Ceres: Nostalgia And Claustrophobia
“I just always loved the way that it sounded. It’s almost a funny, weird sentence to say. It come’s out of your mouth almost strangely and awkwardly and I love that. The ‘it’ is kind of me. And the record is kind of just me giving myself a whole lot of grief about everything, so it’s kind of me dragging myself and all my bullshit down on people, and how thats sort of selfish sometimes. This record is kind of like me dragging it down on the listener as well! It’s super dark too. It just reminds me of dragging something down and leaving marks and cuts and scratches. And I also just like pissing people off too with all the stupid things I do!”
Tom Lanyon discusses the motivation behind Drag It Down On You, the somewhat messy title of will be the second full-length effort from indie/emo rock band Ceres. It’s been a relatively lengthy wait over the past couple of years for legions of heartbreak enthusiasts who fell in love with the Melbourne quartet, and their first full length effort I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here back in 2014. But now, on the second day of the spring, Ceres will finally lift the latch on a record that is sure to satisfy the cravings of the band’s older flames, and is bound to entice a whole new wave of flings with first-time listeners, on a far broader scale. Despite the albums release coinciding with the season of new bloom, Lanyon, the band’s singer/guitarist will tell you that for him, this is very much and album nestled in the past.
“I wasn’t trying to write it as a themed record or a concept or anything, but I think it all comes from the same place. It’s really about stuff that’s happened in the past. There’s a lot about about my house or where I grew up. There’s a lot about my childhood. A lot of the ‘first things’ that happen in your life. A lot of looking backwards. Song’s like ‘91 Your House or Baby’s Breath are just pretty brutal shit about stuff that happened growing up. I’m stoked it’s less about girls like ...Anywhere But Here was! That was way more outward looking, but this one’s more introspective. I guess anyone can get pretty down about whatever you’re doing in life, or who you are, or who you think they are and who you wanna be, but I think there’s just a really nostalgic feeling through the record. That kind of melancholy feeling you get when you think about the past that you can never get back. The record is kind of that happy-sad feeling to me.”
Only adding to the bittersweet theme of the record came news of the looming departure of guitarist Rhys Vleugel, who for a year had been in what Lanyon calls a “tug of war” in trying to balance touring life with real life. On the bright side, joining the band will be former Union Pacific/Face Eater shredder Sean Callanan. “Rhys was really struggling to tour with us. He runs his own business and is super busy and just couldn’t figure it out anymore. He’s always kind of said ‘Guys, if it gets to gnarly I’m just gonna have to leave,’ then actually on the day we signed to Cooking Vinyl, he walked out of that meeting and he said, ‘Yeah, you guys should definitely sign to Cooking Vinyl,’ and we were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ and that’s when sort of told us, ‘I’m out boys, it’s just too much for me.’
“We love him to bits and there are zero hard feelings. He’s still 100% a part of the band. He’s just on the sidelines now, poor dude! But it was a slow burn with that stuff so it wasn’t completely devastating. But then we went in to record, so we knew he was leaving while we recorded Drag It Down On You and once we finished recording, that’s when it got super emotional because we knew that was the last thing Rhys gonna do! [laughs] Everyone cried, it was really nice. And Seano fits in so well! It’s sounding amazing because he’s just got all of these harmonies coming out of him and he’s an amazing guitar player and just an awesome dude as well. We were in conversations with a few friends and stuff, but we didn’t want to “try out” anyone. We just kind of wanted it to happen naturally. Like, if someone wanted to do it and we liked the guy. We fucking fell on our feet with him, we’re so lucky!”
A lot has happened to Ceres in the 882 days between album releases. National touring, sell-out shows, countless highs not without their share of obligatory rock and roll lows. Drag It Down On You acts as the musical dairy of a band that has come into it’s own and learnt how to sever itself from pre-conceived notions of what people have come to expect from them. “I think it’s just getting older as a band and knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, we can write a little bit more purposefully, or more pointed in our own direction”.
A direction which Lanyon is thrilled with!
“I remember the first demos that we wrote and recorded for this, and I was so hyped. I was like fuck yes! Y’know the song Choke? That was one of the first ones we wrote and I was like, oh man, this feels really different. Even Franky (Morda) was drumming differently. I know so many bands get to their second or third record and say that it’s something “really different” and then you listen to it and it just sounds the same as all their old stuff and you’re like, this is exactly the same, what are you talking about? (laughs) But I personally felt like we really were writing some different stuff.”
It was these very demos that won the heart of Tom Bromley, guitarist of Welsh indie-group, and Lanyon’s favourite band, Los Campesinos! So much in fact that Bromley agreed to fly halfway around the world to make his production debut on Ceres’ new work of art, and Lanyon lost his shit! “I’m such a fan of Los Campesions! They’re probably my favourite band. I noticed they started listing Tom Bromley as co-producer or something like that because I read all the liner notes. So when I was a fan and I didn’t even have a band, I would daydream about having a band and also that Tom Bromley would produce the record. And he just seemed like… It probably sounds so creepy and weird but I would see photos of him and just think “he just seems like a really nice guy, I reckon we’d get along!” [laughs].
“I don’t even know who the fuck this dude is, what is wrong with me? I’m really just like a psycho fan and that’s it. I said it to the band years ago, we should get Tom Bromley in, and we all just kind of laughed because it was such a pipe dream. But then I got in contact with him and sent him the demos and pretty much just said “Yeah, do you ever just feel like coming to Australia and recording an album?” and I went to bed and the next morning I woke up to a message saying “these sounds cool, lets do it!” I thought I was getting punk’d. I thought Ashton Kutcher was gonna come out and throw a banana at me. It was so weird dude. In a months time we organised Sing Sing Studios and or engineer, and Tom came and we did it. I fully still cant believe it. It’s such a trip! But I was such a creep. I couldn’t tell if I was a smart dude who got a great producer in to record a record of our’s, or just a psycho or creepy fan who just paid for this guy’s flights to come hang out with me, because he was staying at my house and stuff. I was like “Fuck! Tom Bromley!” I had to relax. I hope I wasn’t to creepy.”
Creeped out or not, Bromley’s work at the production helm help the band to capture the sickly-sweet mood swings found throughout the songs on Drag It Down On You, and in a way that portrays what Ceres has already become renowned for doing, but in a whole new, and more honest light. Lanyon talks about what Bromley’s input in crafting the sound of the record. “He made it sometimes really open and breathy, but then sometimes it sounds really sick and claustrophobic. Like the bridge to Happy In Your Head just has so much shit going on. Just layers and layers of swirling and sounds. That’s something that he does with Los Campesinos! that I was really hoping he’d bring to our band and he did! And he also didn’t shine anything.
“There’s a lot of light and shade but it’s not exactly polished. I’d do a vocal take and think it sucked, and he’d be like “that’s the one! Lets keep that one” and I’d be like “nah, it was pitchy as fuck”, but it didn’t matter, it was the emotion he wanted. Probably the best thing he did was just not touch anything, and just know when not touch up stuff or re-take stuff. It all just comes out in the wash, and it kicks you in the guts more I think. One thing he said to me that still stands out was something like, ‘Blemishes mean character.’ All the little mistakes add up and make something with character and life to it.”