Byron Bay metalcore behemoths In Hearts Wake dropped rager ‘Hellbringer (ft. Jamie Hails of Polaris)’ in late May. An anthem about the power, positivity and connection found in heavy music, ‘Hellbringer’ was inspired in part by extremists picketing their North American shows, telling their fans they were “going to hell,” despite the fact there was more positivity, energy, love and progress happening inside the venue, than in the picket line outside. The track is a banger, with an accompanying horror-themed video that satirically adopts several metal stereotypes to help hammer the point home. The duality between the aggressiveness of the music, and the positivity of the message, has long been a core component of the In Hearts Wake sound, but on their soon to be released fifth full-length, KALIYUGA, In Hearts Wake take the social, political, environmental and ethical messaging to a whole new level.
KALIYUGA sees In Hearts Wake take listeners on a transformative journey, unleashing ruthless scrutiny of self and the social and eco injustices and abuse at play today. It is an album crafted to break the barriers of apathy, distraction, disinformation, anxiety and despair so as to spread the band’s purpose and passion like wildfire. Named after the final stage of the ancient Hindu concept of “The Four Stages of Humanity”, Kaliyuga is a time when negativity such as discord, greed, materialism and fear, create strife and imbalance for life on earth. KALIYUGA projects the current state of the world as being in keeping with that construct, with In Hearts Wake committing fully to the concept, projecting our broken world as a place on the brink of destruction and subsequent rebirth. A fiercely passionate record that aims to inspire people to take responsibility for the state of the world and then take action to better it, KALIYUGA is a giant truth bomb ready to be dropped on a world that urgently needs to hear it.
In Hearts Wake aren’t just talking the talk though with KALIYUGA, they are walking the walk, having measured every power socket, light bulb, pound of freight, travel and food consumed during the recording process of the record. They have offset the carbon footprint from KALIYUGA’s creation entirely, via the purchase of carbon credits in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor of Western Australia. They’ve also made the choice to package and manufacture the album, plastic-free, using recycled materials.
Fresh from dropping ‘Hellbringer’ and in the lead up to the release of KALIYUGA, frontman Jake Taylor was kind enough to sit down with Music Feeds for a socially distanced conversation about our strange existence in 2020 and the sonic atom bomb that is KALIYUGA.
MF: Hey Jake, how’s this strange phenomenon known as existence in 2020 treating you today?
Jake: It’s actually treating me quite kindly, we’re very lucky to be here in the Byron shire, we aren’t in such a densely populated space, we have access to a lot of fresh produce and things. It’s actually given us a bit of a fresh perspective on where we live and how well suited it is to life in 2020.
MF: The Byron hinterland certainly seems like the idyllic place to be during a pandemic that has had many of us looking to solo trips outside for solace, it must be nice to know that you have this paradise to escape to?
Jake: It’s quite beautiful up here, pretty quiet, I don’t want to undermine how hard it has been for some people around the country and around the world, but it’s been an opportunity for us to find new ways of doing things. That has been the silver lining in all of this, we’ve been able to turn the isolation into an opportunity to try new things, and discover new ways of interacting and communicating across the internet. It has also been a great chance to look inward and get in touch with ourselves and find out who we really are, what we really value.
MF: It has also positioned you pretty well for the release of the new record, KALIYUGA, a record that has a pretty intense focus on how we, as a species, need to do better, in order to ensure our survival and the survival of our planet. 2020 is showing us that perspective is rather valid. What was the core inspiration for the writing of such a passionate record?
Jake: It was multifaceted this one, as we were all living in different parts of the world, making this record. We all brought different stories and feelings to the forefront, which turned out to be a dystopian tale, KALIYUGA. In the process of doing that, we learned a lot about how we were feeling personally. One big element was the fires in California, which happened while we were living there. Being so close to what felt like the apocalypse, then seeing the Amazon go up in flames and seeing how the governments were responding to those crises, really moved us and we came to a realisation that we as a group, really wanted to make this record. I feel like you can hear that urgency in KALIYUGA.
MF: I think this is going to be a record that surprises people to an extent, in terms of the social and political stances that In Hearts Wake are making. The extent to which you’ve committed to the concept is pretty impressive. Why was it so important to go all in the way that you have?
