Melbourne’s Acolyte have been on a meteoric rise in the past 12 months. The release of their ‘Shades of Black’ EP saw them support Twelve Foot Ninja, tour Australia in support of the record and begin to really dominate the prog/rock scene in Melbourne.
Tomatrax caught up with Chris Cameron, the band’s drummer, to ask a few questions.
How did the band form?
Acolyte 1.0 first really got started when our current bassist Jason and former guitarist Frank sought out Morgan for her strong vocals to create a new, somewhat experimental project. The line-up has been through a few changes since then, I joined in late 2015 then we got Dave on keys and Pete on guitar in early 2016. The line-up is feeling great at the moment – in particular the addition of keys has really enabled us to take the music to new places.
Where did the name Acolyte come from?
Great question, I wish I knew! Haha! I think it does hold some meaning for the group however. Although officially the term ‘acolyte’ has a religious definition, my understanding is that we’ve modified its meaning somewhat to mean that we as a artistic musical group seek to guide the listener on a journey though the various soundscapes and lyrical stories we present. Well that’s how I see it anyway!
What was the inspiration behind the desert dune themed video clip for ‘Space and time’?
Not only is Morgan the lead vocalist of the group, but she is also the artistic director. She spent a lot of time researching and planning this video together with videographer Gary Robertson (Jarrah Film) and there were numerous things that inspired its creation and direction. As the title suggests, the track opens up into a really spacious soundscape so the idea of open space and the suspension of time have really informed the later half of the clip, the desert scenes and time-lapse images are amazing! The artistic and somewhat eclectic first half of the clip is almost like a collage of artistic ideas from countless other videos, pictures, and imagery that we’ve seen and liked and worked in to create an larger artistic picture of Acolyte – in the same way we might take musical inspiration from a whole bunch of different sources. With the new musical material we are currently writing, we are also exploring longer, epic and more progressive songs so that too has been a catalyst in the thinking behind such an ambitious, artistic and epic video.
You’ve mentioned plans to release more music next year, how has that been going?
Yes! We’re all very much looking forward to sharing some new music with the world – it’s sounding amazing and it’s taking the whole project to a whole nother level. Writing has been really consistent over the last few months, and because the line-up has changed since the last album was written we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know how we all write and collaborate. To be honest this has had its challenges, but working out the fundamentals of what we want to achieve and how we go about doing it has meant that when we have finally started piecing the new material together it is highly informed by our artistic process and in the direction that we all want to be exploring musically. We are aiming really high and being super ambitious with this next collection of tunes, so watch this space for sure!
You’re about to tour the country in support of the single, what can fans expect from your show?
As has always been the case, Acolyte’s live show is something that needs to be seen to be believed! We love playing live, and take pride in presenting a quality full show – taking those in attendance on a journey through the set. As we promote the single and celebrate the end of the journey for Shades of Black, we are also super excited to be playing a series of new tunes this tour alongside some fan favourites. Personally for me this tour is going to be particularly challenging as I’m going to integrate a completely ambidextrous drum setup to my performance – a challenge that I’m really looking forward to!
Each member has brought in their own musical influences and styles, is it hard to get the elements to work together?
Pretty much everything is on the table in Acolyte with each of us drawing from such diverse musical backgrounds. I also play in a jazz band called The Rookies, Dave has come from a metal background, Morgan has had a musical theatre background – so at the end of the day what we bring together is really sounding quite special and unique. For sure at times the elements clash and different ideas are challenged, but that’s all part of the process of creation within a group. We’ve been able to establish a really open and honest process for working through things together, and because we’ve taken the time to acknowledge our differences and then come together to work towards a unified artistic goal we’re really in a great place to encourage and explore all of our different musical ideas.
When writing what comes first, the words or the music?
For the most part it’s the music, then Morgan sits with the demos and lets the music guide the process of lyrics and melody. Although having said this, jamming out and discovering melodic and lyrical ideas in real time has also been another process, and we’re also trying a number of new things as we work towards this next album such as being inspired by particular concepts or observations of our human experience.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
For sure! Recorded music is like a snapshot in time, so for me there’s no reason to feel queasy about listening to anything I’ve recorded – it’s been done and there’s no way to change it! It’s important to celebrate the achievements along the way at the same time as pushing forward into new ideas and more refined skills. I joined Acolyte after Shades of Black was recorded, but I know all of those tunes so intimately now after having performed them so much that if they ever come up on shuffle I crank up the volume to 11!
What other music do you listen to?
Lots! I’m inspired by many of the current progressive artists who are seeking to present long form concept-based works. Most recently I’ve had The Neal Morse Band’s ‘Similitude of a Dream’ and Ayreon’s ‘The Source’ on high rotation, and there’s always some Opeth and Steven Wilson in the mix. I enjoy following artists who are prepared to take risks and pursue their own artistic vision despite what might be ‘expected’ of them by the industry or fans.
What do you have planned after your upcoming tour?
We’ve got a pretty full schedule up until the end of the year, but alongside touring we’ll be continuing to write and develop material for the new album as we hope to be tracking first thing in the new year. So we’ve got some intense writing and workshopping sessions coming up which is inspiring. For me there’s nothing better than creating new music that pushes our collective creativity, imagination and technical skills to new levels. Then next year will be all about promoting and sharing our second album. We’ve already started working on plans to tour both Australia and Europe, with some other big opportunities on the horizon also.