Premiere: We Lost The Sea unveil a mini-doco on Triumph & Disaster's album art
Arriving alongside the documentary's debut, we chat to the band about the artwork, how it links into their latest record, and the documentary unveiling today.
Header photo by Josh Groom.
A couple of months ago, we were introduced into the world We Lost The Sea were creating with their single A Beautiful Collapse. It was a dizzying, completely instrumental affair that somehow manages to paint a picture of the world's dying cries, dissecting the country's - the government's, mostly - head-in-the-sand approach to climate change, something that we saw the very real effects of over the weekend: "When we’ve failed for too long, and chosen to ignore science and the planet’s own desperate cries, we’ve hit the tipping point. It starts as a reflection on what was great, like a nostalgic view of our past. It then moves to an unstoppable and devastating change," said guitarist Mark Owen on the track.
On the full record (which arrived back in October), the group used their heavily layered instrumentals to tell similar stories, breaking down the complexities of a post-apocalyptic world through the lens of a mother, recalling the planet's demise to her son on the last day of living. There are themes of the looming climate crisis - like on A Beautiful Collapse - as well as messages on over-consumption and interpersonal collapse, all of which was represented through one of the album's many story-telling formats - its cover art.
Today, we unveil a mini-documentary that goes into the record's cover art and the accompanying children's book which brought the album's themes to life through another visual format, with the band's Matt Harvey detailing the creation of these visuals and how they came to life to contrast and build upon the topics explored through the album's thick ferocity. There's a lot of gold in there, so while you check out the children's book here and watch the mini-doco below, also spend the time to read a short-and-sweet interview with Matt about the documentary and the cover art, which adds a tonne of insight into a brilliant idea for We Lost The Sea and their multi-disciplinary nature as a band.
One of We Lost The Sea's big drawcards over the years is the artwork, which builds a story where the music cannot due to the lack of vocals. To start, can you tell us about the story you're communicating with the cover art for Triumph & Disaster?
The elevator pitch I’ve been using for the album is: Triumph & Disaster is a post-apocalyptic view on the collapse of the world told like a children’s story and illustrated through the eyes of a mother and her son as they spend one last day on Earth. In this album, we try to talk about themes and events such as the climate crisis, overconsumption, isolation, and the loss of love and trust. It is a lament for our planet, all of us on it and the beauty we will leave behind.
I wanted the cover to represent that story and also create some kind of emotive and surrealistic scene for people to place themselves in. The mother looking over the son. The boy pulling the setting sun behind him. The dystopian dusty landscape… I love all that type of stuff!
The mothers silhouetted shape even started looking a bit mother Mary-esque, which was an interesting connotation to think about. I wanted to play on isolation as much as possible, and loneliness, leaving it all behind.
The title, Triumph & Disaster, summed up what we felt we were trying to say with the album’s narrative and how it represented the music. I was thinking of the relationship with the mother and her son, while working on it, mostly. There’s the duality of the triumph and the disaster of the fictitious world we’re writing about and also between mother and son, earth and us. I’m not sure the cover speaks to that or if people draw their own connections, that’s always a cool thing too.
How does the cover art then link in with the music? Like, for example, is there any obvious points within the album where you're linking in the themes and energies created within the artwork?
Yes and no. It was a tricky one because we wanted to write our own story and then I had to illustrate that which was sort of separate to what was happening on the cover. I ended up following that on with the Towers artwork and got hooked on the big geometric monolith thing that is sort of 2001-ish. I wanted to get a bit more surreal.
Later on, I started making links to songs and parts of the story. I think our story starts at around the end of Dust and the start of Parting Ways in the album. The first two tracks are what’s already happened by the time we reach our mother and son in the story. Distant Shores could be tied with the boat scene in the book, as can The Last Sun with the street scene. I wanted people to put the album on and have it as a soundtrack in the background and then read the book as a separate but related experience.
I really wanted the storybook and art to bring an emotional connection to the huge themes we were trying to interpret.
