|Futility are still relatively new to the scene, but have begun building an excellent reputation with their second album The View from Here which has received very warm responses. We had the chance to talk to them about their creation and their views on the scene as well as on music in general.|
1. For those readers who aren’t familiar with Futility yet, could you please introduce yourselves and briefly describe the style of music you play?
Duncan: We’re a four-piece death/doom band from Canberra, Australia. The style of doom we play is often compared to the classic English doom of My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost and Katatonia. The band was formed in 2008 and in 2009 the debut, self-titled, album was released. It took almost three years for the second album, The View from Here, to follow.
Line-up: Brendan; bass and vocals, Nafe; guitar, Kurt; guitar, Duncan; drums
2. How would you describe your musical development between the two albums? Has “The View from Here” been an important step for you?
Kurt: The material on the second album is much more focussed, the songs work together better. In fact we re-recorded “Nothing” off the first album as it seemed to fit better with the new stuff. The View From Here is also less of a compromise production wise, we thought it was done but after living with it for a while the decision was made to undo all the drum replacement and re-record all the guitar parts!
3. You got a very positive review about your new album on doom-metal.com, and rightly so, I might add. How important is it for you to reach an audience with what you’re doing and receive feedback to it?
Kurt: It’s always nice to get good feedback on the works you produce, whether this be in the form of a review or a number of people engaged at a live show.
Duncan: I find it really satisfying to hear some of the positive responses to the album. Playing in such an inaccessible genre as doom, it can be easy to feel isolated and lose sight of the fact that there are actually people who love this music and have a very strong connection with it. Reception to the album has been great, and I’m really pleased that the reviews have expressed such a strong sense of personal and emotional connection to the music.
Nafe: Receiving a positive review is nice (and serves as a good promotional tool), but on the whole, reviews are not particularly important to me. Realistically, a review is little more than someone’s opinion and opinions are totally subjective, therefore to me reviews don’t carry much weight. At the end of the day, I don’t write music for anyone other than myself, so whether someone else likes or dislikes it, is largely irrelevant to me..
If a reviewer likes what we write, that’s cool, if they don’t, that’s fine too..
4. A feature which is highlighted quite strongly in the above mentioned review is the apparent influence from the classic British Death Doom scene. Did you consciously create this connection? What does that scene mean to you, and do you feel like you’re part of a bigger movement?
Duncan: This gets mentioned a lot. I don’t think that the connection was conscious, but the songwriting is certainly influenced strongly by that classic doom (rather than stoner doom, sludge or anything like that, which we tend to shy away from). This is possibly a reflection of the age of the members of the band, and the purpose of the songs, if you will – they’re striving to create an emotional landscape that is bleak and torn, desolate, etc., which seems to be very ‘British’.
I don’t think that there is much of a bigger movement of bands playing this style of doom. There are other doom acts that are more influenced by, say, Opeth, or melodic death metal, but the doom that seems to be the most popular in Australia at least is all the stoner doom, sludge and that sort of thing.
5. What other influences are important for you, be it from music or any other form of art?
Kurt: Obviously the music we listen to will have an impact on the music we write but there has never been a decision to ape those we admire.
Nafe: Life experience is my main influence. The world depresses and angers me. That is what influences the music I write.
6. The music on “The View from Here” is relentless and bare of any traces of light, which combines well with the bitter lyrics. How important are those lyrics and the feelings/experiences they convey, both for you personally and for the musical vision as a whole?
Kurt: I think the lyrics will evoke different responses in each listener, influenced by their own reaction to the music. I don’t think you can really separate the parts.
7. When listening to the album and reading the lyrics, I couldn’t help feeling that there’s a lot of sincerity behind the material. The frustration, disappointment, hopelessless, suffering, all of it seems real, heartfelt. While such themes are typical of the genre, not every band can give such an impression of authenticity. What’s your own view on this? Does personal experience play an important part in the creative process?
Duncan: Some of the lyrics were certainly written from personal experiences. The process of turning them into song lyrics and integrating them with the music also takes a lot of the rough edges off and makes them more ambiguous and ambivalent. Rather than being very specifically about X or Y, this ambiguity allows the listener to ‘fill in the gaps’ so to speak – to interpret the lyrics in his or her own personal way. So, in this sense, I suppose that the emotional authenticity conveyed by the lyrics really resides in the listener as much as it does with us.
We’re all actually quite happy people, most of the time. Playing this style of music certainly gives an opportunity for a lot of cathartic release.
Nafe: Emotional sincerity in music is something which cannot be forced, or faked. It is something which becomes inherent in the music, because music (real music, not moronic commercial crap) is usually born out of emotion. If I write a piece of music that sounds a particular way, be it sad, angry, or whatever, it’s usually fairly indicative of where I was in my head at the time.
8. How central is this kind of emotional authenticity to you in the music you listen to yourselves? Do you think that the credibility of music depends heavily on it?
Duncan: There’s still lot of enjoyable music with absolutely no emotional authenticity or impact. Some music certainly depends on emotional authenticity, and doom is the obvious example of this, but a lot of other metal that’s lyrically and emotionally driven by anger and rage needs the sense of authenticity to be pulled off properly. If your music is driven by particular emotions, then that sense of realness is a vital ingredient.
Nafe: It’s essential. But there are a lot of factors which need to combine properly to really bring emotion to life in music. There is no point having sad or angry lyrics if the music is not equally sad or angry. All the elements need to work in unison to give real impact to feeling being conveyed, otherwise it just comes across as completely fake.
