With the release of the dark and intense Panorama, in ten pieces, Dumbsaint have cemented their reputation as one of the more intriguing post rock bands today. The band’s approach to having visuals as much of a key part of their art as their music is unique, particularly in the degree to which they take this ideal. This drive has seen them produce numerous companion short films to their songs and has now culminated in an hour’s worth of short films to accompany their newest album. Bursting with indie cinema style, each piece is a mirror reflecting the distorted and slightly unsettling aspects of everyday life that are ignored as a matter of course. We sat down with the band’s drummer Nick to talk about the band’s evolution, how film came to be so important to them and why they still love albums on cassettes.
How does the new album’s tone differ from your first album and how have you evolved as a band since then?
Tonally, this is a much darker album, because we weren’t in a good place throughout 2013/2014. I would also say it’s much more considered and mature as well, given that this material had never been performed live before we recorded it in late 2014. The album was created with an album ‘flow’ in mind and not just a collection of material that had accumulated inbetween tours – which is what I hear when I hear the first record; good songs, not a great album.
With a line-up change in late 2014 we’ve since evolved into a well-oiled, easy going creative unit. The vibe week to week is strong and the attention to detail in executing this material is clipping the apex of what’s required to marry our music and film successfully in a live capacity. I look forward to seeing what we can do next.
You also recorded a whole short film to accompany the album, how long did the filming of that take and how does the band break down the work involved with it?
In this instance, ‘short’ is around 60-minutes worth – our biggest project to date. We’re currently still filming when time and schedules allow, but there has been a solid three months of planning and scattered night shoots, mixed with a solid month of night editing, which I have to juggle amongst full-time work.
We deliberate and plan a lot of online amongst ourselves, creating a solid checklist of work that needs to be tackled incrementally. It’s a slow burn. Each of us has an area that we warm to with the filmmaking process as there are many logistics pre and mid-shoot to consider. Pacing yourself is important as we’re working with 25+ actors on and off, so there are a lot of schedules and personalities to work through to ensure everything aligns for those few hours that we’re filming each night.
When and why did you decide to make movies such a key part of the band’s work and identity?
The vocalist of our previous band left in 2008, so we decided to carry on instrumentally, performing re-worked versions of the current material at the time. The film projection concept came about as we had studied filmmaking throughout high school and university, so this would allow us to indulge in both passions simultaneously while creating a strong point of difference that I feel is yet to be explored to this extent by any other band. I’m still proud to this day that we stuck it out and pursued the idea despite numerous financial and logistical hurdles. While it can seem like a testing concept to the average person; metal and synced experimental film, our audiences are surprisingly diverse and we owe it to the curiosity factor around what we do.
What are some of the challenges of that?
- Not being able to perform new material without new visuals.
- Reaching out and working with actors and new locations.
- Minimal funds and time in which to execute the scenes.
- Staying healthy and getting enough sleep. Filmmaking is a grind.
What comes first when writing material; the song or the film, and how do they influence each other during the creation process?
The music. However, for the new album we had a loose narrative concept floating around while assembling the material. The order of the album eventually shaped the flow of the film and gave us strong guidelines for how the visuals would interact with the music. This is difficult at times as finding the right scenario to suit the song’s tone can be restricting. For example, ‘Low Visions’ is an erratic punish of a song, so we needed something visually jagged and slightly nonsensical to match that, otherwise the two forms would wouldn’t ‘dance’ together.
What is personally your favourite part of the band: recording, filming or playing live?
A tie between playing live and editing the films. Here you can see, hear and feel all the hard work pay off. Sometimes I lose sight of the finish line and forget why I do this in the first place, as I can get so lost in the process of planning, emails and rehearsing.
What have been your films of the year so far?
Sicario and It Follows. Both are strong in every area of the medium and have been the only few to leave me thinking in the days that have followed. Highly recommended and hugely inspiring.
Why did you decide to release the album on cassette?
Much like vinyl, there is a strong culture around the form. It also has that ‘participatory’ element in order the ingest it. Playing, rewinding, turning the tape over are things that force you to interact with the music physically more than just pressing play and zoning out. It also has an aesthetic and feel that I think is still relevant. It also allows us to add another boutique item to our release palette if CD and vinyl aren’t applicable to certain listeners. In the case of this album, we did all three.
What are your plans for the rest of 2015?
We have a few shows left for our first little run for this album. The next step will be finishing filming and editing the remaining scenes of the film and hopefully have a final cut by the end of the year. Fingers crossed!