The mini-documentary arriving today goes into detail on the creation of the artwork, and how it works alongside the record as a whole. What does the documentary not go into, which you think people would find interesting?
Ah, it’s a bit rough around the edges! I talk a lot and move my arms a lot. I wanted to explain some of the processes and go in-depth about some of the ideas instead of just writing about them. It’s probably a bit self-indulgent but I figured the work and process of getting there was worth talking about. More content! Everyone loves content.
Not much else really! This was early on in the process so all that stuff on the screen is really old. The concept stayed the same though. There’s some boring stuff about the process and other things in the edits that no one wants to hear. Basically my process is I use a Wacom and Photoshop and stress heaps.
It arrives with a children's book too, which is strange considering the album's heaviness and its recurring themes as the name suggests - Triumph, Disaster. What was the thinking behind that, and the process of putting it together?
Yeh, we thought it over a lot. Mark and I worked on a story and theme back and forth for months to then whittle it down to the idea of a children’s book. It took about a year or more to work it out!
The bits I didn’t use in the mini doco were about writing the story, which was a cool experience but we had no idea what we were doing so the process was full of self-doubt and anxiety. “We’re not writers!” “We can’t do this!” haha! I have several paragraphs of writings that form the basis of an actual short story that we wanted to publish as a piece of this project. Then we realised how complicated a task that was and how underprepared we were to do it and were happy to reduce it down to a few lines instead!
It needed to be something to help backup the emotive side to the album and give our story a heart. Once I had a kid’s book in mind, it was easy to focus on a direction of what the art would be like. Then I had to illustrate it! I’ve not really done anything like this before so it was a big challenge for me but I really loved it. I think it creates a world for people to fall into and gives a softer edge to some of the bigger moments happening in the music.
Finally - and for a bit of an open-ended question - We Lost The Sea has a really tight connection between musical art and visual art, as displayed here. Where do you see the band - and perhaps music in general - exploring this connection in the future?
Art has always been apart of the social conscious for many years. Centuries. Even the Romans had to clean anti-establishment graffiti off walls, as we do to this day. It’s no surprise that when the world is facing a global conflict or even a local one, artists mobilise and draw their influence from their surrounding stimulus. I’ve just travelled through Colombia, once regarded as the most violent country on earth that is now slowly trying to transform itself to something safer and calmer and artists are at the centre of that movement.
Art is even more important now than ever. We have relied a lot on scientists to be the storytellers and spokespeople for our current global crisis and, unfortunately, most of them aren’t equipped to do that job as well. Also, people seem to ignore truth for their own made-up version of what suits them best. So facts and figures are falling on deaf and tired ears. We need artists, musicians, journalists and creators to carry that message to people’s hearts and minds and leave a lasting impression. Real change.
Also, when people naively argue that politics don’t belong in music then they haven’t been paying attention. The two go hand in hand in most situations throughout history and will continue to do so. At least I hope so.
With instrumental music, we feel the art helps to tell our story as there are no lyrics to do that. It also extends and gives more depth to what we’re creating. We can take people on a journey and our fans can sit down and look through a booklet full of art and story to totally immerse themselves.
We chose to represent these huge themes through a children’s story to hit at the heart of the problem, as I mentioned above. A journey of a mother and her son through a dying world to say goodbye to all the colour and beauty we’re leaving behind. I want people to cry, reflect, lament and then act. Representing something actually too huge to comprehend by grounding it in something we call all relate to and hopefully leave a lasting impression.
I will always look for ways to incorporate art into We Lost The Sea or any music I create. I think that art has become such special and connected thing for our band to have as part of the complete artistic package that comes with the music that it's almost expected now! We're all trying to find ways to create original content and if adding an artistic side to the record helps with that and a deeper immersive experience with our music then I'm really excited to explore where that can take us in the future.
Friday, November 22 - Brightside, Brisbane
Saturday, November 23 - Crowbar, Sydney
Thursday, November 28 - Jive, Adelaide
Friday, November 29 - Sewing Room, Perth
Saturday, November 30 - Howler, Melbourne
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