With the use of a hieroglyphic kind of font and a unique approach to marketing their music, Gravemind ooze mystery. I had the opportunity to get on the phone with the Melbourne band’s frontman Dylan Gillies-Parsons recently, and you bet I jumped at the chance to pick the guy’s brain. I was keen to understand more about what’s under the hood of upcoming album Conduit. Gravemind’s debut album will release on 19th July via Greyscale Records. Though I wasn’t wanting to spoil any of the album’s secrets ahead of its release, Dylan was happy to go into detail of each of the 11 tracks with me.
The stunning album cover, intriguing album title, and cinematic music videos inspired my first curiosity: Is Conduit conceptual? I’d had a listen through the album and was still uncertain either way. The album opens with “The Effigy” which comes across like a fearsome bad guy taking control of a person as they’re forced to morph into human form.
Dylan confirmed that it is not a concept album, for the most part. In his words: “So “The Effigy” is kind of a bit of a fever dream in that it does come off as quite theatrical and quite conceptual, but it’s not really. It’s a bit of a hypocritical way to start an album that’s not a conceptual album for the most part. So the song itself feels like it could be a made up story, but what it really is, it starts off as being about the black and white of when humans formed consciousness. Maybe we as people detached from animals and started to think more reflectively. It’s kind of a dream I had where I could see humans forming.”
Kel: “A literal dream?”
Dylan: “Yeah, a literal dream. I think I use the term ‘dream’ kind of loosely, but it was an experience I had where I saw consciousness form and the point in which myself at least or humans had to buy into a lie, or buy into something, like an effigy, to go ‘Okay, everyone, let’s follow this. Let’s jump upon this train. Let’s move our consciousness forward to what it is today. To what it is now.’ And I thought it was a pretty fitting start to an album. It’s such an existential setup, that every single song preceding that can be quite personal, but I think initially it comes from a place where it’s almost conceptual in nature. It comes from a place which was quite large in scale and then it quickly hones in with the next song “Reveal”.”
I had felt like there was potential for every single song to be part of a story of fantasy, but also that each song could very easily hook into something very real; that there could be double meanings. Even when there’s something personal and close to home, the same concept could have been at play in a larger more theatrical story. But though Gravemind have been steeped in concept in the past, Conduit is not a continuation of this approach.
Dylan was quick to offer a nod of appreciation to that style of creation. “I think that’s kind of a fine guise to keep. Like a lot of bands when I was growing up and listening to… Like I loved My Chemical Romance, for instance. I only found out the other day that they’re a concept band. I thought all their songs were completely just reflective songs about experiences in life, but that was even tied into the songs. That kind of goes and shows the level of songwriting, that it can be up to the eyes of the beholder as to what they are. I think the job of an artist sometimes is kind of letting go of the ego and letting the song kind of be interpreted any which way it can be. I think that’s kind of a double-edged sword. Like they are very personal songs moving forward, and they can kind of come off seeming very conceptual. I think that’s fine as well.”
“I think the job of an artist sometimes is kind of letting go of the ego and letting the song kind of be interpreted any which way it can be.“
Ready at this point to throw all of my notes (and interview questions) about the ‘story’ out the window, I asked if it was humans that were ‘the effigy’ and if the manipulation is the fact that we exist. Dylan clarified by saying “The effigy I was trying to paint a picture was moreso a thought, potentially. Something that we’ve created mentally that has becometh. That has completely eloped us, like ‘the effigy’ almost refers to the conduit in a way, as something beyond comprehension, but “The Effigy”, the song itself, is about buying into an idea universally as a human species. Buying into the idea of who we think we are and we have to believe in it, we can’t consider what it would be if it didn’t exist. Which is why the lyrics of that song are ‘Dare not ask what it would be if we turned it off, for it is on’. It’s kind of like ‘We are this, we can’t be any other way’. And that’s where the rest of the album comes from, or extends from, or everything from my perspective comes from.”
Our chat was late at night and this was already proving to be a mind-bending and thought-provoking challenge for my tired self. Dylan agreed it was all “pretty trippy stuff”. With the vocals on “The Effigy” (and other songs) shifting from roars to more melodic, I’d asked for clarification if these were intended as different people/characters. Dylan felt it was more that different perspectives showed up in the changes of voice, whether or not there were different characters involved.
