Melbourne’s prog rockers Closure in Moscow are about to head around the country on their ‘Singularity’ tour, their first full headline tour of Australia since debut album First Temple was released last year.
Since its release, they have toured America consistently, ventured as far as Japan and scored a prestigious spot on the US Warped Tour. But they have played sparingly at home, with stellar performances at Homebake and AIR award nominations overshadowed by a much-publicised falling out with the Soundwave festival.
Given their absence from our shores of late, I fired off a multitude of questions to guitarist and backing vocalist Manny Zennelli to make up for lost time and find out a bit more about how the band is going, as well as the real story behind their mixed schedule.
Music Feeds: It’s been a long time since First Temple was released in Australia, why has it taken so long for a full national tour from you guys?
Manny Zennelli: We have been super busy touring since the album was first released. The States are a place where you can literally tour all year long and still not hit the same markets twice. It‘s huge. Our plans were to finish up there and come home and do some major festivals i.e Homebake, Soundwave, as well as our own headliner. Had a slight rough patch in between, as festivals make you sign territory clauses saying you cannot play within a certain time frame that is close to the tour. But now all that is out of the way, we are stoked to be on the road again, and this time in our own country doing our own headliner. We want to try and be back regularly to Oz, so expect a few more tours later on in the year from us after we come back from the rest of the world.
MF: There will likely be a lot of people coming out to see you for the first time on these shows, but are there any surprises planned for the long time fans?
MZ: Always. I hate using the word fans, I see it more as friends, as at shows we chat, grab a bite to eat before the show and generally hang out with other people who come out to enjoy music. It really does bring people together. But yes, long time ‘friends’ will have a few Easter eggs in our show to look forward to. I’d tell you but… that would be telling.
MF: With such a long time since the album release, do the older songs still feel fresh or are there new tunes on the way?
MZ: There are always new tunes on the way; we are constantly thinking of ideas and riffs and what not. Something someone said over a dinner conversation could spark an entire song or idea. As for the older songs, they definitely still feel fresh as each night we play to some people that have never heard them, so their reaction is what keeps it fresh. Plus, those songs are like a time capsule, they represent what we were thinking and how we felt at that time in our lives. Great to listen back on.
MF: You seem to cross over between audiences… you’ve played shows such as Hot Damn with punk pop bands like Heroes for Hire, as well as experimental prog shows with Bird’s Robe Collective bands like Pirate. Do you feel attached to any particular scene? Are there shows you enjoy more than others? Or is it all just music?
MZ: It is all music. The general population love categorising bands and artists into niches and scenes. It’s very one-dimensional. The problem is that these certain ‘scenes’ have a negative stigma associated with them. Honestly, a lot of people who come out to our shows listen to various other types of music just like us: metal, rap, RnB, prog rock, pop, hardcore, dance… the list goes on. A lot of bands have carved their way through scenes and genres that they do not really belong to, but audiences can appreciate their art for what it is: Art. I wouldn’t say we prefer to play certain types of shows over others, really, a show that has open minded individuals is all any band or artist could ask for. But it is a good day when you can go out on a tour with great bands and great friends.
MF: You’re touring with Adelaide’s Secrets in Scale, tell us a bit about them and why you’ve invited them along.
MZ: We first met Secrets in Scale on our first trip to Adelaide; safe to say that they blew us away with their live show. Since then we have remained great friends. We decided to bring them on the road with us, as they are an up and coming Australian band that more people need to hear. They slay live, are all great dudes and their debut album which they just recorded is absolutely stellar, to say the least. A lot of Aussies look abroad for new bands when there are so many great talented bands and artists right here that if given the chance, will rock your world! Secrets are one of them.
MF: I saw you quite a while ago opening for Coheed and Cambria at the Roundhouse… back then you sported a quite different look, shorter hair, and I believe even your stage set up was different to how it is now. Have you made a conscious effort to present differently on stage since then? Or does it change from show to show?
MZ: Haha, yeah. The hair is one of those things that just happen when you’re on the road for so long. Our stage set up and live show has evolved as we have evolved. I don’t think it has been a conscious effort on our behalf, more so just a stage every band goes through. It will probably change again, and change is good.
MF: How has the overseas touring experience been? You have been part of some very long and I assume, gruelling tours in the US – nothing like the, at most, ten to fifteen date tours here. How do you prepare for something like that?
MZ: You don’t. As an Aussie band it is literally baptism by fire. We went over, recorded our album then went on a forty three day tour with Dance Gavin Dance out to SXSW. It was the first time we had ever done anything like that, as in Oz, like you said, ten to fifteen date tours are the norm. That is a warm up in the states. We got sick, tired, frustrated anything you could think of on that first tour. But it was a case of adapt or else. You learn to become a touring machine. The touring lifestyle is completely different over there to here, which is why a lot of bands love coming out to Australia, as it seriously is a holiday for them. The only real way to prepare for long tours is to do more and more of them, once you have a few under your belt, something that seemed so overwhelming is a walk in the park and great fun.
MF: You’ve been relatively quiet since coming back to Oz late last year. What do you all get up to in your downtime? Is there constant rehearsing and writing or do you take a bit of a break before coming back before a show? Any side-projects going on?
MZ: There was always a plan of having some down time. The last year was basically a constant tour. We played over two hundred and thirty shows, circled the States five times and did six cross U.S.A. drives all within the span of seven months. So the downtime was a necessity. We all constantly rehearse individually and get together a couple of weeks before a tour to put it all together. Writing is something we all do and send to each other to collaborate on and as for side project, there just might be a few in the works.
MF: The whole Soundwave thing has been talked about online endlessly, you posted a quite lengthy response to the issue on your website as it unfolded. Has there been any reconciliation with the organisers? Do you see the band playing there in future years?
