Interview – Meniscus


This sentence may sound a bit strange, after all, we are talking about an instrumental band. But Meniscus’ words do have similar character to their sound. What does it mean? It means that when I received the answers to questions I sent them for this interview, after reading the replies I had similar feeling as when I heard their music for the first time: this is good, this is different, this is intriguing. Last year this Sydney based quartet released their LP debut – “War of Currents” and it was one of the most interesting rock albums I had the pleasure to come across in 2011. Using, as it later turned out, one of the main subjects of this interview, we managed to get in touch with the band and tried to get a closer look at the “surface” . All of the members were involved in the replies, so to identify those who answered the questions, for those who are already know – let’s remind, for those not familiar yet – let’s inform who is who in the band:

Daniel Oreskovic – guitars

Alison Kerjean – bass

Cameron Brennan – drums

Martin Wong – live visuals

RockOko: Why did you choose the word “meniscus” for the name of your band?

[Meniscus – the curve in the upper surface of a liquid close to the surface of the container or another object, caused by surface tension].

Meniscus: Our original Drummer, Duncan, came up with the name at a rehearsal session one day. Describing the meaning, phrases to do with the idea of water and surface tension, seemed to resonate with us and our musical style. To be honest, we didn’t like the name when it was first toted, but after thinking about the meaning in relation to our music, it made sense.

RockOko: Your full LP debut “War of currents” released last year is a bit different from 2007 EP “Absence of I”. I’d say the latter is maybe a bit more dynamic. But I also love how the flow of emotional depth in such songs as “Room 3327″ or “Infant” from “War of Currents”, which grows on me with each and every listen. How much is the shift or expansion of your style  connected with the personal changes within the band? (with reference to Duncan’s departure or Cameron’s arrival).

Meniscus: Though Duncan’s departure was the Catalyst for the stylistic change, the shift in focus started while he was still in the band. We had all come from a background of heavier music, so naturally that style was ever-present in our first foray into song writing as a unit. After we had learned more about ourselves and each other, our ideas slowly expanded and pulled in different directions. We felt that we were at our most expressive when we weren’t blasting the listener with heavier, more “metal” tones. So we concentrated on the subtleties and nuances, and the soundscapes, being much more patient with the build-up and unleashing the energy at more appropriate moments. War of Currents personifies that change and the song “Infant”, written while Duncan was still in the band, best represents the stylistic shift.

Cameron joining the band just further drove this change. Bringing a much more restrained and subdued style gave the band a little more “breathing room” in the songcraft and the opportunity to explore the tonal palette available to us. People have asked us what direction musically we are going in as a band. All I can say is that we will continue to push each end of the spectrum, seeing how far we can take this, incorporating more of the technology that’s been made available to us. We may find ourselves doing things heavier than “Absence of I”, in context, and more intricate as some of “War of Currents”.

RockOko: On the album, you use samples from speeches of Stephen Hawking and Mahatma Ghandi. Both of them often speak on the “nature of things”, but I think from two slightly different perspectives. For example, Hawking’s perspective is about reason and brain, while Ghandi is more about the relationship between mind and soul. Would you say that, within human nature these two perspectives are in conflict or are they complementing each other?

Cameron: Firstly, let me explain, that it’s not Stephen Hawking saying it. These are quotes taken from interview with Nikola Tesla. I just used a text to speech converter on my pc and used the words from the interview. But it’s an interesting juxtaposition for sure. On one hand you have a visionary like Tesla who, being so ahead of his time, accurately depicted the evolution of wireless technology, enabling us to all communicate and “connect” around the globe with near instancy. Yet, the advent of this modern technology has encouraged the growth of materialism, thus closing ourselves off from the spiritual side. Ghandi proposed the concept of the “higher being”. Tesla’s inventions were to “free” mankind, yet most of his inventions were commercialised, and the ones that couldn’t be made profitable (wireless, free energy, for example) were all buried. You could say that Tesla and Ghandi were on the opposite sides of the same coin.

RockOko: Many of modern scientists and inventors often say, that they develop the technology to make our lives easier and this technology definitely has done that. However, as you rightly pointed out the advancement of modern technology has also encouraged the growth of materialism and in my observartions I get the impression that many people think technology will not only make their life easier, but will make their life itself. People feel insecure when they leave their mobile at home. For some of us, its difficult to be around people, because their first and natural method of communication is  behind a monitor screen.

People lack time, because too often they are more obsessed about the possibilities technology provide. When you know of the possibilities of new experiences, it makes you want to do it or try it out and people often follow it as a novelty, even at the expense of their relationships, all according to the “be happy, live now or regret forever!”. The pressure is fueled by the media and its messages.

I’m not saying that technology is bad, not at all, because thanks to it, despite being in faraway Poland, I can talk to you now even while being on the move on train.  I think it does make life easier, but at the same time, I feel that we as human beings are constantly losing the balance. Instead of making an effort  of using technology wisely as a tool to help us to live better, we tend to go the easier way by making its possibilities or possesion of technological inventions as one of main conditions of the “good life” itself, which eventually always ends up in a feeling of unfulfillment.

