yet to have your debut live outing officially all together...what do you think we could expect from an Intrøspect live show?
LOKO: Well, we've had a couple of rehearsals hey, and they were fun to get together. But I think very high energy. The first time that I heard Sovereign, which is no doubt the heaviest song on the album...I was just wincing my face thinking about it, a lot of spin kicks and probably a jump into the pit. Lots of energy from my end, and I'm sure Jamie and Felicity feel the same.
JAMIE: I think it's the light and shade thing, the style that we're trying to go for is addressing a problem that I think is deep in the metal community. The dark, heavy sound is incredibly cathartic, and people use that to release negative emotion, and in that respect a lot of metal bands can be negatively focused. And I guess the question is - could you harness that cathartic energy, and then lead audiences or people who are listening to the music towards the light whilst letting off that steam?
FELICITY: And I think it's about providing that space for that as well, I think that's one of the big things that ties the metal community together. When a metalhead meets a fellow metalhead, or prog-lover...it's like "oh hey! So we already know we've got one thing in common and that is that we can go to this place with these thoughts and these energies that may be dark". But it's a safe place to take them and you work your own way through it, we all share that experience. It's kind of like the unsaid connection between heavy music lovers, I think, is knowing that safe space to listen and feel and express and if we can provide that safe space to do that, however people wish to at a show, whether it's moshing their fricking heads out or just standing there with their eyes closed and just taking all the vibrations in...for me, especially, I just want to be able to provide that space for the people watching to make it their own, like we've made it our own.
TIANA: Absolutely beautifully put! And it is such a unique community, to strip it back to a really simplistic kind of thing, it's almost like when you're a kid and you see another kid - and you're instantly friends just because you're both kids. I feel like every time I go to a prog show or a metal show or somewhere that I feel safe and connected to the music...it's just that amazing unspoken connection with other people, and your music definitely lends itself to that. I personally can't wait for the live show! And I'm sure you guys are probably even more excited than I am. But on the note of live music and you guys being a Sydney band especially...do you all feel from a musical perspective that Sydney is a fostering and supportive place for bands in these heavier realms?
JAMIE: I think Sydney's metal scene is pretty healthy, but it's had its ups and downs. I remember when the scene was a lot crazier when I was younger, you'd go to shows at Blacktown Masonic Hall and there were all these smaller venues with younger bands. And I think that's shrunk a little bit because venues are closing, I feel like our scene is a pretty sober, straight scene but has taken some hits as collateral in the war against Sydney's nightlife. But the Landsdowne's reopened, there's other rooms of the size that we would be able to play that are starting to open up...it seems like every month there's something new. Like, the Bald Face Stag has had a facelift as the Crowbar, and I'm quite optimistic and hopeful despite the fact that we've had some pretty average stuff going on in the Sydney music scene. Every prog show I've been to I've felt incredibly welcome and included when, especially when I was younger, I didn't always feel that in other places.
FELICITY: It's interesting for me because I'm from Hobart in Tasmania. I mean, I moved specifically to Sydney to involve myself with the music industry. I came over here working in a tuition school and then in a couple of events companies...so I've seen the industry from quite a few different angles in the last 6 or 7 years being here. And yeah, we've had a lot of shit go down with venues closing and Keep Sydney Open. But I still feel really positive about it, I've got a tonne of friends who do music in Melbourne and in Queensland and places like that...and they're like "if you want to take music more seriously you should come to Melbourne". But I feel like I have everything that I need, or that we need as a band here in Sydney. Because the people that are interested in it and do wanna see it go somewhere are so positive and so supportive about it. When you do go to a gig at any of these venues like Crowbar or Frankies or even Oxford Arts Factory and the Factory Floor generally have a bit of a heavy lean sometimes now as well...and when you do get to those gigs - they're packed out! So the community is definitely there, The Faction is growing and doing great things as well which is really exciting. I haven't seen it go backwards, is what I'm kind of saying. I have no desire to move out of Sydney thinking "oh, we're not gonna be able to do what we need to do here". Far from it! We've got so much support and it's all growing and getting better.
LOKO: On the back of that, I've done a few tours with some artists and I've seen both sides of it as a fan and as a muso...they had quite big followings, and I've just been there observing and there's this bit of a rift in the whole of Australia at the moment which is like music in general...there's people who will come to shows and enjoy themselves but there's all these thoughts amongst the music industry that venues are dying, there's not enough money in it, there's too many overheads blah blah blah...but as someone who's on this side as a musician, it's good to see that people are still supporting it when they can. And like what Jamie and Felicity were saying, the industry is still alive and well, you've just gotta know where to look. It's definitely happening - it can just be a bit tricky to find.
