INTERVIEW: Jamie McVicker (INTRØSPECT)
Fortifying a myriad of booming ferocity and sprawling serenity, Sydney's Intrøspect are a unique and captivating glimmer in the burgeoning Aussie prog world. Leaping out with a bang with their 2019 debut EP Ad Astra, Intrøspect were swiftly embraced into the fold, rapidly snapping up supports and commanding thousands of views alone on their debut music video; but, as for many, the sudden halt precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic kick-starting a year ago momentarily halted plans for more Intrøspect live shows after things were just getting started. But it would take more than a pandemic to throttle the hurtling trajectory of this bewitching quintet; and as of today Intrøspect return with gusto, brandishing an engrossing journey through triumph, heartache and otherworldly prog with their sophomore EP Midnight Sun.
And while Midnight Sun may only be fresh out in the world as of this morning, in honour of this gorgeous new release, we grabbed some time with Intrøspect rhythm guitar lord (as well as lyricist and video director) Jamie McVicker talking new material, live shows and the fascinating world behind this epic band. Interview below!
TIANA SPETER: Hey, and thank you for letting me spend some time in Intrøspect-land today! After the year from hell, you guys are certainly starting 2021 off in stunning fashion, we’ve had some new singles and videos – and all of this is, of course, culminating in the impending release of your second EP ‘Midnight Sun’! How’s it all feeling to be this close now to releasing this sophomore EP?
JAMIE MCVICKER: We’re all feeling a combination of every emotion really, and it’s quite hard to parse them! We’re unbelievably excited, incredibly nervous, and also relieved to be this close - it’s been a bit of a marathon, getting to the release finish line. Most of all, we are keen to just let the tracks go, and let them make their way through the universe. We hope they end up in some beautiful and interesting places.
TIANA: It’s been an incredible journey so far for Intrøspect, all starting off just two short years ago with the release of your debut track ‘Ad Astra’ (and EP by the same name), notching up thousands of views and listeners while also introducing the world to your crystalline prog. Given the incredible reaction of your debut EP, how did you all approach the second EP, were there significant changes or evolution you wanted to explore this time round? Or has everything just been a natural progression?
JAMIE: At the core, the ideas, atmospheres and feelings we are trying to explore with Midnight Sun have stayed the same since Ad Astra but from a craft/process perspective, everything was different this time around. Having Felicity in the band from the very start (for Ad Astra, she joined after the guitars and drums were written) means that we wrote everything with her vocals in mind. At times that meant paring back the guitar to give the vocals some space, and allowing her to lead the sections and mood changes a lot more. We think the result is a more cohesive sound, with greater emphasis on feeling and mood over pure heaviness and technicality - our goals remain the same, but our process has been seriously refined in the last year.
TIANA: ‘Midnight Sun’ continues to level up your mix of post-rock, ethereal ambience and chuggy riffs, with your singles ‘Mjolnir’ and ‘The Wisdom of Mountains’ offering some insight along the way as to what’s in store come Friday 19th March. With regards to how an Intrøspect song typically comes to life, what’s the usual formula for conjuring this heavy beauty?
JAMIE: As I touched on before - our general mission was unchanged, but we spent a lot of time trying to refine a process that served us well last time around. I originated the names and outlines of most songs, (as on Ad Astra). However, the final product we emerged with was much different to those initial drafts this time around, which I think is a healthy sign of a massive increase in collaboration and cohesion, with Loko actually originating Mjonir, and massive parts of other tracks this time around. Regardless of their origins, the songs only really gained full character and shape in the ensuing months through collaboration with everyone on the team, as each member brought their own talents and energy to the tracks. Felicity lead our vocal workshopping process, Loko added some complex string & piano arrangements, as well as modifying a lot of the riffs to fit in better with the music at large, which was usually a process of simplification - removing unnecessary technical fluff to make room for maximum feels. Hugo wrote the drums this time around, and performed them live. Personally, I remember actually crying when I first saw a phone video of him playing new parts on ‘Wisdom’. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing then, and on pretty much every track - his performances really brought the songs together in a way we couldn’t have imagined a year ago. We are absolutely in awe of him, (he was 17 when he tracked the EP!) and can’t wait to utilise more of his god-alien-child chops in the coming years.
TIANA: And ‘Midnight Sun’ also saw you returning to collaborate with Chris Blancato, certainly a supreme heavy force in his own right. Was it awesome to have him back on board for this second EP given he’d also produced, mixed and mastered ‘Ad Astra’ not too long ago? What sort of energy does he bring to the Intrøspect realms?
JAMIE: Chris was absolutely vital to the process for both records, so much so that I don’t think Ad Astra would have seen the light of day without him - Midnight Sun is much the same. This time around, Chris was even more involved with the songwriting and production process, madly workshopping drums and vocals in studio with Hugo & Felicity, coming out with some amazing material that was quite different to what we took to the studio. His input really helped to shape and solidify our new sound, and throughout the process he really helped us make the right choices to create the best EP we possible could. At times that meant letting go of some old habits and attachments so a newer, more innovative sound could poke through. We’re so stoked on the outcome!