Of Conduit‘s second track, I was intrigued by a lyric that said “Wear that person suit and let it fucking float you”, and was keen to understand where Dylan was coming from with this. He explained the line by saying “Again it’s not conceptual in the way that’s an actual person suit, but I think that that line ‘Wear that person suit and let it fucking float you’, it’s like taunting. Saying like ‘Go ahead, use it. Use the identity of being a person and let it keep you above the water. Let it keep you feeling sane.’ But if you really considered the frailty… just how short a tightrope we all walk, mentally, and how easily it is to slip off that tightrope and fall into the undertow.. If you just look down, it’s a pretty scary sight. So it’s kind of a taunt. For anyone that goes about life kind of like ‘I’m this, and that’s fine, and I’m not going to change. That’s me.’ and they’re stuck in their ways, like a taunt to say ‘Go ahead then! Be that way and see how it works for you.'”
Kel: “Right, and I’ve taken it a bit more existentially, with the idea of a soul in a body and there being an authority urging to not question that, not look into that, not change the status quo. My ideas of spirituality comes into this. Like, if in your waking/human life, you knew what you knew when you were just a soul, you’d lose your mind. That’s what I got out of “Reveal”.“
Dylan: “Yeah you would, and that’s the point that that section of the song is trying to make. Like, if you consider yourself just a person and that’s the whole container of you, then you’re good to go. I guess you could live your life. But if you consider that maybe the person suit that you’re in isn’t all that it seems, you could probably lose the plot and lose your mind. And it’s like, what happens when you lose your mind? What’s the ramifications of detaching and trying to become more spiritual and trying to listen to things that you can’t explain that are in yourself. You know? What happens then?”
By way of where the song sits in the album, Dylan explains, “As an overview, “Reveal” is where it locks into being a bit more reflective. There’s existential thoughts and expressions in the song, but basically what that song is doing for me is going ‘I’m going to show the world how vulnerable and how small and tiny I feel and how overwhelmed and upset and all these emotions… I’m going to show the world everything. I’m going to let this song be my reveal, and I’m going to show that being open isn’t weakness. And I’m going to show you that from the things that I’ve learnt and the things I’ve experienced’ and that’s what each kind of tidbit, each section of the song is just a different reflection of all the things I’ve learnt, and that’s what this song is meant to encompass. It’s meant to go ‘Here I am. Let’s move foward from here.’
“I’m going to let this song be my reveal, and I’m going to show that being open isn’t weakness.“
“You could read through the lyrics, like if you just read them on paper, there’s complete thoughts in there and there’s complete segments, but then there’s some things that are kind of unanswered questions, unanswered thoughts, or kind of more sporadic. You’ll find that maybe the start and end of the song will tie together more existentially and the middle of the song might be completely reflective of day to day life, or how I was feeling. And it might end with spreading out from that, going ‘Okay, I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now and this is on my mind and I’m going to push through it, and then it’ll go’. But none of that matters in the grand scheme of things, where we’re one grain of sand on a big beach.”
In listening to Dylan describe this kind of flowing (or maybe haphazard?) approach to bringing the song to life, I asked whether this was due to his process of writing, whether it was done as a stream of thought. He answered this by explaining how a Gravemind song can come together. “So I’ll write lyrics as inspiration strikes before there’s any music and most times it’s on a plane or on a tram or in between places. Or it might be when I’m listening to certain bands or certain songs. And it HAS to be when it just flows out of me in a flow state. That’s the only time I’ll write something. And sometimes it’s terrible. Sometimes it’s not good. I’ll have pages and pages of lyrics of fully fledged songs and ideas and then when Damon will write a song, he’ll write the instruments, and I’ll hear it, I’ll use none of it. [laughs] Like I might draw inspiration or ideas from them, but the way Damon writes, which is what I love about his writing, and I don’t feel weird about saying it because he writes all the songs, so I feel like a bit of an outsider and I feel like I can say I love how he writes, because he writes with such emotion that the song kind of goes where it feels it should go, in my opinion. It goes where it feels it should go, and not where a metalcore song would go. Like he just sort of follows this emotional trajectory. He might show me a song that makes me feel a way that I hadn’t felt previously, and I haven’t got lyrics for what he’s written, and so then I’ll start from scratch. For this album, I’ve tried to keep in mind that what’s important as well is to be entertaining is to grab peoples’ attention, so sometimes I’ll write the phrasings first, and I’ll see how my pre-written lyrics can fit in and then I might write new ones. It’s kind of like a Frankenstein of pulling the song together and then I’ll refine it and make sure it actually has some structure to it and has a point to make.”
