After releasing critically acclaimed album Vicious Pleasure, Endless Heights have been busy adjusting to what the band has now become, in what feels like such a short space of time. I sat down with Joel Martorana ahead of their Australian tour to find out what made this album so special, and where it leaves them in the hardcore scene.
You play with indies, heart-on-sleeve punkers and with metal bands, but are predominately part of the hardcore scene - do you guys reflect on where you sit with music genres?
Its always been a tricky one with our band since day 1, but after about 10 years of playing together, and when I look at where our oldest and best friends are - I say we are still a hardcore band at heart. Its funny though, so many people at work, or family friends always ask me what type of music we play, and I just say 'heavy rock'. I think its really that simple, we are a heavy rock band, but we have the heart of a hardcore band - and that will never change.
I always find it special when a band can balance such a massive sound with such intimacy - was this a goal for the album?
Thank you! Not exactly, we always wanted to blend a few different sounds together but the intimacy came out a bit later in the writing process with the lyrics. I guess I've always sung about intimate issues or struggles, but this time around it's like the music says it for me half of the time - so it blends really well. As we got to the half way point in writing the record, it was clear we really, really wanted to play with dynamics more, reach new extremes contrasting heavier and lighter, more exposed sections of the record. In this sense it became a goal, or something we finally felt allowed to do - and we felt it was tasteful to our band's sound to be able to play with these elements.
Can you tell me about the lyrical content of the album - how did you go about creating parallel with the music, which is something reviewers have complimented you on?
The album is a lyrical roller coaster ride for the broken hearted - Its how I've reconciled a lot in my own world over the last few years, and writing it helped give light to areas I didn't realise I still needed to deal with. Its murky, dark, beautiful, twisted and passionate - it's dramatic from start to finish, but strangely authentic and real. I'm really proud of this, because I was scared the lyrics would come across as too intense or even pretentious.
I typically first write lyrics by improvising to guitar parts that the guys have written or been jamming separately - this really helps with melody and lets the song 'write itself' lyrically for me. I then refine the words and melodies while the guys change and mould the song. The hardest part in the process is when we sit down and really examine the lyrics later in the process - usually just done with Jem (guitarist) and myself - as they are super vulnerable and its scary to share them all with the guys at first. I then share them with the full band for feedback and touch anything else up as needed! Its a messy and scary process to be honest, but if it doesn't feel like that then I know that I'm hiding something better that people need to hear.
When you perform the album, I imagine it's quite cathartic - does it help you deal with the themes the lyrics refer to, or is it hard every time you perform the songs?
For me it fully depends on the song; for the most part I'm just excited to share a new song with the audience that I'm really proud of, but once we get past an intro or iconic section in the song something often clicks, and I feel like I'm 'back there again' - its terrifying, but important. It can be exhausting, but as I push through those moments, I feel pure adrenaline and release - and often feel the audience does to. I'm not even sure if I like it at times, but at the end of a song or set where this happens I realise that this is what I was born to do - and I love it!
Do you think because there was so much doubt about the band a couple of years ago that it pushed you even further on this record?
Endless Heights has forever been at a push and pull in all our lives as band members - we all juggle so many other commitments and creative pursuits and its been easy to be so exhausted over the last few years. I think this definitely made us want to put our all into this record - we thought it may be our last record together, so it had to push every boundary for us - and I'm so proud of the result. So yeah, it definitely made us go all out for this one.
You've received massive support from triple j and heaps of community stations, how important has this been to validating where the band is possibly headed?
This stuff has all been super exciting, but to be honest I'm already so proud and happy with this record that I don't feel this stuff as validating that effort in any way. Radio stations and music industry more broadly seem to make no sense to me, but I'm super humbled that they would give this band and this group of friends the time of day! It is really, really special and exciting for us and I hope it helps launch us beyond our genre or routes into more peoples lives. I just want to share this music with as many people as possible in the hope it empowers or helps them as much as it has for me. This may be optimistic haha, but its the vision I've always had, and such a joy for it to pick up in this way - big love to all those stations!
You said to killyourstereo that "There are so many things we haven’t done yet as a band that we want to do, like tour America and Japan" - can you see these goals becoming a reality after the praise the album has received?
I definitely feel something has shifted in terms of how we are being seen by listeners and those across the industry - people seem to know we are operating at a whole new level and that's really exciting. I really do think this is the year where some of our deepest, and also shared dreams as friends and band members are going to start to come true.
You chose Harbours and Paradise Club to support you on your upcoming tour, how did the relationships with these bands begin?
We've known Harbours forever and Tom (guitarist of Harbours) makes my music video fantasies come to life - we made Come a Little Closer video together, and also an old clip for Drain. Sam Bassal (Harbours' other guitarist) mixed and mastered Vicious Pleasure, so it made sense to bring our friends and our literal 'creative army' on this special headline tour! We love those guys dearly and believe in them!
Paradise Club played with us in Adelaide as a one-off on our last headline tour - at the end of 2017 and everyone in Endless Heights freaked out and was blown away - what freak song writers! Keen to get to know the guys more and watch them everyday. Both these bands are amazing and I feel this will be our best tour yet.
I know the guys from Paradise Club have a lot of friends in the hardcore scene, but their music really can't be categorized that way - is this a trend we're seeing? Even
Trophy Eyes are another example.
The more and more I start to age and grow in the hardcore scene, the less I see it as a sound or genre. I mean, of course it is exactly that, but its also so much more. Hardcore is a platform to grow and say anything you want or need to. It doesn't matter how old you are, how you look, what you believe, what you want in life - its a culture. I feel that bands like Paradise Club and Endless Heights echo the hardcore scene culture, and its a passion and sense of equality among artists and crowds that isn't always seen across other genres of music.
Pick up a copy of Vicious Pleasure on vinyl LP from 24Hundred.
And catch Endless Heights playing at the Crown & Anchor in Adelaide. Tickets available here.