Photo: Karen Lowe
Emerging refreshed from an already intense history, Perth outfit, Black Stone From The Sun, are a two-piece-feed of aggressive yet approachable fuzzed out psych-rock, splendidly captured on their debut album, Dreamalysis.
Produced by Mitch McDonald of fellow beloved WA-rockers, The Love Junkies, Dreamalysis is a comprehensive offering of Sean Mackay (guitar/vocals) and Jack Nelson’s (drums/keys/vocals) stripped back rock vision writ large.
But they didn’t just land here. It’s been a long haul and dedication to craft that has seen Mackay and Nelson inhabit the telepathy and dynamics required for the leanest/meanest of band structures, while sounding like anything but a duo.
The pair first met in High School in 2010 and were aware of each other as ‘band guys’. It wasn’t until they eventually met again on the first day of a TAFE Sound Engineering Course in 2012 that they realised just how much they were on the same track. A friendship was struck and musical chemistry confirmed. Both were in bands that were in the throes of fizzling out.
“I had this idea at the time that I wanted to do a two-piece thing,” Mackay recalls. “We’d both played in bands with people who were not really willing to be in a band. I wanted to be in a band, and so…”
…the momentum was set. The economy of the two-piece beast was set in motion with notable influences to kick off with…
“The White Stripes, of course,” says Mackay. “They were amazing. When they’d play a show there was some sort of connection that they’d make with people. I don’t really know what it is… but it was this crazy, chaotic show that seemed to work because people were so engaged and interested to see what was gonna come next.”
“It wasn’t too polished,” adds Nelson. “They were great live, but it was organised chaos.”
Structural plans weren’t too solid for a while, though, but as they jammed the need for other members didn’t seem all that important. Mackay evolved into a lead vocalist as the two fed off each other, musically.
“In the beginning it was more about writing songs and seeing how we played together,” says Mackay. “Once we started gigging there’d be people coming up saying we needed a bass player, but more people were saying that it sounded cool. We reflected on that and thought, ‘maybe we can do this’.”
“For a long time though, we had a lot of bass players approaching us on Facebook,” Nelson says. ‘Your sound’s great, but what you need is a bass player’. Okay… we’ll keep you in mind if we decide we need one.”
Mackay: “I think that just made us wanna just be a two-piece more, the fact that people were interested.”
So, two-pieces it was. It’s a demanding dynamic.
“It’s a weird thing,” says Mackay. “You just push yourself to be better.” Nelson concurs: “I hit way harder and move a lot more because it’s got to be interesting. I was happy to just keep time before, but now I’ve gotta be out there more.”
Once the duo was cast, it didn’t take long for songs to accumulate and demand their time on tape. A demo EP was released in 2013 in a fairly casual manner, and was firmly followed up by a similarly casual, yet more defined EP, Death Threats And Cigarettes (recorded at what was the Astor Theatre Lounge, with McDonald), which saw the breakthrough track, Pass The Roses, being picked up by Sydney’s FBI Radio and a subsequent Harbour City visit that put Black Stone From The Sun onstage at the Oxford Arts Factory.
Everything stepped up as a result, with more gigs than ever and a new resolve upon commencing subsequent recording sessions.
MusicFeeds included Black Stone From The Sun in its Top 5 WA Bands To Watch For In 2016 list and triple j’s Dave Ruby Howe echoed those sentiments having seen the band perform at WAM Fest.
Black Stone From The Sun then followed trusted producer McDonald into Blackbird Studios simply to record some tracks, but with half a dozen songs laid down, including the immersive likes of Vice Versa, Sleep Deprivation, Sunbleached Blues and Anatomy, it soon became apparent that a full-length album was the order of the day.
“Mitch was like ‘do what you want to do, not what people expect you to do’,” says Mackay”
“We all knew where we stood,” Nelson concurs.
With that decision, however, came the rather immediate need for new material to complete an album. Not only that, it had to reflect and complete what had already been written and recorded.
Mackay: “When we decided we were gonna make an album I sort of went away and I thought, ‘I’ve got to write songs around the songs that we’ve already done, so it is like an album and not 12 weird songs, but like an actual album that all fits together’. I don’t listen to random songs; I listen to albums. I love the craft of people who write albums… it’s such a unique thing.
“At that point I was like on the dole, trying to find a job, so all I was doing was sitting at home wondering about how this album was gonna be. There was a lot of songs written in that timeframe of recording that second half…”
Butterflies, Paralyzed In Dreams, Blood and Hello Memories were the second half of songs borne of that commitment and desperation. You can hear that upon first listen, but Mackay is loathe to comment on what the songs are ‘about’.
“I see lyrics as art, not necessarily as meanings behind songs,” he notes. “I like how writers use words and phrases in certain ways. For me it’s interesting because people can put their own spin on it. Everyone can have their own meaning and it’s not so generic.”
At this point the only thing left to do is more of everything. With Dreamalysis ready for consumption and new management ready to fire up the momentum achieved so far, Black Stone From The Sun set off on a East Coast tour in May with plans going far beyond in 2019.
They’re a band who forego setlists and revel in being inside the moment. Six years on, however, it’s like starting all over again…
“We can’t wait,” Mackay says with a ready grin. “It sounds so much better than what we’ve done before,” adds Nelson, referring to the new album. “We can’t wait for people to hear it.”
Dreamalysis is out now through Firestarter Distribution. Black Stone From The Sun are currently on an East Coast Australian tour, check out the dates at www.facebook.com/pg/BlackStoneFromTheSun/events/