Hazards of Swimming Naked
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Hazards of Swimming Naked

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia | SELF

Brisbane, Queensland, Australia | SELF
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"Wordless Tales"

BRISBANE'S HAZARDS OF SWIMMING NAKED TRAVELLED 1700KMS TO RECORD THEIR DEBUT ALBUM. SONGWRITER ADRIAN DIERY SPEAKS TO TAL WALLACE AND EXPLAINS FOR THE FOUR MILLIONTH TIME WHY HIS BAND HAS NO SINGER.

Even with a centuries-long history of popular instrumental music (Mozart anyone? What about that whole jazz thing?), there's still that blank stare that comes when you tell folks that you're an instrumental rock band. Nevertheless the Ventures, Dirty Three, Mogwai and Brisbane's own Del Toro have forged past those stares and into genuine admiration and status. Add post-rock deviants Hazards Of Swimming Naked to that list. Their debut release, Our Lines Are Down, is a soundtrack to a film not yet written, a volume of stories unspoken.
“Everyone is attracted to different types of music,” Diery says of the whole 'where's the singer?' question. “For us, the reason we started making it is when I first started writing songs I had nothing really lyrically to say. I mean, as a teenager you don't have much worth saying that people should hear, you don't have well-formed opinions on the world. No one wants to hear about a whiny teenager and his crushes or failed relationships. But, you know, you have emotional reactions to things, sometimes it's easier to express them non-verbally. Then people in the band or the audience can pick up on something in the song and make it their own and not have to worry about lyrical content or connotations, what the singer's going on about while he's strutting about up the front of the stage! And I guess none of us really have the stage presence to be a lead singer.”
Recorded in various places across Queensland, including a basement in Brisbane and a farmhouse in the band's hometown of Innisfail, Our Lines... was a mammoth effort on Hazards’ and their producer Kirk Harmer’s part, a lot of dedication and patience to creating something unique. Diery describes how the process grew from both choice and necessity.
“We didn't lock in a studio, so it was a little from column A and a little from column B. We always wanted to record stuff at our farmhouse; it’s so isolated it's a great place to be creative and make a lot of noise, so that was a conscious choice to record there. And the opportunity to record drums in this basement just came up, so we were 'Well, we have to make use of that'. I guess it was mainly choice. The places that we used had such a character, we wouldn't have been able to get the same sound out of a studio I think. Without going into too much technical detail, the drums were just recorded and mixed raw – there's no plug-ins on them, there's no artificial reverb, it's just the sound of this building.”
Big, natural reverb is just what the doctor ordered for sweeping cinematic soundscapes and lyric-less storytelling.
“The songs definitely have stories. There's one song that's about what it's like to be in a cyclone, you get this eerie buildup and then all of a sudden there's this massive, very violent scene outside, it's a very surreal situation to be in. And another song 'Kip Keino' which is about the Kenyan barefoot runner, the first Kenyan gold medalist, which goes from a very innocent, sweet kind of song to a more driven, determined conclusion. I don't know how to explain them properly but, yeah, there's stories to them. I know some of the guys in the band have like a screenplay or different images going through their head while they play, and it definitely helps to bring out the dynamics of the song, because everyone can attach something from their own personal drama, something that helps us cohesively as a band, because there is a danger that these songs could sound quite flat, or like a big wall of noise if there wasn't that extra layer to it. We have spent moments in rehearsal talking about 'Wow, this would be a great scene in a film if this was happening'.”

WHO: Hazards of Swimming Naked
WHAT: Our Lines Are Down (Jungle Library Records)
WHERE & WHEN: The Zoo Saturday Oct 17 - Time Off


"ARCANE, HAZARDS OF SWIMMING NAKED, RED MEDICINE, RESTREAM"

Brisbane laptop musician Restream is somewhat responsible for his own downfall as he opens tonight’s proceedings. An exceedingly precise composer with a pronounced knack for layered and complex productions, Restream’s music is entirely too elaborate and finessed to really survive the average acoustics of The Zoo. The producer’s set is hardly one riddled by failure – ably blending elements of leftfield electronica, glacial ambience and textured post-rock into a comprehensive performance – but, to those familiar with his work, it is nevertheless a disappointment.