BEHIND THE SCENES OF INTRØSPECT'S DEBUT MUSIC VIDEO AD ASTRA
TIANA: I think you guys are debuting at an interesting time for both Sydney and the broader industry and I completely agree while it's not perfect it's definitely on the up, so it's an exciting time for a band like yourselves to be busting a move officially. Exciting times ahead!
FELICITY: Yeah I'm really excited for it, especially with the growth that's going on in the Australian heavy scene at the moment, there's a lot more females now. I feel like there's always been a few, but I feel that women are definitely starting to show themselves and what they can do, and there are so many talented bands coming through. So I'm really excited from that perspective. And what we were saying earlier about the heavy genres and the venues, exactly the same comments go for these bands fronted by women. Everyone is so supportive of each other, I feel like it's not a competition, it's not anything like that. And everyone that I've spoken to and the bands that I've been supporting along the way are just really excited for each other and supportive of each other with getting out there and throwing their passion around and sharing it - which is a really nice thing.
TIANA: And it's so nice that that whole aspect in the industry is slowly becoming the norm, it's not a rarity anymore to find support from people who traditionally would be viewed as "competition". Now I know it is obviously early days for you guys, but given that Intrøspect debuting has been such a long time coming...your influences are ranging obviously from everyone from TesseracT to Polaris and beyond. But do you guys have any bucket list bands up your sleeves who you'd love to tour alongside with?
FELICITY: Where do I start?!
TIANA: We need a book! We need to write a book!
FELICITY: Do we start with the dream list at the top?
LOKO: Oh yeah, for sure!
FELICITY: I could reel off just a few Australian acts off the top of my head to be honest...
LOKO: I think any one of those bands would be absolutely unreal. I personally would get around to touring with a band like Polaris, though. Because we all have met them a few times but they're just such good blokes and they just write absolute ripper music. And they'd be so much fun to tour with. But playing with a band like Polaris or TesseracT or Achitects...it would be the cream on top, for sure. I think those three bands for me would be insane!
FELICITY: Yep, I agree. But I think for me my number one would be Karnivool. I've followed those guys from day one and drawn a lot of inspiration from them. And I think our music has a lot of similarities, that light and shade and emotion, all that kind of stuff. Playing with them would be pretty nuts.
LOKO: Yep, for sure! What about you Jamie?
JAMIE: For me, if I played a show with Northlane - I would die happy.
LOKO: Oh yeah, fuck yeah!
JAMIE: If I finished a show and then I walked offstage and the Grim Reaper was standing there and he's like "your time is up" - I'd be like "whatever dude, take me".
TIANA: I love it. Now, I won't keep you guys much longer, but one little question I want to throw out there to get to know you all a bit more as individuals. The cliche question: if you're hypothetically stranded on a desert island with only one album for company - what album are you bringing with you?
LOKO: Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory by Dream Theater. Every fucking day of the week!
TIANA: Not even a pause there! That was easy. Loko - done!
JAMIE: Can you go first Flick? I have no idea.
FELICITY: Dammit, I was using it as my time to think! I would probably have to say Sound Awake by Karnivool. I've never been able to say that I have a favourite song without it changing from time to time, but Deadman since the day it came out has probably been my favourite song in the universe. That whole album just ticks every box for me. Every single box.
LOKO: Yep that would be a close second for me I think. Now come on Jamie, you've surely got one!
JAMIE: Ok, so this is left field...but I would take Bon Iver's self-titled. It's a vibe and if I was listening to metal I would probably get really sad because I'm alone on a desert island, wouldn't be able to mosh with anyone. So I'd just wanna chill out and take in the views and Bon Iver is probably better for that kind of thing.
TIANA: I was nearly gonna drop a terrible pun and say it would help you get all "introspective"...but oops I did it anyway. I'm not sorry.
LOKO: (laughs) As long as you spell introspective with a diagonal zero, then it's fine.
TIANA: Awesome! Well guys, I'm so, so excited for what's to come for you all, and can't wait to catch you live in action very soon! Thank you for your time!
LOKO: Thank you so much!
LOKO: We'll see you in the pit!
FELICITY: Thanks Tiana!
INTRØSPECT'S DEBUT EP AD ASTRA IS DUE OUT ON OCTOBER 18. PLUS IF YOU'RE IN SYDNEY, YOU CAN CATCH THEM OFFICIALLY LAUNCHING THEIR BRAND NEW BABY SUPPORTING OPUS OF A MACHINE AND GLASS OCEAN AT THE FACTORY FLOOR ON NOVEMBER 30. FOR MORE INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER