Published on July 23rd, 2016 | by The Beige Baron0
Interview | Comacozer
In the increasingly barren desert the Sydney music scene has become since draconian lockout laws were introduced, sending several venues down the tubes and essentially killing culture after dark, it’s heartening to see bands like Comacozer regularly pumping out a righteous flow of cosmic riffage at the few live joints that remain.
The three-piece has made all the right moves since forming a few years ago, sidestepping the usual boring stoner-fuzz tropes by combining spaced-out jams within more disciplined desert- and doom-metal structures.
In so doing, they’ve secured the attention of respected Dutch label Headspin Records. A beautifully packaged 12-inch containing the band’s first two EPs issued by the label in 2015 won an enthusiastic reception from fans all over the world, and the band has high hopes the release of ASTRA PLANETA this September — a slab of vinyl containing five epic tracks captured by Frank Attard and mastered by Phillip Dust in the USA, and featuring the beautiful Arik Roper-esque cover-art of Danny Graham — will open up new opportunities for touring overseas.
“We also threw in darbuka and tabla section in there to create a Middle Eastern or oriental feel to the track…”
A single trip through these songs is enough to confirm there’s something special going on here for fans of heavy psych, enough so to hook it into high rotation at BNU‘s opulent headquarters.
Tonally and musically it occupies territory somewhere between the purring sub-bass menace of Electric Wizard numbers like Solarian 13, but at other moments it bears the bucolic, free-spirit funk of Dead Meadow’s Howls from the Hills, along with Elder’s knack for melodic progression and Earthless’s singular and unending quest for astral nirvana.
Yet Comacozer’s sound is assuredly rooted in those dusty ’70s outsider-rock LPs that are being rediscovered by a new generation of musicians, often in unlikely parts of the world. We ask drummer Andrew what bands from which era exert the strongest pull on Comacozer.
“Our musical influences are extremely broad, from ’70s psychedelia to modern stoner rock, psych rock, space rock, and doom. We are all huge fans of current psych and stoner legends like Earthless, Electric Moon, Dead Meadow, Elder, Blown Out, Glowsun, My Sleeping Karma, Colour Haze, and the like, but it also started for us with Sabbath, The Doors, Mountain, Sir Lord Baltimore, Zeppelin, Hawkwind, and ’70s psych and heavy rock.
“Sonically, there are influences from many eras and we haven’t really focused on it, but it’s just ended up like that. Rick’s guitars, at times, with the effects and tones, can be really unusual and ‘seventies’, and then move into the heavier tones of modern stoner and doom.
“I suppose, overall, we aim to incorporate elements of space rock, psych, and doom in the tracks to keep the listener wondering, WTF!”
These broad influence are clear on ASTRA PLANETA. It sounds fresh, and it’s fun to listen to. The band’s skilful blend of light and shade within each song, and the way each flows into the next, makes the album feel cohesive and full-fleshed, rarely straying into predictability and keeping interest flowing in the rolling waves of groove.
Maybe most interesting of all, and certainly a step into more creative waters in comparison to the bands early material, are distinctive Mediterranean flavors, most notably on the third track. Does the band have any heritage from that part of the world, and what is that instrument, balalaika?
“Rick’s riffs and tones do have a large element of a Middle Eastern feel and structure, and we all love that…”
“I’m of Greek background and have a deep passion for traditional Hellenic and Balkan music, but that really wasn’t the catalyst for any inclusions in the tracks.
“Rick and Rich have such broad taste in music and I believe the riffs and melodies have organically morphed into what they are today, with us challenging ourselves in creating a journey within the tracks.
“On Navigating the Mandjet we have used a traditional Hellenic instrument called a baglama, which is a small bouzouki-style string instrument with three sets of two strings, and it has such a nice tone, like a mandolin or balalaika, that we knew would work. And we also threw in darbuka and tabla section in there to create a Middle Eastern or oriental feel to the track.
“It’s been quite unusual in how it’s progressed, but Rick’s riffs and tones do have a large element of a Middle Eastern feel and structure, and we all love that. I can definitely see us experimenting even more on future recordings.
“We already have a fair few riffs and structures for new tracks which are down that vein.”
So what challenges did the band face, from a sonic point of view, in capturing a live sound on tape?
“We haven’t really had any major challenges. If there’s been anything, it’s been nailing the guitar tone live in the studio, as with all the effects it can get a bit tricky, but we don’t overdub a million times or the like, so generally what is on the recording is what it is live.
“We’ve been blessed to have recorded all of our music with Frank Attard at Frank St. Studios, and he just knows what we are after. The recording process has always been so smooth and so enjoyable as the focus is on embedding the right vibe in the session and then experimenting on top.
“It’s a bonus that Frank is an amazing musician and has the understanding of what we do and the feel and tone we want to create. A large portion of the recording session has an improvised structure. We’ve always gone in with core riffs and a basic structure to the track, but we never play our songs the same way twice, and during the recording sessions we get into a groove and formulate what we feel at that point in time.
“We record all of our songs live and Frank has some amazing gear that we use during the recording process. He’s also so patient with us as well, and just genuinely into the music. Frank’s improv psych band Frozen Planet 1969 [featuring members of Mother Mars, Yanomamo, and Looking Glass] is amazing, and also on Headspin Records.”
Speaking of Headspin, I ask Andrew how the relationship came about, and what made the Dutch label such a good fit for Comacozer.
“Headspin have been absolutely amazing, and we are so blessed and privileged to be involved with the label. It was a dream come true for us to have our music out on vinyl. The label manager Clio is a huge fan, and so supportive of us, and so easy to work with.
“Amazing bands are being released on Headspin, like Elder, Eternal Elysium, Astral Son, and Black Pyramid, so we are in great company. The new album has an amazing gatefold cover with artwork by Danny Graham from the US. He nailed it with what we were chasing. The album will also be released on three different vinyl colors.”
Does the band have any dates nailed down yet for a tour when the new record drops? What bands would Comacozer love to share a double-billing with?
“We are trying to plan a few shows in Melbourne, Byron, and Brisbane later in the year. There’s so many great Aussie bands in the stoner, psych, and doom genres like Aver, Hobo Magic, Watchtower, Witchskull, Yanomamo, Hawkmoth, Frozen Planet 1969, This Old Sunn, Dreamtime, Holy Serpent, OLMEG, and more.
“I love shows where there’s diversity in the lineup. Makes it so much more interesting and enjoyable overall.
“We are playing Brewtality Festival in August, which should be a load of fun, and thanks to Anthony from Desert Highways for putting us on the bill. The ultimate goal would be to play in Germany or The Netherlands. Roadburn, Freak Valley, or Desertfest would be wild if we could get on the bill. We are working towards that with Headspin, so we’ll see what pans out.
Comacozer’s LP is up for digital and vinyl preorder on bandcamp, and the gatefold vinyl and digital version drop in September. Get in early to secure your preferred color, and follow the band on Facebook or Twitter to catch a show near you in the coming months.