They say it’s never been easier to find new music. And they are right but the issue with prim, proper and pruned curated playlists on digital streaming platforms is that, well, they’re just that. They’re safe. But venture back through the digital music landscape a few decades, to the era of illegal peer-to-peer, facilitated by outlawed programs including Limewire and Kazaa, you find a period where finding new music was anything but safe.
And it’s an era that artists like Up Late yearn for, as he would explain to BLUNT.
You never knew what you’d find. In an effort to curtail usage of the programs, the myth goes, major record labels would flood the services with bootlegs, covers and unofficial cuts. The wild west of music discovery, and on account of its success, it had an impact on music creation. Compilations like Punk-O-Rama, or the Taste Of Chaos sampler or even BLUNT’s beloved mishmosh became the go-to sandpits to find new music; unlike modern curated playlists, you never knew what would come next, all you knew is you might hate it, or you might love it.
It’s a long-lost hunger that Up Late has tapped into with his new EP, TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS (Out now). A sporadic, genre-bending tip of the hat to the days when you didn’t know what you’d be hearing next, but you knew damn well you weren’t going to skip it.
I’d love to know how you landed on this idea, to recreate an energy more so than a sound. How did you arrive there? It was less about, “Hey, I want to come in and I want to write like a rock record. And every single session we have to have rock writers and we need to just do rock music.”
It was more so about, “What are we inspired by that week? And what’s going to give us the best song?” So we try to throw out the rule book of, “We should hone in on a particular sound.” I think the sound and the vision is literally just whatever I felt was important to me at that particular point in time. I’m just trying to bottle those particular types of ideas. So the thematic concern of the record in and of itself is less about themes and ideas and more about the process of making something. It’s less about, “Okay, I’m going to come out of this with some grandiose idea about depression and anxiety or whatever else or love…”
They’re things that I experience every day, so they’re going to shine through in lyrics. But I liked the idea of trying to bottle ideas and moments in time that were important and precious to me. We’re going to create something that at the end of the day might not be the most cohesive or put together or thought out in a traditional sense of an EP. But I think that’s the kind of beauty in all of it. I think that’s why it’s comedic, and cheeky, and super self-aware. I just was like, “This is what it is. This is what I want to do. I’m just going to do that” and that’s it.
…Does that make sense?
On paper, that’s such a cool idea. But in practice – bottling this stuff, what’s that actually like? Is it this process of distilling and letting things sit and just watching what happens? We didn’t distill and we didn’t think about anything. To be honest, the first iteration of this EP, we were doing that. That’s where we caught snags early on.
We thought, “Okay, this song’s a rap song. It’s not going to work against a song where I’m just singing. So we probably shouldn’t have those on the same record.” And as we went along, we realized, “Well, we’re probably going to be better off if we actually try and work out what it is that makes Up Late, what is it that’s special?
We’re just going to do it. Maybe we don’t have an idea for a bridge. So does it need a bridge? Maybe not. Or do I have a second verse? I’m talking to WXRMS or I’m talking to Dxrmant and maybe they would have a better idea, so we would just send the song and then that’s how the features came about. There wasn’t so much of this predetermined, grandiose long-form EP writing in a traditional sense.
I’m really obsessed with this idea of appeasing the 13 year old self. Because there is this energy to this album which is not sporadic, there’s so much going on that it does remind you of those random compilation albums that you used to find in your youth, those Taste of Chaos samplers or This Is Killer or Punk-O-Rama…or the same energy of listlessly browsing for songs on Limewire…You hit the nail on the head.
That’s exactly what we started to feel like it was becoming when we were actually towards the latter end of writing these songs that ended up forming the EP. And I really love that you used Limewire because that was a really big introduction to music for me.
Around that early preteen/tween whatever time period. That was really, really influential to me. And another one of the ideas that I wanted people to take away from listening to this, is it definitely is supposed to feel like some sort of sampler.
Maybe you’re not going to like every single song on the EP. Maybe I’ll be the only one that actually likes every single song because they’re so polarizing and so different. What we were trying to do was ask “What’s heavy?” You Peaked in High School, for example, when we were writing that I was on this real big anti-guitar thing where I was like, “I don’t want to use guitars.”
“How can we write a metal and punk song with no guitars?” And then that was the challenge where, “All right, let’s take a synth and run it through a guitar ramp instead and see what happens with that.” So it wasn’t conscious from the outset, but towards the latter half of writing it, it definitely started to feel like we’re actually creating a sample record of all the influences that I had when I was growing up when I was 13.
It’s this formula thing that irks me. Then you look at an Australian website, it’s all post-hardcore this, metalcore that. Do you think that we are still really obsessed with the idea of genre and narrow path for artists? 100 percent. Within Australia, there’s so few lanes for you to work within that kind of framework and infrastructure if you are somebody that jumps between different sounds.
Take the last two songs that I released… And I’m not saying that every single one of my songs should be picked up. As long as anybody hears it, that’s cool. I’m not out here to just get playlists, but think about a song like Tidal Wave, which is the last song on the EP, which is the Fortress theme. That is… Formulaic is perhaps not the right word but we definitely wrote that within some sort of parameter of, “We need it to feel like a rock song.”
It has undertones of post-hardcore and metalcore. It’s a rock song. So you give that to a DSP and someone goes, “Okay, this is definitely a rock song, so we can place it here and it’s going to appease those rock fans.” Which is cool. Then give them a song like Diva, where I’m like, “I’m really passionate about this song, but it’s a minute 38. And I’m just screaming at the top of my lungs. But there’s no guitars. It’s literally just an 808 and a weird melody… It’s kind of a rap song, but it’s a metal song as well.”
And they go, “Oh, but it’s not the rock song anymore. It’s not the rock… What do we do with this? We don’t know.”
I think that we need to get away from that. Artists like hearteyes or daine and Darcy Bayliss are doing incredible things and pushing a lot of different boundaries and they all come from a heavy background.
They’re doing really interesting things in the pop and rap and alternative pop space. I still think that in a weird way, they’re almost underrepresented. The Limewire generation doesn’t really exist anymore. And I’m very fortunate to be a part of that.
TOTAL FUCKING DARKNESS it out now via UNFD.