MZ: Soundwave is a great festival, with great crowds and great bands that turn up to play it every year. We were both excited and honoured to have been the only Aussie band on the tour to play it. We have no problems with the organisers, we have problems with false claims that have been spread on a basis of hearsay, but with them individually no. Honestly, I never see us playing there ever. We would rather commit our time and respect to Australian festivals that respect their home grown talent.
MF: You seem to have a strong fan base amongst the under eighteen crowd, any ideas as to why? Aside from your dashing looks?
MZ: Under-age crowds don’t care about who is watching them or if they look cool, they show up for the music and to have a good time, so we can both have a good time. This is why so many bands love playing under-age shows. They sing and dance and lose their minds. I think that is why we are quite successful with our under-age shows. From stage, one of the best and most rewarding experiences is to have your crowd give back to you and not stare cross armed with a blank expression on their face, to look cool, just in case someone is watching them.
MF: First Temple sports a collection of catchy songs with a hook in nearly every chorus, yet it is a deceptively technical and impressively tight sounding record, with a lot of rhythmic shifts and tempo changes. What value do you place on musicianship in your songs, if any? Any hints as to the direction of the next one? Will you be working with Kris Crummet again?
MZ: [We value musicianship] a fair bit, we don’t like to constrict ourselves to boundaries with our music, if that means that we need to push the envelope with our abilities and musicianship, then so be it. Our next CD could be an electro dynamo of rap infused death metal for all we know. It really will depend on how it all pans out when we all get into a room and start to dissect what we already have. Crummett is a great producer, we owe a lot to his artistic vision and ability. Time will tell if we choose to go to him again. We have not decided yet.
MF: The lyrics on First Temple are quite cryptic and eloquent – where does the inspiration for these come from?
MZ: Christopher is the man at the helm on those. I can’t honestly say where a lot of it comes from, I do know that he can be sparked from anything to write lyrics. Even scratch vocals that I made up to write vocal melodies have given him a jolt to pen some lyrics.
MF: How is the song writing process shared (or not) amongst the band?
MZ: We start writing once each of us has something solid to show. We will pen something or lay something down and then bring it in to the group to share and dissect and transform. Sometimes we use what is written as we all like it, sometimes what began as a guitar part becomes mutated into a synth line or vice versa and can potentially become the basis of a new song. There are endless possibilities when all of the writing is shared, which is why our album has so many different influences.
MF: Youtube showed us that you guys play a sexy cover of Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ – any other songs you’d like to cover?
MZ: Yeah, we did that song impromptu as we were recording a couple of acoustic songs for a TV show in San Francisco, they told us we needed another, so we decided to bang it out. The recording on Youtube is something we put together on the spot literally ten minutes before they recorded. It worked out alright. I would personally like to cover any sexy soulful RnB song that we can. I just love the vocal melodies.
MF: What was the last album you listened to?
MZ: I just finished listening to Robin Thicke – Sex Therapy. I love RnB music. I’m sure Chris has just finished an audiobook from Ray Kurtzweil as well.
MF: I heard a story that you sold Chris’ Cadillac to fund your first EP recording… did any other band members’ make such sacrifices? Can Chris afford to buy it back now?
MZ: Chris did sell his caddie. We all made some huge sacrifices in order to record that EP, or albumette as we like to call it. I am glad we did as the journey so far has been amazing. From meeting new people to touring the world, it’s been a blast. I’m sure Chris has his eyes set on a more eco friendly car when he decides to get one. But that caddie was a gas guzzling beauty.
MF: You definitely invested a lot of time and money into your first release… was there ever any doubt in your mind that you might not get the results you’d hoped for?
MZ: A friend of mine always says “with confidence, you’ve already won”. That has been our thought process with all of our releases. You can’t afford to think about failing or not getting the results you want. Positivity is key. Did we ever think we would reach some of the success we have? probably not. But we never thought that we would fail.
MF: You set up a home base in the USA I believe? Tell us a bit about your place over there and how life is in the States.
MZ: We live in Portland, Oregon. America’s most liberal hippy state. It’s fantastic; great art scene, it is the greenest state in America and is a very chill place. The reptile people cannot get us there. Life there is just like life is here, what you make it.
MF: How important was it for you guys to get a record deal, rather than staying independent? Was that always the goal, or did it happen by chance?
MZ: Honestly, a record deal isn’t the be all and end all of what people think it is. Touring and hard work is what makes bands, not labels. I mean labels definitely help, but only once the band is making some headway and have fans. Good old fashioned touring was more important to us, it was by chance that we were lucky enough to catch the ears of our label.
MF: How did it all come about, there were reports of initially signing with Science Records before you ended up with Equal Vision?
MZ: We signed to Science after they came out to our EP Launch from L.A, we signed with them, but they folded the label just as we were about to go over. Luckily Equal Vision had been wanting to sign us as well and were more than delighted to come along and scoop us up.
MF: You’re all quite young yourselves, but any tips for younger (or older) kids looking to start a band?
MZ: Don’t do it unless you are prepared to put your absolute life into it. It’s not worth it otherwise.
MF: Who are the artists’ that first inspired you guys to get into music? Any memorable live shows you’ve been to that stick out?
MZ: Michael Jackson live was insanely amazing and made me love live music. It was one of my first live shows and just blew me away. As for a person who inspired me, my grandfather. I never got to meet him but I still have his records to listen to and be mesmerised by.
MF: Has the touring and recording process been how you imagined it? Is there anything you might wish to change? What’s next for the band?
MZ: Honestly I would not change a thing with this band. Everything good and bad has happened to us for a reason, and we have learned from every part of it and it has all shaped us into who we are today. What is next for us is finishing up the touring cycle on First Temple, then we begin on our next record and tour off of it as much as we can.