Kel: “Right, okay. Do you know how Damon does that, with the emotion with his songs? As a non-musician, I just can’t even wrap my head around the idea of turning the strumming of a guitar into an emotion.”
Dylan: “Totally, and I can’t get it either. I can’t play an instrument. I wouldn’t even dare try it, wouldn’t even come at it, because I’m quite privileged to be in a band with Damon. Like he’s one of my best mates, but I’m really privileged to be in a band with him because he has such a unique gift that I haven’t heard in so many other songs that I listen to. It’s such a privilege to be able to see how his mind works. And he’s very different to me as a person. He’s kind of like the rock that doesn’t move anywhere. He’s very sure, he knows what he knows and that’s where he is. I’m kind of the one who’s ‘Oh what’s going on!’ and I’ll float around in the abyss. But he’ll kind of be like the lighthouse that guides me back.”
Kel: “That might be why it works so well, in how you balance each other out.”
Dylan: “Totally. It’s literally like that, and he probably wouldn’t say that because he’s not like that. He’s not like as trippy or spiritual in the ways that I am, and that’s fine. It’s kind of the balance. When he writes, he’ll sit there and he’s quiet and it doesn’t look like he’s doing… it doesn’t look like he’s feeling what he’s writing, but he’ll write something and you’ll just go ‘Ooh what the hell, dude!’. And he’s like [gruff voice] ‘Oh what? What about it!’. It’s almost like how he writes is a conduit for his emotions, you could say, if that’s not too lame to say. Like his emotion kind of comes out in his songwriting.”
What is meant by Conduit?
Kel: “Yeah wow. So you mentioned the word ‘conduit’, I came out of the shower before and was like ‘Oh! Is the “Conduit” the human body!?’ [laughs] Can you tell me what it is?”
Dylan: “Yeah, sure. So the conduit, it’s a way to pass information. So there’s literal meanings, like a conduit is a way to pass water between different water systems or something.”
Kel: “I thought of the literal word as a joining thing or a tube or…”
Dylan: “Exactly, if you Google it, you’ll get a lot of tubes. But the other meaning is a way to pass information and to use something as a conduit. I personally look at the music.. It has the power, if you let it, or if someone gives it that power, like a musician, let’s say. It’s like another language. It can be like another language and it can express things that you can’t express with words, in such a profound way that touches you in such a way that you almost can’t explain it, and that’s why I think music can be like a conduit. It can be like a conduit for feelings and emotions and ideas, without it actually being black and white, us two sitting on the phone explaining to you what it is. I might tell you what I think the song I wrote is about, but if you listen to it, you might get another experience. You’re downloading the information in a different way and that’s what this album to us was. It was a conduit for a meaning that we’re trying to express but we don’t have the words for it. I don’t think anyone does. It’s like this passage of information that we’re trying to use our music as a conduit for meaning that is intrinsic to who we are as humans. It’s universally relatable, it’s in all of us. It’s a point we’re trying to get across.”
With “Volgin” again, I’d wondered if there was more than one ‘character’ because of the way it was sung. Dylan was more than happy to clarify, saying “Previously we’ve had the story embedded in the music, but it was important for us to this time kind of do a 360 on that and make the music be completely personal, completely just us. But we still wanted to have story aspects about the music, so we just picked a different medium to display some creative story. So “Volgin”, I don’t know if you’ve seen the music video or not, but that music video has a story – a fictional narrative story from start to finish of a man who’s locked in a mental asylum for seeing something, for seeing ‘the conduit’, let’s say. He’s seeing something that he can’t put into words and he’s trying to get everyone to see what he’s seeing, and they think he’s crazy. They all think he’s nuts. And so he’s in the asylum and he’s trying to appeal to the people and trying to show them. Everyone thinks he’s nuts aside from one nurse, and that one nurse kind of sees that he’s maybe being genuine. And when he’s locked into that bed to be having the ECT [Electroconvulsive therapy], she doesn’t lock his arm brace. That’s how he escapes.”
Kel: “I didn’t even notice that!”
Dylan: “Yeah, it’s so subtle. It’s there but you kind of don’t notice it. She doesn’t lock it, but to her detriment, he kills the woman, trying to escape. Then he runs off into a field, and they chase after him. It turns out he is a bit nuts, like in some way he’s right and wrong at the same time, because he thinks he’s running in a field but he’s actually in a mental asylum. But it doesn’t matter, because to him it’s the most real thing he can experience. He sets himself on fire, and through that self-immolation – it’s right at the end of the video you see the nurse and the head doctor, who’s like the bad guy in a World War II movie with Nazis – they look at the window and they get a glimpse of the conduit.”