Jake: It’s one thing writing lyrics and talking the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk as well to truly have an impact. That was one of the things that we realized during the cycle for the last record, we were doing a bit of the walk by doing these marine debris campaigns with our fans, and while we were doing it we realized that most of the stuff that they were pulling out, was the stuff that is in backstage rooms, across all of the stages, the co2 that’s coming off of the jets on stage, the confetti that is not biodegradable, we realized that this is rather directly hypocritical of us. We should change that shit, so we decided to apply that to this record itself.
The record is 100% recycled, we’re skipping retailers that don’t stock without shrink wrap as they can’t comply with that requirement. We also decided to carbon offset the whole production process as well, so we’ve been spending a lot of time working out how to do that. It added a lot more man-hours, but it was super rewarding to see our footprint reduced and our accountability for our actions as a band increase.
MF: Carbon offsetting an entire record isn’t something that has happened too many times to my knowledge, especially not to this extent. So a lot of the elements that you needed to work out were probably new to the industry, not just new to you. Was it difficult finding the right people to help make it happen?
Jake: I don’t know it had been done before, so mentally, it was hard, as we didn’t know the scope of what we had to do yet. In terms of the calculations, the messiest part was the power, because there were several outlets in different rooms, but once we managed to work out an average, we were able to quantify that. Mileage for the air travel was easier, as that calculation is already set. Once we had all the information, we had to find someone who knew how to offset it. So finding a carbon accountant was tricky. We’ve all got a tax accountant, but not many of us have an earth accountant. Finding one was a new hurdle.
I was gifted a meeting with an incredible woman who does this for a living, who was very interested in working with us on it, as she hadn’t worked with a band before, or even heard of a band looking to do a record in this way, so it became a learning experience for both of us, we knew what was involved in making a record, and she knew all the formulas companies use in the corporate world for offsetting flights, accommodation, lights and poundage on freight etc. We were able to work together, flog out the footprint and work out how to offset it.
MF: This seems like a path that more bands should head down, given what we know of our impact on the world, so it’s cool that you’ve got the knowledge of how to make this possible now and will be able to share it with other acts. Are you hoping other acts will follow this example?
Jake: Our biggest hope in all of this is that it succeeds from inception to creation. So we can handover the info as a template that shows this is how you record it, this is how you offset it, this is the company, these are the retailers that will still stock you, and then that can just be applied to any act of any genre that is looking to do this in the future.
MF: The website ‘the house of kali’ that you launched for this campaign, is another example of you finding ways to utilise your platform to engage with your audience and connect them to opportunities to positively impact the world around them. Who came up with that idea?
Jake: That was myself and the head of the label, Luke, we’ve been a team to be reckoned with over the eight years we’ve worked together. We always create these concepts together and then ask “how do we do it” and find ways to make it possible. With the website, I thought if I get a photographer while we’re shooting the clip, and his sole job is to take wide shot, close up, wide shot, close up all day, then we could put together the floorplan and use that as the basis for the website. We had to actually build those rooms for the video, so this was a good way to ensure we made the most of that effort, by incorporating it into the website.
MF: Let’s talk about KALIYUGA for a moment. You really couldn’t have chosen a better time to release a record based around the concept of KALIYUGA, given how wild 2020 has been. From fire to flood to pandemic, to systemic collapse and racial injustices, we’re being shown all of our failings right now. Do you feel this is the right moment for the message to hit home?
Jake: It definitely feels like the record is a sign of the times, for sure. Whilst it is 2020, these issues were not at our doorstops, but they did exist. It’s amazing to me how we place the blame on the year all of the time. Whether it is the fires of 2018, or the election of Trump, we always blame the year and think it is the end, but the way I am seeing it, this is Kaliyuga. A stretch of hundreds, thousands of years, we’ve seen so much happen, we’ve had the two world wars, the Vietnam War, decades and centuries of conflict, now we’re seeing those wars fought in different ways, be it through currency, systemic oppression and birthing itself through calculated responses to these disasters that are used to control. So I feel like things are lining up, to be honest, the more and more the pot boils, things are coming to the surface and we as human beings really need to look at what we’re doing and how we’re living and make some serious changes. That’s what Kaliyuga is. I’m inspired but I’m also afraid because we don’t know what is to come but to think that it is all going to be fine and dandy, is ignorant of us. This is about facing ourselves.
MF: It’s inspiring that you have that positive response to such a potentially negative notion though. I think you’re right too though and that through the pandemic we are starting to see people come to the realisation of what is truly important. More people are seeing the value in human connection and interaction, more people are seeing the systemic injustices and taking a stand, meanwhile being stuck inside is showing the value and importance of the outdoors and the environment. Could this be the start of the end of KALIYUGA?
