EP Walkthrough: Up Late dissects his genre-less new EP, TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS!

EP Walkthrough: Up Late dissects his genre-less new EP, TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS!

On his sophomore EP, Max Pasalic combines some of music's furthest-contrasting sounds with an ease that paints him as a natural.

If you're seeking someone consistently pushing musical boundaries through their music, then chances are Wollongong-based Max Pasalic is someone who has already captured your attention. After carving out an introduction as a member of punk band After Touch, the musician debuted his solo project Up Late in 2020, stirring up a storm of attention with singles, remixes and guest collaborations that littered his introductory year - his debut single Friends soon ballooning out into a debut EP and a handful of remixes within just six months.

However, the thing that's drawing attention to the Up Late project isn't so much the pace at which new music arrives (although that certainly helps), but rather the genre-blurring tapestry of sounds that he brings together through Up Late, welcoming the many edges of his multi-facetedness versatility - and the influences that underpin them - throughout the space of just singular tracks. Take, for example, those that featured on his debut EP STARS in 2020; punk, hardcore, hip-hop, indie, pop, electronica and beyond coming together within the confines of the EP.

In the year since STARS, however, Up Late's experimental twists on music have only grown ten-fold. He's featured on tracks by Void Of Vision right through to Hearteyes and Somber Hills - a nod to his warped, hard-to-pigeonhole sound - all while sharing more music of his own, music stemmed from anything that excites or intrigues him as someone on the cusp of pushing music far beyond the conventional boundaries that often halt at. As we've come to find over the last year, however, Up Late isn't the type to stop at a boundary - and his sophomore EP TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! cements that in stone with its arrival last week.

Arriving via UNFD, TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! is a six-track encapsulation of Up Late's prowess and the evolution he's brought even in such a short amount of time, providing not so much an extension of what we've heard through his debut EP already, but rather a release that goes above and beyond to welcome entirely new soundscapes, as he continues deepening his sound and the richness within it. TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! veers between genres, leaving no stone unturned as Up Late's twisted, warped universe expands and folds in on itself, growing more chaotic as it continues.

What underpins each of the tracks, however, is the excitement that relishes amongst them. Regardless of whether his music is venturing into more hip-hop territory or something more conventionally punk-like, there's a fascination with sounds never before brought together, and how Up Late is able to mould them together without breaking a sweat - his prowess as some kind of sonic welder becoming clear throughout the EP's duration.

"I was excited for anything that reverberated in my eardrums, no matter how different or weird that sound was, but never had the agency to follow it for myself," he says on the EP. "TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! is my way of taking back that agency to be whoever I want musically, and I wrote it believing that it could become a gateway for someone else to discover different sounds, cultures and genres too."

It's one hell of an EP, one that's difficult to catch up with as it lurches forward with energy and excitement in every twist and turn. Take a dive into the release below, alongside a track by track dissection walking through the EP one song at a time, breaking down its meanings and sounds as he goes.

DIVA

I often reference my own terrible, and painful moments in Up Late songs. Even if they sound like they’re a broad reference point, most of the time I can pinpoint horrible moments that I want to express, or get past through writing. DIVA is about the contradiction of ‘being your best self’. That colloquial ‘Instagram-typecast line’ can be a beautiful sentiment for some, but for the most part (in my opinion) it gives agency and cause to the self-destructive side of your brain. DIVA is about being ‘your best’ and also ‘worst self’ in the internet age, partying to access the smallest sliver of serotonin your brain has left - even if you’re going to feel even worse the next day.

What goes up must come down. I’m conscious that a lot of my teens and early twenties have been spent celebrating, even if there’s nothing to celebrate. That echo chamber that you deserve to be your best self and drink till the early morning becomes a deceptive and contradictory cycle. I’m not sober but I know my limits and I like to be in control. I think now I realise you can have a lot more fun partying when you’re sober, and perhaps I have DIVA to thank for that

YOU PEAKED IN HIGH SCHOOL FT. DXRMANT

YOU PEAKED IN HIGH SCHOOL is the punk music of the future, no guitars, no band, just abrasive and distorted synths and electronics. It’s Mad Max meets Blade Runner, it’s Bring Me The Horizon meets Ashnikko, it’s metal meets pop. Written by my producer Nat J Sherwood and I, we were passing ideas back and forth for a number of weeks, constantly re-working, re-drafting and pushing the limits of the atmosphere we could create with the song. We left the guitars down, we pushed ourselves to create the emotion of punk and metal without the traditional instruments or tone colour of those genres.