TIANA: As a band who have snapped up attention so swiftly since you burst onto the prog scene back in 2019, it’s no doubt been a unique challenge to have faced a global pandemic choking the music industry and gig potentials just as things would’ve no doubt ramped up more for you guys. Did you utilise this time to focus on the EP? How much was already in place, plan-wise, for ‘Midnight Sun’ before COVID entered the group chat?
JAMIE: Indeed, COVID was a serious pain for us, as it was for every corner of the music industry. We were intending to play as many shows as possible through 2020 to continue supporting Ad Astra, getting in front of as many new faces as possible. We were frustrated that COVID cut that short - but without the ensuing lockdown, we wouldn’t be sitting on a complete EP this early in 2021. The lockdown that spawned the EP came in March 2020 - a weird time for me personally - I was recovering from a reasonably serious health crisis, and nursing some wounds after an insane, toxic relationship & ensuing breakup- also having just graduated from my Masters’ degree in Film to a COVID-devastated film industry. Feeling a bit lost, I moved back home for a few months to Terrey Hills- up in the bush just north of Sydney. It was already my intention to rest and reflect a little, but when the lockdown came round, I really had no choice! In the two weeks of the initial lockdown, I just worked on building the beginnings of the EP, going on bushwalks, resting and just generally getting my sh*t together after a tumultuous few months. The space for reflection & creativity was actually incredibly healing. I look back on the time with much fondness, and am glad that we could get the ball rolling at that early stage - as live music opens back up again, there aren’t many bands in the same position as us - with a ton of new material and a burning desire to take it to the world. Hopefully some great things come of that unique moment in time, as terrible as 2020 was for musicians & the industry at large.
TIANA: Fortunately for us here in Aus, we’re crawling back to some semblance of normality, and with that comes broader possibilities for gigs and tours. What can fans expect from a 2021 Intrøspect live show when the time comes, have you guys been planning anything new (besides the new material) for the live shows with all this downtime in between performances?
JAMIE: We don’t have anything set in stone at the moment, but are close to booking an EP launch show in Sydney, which we’re incredibly excited about. It will probably be the biggest room we’ve played/headlined, and we’re planning to build a live lighting show and put some more thought into the production, as well as playing Midnight Sun in it’s entirety - start to finish. Besides that show, we’re actively looking for some support slots in 2021 with our new agency, Destroy All Lines, and our booking agent, Tibor @ Wild Thing Presents. If the trend of relaxing restrictions and allowing bigger events continues through the coming months, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get this new material in front of a bunch of faces across Australia in 2021! We can’t wait.
TIANA: Given it wasn’t all that long ago when Intrøspect made their live show debut, can you take me back briefly to that first ever show? Where was it, who was there, and what was the most memorable moment for you personally from that show?
JAMIE: Our first show was in November 2019 at The Factory Floor in Sydney, and it honestly feels like it happened yesterday, and a lifetime ago, at the same time. It was really special vibe for all of us, we’ll never forget it. We were supporting Glass Ocean & Opus of a Machine, who were so gracious and kind to trust us to support them for our live debut. We were astonished by the turnout - mostly our friends & family at that stage, but it was so heartwarming to see a more or less packed room for our first show! Personally I found it incredibly nerve-racking, never having played my own material live before. I’m feeling much more confident on stage these days, but at the time, I was mostly focusing on not screwing up my playing, it was all kind of a blur. Finishing with Nyx was incredibly cathartic. Hearing Hugo nail those double kicks, whilst having a chance to take in the atmosphere in the room and just send it (as the parts got a little simpler towards the end) was incredible. I felt incredibly high for the rest of the night, despite only having consumed a single beer prior, for the nerves. I guess debuting live will do that to you! It’s free drugs.
TIANA: Intrøspect have been likened to bands like Northlane, Karnivool, Periphery and Evanescence along the way…but what bands have you been listening to the most of late, do you tend to mix up what you listen to? Or is it prog and/or heavy through and through?!
JAMIE: Everyone in the band has their own unique tastes and backgrounds- but all of the above are getting regular spins from us! Besides that, I’ve personally gone down a Progressive House rabbit hole - there’s a lot of fascinating and incredible sounds coming from the cutting edge of EDM these days. It’s a personal dream to try and bring some of those sounds into our sound at some point in the future. I’ve been spinning a lot of Rufus du Sol, Lane 8 & Ben Böhmer to name a few producers, but in the metal world, we are all absolutely hooked on the new Architects release - ‘For Those Who Wish To Exist’! Some incredibly bold sounds on the record, ‘Dying is Absolutely Safe’ has had me thoroughly shook for weeks now.
INTRØSPECT'S BRAND NEW EP MIDNIGHT SUN IS OFFICIALLY OUT TODAY, FOR MORE INFO HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER