(In this post we present KevinP’s interview of Tim Charles, violinist and clean vocalist of Australia’s Ne Obliviscaris, whose new album Citadel will be released on November 7 (November 11 in the U.S.). You can listen to two of the new songs while you read, here and here.)
K: So would this be the first interview you have done where the name of the site is diametrically opposed to your position in the band?
T: I guess so! But despite the name of the site, you guys have always shown NeO great support over the years regardless, and so I’m very happy to be chatting with you today about our new album.
K: We are coming up on the release of that album, Citadel, on Nov 7. What would you say is different and/or what were you able to accomplish this time around as compared with Portal of I?
T: When we first started writing Citadel we didn’t have any meetings to discuss the direction of the new songs. We simply just did what we’ve always done and write music until we were happy with the song. Personally we were very proud of Portal of I and we loved the songs, so when it was so well-received, that gave us a lot of confidence to forget about the outside world and just back our own judgement and have faith that as long as we love the new stuff then the public will enjoy it also.
We definitely noticed that there were some new sounds being explored, but honestly it wasn’t really until the end when it was completely done that we realised it was actually quite a bit different. It’s still very much NeO, but honestly I’m not sure we could create 2 albums the same if we tried! It’s always been in our nature to explore and move forward musically, and to me Citadel just sounds like another step forward.
I guess one other difference between the albums is that Portal of I was more akin to 7 separate stories, all related to each other, that when put together create an album. This new album, however, was created in a more conceptual way with the music largely flowing continuously from start to finish and hence is more one unified piece.
K: Your violin playing also has a more new age/world music flair this time around. Am I off base on that ?
T: There is definitely a little bit of world music influence in there. For me as a musician I’m always trying to explore new sounds and new ways to write and perform on the violin. The last thing I wanted to do was just rehash the same style violin parts I did on Portal of I. The violin is such a versatile instrument, so I’m always looking for chances to do new things in NeO’s music.
K: This kinda ties back to what you said before, but I see that it wasn’t all that difficult (or at least not on your mind) trying to manage expectations.
T: I think before we started actually writing, it was a little daunting. When you have some fans and media saying your debut album is their best of 2012, or even one of their favourite albums ever, the idea of trying to create an album even better is a little hard to get your head around. However, once we started writing it was easy to forget about all that, pretend the outside world didn’t exist, and just focus on the music.
We also realised that you can’t please everyone and so it’s not worth even bothering to try. As long as we were proud of the album and thought it was the best album we could write at this time, that was all that mattered to us.
K: Generally isn’t it easier to write your first album anyways, since you have your whole life to do it (up to that point). Any follow-up will have a shorter window of time and trying (even subconsciously) to not repeat yourself.
T: Sure. I guess for us Portal of I was 9 years in the making and Citadel was created in the space of about 12 months. The difference in those time-frames is going to create different sounding releases straight away.
In some ways this was easier to write though, because we are a lot more experienced as songwriters and know what we are capable of. With your debut album you are experimenting with different things, and some work and some don’t, whereas this time around we had the confidence to just get stuck straight into it and back ourselves to create a great album.
K: I do agree with you that the new album has a consistent flow/theme as opposed to just a collection of songs. And it’s instantly recognizable as NeO. The other thing that stood out for me was in it’s subdued moments, it’s softer, and in it’s harsh moments, it’s more extreme than Portal of I.
T: Yeah I agree 100%. That is definitely something that we noticed as well once the album was completed.
K: How do you and Xenoyr determine when to go clean vs harsh and when to go dual? What kind of discussions go on?
T: In general we compose most of the guitar riffs first and then add vocals later, so this gives us quite a bit of time to brainstorm vocal ideas between the two of us. During the writing process we’ll often touch base on who has a good idea for what sections and we’ll just let it slowly develop from there. For some songs we work out things quite separately, and other times we will work together on a section to make sure our parts work together, whether it is two layers of vocals or Xen’s vocals and my violin.
In some songs we’ve had occasions where we’ve both had good ideas for the same section and we choose what suits the song best, and at other times we will use both parts layered over the top of each other, which has sort of become a trait within our sound. When we were recording Citadel we were often joking in the studio about how often Xen sings over my violin solo’s…haha… so we’re not too precious about things like that. Whatever makes the song better.
K: So let’s talk about the Kickstarter campaign to fund your world tour. It was a resounding success to say the least.
T: It was indeed an amazing success! We are very lucky to have such amazing fans that have showed us such great support.
K: In regards to North American dates, I know you haven’t revealed them yet. But have you determined which places to play? For instance, everyone plays New York City, it’s a big market, so it makes sense. But what if a lot of donors were not from there and you had a lot of $$$ donated from a place or two off the beaten path? I can see it being hard for someone who isn’t close to a major market but donated a lot feeling left out.
T: For sure, that was definitely a concern of ours when putting together the world tour crowdfunding campaign. We wanted to make sure that things were set up in a way where we only guaranteed to people what we knew we were able to follow through on. One of the challenges for a band like us that isn’t big enough yet to do a major headline tour of the US is we had no way of knowing if the best tour option for us would be doing our own thing, or jumping on a tour with a bigger band. The latter of course would mean we could have little or no say in what cities we visited on the tour.
The way we tried to combat that was to make clear that whilst we can guarantee tours to certain countries, no specific cities were mentioned because it was impossible for us to know so far in advance where we would be able to play.
The other thing we tried to do is ensure that we were offering great rewards for people to purchase, things that we knew people would want to buy regardless of whether it was part of a crowdfunding campaign. It’s often a misconception with crowdfunding campaigns that people are donating money, but out of the 1300 or so rewards purchased, we only had maybe 20 people actually donate small amounts of money asking nothing in return. Everyone else bought one of the limited edition EP’s, t-shirts, vinyl, hoodies, tab book etc.
Of course we definitely feel an obligation to try and do as many shows as possible in each country and will be working hard to do so, and we have been keeping track of where requests are coming from so that we can let any promoters that are involved in our tours know where people are asking for us to play.
photo by Jainash Prakash
K: Okay, we’ve come to the important part of the interview. Are you ready?
T: As ready as I’ll ever be.
K: What scares you more: the thought of people not showing up to a live gig or being attacked by a dropbear?
T: Dropbear attack for sure. Here in Australia they are everywhere… they could come out at any moment. It’s really like living permanently in a horror movie here in Australia, just about everything from nature can kill you at any moment…
K: How much Vegemite do you consume on a daily basis?
T: Personally, I hate Vegemite. I think it’s absolutely vile… but my 2-year-old daughter loves the stuff.
K: Are you sure you are a real Aussie? Or are you just one of England’s criminals? LOL
T: haha…. you may be surprised to know that about 50% of all Australians hate Vegemite. It’s something that divides the country in the same way people are for or against political parties. You’re either a Vegemite person… or you hate it.
K: Interesting, I would have never imagined it was that divided. I would have guessed like 90/10.
T: Well, as you know, 83% of statistics are made up on the spot… so my numbers may or may not be exactly correct
photo by Jainash Prakash
K: Are you for or against Chicken Twisties?
T: I was eating some Chicken Twisties earlier today actually. So I’m PRO Chicken Twisties
K: Love those things myself. Waltzing Matilda or Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport?
T: Well, seeing as Rolf Harris was recently convicted of child sex charges…. I’ll go with Waltzing Matilda
K: Finish this sentence: kookaburra sits……
T: on the old gum tree
K: I guess you might be a real Aussie after all. Tim, thanks for your time. Now get your yeasty asses to Florida.
T: Thanks for your time Kevin! We are really excited to finally get over to the USA in 2015.
You can pre-order Citadel here:
And this is the Ne Obliviscaris Facebook page: