When one thinks about Metal and Australia, probably the first band that comes to mind is Sydney’s AC/DC. However, when it comes to newer music, Metalcore band In Hearts Wake have also made quite a name for themselves. Formed in early 2006 in Byron Bay, Australia, a beach town about 400 miles north of Sydney, In Hearts Wake released their debut studio album Divination in 2012. The five-piece outfit consists of Jake Taylor on vocals (who is also an accomplished video director-more on that later), Ben Nairne and Eaven Dall on guitars, Kyle Erich on bass and Conor Ward on drums. In Hearts Wake’s previous three albums–2014’s Earthwalker, 2015’s Skydancer, and 2016’s Ark all debuted in the Top 5 on the Australian Recording Industry Association charts. The band has toured the world going to places such as North America, Europe and Asia alongside the likes of Chelsea Grin, Thy Art Is Murder, While She Sleeps, Hand of Mercy, and Hellions. They were also scheduled for the mainstage at the world-famous Download Festival in Donington Park, England in June of 2020 until the recent pandemic forced all music events to be postponed.
Currently, In Hearts Wake have released their first new music in three years. They have put out two singles, Worldwide Suicide and Son Of A Witch, and have announced an upcoming new album entitled Kaliyuga due out on August 7th 2020. Screamer spoke with front man Jake Taylor about the band’s new singles, the direction of their new album, and why Greta Thunberg is metal.
The band’s first new single from the new album is the heavy, almost industrial sounding Worldwide Suicide. The song is an onslaught of memorable riffs and intense vocals. It is no secret that In Hearts Wake are adamant climate activists. The lyrics for Worldwide Suicide revolve around what the band describes as “ecocide.” However, Taylor insists that the band isn’t pointing fingers but rather getting people to talk about the issues.
The video for Worldwide Suicide, expertly directed by Taylor, depicts a house on fire with each room representing an ecosystem, and in those rooms a human from every stage of life is under serious threat. Taylor elaborates on the meaning behind the Worldwide Suicide video: “I directed the video and wrote the story, the script. It was written by my mother and I actually; we both wrote it together. She’s awesome to collaborate with and we collaborate on a lot of things together. The messages in the lyrics are interlinked with the things that happen in each scene, whether they’re subtle or obvious. It was very important that we really dug into each room in the video and the details like putting a framed picture of the Arctic icebergs in the room that’s on fire. And inside the little kid’s room, there was taxidermy animal trophy heads on the wall. So, we worked on little details like that. I’d really would love people to unpack that and think about how they feel about that. What does this mean? And that stuff is really important when you’re making big statements and trying to create big messages of change. Because it’s all about the conversation, right? Rather than pointing the finger, it’s kind of saying like, ‘Hey, what does this mean? How do I feel about it?’”
Taylor believes it is important that he directs the band’s videos so that he can better convey the meaning of the lyrics. He explains, “Well, that’s where I think that writing and directing of music videos coming from the person who’s writing the lyrics and is a part of the song’s creation is important. Having someone else direct doesn’t always work. With me directing, it felt very clear and direct the whole time in that translation process to putting it onto a screen. I’ve had a lot of feedback saying it feels like it really relates, and it fits. And I believe that’s the reason why, because there wasn’t a translation barrier between me and someone else. I put a lot of effort in those treatments and making sure all the details were there. I’ve been using some of the same teams for awhile and they know where I am coming from. If you look at all our videos I’ve written, I always work with the director if I don’t direct it myself to make sure that translation is as clear as possible; so it speaks to the music and it’s something I’m learning. I’m getting better at it over time and I can’t wait to explore it further.”
Worldwide Suicide will be the second track on the new album and is a companion song to Crisis, the album opener. The song Crisis is also the introduction to the video for Worldwide Suicide. Taylor had this to say about the two songs: “As a director, I wanted to introduce Worldwide Suicide by showing the state of the world essentially. And Crisis being this entry point, a gate that began to set up Worldwide Suicide. That’s how it plays on the record. Those two were written separately, but Worldwide Suicide was written as a companion track that would come straight out of it.”
