To Stop From Falling Off The Earth is out now!
Image: Pitch Studios.
Sydney-turned-Melbourne producer Wave Racer has dropped his hotly anticipated debut album, To Stop From Falling Off The Earth. We caught up with the musician to chat about the album, exploring themes of mental health, his return to the stage and so much more!
Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey, and your background in music…
I have played guitar since age 12, and learned all throughout high school, so that’s how I began my musical learning. But then at a certain point after school I became much more interested in the broader world of music production. I got a copy of Ableton and learned about how whole songs could be built, layered, and composed, which was exciting for someone like me who had been somewhat limited to just one type of sound. So I put guitar aside for a long time while I pursued electronic music production and all the wonders of synthesis and sampling, sound design and programming and automation e.t.c, which eventually led to me releasing two instrumental electronic songs under the name ‘Wave Racer’ in 2013. And from then on it has been a bit of a rollercoaster. That’s a very long story short but covers the main key points I think!
Across your debut album, To Stop From Falling Off The Earth, you explore themes of mental health, with a particular focus on anxiety, depression, and isolation. How important was it for you to use this record as a vehicle to highlight these themes and share stories of mental health?
I wouldn’t say I set out deliberately to make an album about those themes. I think it happened naturally as a consequence of my life and my observations during the time of making it. The songs are directly inspired by what I felt I needed to say about where I was in my life. There was a period of time preceding the completion of this album that was deep psychological turmoil for me, due to a number of factors. I suffered a relationship breakdown, a relocation, a creative identity crisis, and various other situational elements that contributed to the exacerbation of my anxiety and isolation. So the songs on the album came more so from me needing to express those feelings. I felt like I didn’t really have a choice. If I was going to continue to make music, these were the songs that needed to be written if I was going to be honest with my audience and myself. Honesty has always been the thing I value most in art, and in life. The album places that value front and centre, something I felt was worth focussing on, at least for me and where I was while writing it. So at the end of the day I’d say it’s an album about self-awareness and radical honesty first and foremost.
Were there any parts that you found particularly difficult when creating the record, having such a personal and intimate conceptual nature?
Definitely. The most difficult aspect of creating the album was incorporating my voice for the first time. That was a hurdle to overcome, in terms of my skill set, my confidence, and my proficiency as a lyricist. I still think I have a lot to learn in that area. This album is just my first attempt. The song ‘Left Behind’ was a bit of a turning point in this sense. It was the first song I had put my voice on without altering it beyond recognition. It was the first ‘raw’ usage of a vocal performance on a Wave Racer song. But then once it was completed, the songs that followed came so much easier. It felt almost like a checkpoint had been reached. So that comes to mind as one of the larger hurdles in the writing and production process. However I’d also say that each song had its own set of mini-hurdles as well.
How did you arrive at the sound and sonic realm Stop From Falling Off The Earth exists within?
Every Wave Racer song generally starts with a sonic concept, or a sonic experiment. For example, a new synthesiser architecture I’m exploring, or a new effect that I want to master, or even just something as simple as manipulating an audio sample in various transformative ways. I relish in sound design and the inspiration it can offer me. And I find the most inspiration comes from trying new tools and new techniques that I have to learn to use from the ground up. For this album, there was more of this happening than ever before, because I gave myself the time I needed to learn these new things. For example, re-discovering the guitars I played through highschool, but recording them as an adult with my acquired audio engineering knowledge, and expanding on the palette using new effects pedals and techniques that I had never tried before. The same thing applied to my voice and how I recorded it. The process of discovery is what drove a lot of the sonic inspiration beyond the album’s production and instrumentation. Ultimately, the album is an amalgam of what I’ve been doing electronically since 2013, combined with a whole new set of skills that I’ve only acquired in the last two years or so. Finding creative ways to incorporate those things together was the challenge I needed to arrive at the sonic destination of the album I think.
Which three songs off the album would you play to someone, who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan?
Great question! My picks would be: AUTO, Money, and Full Circle.
If Stop From Falling Off The Earth was a piece of pre-existing visual art (painting, sculpture, photograph etc), which artwork would it be? (excluding the album artwork and accompanying visuals)?
Wow, interesting question… maybe something impressionistic like a work by Claude Monet. It would be difficult to select just one work, so I’ll say broadly the work of Monet feels emblematic of this album.
What’s one line from the release you find at times can be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
In the last song, Full Circle, the line "I don’t wanna play anymore" feels particularly resonant for me. I think because it feels so confident and self-assured, and represents a finality in overcoming the struggles the album describes. It’s also a really catchy melody.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why?
So much talent in Aus for sure. Can’t forget to mention Tame Impala of course, but on top of that I’m loving Japanese Wallpaper, Gretta Ray, my buddies Cosmo’s Midnight, Tseba and this new guy I recently discovered called Ethanplus. Very fun.
You’ll finally be taking to the stage this December after a number of reschedulings due to lockdown. What can audiences expect from one of your live shows?
Yes! Very excited. The shows in December will be a new live show with a 3-piece band, focussing on all the new album music, but of course with old favourites in there as well. Everything will be spiced up with new arrangements for the live setup and will be the most dynamic and energised version of the live show to date. This will be the first time performing music from my album in front of a live audience, so I’m nervous as hell but very pumped. I’ll be singing and playing guitar of course, but also juggling synths and keys as well. It should be fun, chaotic, energetic and sonically eclectic. Can’t wait.
The past nineteen months have taken its toll on the music industry, specifically the touring sector, but also in terms of making that in person connection with audience members and creating a shared feeling and experience. How important do you think live music is not only for yourself as a musician showcasing their art, but as an audience member who connects with music?
There’s no doubt that live music is extremely important. Enjoying music in a live setting is a different experience to listening to a recording at home or on the radio, that goes without saying. For me personally, live shows have always been the most challenging aspect of my career. I find them to be such big tasks and really difficult to get right. But I think that’s also what makes a good live concert so magical. When everything comes together and falls into place, and the hard-work and energy put into bringing music to life finally pays off, there’s nothing like that. Not to mention being able to enjoy the music in unison with a group of people and witnessing how music impacts our social connections and our sense of community and connection. Like I said, especially for an artist at my level who doesn’t have a massive amount of resources and money to construct a brilliant spectacle of a show, it can be stressful and draining to make the live stuff work in the way you want it to - but the challenge is also very rewarding. It’s a long process, perfecting the craft and taking baby steps towards creating the show you envision in your mind.
The 1975, Rage Against The Machine, Radiohead, Justice… The list goes on but those ones popped into my head first today.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Dynamic, interrogative, textured.
Best song of 2021 so far?
Lil Nas X - Industry Baby.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
I’d love to soundtrack a horror film. Making creepy sounds is fun and there would be such freedom to it - the sounds are inherently ugly and unnerving so there are no rules and you can really go down paths you otherwise never would.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
What was the first song you loved to sing?
I Want Candy - Aaron Carter
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Might already have some plans for this ;) Don’t wanna give away any details!
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
I don’t drive so that’s hard but definitely something not too obtuse… I really like Clairo’s album Immunity - that would be very soothing for a road trip.
First concert you went to?
Best concert you have been to?
First album you ever bought?
Honestly can’t remember :’/
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
What’s your favourite back street?
All the Melbourne city laneways with weird small shops and too many people
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Guilty music pleasure?
No such thing!!
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
The 1975 of course, but also someone like Rex Orange County would be amazing.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Hard to look past Lil Nas X for the 2021 music industry. But historically, maybe someone like Madonna or even the Beatles?
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Well I wish I could predict the future - but I can't, so… I guess, maybe ‘don’t buy too much music gear, because who knows if you can actually afford any of it post-pandemic’
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
I still don’t really know if that’s what I want… lol. It’s hard out here.