Brisbane post-hardcore four piece Deadlights have impressed us to the extreme at Depth Mag. The band comprising of Dylan Davidson (vocals), Tynan Reibelt (guitar and vocals), Josh O’Callaghan (drums) and Sean Prior (bass and vocals), have something unique with their sound and messages.
We wanted to go beyond playing their album Mesma on repeat, so reached out to the band, with Dylan giving us an inside perspective of Deadlights as well as the inner workings of Mesma.
Kel: Firstly can you tell me about Deadlights and how you all came together as a
band. I know that Sean came later in the piece?
Dylan: Deadlights is the result of years of friendships and old bands that Josh, Tynan
and I were in. The three of us met circumstantially through friends of
friends when were young pups and moulded together perfectly from day dot. We
had been using fill in bass players for a long period of time since we always found
it hard to include a fourth into our process. Originally that’s what Sean was
doing, we played a show with his old band First Sight and made the decision then
and there to poach him. He was doing that for so long he found his way into our
mould and we decided to make Deadlights the awesome foursome it has become.
Kel: The album title Mesma – how did this come to be?
Dylan: Mesma is a take on the last name Mesmer of Franz Anton Mesmer. Our whole
lyrical theme for the album centres on control and hypnotism, after a bit of
research we found that Mesmer’s concepts sort of kick-started the hypnotism
movement. It’s where the word mesmerize comes from. We thought it all too
Kel: I imagine you guys got a fair bit of hassling given that Northlane‘s Mesmer was
released around the same time. What was that like?
Dylan: Great minds think alike, eh! We already had printed all our CD’s when they
announced it. Not much we could do. Mesmer is a fantastic album. Lucky we’d decided to change the spelling!
Kel: I thought it was kind of interesting how both albums relate to
energy/vibration/invisible connections and then we had two separate bands come
up with concepts that are almost identical to the other. It’s like the experience
itself is demonstrating the concept, yeah?
Dylan: It is! I believe everyone’s subconscious is linked on some sort of plane and this is
a fine example of that coming into play. As soon as an idea exists, it is sitting
there ready for anyone with reaching hands to grab it.
Kel: Do the concepts by way of energy or vibration in Mesmer’s theories capture what
you were trying to share with Mesma? I’d love to know more.
Dylan: Very much so, the idea that there is an energy transference between all things
pops up in almost every song. In the case of “The Translator”, that song is actually
about the album Mesma funnily enough. It was written last and much later than
the rest of it. It talks about how the album is an audible version of the energy I
project out. It is our vibrations that we created at the time played back to you.
It also led to our decision to be in trance for “The Mad Scientist” music video, what
a better way to visualise an invisible energy than through the power of
Kel: Do you use some of those theories in the process of making your music? An
example could be like ‘going by feel’ in the creation of songs and also in the
process of making decisions as a band.
Dylan: In a way. We are very much a write in a jam room band. Anything we write on a
computer turns out to nowhere the same calibre of the rest so we do a lot of
structuring all together in a room. It’s the only way to really feel the ‘flow’ of the
song. Those moments when you are jamming, you all look at each other and do
the same thing at the same time, that’s when you know you’re onto something
Kel: “Order Without Order” is such a kickass start to Mesma. What went into you
deciding upon the track order?
Dylan: Cheers! Well we knew that “The Shapeshifter” just had to be the ending and we
worked backward from there. The main tool we used was if the song starts with
Tynan’s vocals, have the song before ending with my vocals & vice versa. Also
keeping in mind to not have too many songs in the same key consecutively.
Kel: What has it been like touring with Belle Haven? (and playing shows with Aburden
and Ambleside too)
Dylan: Those guys were great. We had a drama free blast at every show. Really want to
keep pushing our relationship with those bands and see where we can take them.
I can see many stages shared in the future. It’s great to see good bands flourish
like they should.
Kel: How does it feel to have people singing your songs back at you and really getting
into your music?
Dylan: As euphoric as you can comprehend, multiplied by nonillion!
Kel: Back to “Order Without Order”, it’s such a wake-up call, yeah? In fact a lot of the
tracks on Mesma feel like that. To wake up and pay closer attention. Was there
something that happened that was a moment of ‘wow’, by way of awareness that
Dylan: Yeah absolutely, “Order” is an anti-“ignorance is bliss” song. There was no single
moment of clarity for me, Mesma was written & rewritten over a couple of years
so as I grew up and cared more about certain things they made their way into
the songs. I’d rather say wake up look for yourself than to try and tell you how to
feel about something.
Kel: Have you needed to come to terms with sharing ideas that may not be popular or
Dylan: Not at all yet. But in 2017 I’m not sure if that’s as big of an issue. People are
opening up nice and wide these days!
Kel: I am touched by the selflessness of “Invisible Hands” every time I hear it. What
do you feel is a solution for people to move away from the grip of ‘invisible
hands’? (“I tried to tell you but you never want to hear it”)
Dylan: It’s sort of hard for me to say as that song was so specific towards one person in
my life. I’ve never battled with it myself; the song is my outsider’s perspective
trying to help someone going down a spiral without knowing how.