Kel: “I love that. Like ‘WAIT!’. Yeah.”
Dylan: “Like ‘Oh shit!’, yeah.”
Kel: “Yeah, that there was something in what he was saying. So as far as the vocals/lyrics go, it’s just from the one perspective, is that correct?”
Dylan: “Yeah, it’s just from my perspective. It’s about feeling quite alone in the world, but in some way taking an option of being alone, as opposed to subduing who you are as a person. Going ‘Even if everyone thinks I’m nuts, I’m still going to stick to it. And I’d rather pick a trajectory that I picked, and even if it kills me, even if it sets me alight, even if I suffer so hard for it, at least it’s my decision… at least it’s my reality that I say for myself.’ That song is mainly about taking ownership of yourself, and realising the divine power within you, I guess. Realising the God that you are, and even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it, they don’t have to. You just have to do you.”
Kel: “Yep! What does the world “Volgin” actually refer to? I think I Googled it and it was related to a video game?”
Dylan: “There ya go, yep. So I think Damon named it “Volgin”… because we both loved this video game called Metal Gear Solid Phantom Pain. There’s a character in it called Volgin who sets himself on fire and he’s one of the bad guys. We all kind of joked about “Volgin” the song in the album being the most metal, like heavy metal sounding song of the album. Like every song is quite different to one another, but that song to me was always the most straight up heavy metal kind of song, so we thought we should give it a name that sounded a bit metal, like a bit bearded viking kind of thing. Damon said ‘Volgin’ and just saying that out loud is hilarious. [Puts on a dramatic deep voice] Volgin. [In normal voice] What the hell! So we called it that and we lovingly drew inspiration from the video game that was played and that we love.”
Kel: “By way of “Vox Populi”, I meant to Google what that means, and I didn’t get a chance to. What does that mean?”
Dylan: “Well, it means ‘voice of the people’. That’s what Michael, our guitarist said. Michael’s the guy in the band who suggested the name Gravemind. And back then I suggested the name Graves. I thought ‘That’s awesome. That sounds really metal. Not too metal, but it sounds like a band that plays metal music. I love the name.’ Then we decided it, put out the music, and then Michael told me afterwards ‘Oh, that’s actually named after a character from Halo’, which is another video game. We were like ‘Oh what!’, we don’t know how we felt about it. So he’s done it again. He’s told me ‘vox populi’ means ‘voice of the people’, which it does, in Latin. But it’s also a BioShock Infinite reference in another video game. But it’s fine. His little mark on the band. We sneak in our marketing to our fans, but he sneaks things into the actual band. Things that we don’t know about that we find out about. Kind of like this level of inception where we’re going ‘What the fuck?’.”
Given that “Volgin” was specific to fire and burning, and fighting against things, I’d been curious if “Vox Populi” was intended as a continuation of the track before it, or maybe another perspective of it. Dylan explained that there’s references to burning throughout the album, due to his understanding of the self “and the idea that our entity is kind of like light; it’s like a thing that burns and it finishes. There’s a lot of references to burning in the album and I kind of realised that before it was written. I thought about that and it really rang true for that ultimate state of being a human is to burn brightly and to burn hard.”
For Dylan, “Vox Populi” is a way to creatively explore what I refer to as ‘cancel culture’; public call-outs that can destroy a career, regardless of the truth or not. It’s a delicate topic which attracts fierce and destructive attention even if you attempt to explore it out loud. Explaining further, Dylan said “”Vox Populi” is a song about the current climate with internet culture and the ‘jungle jury’ of the internet, where someone can say ‘This person’s an arsehole, he said this to me to show that he’s a fuckwit. He totally snobbed me, he didn’t sign my thing. Let’s tear him down!’. It’s this unease.”
Cautious to avoid any ties with specific circumstances, Dylan reiterated “The only point that song is making is that it feels unhuman to call someone out on an allegation, have that person torn down, and no one kind of settles the wreckage and goes ‘Okay, this person was called out for this reason, this person was accused of this or that. What actually happened, and what was the recourse of that?’. What’s the aftermath? What happens to that person as a human? I’ve seen it happen with even my friends; torn down, their lives altered forever and then the allegation or whatever gets thrown out the window and nobody cares.”