Things outside of us will never be able to fill what we need inside. Keeping in mind that basic existential conditions are needed to allow you to live without neccesity of everyday fight for physical survival in order to be able to even think of such things, when you do think of it, at the end of the day it turns out we are simple creatures, who need the same things as closeness, friendship, warmth. Unless you feel fulfilled with the warmth generated by the battery of your new fancy laptop and its HD screen smiling to you with another 100 virtual existences tagged as “friends” on a network which you spend more time with than your family. Maybe its this charming December sunrise and snowy world passing outside the train window, that generated all this philosophical rumbling of mine, but if you feel like sharing your observations, we will be happy to read them.

Cameron: I couldn’t agree more with your thoughts. Some technology has made life a lot easier and made the impossible possible for some of us. For example, I use several pieces of electronic percussion which allow me to play a lot of hand percussion parts without having to lug lots of hand percussion instruments to each rehearsal.  That type of technology has been a godsend so in that situation technology is definitely our friend.  It becomes our enemy though when we become obsessed and let it wholly take over our life.  I am as guilty as anyone with becoming addicted to a computer game and neglecting to do the household chores sometimes, but there comes a point where you have to stop and realize that you aren’t achieving anything by lazing around.

Technology like Facebook and Twitter etc. can be very useful for certain things – keeping in touch with friends whilst overseas easily, giving updates about what our band is doing etc.  Where I think people cross the line is when they feel the need to tell everyone what they are doing 24/7. Applications are made with location services so that people can “check in” when they are at a restaurant etc. – to me it is invasive as we have let our private lives become public. We have lost touch with connecting with others and the natural world itself. I can speak from my experience that when I travel and spend lots of time away from a computer, I feel much better for it.  People have to remember to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature.

RockOko: Your video for “130” includes some amazing footage of earth seen from the space. I particularly love all the images of storms and lightnings flashing over the earth. If you had a chance to go into space and watch the earth from above, what music would you like to listen to at that moment?

Daniel: I’d say “Small time shot away” by Massive Attack.

Cameron: “Arrumacao” by Uakti.

Alison: “To wish impossible things” by The Cure.

Marty: “Hourglass” – At the Drive-In.

RockOko: During live shows you use visuals accompaning your music. If you are the audience, which is more powerful to you as an emotion carrier – images or sounds? And how does it reflect in your art?

Daniel: For each of us, they would be slightly different. I hear music and can be effected by the sound, though usually it’s accompanied by some sort of visual element and is relative to the context in which your hearing. We all have predetermined ideas as to what constitutes happy, angry or sad music, yet it’s the natural circumstances in which the music was presented in that determines the listeners experience. For example, you could be listening to the radio and receive a phone call with some bad news, the death of a loved-one. The next song you hear on the radio will ever serve as the reminder of that difficult time. The melody, chord shapes and structure will forever carry an emotional weight that the composer may not have ever intended. The song could be about having a fun night out with your friends, though that listener will never hear it that way.

With our music, an emotion will trigger the early blueprint of the idea and through exploration of that mood, we find ourselves with a piece of music. Marty will have his idea as to what images this sound conjures up, and though we will give rough themes, we allow him the space to really put his own interpretation into the image selection, even though the thought may be different for the rest of us. It’s all part of the “find-your-own-meaning” concept we try to present to the audience.

Cameron: When I go to see a band play, I am definitely more moved by the sound rather than any visual aspects. Having said that though, when I travel I always listen to new music and that has the effect of being able to vividly remember a place/situation whenever I hear that piece of music again. So, the combination of visual and aural is a strong combination indeed.

RockOko: Going a bit further into the connection between senses. People who don’t have it see it as a gift, people who live with it everyday say it’s a curse. If you had a chance, would you like to try the experience of how it actually feels to interact with the world when having synesthesia eg. for a day/week/month?

[Synesthesia – neurologically based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway eg. “sound colors”]

Cameron: I would definitely be interested in experiencing synthesia for a day. I remember seeing a documentary on people that had that disorder and how they would be completely immersed when music was playing etc.  It would certainly be interesting!

RockOko: There is really a great rock music scene in Australia, not only instrumental bands like you or sleepmakeswaves, but also bands from other rock styles: alternative (eg. Dead Letter Circus, The Butterfly Effect, Jerrico) or metal/hardcore scene (Parkway Drive, Confession). We can’t forget about the mighty Jakob, but if I called them an Australian band I think I would have been lynched by the proud Kiwis. To sum up, rock scene Down Under rocks. Are there any other interesting bands in Australia or New Zealand that are not so well known internationally?

Daniel: We take pride in the fact that music from our little corner of the globe is getting recognised internationally. Though we still feel that Australia and NZ have so much more to offer the global music community. There are many bands, but if I had to pick a few… High Dependency Unit (NZ), Seekae, Pirate and Mushroom Giant.

Cameron: Some of my faves are Capt Kickarse And The Awesomes, Anubis and Valar.

Alison: Sydonia.

Marty: Parades & Solkyri both spring to mind.

RockOko: It was announced recently that sleepmakeswaves will be coming to Poland for 2 shows in April 2012 [with The Samuel Jackson Five]. Does Meniscus also happen to have any European gigs planned for this year?

Meniscus: We are planning a European tour in June/July 2012. We are all looking forward to being there.

RockOko: Thank you for your time and I hopefully see you in the summer!

Interview by: Chris Bienkiewicz

…and lastly

Meniscus – 130

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Meniscus – War of currents (album sampler)

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