Fresh off the release of their second EP Psalms (via Sports Day Records), Melbourne trio Arbes further solidifies they're an act to keep your eyes on. Dream wave, progressive rock, and rhythmic jazz elements collide together and form the shimmering soundscape you hear throughout the seven tracks. Ahead of their EP launch show next month at The Gasometer Hotel, I got the opportunity to chat with the band about embracing the confusion of growing up, favorite albums, and more and the brand new interview below.
How did Arbes originally form?
Anita : We were in music class at school. We had to form groups and naturally because we were all best friends, we went together. We first started with covers of The National and Tame Impala. We were stuck on who would play what as none of us played drums so I played drums for a cover of Solitude is Bliss (Tame Impala) and then never stopped. Our teacher offered us to play at a Battle of the Bands and from then, we just decided we’d keep going and make this a real thing for us.
It’s been a year since your debut EP Swimmer. Did your guys’ approach for writing change when you started working on Psalms?
Anita : Our writing process was pretty similar to how we wrote Swimmer. The way we’d first write song is similar in that one of us would start playing our instrument and the rest of us would follow on from that. I don’t think we strived to change how we wrote, but we definitely put a lot of thought into the structuring and dynamics of each song. Our recording approach was similar but different in that we opted for many more layers in sounds and the introduction of another instrument.
What would you say the overall theme of the new record is in comparison to Swimmer?
Sam : Swimmer was lean and the characters were really yearning and fighting for something like recognition or love. Psalms is less of a one track mind, the characters are more informed and confused, older.
You guys utilized the world around you a lot in the new record. You guys used sounds from Budapest, Amsterdam, Grunau River in Austria, Lisbon, and Edinburgh. How has your love for travelling influenced your songwriting process?
Sam : Travelling certainly put into perspective how big a part music plays in my life. I think I was really suffering mentally by the end, because of my inability to follow through with ideas. Every interesting sound I heard, I would record with the intention of it hopefully being on the next release. Travel ultimately just helped with overall focus and increased my desire for productivity.
Something that’s always stood out about your guys’ music is how it’s very layered and complex but refreshingly simple at the same time. When I listened to Psalms for the first time, you guys seem to toy around with syncopation and song arrangements in a different way. Did you guys feel yourselves stepping out of your comfort zone while you were writing or recording the new record?
Sam : I think there was a definite conscious effort to get out of our comfort zone. Say if we were working on a song and we tried a new direction that some of us didn’t necessarily agree with, we’d still roll with it and see where it took us. Recording was certainly another step up, just really taking the time to get sounds we were happy with and that were interesting to us.
What are your favorite tracks on Psalms and why?
Jess : I would say Follow Towards because it feels like we broke a bit of ground with that track. I feel like it's the most different and impressive piece of music we've written collectively so far. The way it builds and unfolds is pretty beautiful to me, and it's the track I put the greatest amount of thought into lyrically. It was actually very cathartic to write.
Sam : No Home To Know is probably my favourite at the moment. It’s just really beautiful and the first time we played it was the first time Anita played keyboard in the context of the band. I still have the original ten minute demo we did of it and it probably sounds better then the version that ended up on the release.
Anita : My favourite track from Psalms is definitely Follow Towards – the recording of the song and the addition of keyboard lifted the song to whole new level for me. I think it has a different feel to other songs we’ve written. I listen to that song and feel very proud of us for writing it. Sun On My Back is another favourite. It has reminiscence of Swimmer, which feels very homely. I love Flutuar for it’s simplicity and how it bittersweet it is. Flutuar’s placement on the EP creates such closure, it makes Psalms feel like a continuous circle to me.
What are some of your guys favorite albums you’ve been listening to from this year?
Jess : In no particular order, Lemonade by Beyonce, Utopia Defeated by D.D Dumbo, God Forbid Anyone Look Me In The Eye by Two Steps On The Water, untitled unmastered by Kendrick Lamar, 99.9% by Kaytranada, Malibu by Anderson. Paak, IV by Badbadnotgood, Telefone by Noname, Gary by Mangelwurzel, Glory by Good Morning, Morning Sounds by Static Animal, 2003 Dream by Jarrow.
What’s some advice you’d give to younger musicians who are just starting their careers in music?
Jess : I feel like we are still those young musicians starting out a career in music! We have so much more to learn and to figure out. But I would say, the people that you find music to play with is so important – if you want to be in a band, be in a band with people where you share a mutual respect, admiration and understanding. Don't settle to make music that you're not interested in, or to play with people that you have nothing in common with. Stating the obvious, but things don't happen without hard work – routinely invest time into your writing and practising. Give great thought into what you are creating, make music that you feel happy making, but also make music that challenges you, keep growing and expanding, don't box yourself off. In terms of thinking about a “career” - engage with the community around you. Reach out to bands, musicians and people that you like, and connect with them. Lend help and you'll probably receive help in return. Build things with others. Be genuine, patient and compassionate – that's life advice in general, but those are qualities that actually go a long way in forming creative ties with people.
Stream Psalms below