‘Dehumanised’ is the word Dylan used with how the entire situation has him feel, even from the sidelines of observation. “You can’t even work through your own thoughts or emotions without being labelled something. “Vox Populi” is about that. You can’t even make a mistake. If you make a mistake, you’re the one to blame. And that song’s just like ‘Well fucking blame me, I don’t care. I’m going to leave, I don’t want anything to do with it.’ sort of thing”.
Also on the topic of “Vox Populi”, the song has a fantastic lyric, or at least a lyric I think is fantastic: “You aren’t having these thoughts, these thoughts are having you”. Dylan says the line isn’t his own original idea, that it’s an adaptation of something else he had come across. “That’s not the specific quote, but the idea that you’re getting caught up in the rhetoric, where it’s like you’re jumping on a bandwagon. You’re disempowering yourself by thinking your thoughts are you. You’re going ‘Oh, this is me! The way that I feel about this, that’s so wholeheartedly me!’. You’re giving your thoughts all this power and that’s what it’s saying ‘You aren’t having these thoughts. These thoughts aren’t coming from you. These thoughts are having you. Like you belong to this way of thinking now.’ They’re dehumanising others and in turn if you do that to someone, you’re doing it to yourself. We’re all in this together to some degree. Well that’s my opinion anyway. That’s what happens when you do that. When you create an enemy out of somebody else, you’re kind of creating an enemy out of yourself a bit.”
“Hard Rain”‘s appearance on Conduit felt like exploring the idea of age, memory, and losing people, but aside from this, I wasn’t entirely certain, especially since my idea about an unfolding story was off track. When I asked Dylan about its inspiration, he said “It’s definitely about memory. That song to me lyrically on the album is probably the most downtrodden. It doesn’t quite sound like that musically, I think maybe “Reading: Steiner” sounds like it. But “Hard Rain” lyrically is a song about not being able to cope with being alive and having the world completely on your shoulders and feeling absolutely disenfranchised. For me it was feeling like needing to support others, and in needing to support others, like loved ones or partners or friends, it’s like you can’t even do that. That’s what I think I’m good at doing as a person, is being there for other people. And being so overwhelmed with depression let’s say, I can’t even do what I’m good at, which is be there for other people. Which is where the chorus comes in, it says “The rope is frayed we can’t both be saved.” I can’t pull my friends out of the depths. I can’t even pull myself out of the depths. One of us has to go. One of us has to fall. That’s what that song is about.
“A lot of the stuff on the album about memory, that’s quite personal. Most of the things you can find some kind of relation to, I think, in your own life. Everyone kind of feels these feelings in some way. But the feeling of not having memory and having things kind of fall away from you is very personal. Like I don’t feel like I can remember anything, I’m so overwhelmed that nothing seeps into my memory really. That’s what that song is about. You were right, but it’s kind of no longer about the story, it’s more of a reflective song.”
I’d only had time to watch the “Phantom Pain” music video in the lead-up to preparing to my interview with Dylan. The song and video are both intense and full-on presentations of domestic violence, and I had struggled with the idea of just throwing out a question about it. I was upfront about this thought process with Dylan, saying “I was like ‘Oh my god, how does someone just casually ask a question about that’, you know?”
Dylan: “You know what, I’m glad that you… It’s a change of pace for you to even say ‘How do you ask the question?’. Everyone else who has asked the question about it has kind of jumped straight into it and I’ve kind of been a bit shocked. It’s been like ‘Okay, we’ll talk about that now’. But yeah, you’re right, it’s a pretty heavy song.”
I liked the title, finding it perfectly fitting for the absense of something that’s still causing pain, and the double meaning by way of it. But there was more to it:
Dylan: “Yeah, did you happen to by any chance Google what ‘phantom pain’ might have meant as well?”
Kel: “I’ve heard of it before, like healing and stuff where you have a limb removed and it’s still hurting…?”
Dylan: “Funny enough, that’s actually another Metal Gear Solid reference. [laughs]”
Kel: “Oh is it! [laughs] I didn’t Google it because I was like ‘Oh, I’m totally fine with this!’ and I missed it!”
Dylan: “Yeah it’s the exact same game with Volgin and Phantom Pain”
Kel: “Oh my god.”
Dylan: “I know, I know. It just so happened that “Phantom Pain” the song title had such a-
Kel: “It’s perfect!”
Dylan: “It was the perfect meaning for the song and we were trying to decide on song names and they came about one by one, and I don’t think we pulled each other up and we were like ‘They’re both from the same game’. But “Phantom Pain”… ‘Oh, that makes sense’. The meaning of that song absolutely makes sense. But yeah the video game reference is pretty funny, because those are the two singles we put out and they’re both from the same game.”
