It would be easy to think that after ten years and four albums, a band would start to get a bit complacent or lazy with their approach to writing music. You’ve cut your teeth, done the hard yards and now you get to coast along on the strength of your back catalogue.
That is most certainly not the case when discussing Northlane’s latest release Alien, the fifth album in the band’s discography. Angular, immense, frenetic and tense, Alien couldn’t be further from complacent and safe, in fact the band has never taken more risks in their career than they have here. Guitarist and songwriter Jon Deiley says that he felt he had no choice but to dive into unexplored territory with Alien and the chaotic sound of the album came directly from the frustrations he and his band mates were facing during the time.
“It’s hard to put into words, but the reason it sounds the way it sounds is because of our life experiences, especially in the last year and a half,” Deiley reveals. “It was just a really shitty time and I was getting frustrated that people weren’t connecting to the music I was making so this was kind of a backs to the wall, last attempt, and final fury type thing."
“I think it kind of covers a lot of ground but the thing we wanted to do more than anything was create an intense, uncomfortable, relentless feeling that makes the listener sit in our shoes for a moment. I didn’t know how else to show them how difficult it’s been than to have them listen to this noise.”
Not many bands could go through the ups and downs that Northlane have faced over the last few years and come out the other side. Alien is the third album to feature vocalist Marcus Bridge after the departure of original frontman Adrian Fitipaldes in 2014. Since bringing Bridge into the fold, the band has been on the receiving end of constant vitriol from keyboard warriors comparing the two vocalists. Alien sees both Bridge and Deiley putting their feet down and letting everyone know that they couldn’t care less for the opinions of naysayers.
“At this point, I care a lot less about what people want me to do with the music,” says Deiley, a hint of nonchalance seeping into his tone.
Unlike their previous four albums, the band decided to stay on home turf in Sydney and self-produce Alien with the help of long-time friend and engineer Chris Blancato. The album was crafted during two different sessions and Deiley says that ultimately working in a familiar and comfortable environment with a close friend at the helm was key in creating their most ambitious and challenging work to date.
“Chris just gets Nic so he worked really closely with him on the drums,” he explains. “He’s a good friend of ours and it’s super easy when you’ve known someone for that long. I’m pretty pedantic about everything and he’s super tolerant with me.
“Generally when we go into the studio, songs are still being written and with this one everything was pretty much all done before we went in. We split the recording up into two blocks and we had five or six songs written before each block. It just took a lot of the guesswork out.”
Despite all of the struggles Northlane have faced in recent years, the introduction of new bassist Brendon Padjasek was the perfect burst of energy to get the group feeling fresh again. Deiley admits that Padjasek being an old friend immediately removed any fear of the ‘new guy’ stigma and the band was instantly revitalised with him on board.
“He’s a joy. He will never shut up which is a blessing and a curse but he’s a burst of energy,” gushes Deiley. “Taking him on tour felt very fresh playing new songs with a new guy in the band. We actually picked him fi rst because we knew he was technically able but also one of our only other friends who wasn’t in a band at the time.
“We’ve toured with him before and we know he’s chill and that was the most important thing. We wanted a friend so we didn’t have to go through the whole learning a new person thing.”
With a fresh new album out and a new lease of life, Northlane have dived headfirst into their extensive world tour for Alien. The band kicked off the album cycle with a short run in Japan followed by a very intimate and chaotic release show at Yah Yah’s in Melbourne before heading to the USA. With so many new sonic territories explored on the album, the band had their work cut out for them when it came to bringing the material to life on stage. Deiley admits that he wasn’t nervous about the task ahead of him but knew that he had a lot of work to put in to get it right.
“Obviously there are tracks, but I’m also interacting with a controller and a guitar for most of the set so when there are key parts, I’ll play that shit,” he says. “In ‘4D’, I barely touch my guitar for that song as I’m playing all of the synths and chords on pads.
“I had kind of done a little bit of it on Mesmer but I knew what I had to do and it took a little while to do it. I was more concerned about how I was going to pull it off more so than it sounding good, if that makes sense."