Crisis features a sample of climate activist Greta Thunberg‘s address at the climate strike in NYC last year recorded by vocalist Jake Taylor. Taylor describes the experience: “I had the absolute privilege to be in New York City and it was not planned that it would align with the climate strike. I ended up in the climate strike because it was outside my apartment where I was staying, and I obviously really wanted to be a part of it. And then I’m getting told by people around me, ‘Oh, Greta is leading the march. She’s going to be there at Battery Park at the end of the march. And so, I was just amongst this amazing flow of passionate people and it was so incredible to be part of. And then I recorded that speech live on my phone. I just felt so moved.”
As far as the musical direction of the new album, Taylor explains that while it does go in a darker direction musically than their previous work, it is a growth for the band and not too drastic of a musical detour. Taylor elaborates, “I would say, if we’re talking in shades of colors here that Worldwide Suicide is definitely at its deepest and darkest. We love as a band to always explore the spectrum, so that the sound of that song, by sound, I mean the drum sound, guitar sound, vocals, there’s going to be themes, you know, throughout the whole thing because we’ve recorded this all in a session. All the new tracks are not as heavy as Worldwide Suicide. There are other elements in other songs, but diversity is a huge key and that’s because we need diversity right now. So, the new singles are a taste, it’s a taste of what’s to come, but you’re going to experience a huge diversity in what we do musically. Many colors of the spectrum. I don’t want to toot our own horn here, but I think we’re quite diverse in that we have many abilities as musicians. We have a clean vocalist who can sing acoustically quite well, and we can also do the heavy thing quite well because that’s where I thrive. And then our guitarists are almost ambient. They do lots of soundscaping for trailers and things like that. So, between all of us, it’s like we are all pushing and pulling and saying ‘Hey, can we explore this and explore that?’ So we tend to not put all our eggs in one basket, and that’s just how we operate as a group. So, I think fans are going to be pleased and that they’re going to discover something new perhaps that they might not have thought we were capable of or perhaps something that they just love. And we’ve done it for them on this record. We’re trying to write things not to piss people off, but we definitely want to write things that will please people in some way because of something that we believe needs to be discovered. I’d like to think of it like that.”
The second single from Kaliyuga Son Of A Witch is a little less dark than Worldwide Suicide, although it has a similar message and is not short on heavy riffage and savage breakdowns. It also makes great use of the band’s penchant for both dirty and clean vocals. The lyrics for Son Of A Witch were originally influenced by Taylor’s experience with the devastating Malibu Fires in California in 2018. Surprisingly, they were penned before the great burning of the Amazon Rainforest and the destructive 2020 wildfires in Australia. Taylor tells us that he is “actually half American. My family is from New York state and I’ve got a huge connection to the land in America as well as Australia. There are some amazing people doing amazing things over there. I’ve lived in Lake Tahoe for a couple of months. I’m very familiar with California. The land there is spectacular, and it might be the greatest state for natural wonder.”
Son Of A Witch was recently released accompanied by a carton video due to the pandemic situation. Taylor describes, “Coronavirus turned our video cartoon. These challenging times are forcing us to adapt, evolve and discover new ways of doing things. I scoured the internet for an animation team who could bring to life this emotive, sensitive and archetypal narrative about humanity’s neglect and mistreatment of Mother Earth.” The animation is by Flock London who have done a lot of work for the BBC. Taylor continues, “I’ve never written or directed animation before, but it opened up new possibilities and for that I’m grateful.” The video depicts the revenge of a burned witch spreading fire as a metaphor for an angry earth.