Kel: “So, my only question about that song would be ‘How does it feel to have the song and everything about the song out there?'”
Dylan: “Wow, Kel. That’s a great question. It definitely feels very weird, let’s say. When we were writing the song, that was maybe six months ago, maybe longer, when the creative process was happening. The way I operate is that I’ll work creatively, initially. So creativity is the ultimate goal, there’s no other marketability, there’s no business related stuff when we start writing music, so it’s completely creative. And we started doing that and we were all very creative. Damon wrote the song and I took it home. It was just me on my couch writing the lyrics to that song, no one else was involved. It felt like it was just him and I that had ownership to that song and had anything to do with it, and so it felt very personal, but it felt fine. It felt like a very safe, familiar environment, familiar workflow. Writing it out was fine. And then what happened was that that was done; the creative process was done. I flicked the switch in my brain, like I always do when I go into business mode, and I’m like ‘Alright, we need the artwork, we need the label, we need the this, we need the that, we need the marketing campaign, the merchandise’.
“The creative and vulnerable part kind of got locked away and put in a box, and I worked on the whole release schedule, and we got the label and all the rest of it. And then when the song came out, it was kind of like… I hadn’t considered what that song meant to me before we released it, I think. I hadn’t really considered what effect it really had on me personally until we put it out. And then we put it out and people started reacting to it, in a really positive way. I mean a really great and really humbling and beautiful way. People were really made vulnerable by that song and they felt good that someone else had gone through something so similar, and they were happy to share that. It was just something that I wasn’t… I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting it, but I wasn’t. And I was forced to kind of consider what that song was.
“And then it kind of became apparent that that song was free for the world. Like that’s something that happened to me, happened to my mum, and it’s… public. It’s out there and everyone can watch it, and we’re all in the band so exhausted now from doing this album, like preparing for it and touring and all the stuff around it. We haven’t had time to kind of sit and reflect. We’re kind of in that busy state we were talking about before, of kind of going going going. And so the reaction to the song, and this song as it is, is kind of like beating its way back into my life, kind of punching its way back in. It’s going ‘You need to take notice of this and you need to sit with it for a bit and find its place in the world now that it’s public’. Like ‘How does it sit with me?’ la de dah. And so it’s a bit weird. It’s been a bit weird having the song out for about a week now, and having everyone react to it, but it’s beautiful. It’s a really lovely thing and I’m really lucky to have people in my life that are supportive, and I’m lucky to have the fans that we have that are opening up to me about how they felt about it. It’s really something else. Something I’ve never really experienced before, so I’m just taking it as it comes, I think.”
Kel: “Yeah, no, it’s really important. It’s interesting that it’s around the same time that Northlane have shared similar stuff in their music with “Bloodline”.“
Dylan: “I think some people that don’t know how the music industry works might find that to be some kind of bandwagon. But you and I would know that the music was written at a similar time, but neither band had heard each other’s songs. We didn’t sit down at a meeting and go ‘Alright, Gravemind. We’re Northlane, what are you writing about? How are we gonna do this?’ I think what that points to more is that there’s a real issue with domestic violence in Australia. If two… three bands now; Make Them Suffer put out a song as well about victims of abuse. I think that doesn’t show that we’re all copying each other, because it’s not possible with the release schedule and how things come out. I think what it’s showing is that metal may be reaching a breaking point where being metaphorical and being a bit more reserved with your actual honest beliefs and intentions… it’s not working anymore. It’s overdone, it’s too wishy-washy. I think now is the time to kind of say what hits home and what really lies within your heart as an artist.”
Kel: “Yeah I like that.”
Dylan: “With “Bloodline”, that is… that’s Marcus raw. That’s him. I’ll never attest to know that guy in the slightest, but he has given the world a piece of him that most people try and keep to themselves forever. I think in doing that, it’s totally given power to the people who are absolutely controlled by those instances of life; of trauma and abuse. It’s normalised it.”
Kel: “Opportunity to heal, maybe. That it’s okay to talk about.”
Dylan: “Absolutely, and know that their heroes have gone through the similar thing. I’m talking in relation to Northlane, clearly not us.”
Kel: “You’re someone’s hero, I’m sure.”
Dylan: “[laughs] Maybe Darcy Lock? Love that guy, we all love him.”
