With two well-received LPs under their belt, Northlane were optimally placed to become Australia’s next internationally embraced metal band. However, things took an unexpectedly dire turn when original lead vocalist, Adrian Fitipaldes, left the band in September 2014. At this juncture, the remaining four members would’ve been forgiven for wallowing in disarray, but instead they instigated an open audition process in search of a new lead vocalist. By November, not only had they appointed replacement vocalist Marcus Bridge, but also unleashed the new single ‘Rot’.
In July 2015, Northlane unveiled their third LP, Node, and the Sydney quintet is now gearing up for a major national headline tour through November. Mixdown spoke with guitarist Josh Smith and bassist Alex Milovic about their volatile 12 months.
It was only a few months after Marcus joined that you released ‘Rot’. Had the recording process for Node already commenced before you’d confirmed the new vocalist?
Josh Smith: Marcus joined and ‘Rot’ was recorded about two weeks after he joined – in a studio in Sydney. Then the actual record was done in March of this year and we re-recorded ‘Rot’ then, which is the version that’s on the album. By that stage he’d been in the band for probably about three-and-a-half/four months.
From all reports, guitarist Jon Deiley laid down the musical foundations of Node, and then Josh and Marcus came in to write the lyrics. Does Jon tend to bring in completed arrangements? Or do you work together to flesh out his ideas?
Alex Milovic: I guess it’s a bit of both. On the last two albums he’s been writing on the road. So he’ll be like half way through and idea and then he’ll show the rest of us and someone will be like, “Maybe you could go in this direction.” He’s relaxing a little more. He used to be very, like, “Until the song is done, no one’s hearing it.”
So the impression of Jon as a dictator who tells the rest of the band exactly what to do isn’t entirely valid?
AM: He writes probably 90 per cent of the music as it is and goes, “OK this is a song.” Then we’ll give it to Josh and Marcus to write lyrics and me and Nic [Pettersen] to do the bass and the drums to it. But he’s never closed off to ideas. I know Nic’s put his own flavour to the drums and I’ve done some stuff on my end. So it’s a bit of both. There’s certain parts where he’s like, “I’ve got an envisionment for this. Let’s just keep it this way.” Or, “This is a bit more of an experimental section, go nuts.”
JS: When it comes to who does what in our band, instead of having a clear democracy, we each take care of what we’re best at. I think that really gets the best out of people and it’s definitely the right formula for us to work with.
There’s a range of moods and textures featured on Node – an increase in ambient atmospherics compared to past releases, but still plenty of drilling heaviness. Production-wise, there’s a good balance between explosive sounds and relatively muted sounds. During the recording process was there a lot of trial and error to find the appropriate sounds?
JS: The sonic characteristics of the record are something that really comes to life in the studio with the assistance of a producer. Over time you learn to give up more control to a producer. You’re paying them to do their job because you trust them to do it. I remember when we did our first record [Discoveries 2011], we were more set in what we wanted to do for that record. We’ve become a lot better at discussing ideas, and trialling different approaches, rather than being like, ‘No. This is what I’m going to record this with, and I’m going to do everything how I want to do it.’ Because you don’t always know best.
Will Putney was the producer on Node. He also produced Singularity (2013), and mixed and mastered Discoveries. Now that you’ve got some experience with him, has it become a more constructive working relationship?
JS: I feel like he really understands what we’re trying to do and understands us as musicians and songwriters better than anyone could who just would come into the fold. And that was really helpful for us, because Node was recorded at a really tumultuous time for our band. We’d just lost a singer and things were looking like they were on the rocks a bit. We didn’t know what the future was going to hold for us. He allowed us to progress our sound while not straying too far from what we’d done before and keep it relevant to who we were. And I don’t think any other producer could’ve done that.
When you’re in the studio, do you make direct references to sounds from other records that would like to emulate?
AM: It gives us a general idea. When we listen to a record that’s stuck with us, we’re like, “OK, the reason why that sounds good is because of x/y/z and maybe we should take a bit more of a natural approach or maybe we should do this.” There’s obviously influences there, but not a huge, “Let’s sound like Parkway Drive. Let’s go into a studio trying to make Parkway Drive CDs.”
JS: You can’t really create your own sound if you’re copying other people.
The Node Australian tour kicks off in early November. You’ve spent time touring overseas since the album came out. Did you face any major hurdles figuring out how to re-present the new material live?
AM: This CD in general has probably been easier to replicate live than any of our older stuff. It’s a little bit more natural and drawn back. Jon likes to write in layers, so there’s usually a whole bunch of soundscapes going on. But with these newer songs, they’re still very layered, but they’re all very heavily open and groovy. When we were beginning with the Singularity cycle, those songs took a little bit more working and a little bit more polishing to pull off live. These ones feel more natural and they’ve just kind of come together.
JS: Node was written so that the songs would translate live better than anything we’d done before. And they definitely have the impact we want them to have when we play them live, without having to make any compromises or extensively use backing tracks or any bullshit like that.
November 4 - Metropolis, Fremantle WA
November 5 - HQ, Adelaide SA
November 6 - 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
November 7 - Arrows on Swanston, Melbourne VIC
November 8 - 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
November 12 - Roundhouse, Sydney NSW
November 13 - Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW
November 14 - Triffid, Brisbane QLD
November 15 - Triffid, Brisbane QLD
For more information head to unfdcentral.com/artist/northlane.