Once we had the demo drafted I passed the track onto Dxrmant from Toronto - we exchanged ideas over Instagram DMs in the middle of lockdown. We shared a common history, both growing up singing in metal and hardcore bands before pursuing solo careers - bringing that tenacity and aggression from our past into new genre-bending spaces.

Lyrically the track pokes fun at people who continue to live their life like their in high school. People who can’t get past their own reserved, narrow mind. People who latch onto trends or culture without actually participating or appreciating it. Both growing up in similar environments although living on two different continents, it felt like Dxrmant and I could really connect thematically and build on our own real-world experience living lives vastly different to the status-quo.

TOTAL FUCKING DARNKESS!

I’ve had this symbiotic connection with metal music ever since I can remember. I like to think of metal as a prism, you can be looking at it through so many different points of view that ultimately anything can start to feel like metal music if you listen to it deeply enough. Growing up I loved Darkthrone as much as I did Juicy J and I always felt like there was this inherent connection between the two that so few people understood. I feel like Juicy J’s early mixtapes are more metal or hardcore than a hell of a lot of bands that are the top of a Spotify metal playlist. The darkness, rawness, grittiness is what I feel like metal is, it’s not about how distorted your guitar is or how rabbid your scream is. 

TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! is what I’d like to think a collaboration between Three 6 Mafia and Cradle of Filth would be. Something dark, evil, but equal parts meta, comedic - as if they’re aware of the humour of what they’re doing. 

I connected with WXRMZ during the recording/mixing process for YOU PEAKED IN HIGH SCHOOL! He was the engineer behind DXRMANT’s verse. The two of them live in Toronto, Canada. I reached out to them in early 2021 and immediately WXRMZ, DXRMANT, Nat and I became great friends. There was a connection that we all shared, coming from hardcore and metal bands, while also having this deep appreciation for late 90s down south rap. I wanted to create a metal song without looking at genre from the same side of the prism. I wanted to create a metal song without a band, without guitars and without a drummer. 

DIRT BIKE

DIRT BIKE is the earliest demo that made it onto this EP. Nat and I had been listening to a lot of Glaive, Brakence, a lot of the Hyperpop artists that made a splash in 2020. Nat was obsessing over the production of a lot of these artists, the aggressive distortion their beats had, while still retaining a polished, pop top line. That dichotomy really attracted Nat and I and we spent many-a-session working out how we could create something that felt equal parts pop but still aggressive, through a modern Hyperpop lense. It wasn’t easy.

The lyrics and top line for this track were sparked from our mutual frustrations at trying to create music that was outside our comfort zone. The dirt bike I’m referring to throughout the track is a metaphor for living a simple life that many people in my hometown live. I can’t even ride a dirt bike but the people I know who can definitely live a more fulfilled life than I do. The deeper I’ve gone into the music industry the more jaded, frustrated and anxious I’ve become. It’s deathly easy to lose sight of who you are, in favour of who you’re trying to become. DIRT BIKE is about what could happen for me if I let go of music in favour for the dirt bike bars. 

HEARTSICK

HEARTSICK was the final track we wrote for TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS! and it’s arguably my favourite. Nat and I wanted to interpret what a band like Saosin might sound like if they were produced by Metro Boomin. There’s a beauty to what a band can create as a five-piece, but there’s also a magic to what a trap producer can create with a sample, kick snare, hi hat and 808. This is the juxtaposition between those two.

HEARTSICK is about falling in love while being tied to your dreams and how, unfortunately, it seldom works out for both people. Being a creative normally pushes you to deal with problems or decisions with the emotional part of your brain - something that I know I’ve dealt with throughout my teens and early twenties. You can be rash, unpredictable and in-directly (or directly) destructive to yourself and your loved ones. But most of the time, when you become aware of those traits in yourself, it’ll be too late.

TIDAL WAVE (FORTRESS THEME)

Every lyric and every note of this song is driving home the sentiment that people are stronger together, in a team, or in a group - that connectedness you feel while gaming or that connectedness you feel at a concert. I want people to hear this song and get goosebumps.

I remember staying up late (no pun intended) night after night playing Runescape, Mario Kart & Pokemon. That camaraderie you share with people who might be on the other side of the planet is something really cool and interesting that many people don’t get to experience if they’re not into games. I found myself back gaming during the pandemic. It gave me something to focus on, a quest or a journey, a purpose. It was a way I could connect with people no matter how fucked up or negative the outside world was.

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