Dylan shared that “Reading; Steiner” is the only concept song on the whole album, and is based on the anime Steins;Gate. Explaining the inspiration further, Dylan says “So I don’t know if you knew this or not, but most of Gravemind are just big nerds. So three of the members, Karl, Michael, and Damon love anime, and so they wanted to do a re-imagining of a TV show called Steins;Gate. So I worked with Damon on lyrics and he wrote the song instrumentally and we made the only concept song on the album, which I think is really cool.”
Despite not having a personal link with the anime himself, Dylan could wholeheartedly relate to the beautiful escapism that can be found in nerding out. He says “It’s a concept song about something that’s specific, but from my perspective who never got into the show initially, it’s almost like its own form of release. Like delving into fiction and delving into things that you love is the perfect form of escapism. It can totally be a healing agent and that’s what I think video games and pop culture and comic books is for a lot of people. Whether they acknowledge it or not. You can come from a pretty rough background, but if you’ve got Crash Bandicoot on PSOne, you’re golden. [laughs]”
Zero Point Energy
I personally found “Zero Point Energy” to be very relatable as a song. As someone who has chosen a creative field for herself (and left other things behind to pursue it), and finding it hard to explain to others taking a more expected/predictable career path, it can highlight the lack of belief in what I’m doing. Dylan describes the song a ‘huge middle finger to anyone that has reservations for what you do’, and as something that gets him amped up.
Dylan: “So “Zero Point Energy” is quite forward. I like it because it’s a metal sounding song. It’s a metalcore kind of banger. The lyrics are quite intentionally self-aware that it’s talking to people. Like it’s pointing a finger and going ‘No no no, fuck you. We’re going to face this world on our own together as a band, even if it brings us no joy. Even if it absolutely destroys us. We’re not here for doing what you’ve done. Your reservations are what keep us down. Your opinions on who you think we should be are so hard to overcome. Fuck you for that, we’re going out to venture into the unknown, and even if we fail, we’re going to bring back what we bring back, and that’s going to be something that you’ve never seen before.’ And that’s what that whole song is. It’s a rally, a rally song. Rally to adventure.”
Kel: “Yeah and creativity as well! I’m wondering how the title works in with that? Is that like a quantum physics kind of thing?”
Dylan: “It totally is. So Michael, he told me the song name for that and I thought the song name was cool when he told me, but then he explained it, and… now that I think about it, he should be in the car doing this with me. I think it might be metaphysics where it comes from. It’s basically where you have to explain an equation with energy, right? You need to get energy from somewhere. And zero point energy is basically where you get energy from nowhere. [laughs] Energy doesn’t actually exist but you create an equation where it comes from anti-energy or like ‘the void’, where there is no energy. And that energy that cannot possibly be explained provides energy to work the equation, and that’s what the song’s about. It’s like pulling something from nothing.”
I had a good laugh at myself for following a non-existent conceptual story in my first listen through of Conduit, and thinking that “Hollow” was indicating that the ‘effigy people were leaving the planet’. Spoiler: They’re not, there isn’t anything like that going on! After laughing at with me too, Dylan described it as being inspired by the concept of the working week being at odds with the quest for identity and knowing yourself. Seeming like a continuation of sorts of “Zero Point Energy” in a way, “Hollow” is the outcome of NOT following your creative passion.
In Dylan’s words: “”Hollow”‘s about working yourself to the bone and the current unanimously accepted structure that we’re all in; that you’ve got to work five days a week, you rest for two, you work for five days, you rest for two. It’s not enough time for your mind, body, and soul to recover and then even consider the position you’re in. And I work in a bank. I work in banking and I see the lizard people and I see the people who’ve completely carved off their soul to just do banking and completely give their entire lives to the industry, and it’s so upsetting to see. It’s just a complete re-working of the human psyche to be in this position. And you either do that, or you sink. No one’s happy for you to go to work to get money and go home. They’re always going to ask ‘Oh what do you want to do? What’s your plan? What’s your career goal?’. Like culturally, there is such a pressure on us to do something work-related, that it totally strips you of any potential you have to recover and consider who you are. And you can get so busy with work that you get to the age of 65 and you retire and you’re a man-child, or you’re someone who’s never actually been alive because you’ve just been so busy.”
Musically, “Hollow” sounds as rough as its subject matter. Dylan says “That song is literally just the depths of depression and looking for an outlet and the only outlet you have is work. And you look at work and you turn to other people to see what they’re doing to see if their lives are any better, and they’re just turning the gears of this big machine and it just destroys you. And then you kind of face this and fall apart existentially and you go ‘We’re just gonna die. What are we doing? Why are we doing this?’. That song is SO bleak and it’s so punishing. That song is probably the meanest song on the entire album. It just punches you over the head. Musically, it is not nice to listen to. It hurts me to hear.”