9. The cover shows a female figure standing at the edge of a high cliff, seemingly on the verge of throwing herself down. Then, when opening the booklet, there are pictures of a woman submerged in water. All of this is connected to the mood of the music and lyrics, so one thing becomes apparent: Suicide seems to be a central theme here, and in the Doom scene it is certainly not that much of a taboo as it is elsewhere. What makes you pick up this topic and what are your views on it?
Kurt: I think we’ve all had battles with depression to varying degrees, for me our music is more about dealing with that than the act of suicide. The story told by the artwork is, to me, about accepting the consequences of our decisions. The girl in the water seems totally at peace with what she’s chosen to do. It is that acceptance, that peace, that I think we all crave.
Duncan: The album artwork to me expresses the sense of peace and catharsis that comes with letting go and releasing yourself from… life, I suppose – certainly all the negativity and anxiety that comes from life. Perhaps the kind of peace that we sometimes seek when everything gets a bit much and you wish that you could leave it all behind, relinquishing yourself and becoming subsumed by something bigger (the water/ocean/sea).
Nafe: On the subject of suicide itself, I think it is a topic which is often very poorly understood, and as a result, very poorly represented. Popular opinion seems to be that it is an act of weakness and cowardice, and often those left behind condemn the individual who has taken their own life. However, to me this is an incredibly selfish and unfairly dismissive viewpoint, and one which is usually espoused by people who (fortunately for them) have never known true unhappiness and therefore could never truly understand the motivations for the individuals’ decision to carry out the act.
Having had first-hand exposure to suicide of others, as well as experiencing varying levels of suicidal thoughts at various times, I would contend that taking one’s own life is, in many ways, an act of extraordinary courage and strength, and one so personal that it transcends the judgements of those left behind.
10. The closing “Mantra” of the album goes “With every breath, I am nothing”. Clearly, this is a very bleak mantra which seems to serve as a reminder of the futility of all hope (pun intended). What is the actual idea behind this unusual track?
Kurt: It’s a meditation on futility and aloneness. It was also a track with many contributors, we put out a call on Facebook for people to send us their interpretation of the line. The amazing soprano line was sent in by a total stranger, the spoken or growled ones came from real world friends, people in other bands, a couple were from fans. There was not even any music for that section of the song when we collected the vocals, it was constructed around what we got sent.
Duncan: I’m a big fan of the mantra “With every breath I am nothing” because it reminds me of a Buddhist ‘erasure of the ego’ thing: consciously eradicating the notion of self in order to become one with the world, which ties in nicely with the cover art and the sense of releasing yourself from life and the negative elements of life.
11. Referring back to my pun on the band’s name in the previous question, I’d say that futility is a central concept in Doom lyrics, and it sums up much of what is expressed on this particular record. Do your own ideas about the choice of name correspond to this?
Kurt: It took us a while to come up with a name that “felt right” and didn’t seem to be in use by anybody else. A few other bands called “Futility” have started since.
Nafe: The name was just something we settled on. It seemed to fit the bands thematic leanings, so it stuck.
12. Do you think that, despite all the negativity, despite all the painful subjects, the guitar distortion and grim vocals, there is still beauty in this kind of music? Or comfort maybe? Is it possible to forge a beautiful piece of art out of the most tragic experiences?
Kurt: I think all great art comes from tragedy (not suggesting Futility is great art by any means).
Duncan: Some great art comes from tragedy, not all great art. Great art can come from anywhere. I suppose it’s the peculiarity of the type of doom that we play that it aims to create art from the emotions of despair, grief, melancholy, hopelessness. It’s not so much tragic as pathos: evoking pity, compassion, sympathetic suffering (albeit vicariously).
Nafe: The beauty I find in this kind of music, at least when I am listening to it, is its ability to allow the listener to feel that there are others who have experienced similar feelings.
My favourite pieces of music are those which have helped me feel less alone during difficult times, which have spoken to me in some way, and allowed me to feel that there are people in the world who understand what I have felt.
In that sense, music has been a good friend to me over the years.
13. How did you come up with the idea of covering a Pink Floyd song in this stylistic context?
Kurt: I like hearing bands interpret the works of others and wanted to put a cover on the album (we had done Katatonia’s “Murder” on the first album). When Nafe brought this one to the table we all jumped on it, it’s a fantastic song.
Duncan: “Comfortably Numb” has all the hallmarks of a classic doom song. I’m amazed that no one realised earlier that it works so well in the doom context. Lyrically it’s absolutely perfect, about being sealed off from the outside world and looking at everything from a distance, unengaged.
14. The last few years have sparked an increasing number of interesting acts from Australia. What are your thoughts on the Australian scene and do you perceive yourselves as a part of it? Do you have any contact with (members of) other Australian Doom bands?
Kurt: Doom is still a very underground niche genre but there has been a definite increase in the number of bands playing it to a very high standard. There are a couple of doom-centric promoters in Melbourne and Sydney doing good work to try and get doom more exposure.
Duncan: We’ve made some great friends and played with bands in similar musical circles, The Veil, Myraeth, Okera, and a stack more. These guys are all releasing outstanding albums and taking it to the next level.
15. What are your plans for the future? Any new material in the making, any touring ahead, new directions to explore etc.?
Kurt: Not sure at this stage, a couple of the band’s members are in other bands, some have small children and we’re all busy... I hope there is more, who knows what the future holds?
16. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. Traditionally, the last words are reserved for the artist – if you feel that an important topic hasn’t been covered yet or if there’s something you’d like to add, now is the time.
Kurt: I’ve got nothing, other than thanks for the interview! Unfortunately Brendan was unavailable whilst we were answering these questions. I’m sure we would have had more interesting things to say had he been involved…
Visit the Futility bandpage.