Luckily, the entirety of the Kaliyuga album was recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic, so some may wonder why the August release date? The album was pushed a bit because the band is adamant about minimizing the environmental footprint surrounding Kaliyuga. Taylor worked diligently to facilitate this process, which was not made easier with the current situation. He describes, “There are issues that we’re having to navigate right now regarding the release of the album. It being a big part of this record, I believe it needs to be mentioned, I calculated everything in the recording process, be it the output of electricity to driving miles, every plane mile to food consumption to how many lights are in the room. And we’ve quantified all that to create a carbon footprint of the recording process. And so, the record has been offset. And part of that offsetting of the record is also looking at waste and manufacturing this record with sustainable recyclable materials, which I haven’t seen done before on this level. So, it’s proving all kinds of challenges, which is cool because we’re learning, like ‘Hey, what are better ways to create products that aren’t harming the planet? So, with that comes delays in shipping times and all things that we’re just sort of seeing who’s best to go with and how can we navigate that in the COVID storm.”
Clearly, when it comes to the environment, In Hearts Wake is not all talk. They believe in taking action as well. For example, they are planting one native tree in Australia next Spring for every 1,000 views the Worldwide Suicide video receives. Taylor tells us more about the band’s actions for the environment: “We also planted 1500 trees back in 2014. The trees for Worldwide Suicide we’ll do it in six months’ time when this release happens. When I say release, I mean the release of the quarantine restrictions so we can get people together and we’ll put the trees into the ground. I think it’s those little things. And it’s beyond the actual trees in the ground. I hope that the people that turn up for the planting extend it far beyond that and that we have the ripple effect. People will be like ‘wow, that felt awesome doing that’ and maybe that will inspire another tree planting somewhere in the world. It’s just the little things we can do to be accountable for ourselves as much as possible and to, again, not point the finger as much as possible as no one likes being told what to do, but they love being suggested or told ‘Hey, these are the options if you’re interested.”
When In Heart Wake formed, the band hadn’t quite grasped onto their adamant message about the climate yet, but as they toured the world, they began to see the importance of it and have been focusing on it as a focal point of their career since 2012. Taylor explains that when they started “we wanted to jam and play music. And that’s because we were 14, 15 years old, we weren’t quite aware of the issues around the world. We were just experiencing what life was as a teenager, as a young adult, so to speak. But it quickly came to our attention right in front of our face when we were about 20, 21, 22 and so that’s now seven, eight years ago, back in 2012, when we started touring the world. We started saying, ‘well, what’s it like to be from the ghettos in America to Indonesia to third world countries?’ And it was like, ‘wow, nature is not so much of a main character in these people’s lives like it is back home where we live in Australia and this changes the way people interact with the environment and also treated themselves.’ And through that realization and that discovery, it was like, ‘if we all had access and connection with nature and with the natural world, we feel that it would really support health and well being.’ And then that led to the idea that we need to protect it, we need to support this. And so that has been the goal for the last few albums. It is a theme that we’ve always held in its highest regard, the natural world.”
As far as using metal music as a forum for their political views, Taylor had this to say: “I think metal comes from hardcore and comes from punk and punk was always rebellion from the status quo. And even rock n’ roll was a rebellion from what was popular and they explored the movements that were not being looked at by the mainstream. And that’s what still is happening here. I believe we’re still in that place in the underground. This is where we birth these amazing solutions or amazing awareness on issues that need to be solved. And there’s a lot of opportunity here to just raise awareness, but it feels like we’re tapped into something that rallies a cause that is the underdog and for the greatest part, it feels like the planet has been an underdog. It’s been treated like an underdog, like I was saying about Greta. We’re not putting the planet first. And so, the metal scene has been speaking about it for quite some time. Bands like Earth Crisis. There’s been all kinds of hardcore bands that have been talking about the earth. Rage Against the Machine, I’m not going to call them metal, but you know, bands like that; it’s that root grassroots movement, that underground movement of rallying people together. Whether you consider yourself political or not, every product is a vote, every artist you listen to is a vote. I mean, there is people in places of privilege, and I urge those people, if you have the financial option to always really consider where your dollars are being spent even on a lower scale because your dollar is your vote for everything. So just think about it. How can I shift the currency? How can I shift it to be supporting the things that support the earth?”
Check out in Hearts Wake’s fifth studio album Kaliyuga on August 7 via UNFD.