Jake: This time has allowed us to realize what matters, what do we hold value in. I hope that we do not just switch back to the old ways. It would be so easy to do, but we need to acknowledge that the old ways weren’t working. We need to refocus on family, community, health, interaction, so many people don’t have the privilege to be able to consider that. How can we in our position of privilege, find a way to create that future. Why can’t we as a populace generally, and we as artists specifically, dream up a new way? That’s what architects do when they design houses. Why can’t we as artists be the systemic architects for harmony and health for all? It is not that simple, but it is possible. It is going to take imagination.
MF: I hope personally that we are about to see a wave of inspiration take over humanity and create widespread, positive change. In order for that to happen though, we have to be conscious of other human beings’ fallibility, we need to be open to people making mistakes and learning from them, having those difficult conversations, rather than simply cancelling them out. How do you feel about having those conversations as you move forward? Are you up for it?
Jake: I’m so up for it. That’s the only way we are going to learn. Imagine if your parents said, “okay, you’ve got to learn to walk now, but if you trip, you’re done, that’s it”. When we learned to walk we were constantly falling over because we’re human. We’re fallible, we’re not gods, we aren’t going to get everything right the first time. We have to grow and learn from our experiences. We need to not only call things out [but] we need to be open to having conversations with people and give them a chance to see the matter from a different perspective, and perhaps grow from the experience. If we can all acknowledge we are learning through this, we can have a much faster process in our evolution process, to lift each other up and not shoot each other down. It is just too easy to shoot each other down.
MF: It seems that In Hearts Wake are in the latter category as a band, trying to push things forwards, which is great to see and the record really showcases that.
Jake: We’re trying to be. We’re not perfect. We’re all hypocrites to a certain extent and we’re aware of that. That’s part of us coming to the conversation. We’re saying, “help us to be better”. We want to take steps and hopefully get to a place where everything we do is sustainable. This is flawed to an extent obviously, how can we possibly be a band and tour and put on shows, and live that life, without having some form of negative impact? The best way to have no impact would be to stay home, in a bush shelter, live off of the land, and not do any of this, but we’re not going to do that. So this is one example where it is important for us to be able to acknowledge that hypocrisy, it is in our nature, so we need to be open to learning and hope that people are open to helping us learn.
MF: With a record as conceptually driven as KALIYUGA, have you given much thought to how you might present the songs live, when it is possible to play again, taking into account everything you’ve learned about sustainability?
Jake: We’ve definitely thought about it and we’re trying to find ways of presenting the live show that don’t involve all the typical bells and whistles, without detracting from the experience. We’re thinking it will be more about lighting, projections and the art that you see on stage, as opposed to things blowing up or thrown out. That’s from a production perspective, as for the performance, it’s our connection with our crowd that takes the show from being a band practice to being a connected experience with other humans. We’re going to find new ways to connect with the audience and involve them in the show a little more and reconnect with the power at the roots of live music. That’s not something that you can cover up, or distract people from with an explosion. So it should make us better musicians I hope.
MF: Sounds amazing, plus as a bonus, the less exploding of things, the less carbon offsetting that you have to do!
Jake: That’s it isn’t it. Less is more. That’s part of the learning in this practice.
MF: Well Jake, it’s been awesome talking to you today, I’m definitely leaving this conversation feeling more inspired than I was going into it. Before we let you go though, I’d like to comment on the response to ‘Hellbringer’ which is the third single from KALIYUGA you dropped recently. People seem to be really digging it and there’s a real excitement ahead of the album dropping. Are you looking forward to seeing how people respond to the album as a whole?
Jake: Thank you. The response has been great so far, especially considering we’re deciding on which song to release, almost monthly, depending on what is going on in the world. So we’re learning to be as flexible and adaptable as possible through this process, which is the best way to be, these are uncertain and wild times we’re living in.
MF: Well Jake, I’m going to leave this conversation here, but I’ll probably corner you at some point for a conversation about Hinduism as it relates to modern existence and philosophical thought, so we might have to do that in the hinterland sometime, but for now I’ll leave you to return to your life and the paradise you live in.
Jake: Thanks mate, sounds good! Hopefully, by then, we’ll be in the golden age and beyond, we’ll have all rebirthed through Kaliyuga and be in to the spring of humanity once more.
In Hearts Wake’s upcoming carbon offset album ‘KALIYUGA’ is out August 7.