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Interview: Into Orbit

Interview: Into Orbit

Thursday 20th November, 2014 11:49AM

Wellington duo Into Orbit are set to hit the road following the release of their debut album Caverns, which came out back in August. The two-piece, made up of Ian Moir and Paul Stewart, spent almost a year laying down the cinematic post-rock adventure, toiling away in their tin-walled practice space in Seaview, endlessly experimenting until they captured the energy they manage to bring to live shows. The sweat poured into their recording was not wasted, Caverns has garnered fantastic praise, our own reviewer calling it a "breath-taking slice of instrumental post-rock that will leave you spaced out beyond belief".  With their tour about to kick off we thought we'd dig a little deeper into Into Orbit and ask them Seven Quick Questions... 

UTR: Hi Into Orbit! First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

Ian: Paul and I have played together in a few bands together over the past 6-7 years, but weren't really at the creative core of any of them prior to this. We were in a kind of post-rock sounding band in 2008. We used to jam some riffs of Paul’s that later became Into Orbit material, but that band lineup didn’t really work out and it broke up quite early on. We didn’t get together again until February last year. Paul had just bought a loop pedal, and we worked on those early ideas and a bunch of new and improvised stuff with the added dimension of live multiple guitar layering. The jams that came out of those first few sessions in March 2013 was the start of the band, the music and ethos just kinda worked itself out and everything we’ve done since has just been refining and expanding upon that.

Your debut album Caverns took several attempts to get down, what were some of the challenges you faced?

Paul: It was a combination of things – for a start we had been writing new, interesting material that we wanted to capture on the album. But the main thing was making sure the songs felt alive – despite the fact we use a loop pedal live and therefore everything has to be strict in terms of tempo, we always find that the crucial element is the way we gravitate towards those tempos and grooves as two people in a room. So it was a long process of going back and forth between our recorded live jams of songs and finding the right tempo for the different sections. In a sense we simulated our live setting by mapping out tempos, recording guitars first, and then doing drums. But then there are many parts that as a guitarist I was so used to playing the drums to that we would redo some of those guitars, just to capture the right energy. I can’t stand it when instrumental music sounds stale and rigid, like people are afraid to make mistakes or give sounds an ugly edge. I like the fact we also have some chaotic, dissonant sections that were recorded very off-the-cuff and live, that was the only way those particular pieces seemed to work. We also found ourselves often trimming some of the longer looped sections, something that wasn’t seen as crucial in a live setting up until then. So there was a lot of actual composition and arranging in the recording process, sometimes demoing songs three or four different ways to get them right in terms of transitions, speed, dynamics etc. That definitely took time. But we hadn’t been a band for an exceedingly long time, so we definitely went through a lot of creative revelations in the actual recording process. It’s made for stronger songs overall in a live setting, too.

The resulting record has received excellent reviews. How did you feel before putting it out into the world?

Paul: A bit nervous but confident – it’s quite a personal thing to share with the world, music that you’ve been living with for so long, going back and forward in your head about sometimes tiny sections that don’t feel right, or do feel right, and then there’s no changing it – was an interesting feeling. To suddenly have the record out, ready to be analysed/criticised, was great, a huge relief.

The experimental / post-rock / drone scene seems pretty healthy at the moment, who are some acts that you think are doing particularly good things?

Paul: I really like the Red Sparowes and Russian Circles, they’re both bands that have ignited my interest in instrumental rock – I feel that they both have great narrative-like song structures that don’t just play off the gimmick of being an instrumental guitar band. Although a lot of the time I think I’m more influenced by sections in songs by guys like Jeff Buckley (the droney eastern sounds and chords in 'Dream Brother') and Led Zeppelin. I enjoy their use of different chord voicings – I like anything that will make a guitar sound big and ominous and atmospheric.

Ian: I like the bands that stray away from the norm. I’m a bit bored of the traditional post-rock sound has been over-done, I’m into Mogwai’s recent album Rave Tapes in a big way, they bring some new ideas and unfamiliar textures to the table, it’s the kind of post-rock that doesn’t quite fit under the post-rock banner, it’s just really good instrumental music. At a local level The All Seeing Hand are a stand-out for me, these guys are making great music in such an unconventional way. I love bands that create that kind of surreal atmosphere with their music and on stage, those guys nail it.

Aside from playing your respective instruments, what do you each separately bring to Into Orbit?

Paul: I spend a lot of time working on guitar tones and parts – I guess I try to use the guitar in a way that fills up a room – I try to always focus on the composition of the piece and what guitar part will work where. I have a lot of sounds in my head and most of them get out. Obviously there are restrictions to a two-piece setup so I’m always tweaking things, a guitar sound on one song will often not work on another. It’s always busy onstage, but fun.

Ian: Being the only melodic instrumentalist in the band, Paul brings most of the musical ideas. I think of my role as helping to fill in the blanks and create a context for it. I acted as recording engineer for the album and did a lot of the arrangement. We spent about ten months recording and re-recording and ended up with loads of takes, including heaps of off-the-cuff kinda stuff. Most of the album tracks are made up of recordings pieced together from different sessions, sometimes captured months apart from each other. I also do media design for the band, including design of the Caverns album art and the editing the motion graphics that we use for the video and live show.

has a very cinematic feel, was it always your intention to make the extended clips to accompany it?

Ian: We have had something like it in mind for a while. I’m a big fan of Cosmos, and was watching the recent season with Neil deGrasse Tyson around the time we were working on the final mixes for Caverns, at some point I played the mixes over the CGI sequences on the show, and it seemed to go perfectly with the music, and also fit with our themes. I eventually put together a 42-minute film inspired by the Cosmos imagery to run the full length of Caverns. There’s no story to the film, there are just particular themes that run through it. It’s an attempt to represent the music visually, and our music is a kind of abstract thing.

What's next for Into Orbit once you have finished the album release tour?

Paul: We are always writing new music and hope to do some extensive demoing over the summer after the tour – album two is an exciting prospect for us.

Ian: Yeah we have a lot of material to work with for the second album already, and a much better idea of how to go about recording an Into Orbit album. But we’re not rushing towards the studio or anything. We have a few projects in mind for after the tour, we’re usually always working on a few things at a time. There’s never a shortage of inspiration or ideas... it’s just deciding which ones to do first.

Into Orbit are kicking off their North Island tour this Friday 21st November with a show at The Wine Cellar in Auckland. See below for show dates and details.


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