Dylan: “Then the next song, “Embrace”, it’s the other side of the coin. Those two are brother and sister in the album. Those two fit together as being a duality. The absolute pits of despair and depression, very real things, very existential things, but negative existential things. Not good existential things. And then on the other side, “Embrace” is about existentialism. It’s that reflection but it’s the positive side of it. It’s turning it the other way around.”
Kel: “Right, moving toward something more genuine kind of thing?”
Dylan: “Yeah, well “Embrace” is basically a song like “Zero Point Energy” in that it’s trying to be a rally for people who feel disenfranchised and they feel alone. It’s not to say that you should subject yourself to be like others, it’s saying that you’re lucky for being unique and you’re very lucky and you’re in a very precarious position where being the outlier has such a homefield advantage over everyone else. Because you already have the advantage of being your own saviour of people who are stuck in their ways. That song was to rally anyone who was stuck in their ways and go ‘Look, you actually hold the most power. Why don’t you use that power, realise who you are, give in to the fact that you’re the master of your own universe, and be the warrior that frees the people from their own mindsets?’.”
Kel: “Very nice. I liked the lyrical reference to the ‘everlasting’, ‘the light’, just this soul wisdom.”
Dylan: “Totally, that’s probably the most hippy song on the album, I’d say. [laughs] It’s the most soulful… yeah, chakra alignments…”
Kel: “There’s a lot of hippies in this scene, I like it. Bands like Deadlights.. Who else? Pridelands…”
Dylan: “Oh my god, I was about to say. You have no idea the love I have for those boys. They’re all just such beautiful boys. Lovely people. If there was a brother band we had or a cousin band we had… Pridelands. We’re two peas in a pod. We’re just playing different kinds of metal. And we know it, we hang out and we’re pretty hippy. [laughs]”
My feeling was that “Embrace” could have easily been the last on the album, as it has that feeling of finality to it. Dylan shared that he had originally felt the same, but was challenged by his bandmates. This obviously led to “The Entropy” being the ending instead. He affirms the decision by saying “They were right. The end of “Embrace” was too optimistic, lyrically and tonally, for how the rest of the album is and how we were feeling at that time, I think. It would have been a farce to say that song was the last on the album. To say ‘that’s it, all done, that’s the last song’ wouldn’t be the truth, and what we tried to do for the rest of the album was be truthful. That wouldn’t be it.”
Where “Embrace” is hopeful, “The Entropy” is a dose of reality; in that everything ends, everything comes to an end. Dylan sums it up by referring to it as ‘quite depressing in a lot of ways’. Describing it further, he says “It’s kind of a confused and chaotic.. and even instrumentally it’s quite jarring, a lot of musical sections you get knocked about by it. It kind of doesn’t sit well I think when you listen to it, in a lot of ways. But it doesn’t lyrically either, and that does summarise the whole album. That’s kind of the end chapter. “The Effigy” was the start, “The Entropy” is the end, the epilogue of all of it. Even lyrically, it’s like ‘Even though I’ve learned so much, I still don’t know anything. And even though I’m doing all I can to raise my spirits, I still can’t shake the feeling that everything ends, and that’s just how it’s going to be’. But it does end somewhat… I wouldn’t say optimistically, but almost defiantly. Like understand that everything ends, but until that day, we’ll be right here.”
At this point, my conversation with Dylan had clearly substantially blown out in time length, and we both had to return to reality. I’d thoroughly enjoyed a crash course in Conduit and understanding the inspirations behind it. I saw the album and its purpose far more clearly in the aftermath: The band are using their music as a conduit in itself to express the importance of following your passions, the value in being guided by your own/inner motivations, and to follow those things even if unpopular, doubted, or considered to be ‘just plain nuts’. They’re also handing over these songs for listeners’ own interpretation at times, and for their own connections to be made. Whether we may be enduring toxic relationships or finding ourselves stuck in the numbing confines of a working week, music is something to believe in and escape into. It’s a stunning and shining presence on the horizon that we can head toward. Conduit is a reminder of our capabilities to grab the reins of this life and steer it in the direction that makes sense to us, irrespective of anything else.
Gravemind are Damon Bredin (writer/guitar), Dylan Gillies-Parsons (vocals), Michael Petritsch (guitar), Aden Young (guitar), and Karl Steller (drums).