Kel: I honestly don’t pay much attention to genre (for better or for worse). I’d rather
pay more attention to individual songs. I am a huge fan of the rhythms
throughout the album, across different timings and sounds (“Attitude and
Longitude” is a good example). Rhythm feels like a focus, as do the lyrics.
Struggling to put that into words in particular, but do you know what I mean? I’d
love to know what goes into creating that, because that in particular is what has
me hooked on Deadlights.
Dylan: That’s cool as. When we write it can go a few ways. Sometimes Tynan will have
the melody sorted and I’ll have to fit lyrics in, sometimes I’ll give him lyrics with
syllables he would never have normally used and this forces him to come up with
something hella funky to make it work. This happens with Josh & I as well.
Sometimes he was have the drum beat rhythm and make me write lyrics in a
way I wouldn’t normally to fit and other times I’ll have the rhythm planned with
the lyrics and force Josh to play something totally whack to compliment what I’m
doing. You can find an example of this in every song.
Kel: I’m a huge fan of the unpredictable structure of your songs too, is this something
deliberate or do you just go with what feels right?
Dylan: Excellent! It can be either. As I said before, a lot of our stuff is written in a jam
room and that’s all flow. However, songs like “Backwash” where the lyrics are
about sounding unique we purposely put in the most bizarre section of the album
in. Because we only have one guitarist too, Tynan has to use a loop pedal live to
play lead licks. This forces us to always have lead guitar come in prior to the
rhythm. This makes for some weird transitions that we wouldn’t have used if not.
We like it that way.
Kel: The lyrics on Mesma have more of a poetry vibe or stream-of-thought vibe to
them than being constructed as purely lyrics, how do they come about?
Dylan: They are all derived from hand written notes I put in my notebook. It could be
just words or one-liners but everything gets structured off that. I might take 5 or
6 things from the book and then build what I want to say. After that I’ll tweak
parts to fit the song and “voila”.
Kel: I love the vocals with two different lyrics at once, I feel it adds to the power of
the message. Did it take time to find a groove so to speak with the combination
of clean and unclean vocals?
Dylan: As a youngin’ I listened to a lot of Taking Back Sunday who utilize that in most of
their songs, when it came to arranging vocals it sort of felt like second nature as
we were used to hearing those sorts of patterns.
Kel: I feel like it’s important to you guys to take an approach of uniqueness and
having your own voice (a la “WHERE DID YOUR IDEAS GO!?” of “Backwash”). Do
you feel like some songs are harder for people to ‘get into’ because of that
Dylan: That song takes a couple of listens to find the groove because of its 5/4 timing
but hopefully it’s interesting enough to grant that second listen. Personally I
prefer songs like that so I think you’ll probably find more of it in what’s to come.
Kel: Speaking of “Backwash”, that section with ‘the solar plexus charges the
lightbulb’ just blows my mind every time. How did that come about?
“Keeping in touch with the solar plexus
Charges the light bulbs above our necks as
Wax drips down your smile
You were dimly lit for a little while.”
This is a take on when cartoons get ideas they get light bulbs above their
heads! It’s basically me saying that if you are happy within yourself with what
you are doing, your ideas will shine bright. If you are not happy within yourself,
or you are doing it for any other reason, they will be more like a candle, flicker
and fade away.
Kel: “Preconceptions” drums are insanely good, as is the bass. In fact the whole
fucking thing. I keep waiting for this to be released as a single. What are your
favourites on the album?
Dylan: Thank you! It’s so interesting for me to hear other people’s takes on what they
would have picked as singles. Every person has a different thought about it. My
favourites are “Backwash” and “The Shapeshifter”. “Backwash” is my favourite
lyrically. It has the most coherent and straight up meaning out of all the songs
and I care about it strongly. “The Shapeshifter” I feel is our most mature song,
especially the ending.
Kel: “Know Hope” is such a middle finger to people that have burned you in the past.
Is this about a real life experience?
Dylan: Know Hope is actually the oldest song on the album. We released an old
recording of it in 2013 even. But hell yeah it’s a middle finger! It was based on a
real life experience from a friend who lived on a high horse. They didn’t agree
with decisions I was making and would make it very public knowledge. I thought
I’d do the same back.
Kel: What is your hope for people that hear your music?
Dylan: Half of me wants people to delve deep and analyse how much thought goes into
each song. Half of me wants people to just say fuck yeah and bob their head
haha. There’s something in Deadlights for everyone I suppose I just hope people
can easily find it.
Kel: What’s next for Deadlights?
Dylan: We are going to keep touring as much as we can this year. Put whatever we can
into play to get overseas plans cooking. Also work our butts off to get another
album out in the first half of 2018! We are going to be busy that’s for sure.
Kel: Are the themes in Mesma something that you’d like to continue making music
Dylan: The themes of Mesma will always be underlying for Deadlights but on the next
album I’m going to zoom the vision into a particular focal point rather than such
a spread of topics. Who knows where I’ll end up though!
We are around the country July / August with Thy Art Is Murder, Alpha Wolf &
Cursed Earth. All dates and tickets from www.thyartismurder.net
Open your ears; your mind will shortly follow.
All live photos of Deadlights courtesy of Corey Bonadiesi.