What can be said about last year that hasn’t already been? Quite literally nothing. As an entire species we’ve been there, done that. That’s not to say we’re out of the woods entirely but now is the time to pivot ‘What the actual fuck was that?” into “What the actual fuck do we do next? Healing, progressing and normalising are the new names of the game
A big part of that is defibrillating the cultural heartbeat of the land and in doing so offering a reprieve from the life-or-death background hum of yesteryear in the form of…fun. Not unlike Melbourne Music Week, which goes down this very week and will feature an exclusive performance from extreme metal outfit, and habitual crowd favourites, High Tension.
Ahead of the show, we spoke with vocalist Karina Utomo.
“I’ve got bees!” Karina offered when asked about her time in Melbourne’s various lockdowns. “I’ve got two nucleus hives in my yard, so that’s been really good – It’s been really therapeutic to have the hives in the garden.”
Karina spoke to the subtle but powerful grounding beauty that comes with being surrounded by and handling one of nature’s most misunderstood vassals. “The bees just keep working, they’re staying focused and they’re resourceful creatures.”
“It’s pretty amazing how they all work together. I’m hosting the hives and the beekeepers are letting me observe and do a bit of beekeeping with them when they come to check on the hives. One of the earliest things the beekeeper taught me about beekeeping is to stay really calm because the bees can pick up on your energy (so you don’t get stung). It makes you more aware of your energy; more aware to stay focused.”
“With each hive they have different temperaments as well. There’s a lot to learn from the bees. There’s so many nuances in just observing them and learning how they work.”
This is not some obscure non sequitur. Indeed, it is a metaphor that perfectly embodies Karina’s vision of life post-2020; a vision that appears to be breaking over the horizon for many: That it’s time to start focusing – literally and figuratively – on our own backyards.
“Being shaken up in this way has really reset a lot of thinking for a lot of people.” Karina explains of a society still trembling from 12 months of climate, social and economic unrest.
“People are feeling even more compelled to make changes that they can make on their own. I think we are definitely entering a new phase of collectiveness; everybody understands that we all need to make major changes.”
As is the creatives prerogative, Karina didn’t just rest on this hypothesis, but extrapolated it further. Change is an uncomfortable, awkward thing and many of us simply don’t like to hear that the responsibility is on our shoulders.
But in explaining her findings further, Karina posits that nothing makes a big impact quite like the little things.
“If you break it down and make small changes within yourself or what you do at home, or if you run a small business, you can make changes there. Start opening up why it’s integral to make particular changes, then that’s going to be doable.”
One such change Karina has identified is the ability to become fluid with your planning and forecasting; a creature comfort that was denied to most throughout the pandemic was the ability to know what would happen the day after next. This is particularly relevant to High Tension who eyed their return to live shows with caution.
“When we started talking about doing this show, it was definitely not at a time where I felt any comfort in encouraging people to leave the house. At the time we didn’t really know what that would be like, would it be seated? Would it be only X amount of people? Is it quarter capacity? But what we were certain of was, whatever it takes to make it really safe.
“That was a very important factor and really fundamental in working together with the goal of eventually re-engaging the audience in a physical venue. There were so many discussions and lots of changes, but again, talking about that fluidity and flexibility is super important to have that approach during this time.”
Three albums into the game, the most recent being 2018’s Purge and a legion of fans waiting with bated breath for the next batch, High Tension have earned a perspective on their industry that isn’t readily available. From that position, Karina surmises that the changes within just the music industry are “going to be immeasurable.”
“Music fans are thinking, how else can I support my favourite artists? Curators and organisers are rethinking also how to support and sustain artists during this period – because ultimately each of us have realised how integral it is, how connected we are to music; we can’t let that diminish.”
And of her peers, Karina adds “artists are going to come out of this being a bit more innovative in how they operate, but I think it’s not just the artists that need to, it’s the full industry. It’s a time for reflection. It’s a time to feel, to get organised. I think it’s important to set those intentions.”
Melbourne Music Week 2021
Saturday, 6th February – SOLD OUT
Max Watts, Melbourne
Tickets: Melbourne Music Week