Local post-hardcore outfit Red Medicine are forced to deal with issues of a decidedly different nature. The sound of the band is sterling – their music is completely without focus. It’s clear the band wish to emulate scores of potent bands but, throughout their set, Red Medicine really only succeed at sounding like confused, overly ambitious teenagers. Their performance begins with hints of Isis-esque post-hardcore but rapidly sets about staggering clumsily through nu-metal, hardcore, post-metal and alt-rock. The band’s decision to have their singer only sporadically appear (on stage and on their material) merely lends credence to the idea that Red Medicine really haven’t the faintest clue as to the nature of their ambitions.

Hazards of Swimming Naked, somewhat fittingly, are the first band of the evening to really deliver on their natural promise. The launch for their debut album Lines Are Down, tonight’s festivities find the band in devastatingly fine form. The precision of the band’s musicality is laudable and it’s refreshing to see a post-rock band display such dexterous musicianship while still retaining the spacious melodic sensibilities and ethereal beauty for which the genre is praised. The stunning multimedia footage the band use to enhance their live show only emphasises Hazards of Swimming Naked’s natural flair for delivering something beyond the average and expected.

Progressive metallers Arcane, launching sophomore album Chronicles of The Waking Dream, do not fare quite so well. The quintet are cursed from the outset by a sound job that can only genuinely be described as inhuman – muddy guitars, overly loud drums and echoing, obscured vocals – and, unfortunately, such poor sonics only emphasise their shortcomings. The fragmented structures, unnecessary instrumental indulgences and cringe-worthy synth sounds of songs like ‘Malice’ leap into the foreground throughout the band’s set and make truly jaw-dropping events, like the band’s rendition of epic ‘Fading’, altogether too rare. Arcane are certainly talented. It was just difficult to hear that tonight.

MATT O’NEILL - Time Off


"Taking the Plunge"

Discovering no real-life anecdotes in the naming of instrumental Brisbane band HAZARDS OF SWIMMING NAKED, TYLER MCLOUGHLAN instead has a chat with ADRIAN DIERY about the supposed hazards of not singing.

People are persistently curious about a band that is singer-less by choice, though for Hazards Of Swimming Naked’s guitarist Adrian Diery, it is all very simple: “I think it’s just a poor grasp of the English language, really!” he laughs. “Music is kind of a universal language. You don’t have to rely upon verbal communication; everyone sort of gets an idea through dynamics. And then it’s really up to someone in the audience to put a lot more of themselves into a gig and project their own story onto the music; it doesn’t have to be necessarily the story we’re trying to tell. It’s obviously quite open to interpretation. Though every now and again we might try and supplement things with some visuals or spoken word samples to add a bit of flavour or atmosphere.”
Diery jokes about the background visual vignettes often used by the band to counter the lack of front person focal point. “It’s five people playing onstage with no lead singer engaging with the audience directly. And we’re not good looking people, so people need something to look at for the whole show!”
The visual element is not however a substitution for a vocalist, and Diery attempts to explain the art of storytelling without voice through a series of disjointed half-words. “Some of the songs have developed out of a story arc,” he reflects. “I guess that’s why we’re an instrumental band! Explaining intangible things like that – it’s really difficult to do through words I find.”
In their simply-titled track Kip Keino, it’s intriguing to find that moody guitars, pentatonic scales and unusually-timed percussion tell the story of the barefoot runner who was amongst Kenya’s first celebrated long-distance athletes.
“They ran for the love of it and they ran barefoot,” Diery explains. “And for some of them, only when they got to the Olympics did they actually start running with shoes which was a kind of a handicap for them in a weird way. I really liked the idea of it coming from the passion that these guys had. It wasn’t a sport to them, it was just part of their life.”
Making it a further unlikely theme is that the five-piece grew up together in North Queensland choosing musical pursuits over sporting ones. “We had a fairly lively all-ages scene going there. That was pretty cool to have a musical outlet in a small town when it’s usually sport that is the main dominating extra-curricular activity.”
The regional upbringing was central to each of the accomplished musicians finding their sense of style and developing it into the complex, instrumental layers that later became Hazards Of Swimming Naked.
“It was beneficial having those formative years in a small town where you can really isolate yourselves and focus on developing musically before you try and compete in the rough and tumble. We practised in a farmhouse in the middle of cane paddocks, so you get to spend a lot more time experimenting – you don’t have the pressures of four hours in a rehearsal room to try and get everything together.”
Earning the North Queensland support for Dead Letter Circus and working on the prospects of international distribution for their 2009 debut album Our Lines Are Down, Hazards Of Swimming Naked firstly have a headline show at Brisbane’s cavernous The Hi-Fi to look forward to.
“We’re feeling good, it’s a great venue and it’s a really good line-up. All the bands that are playing that night are pretty awesome – all really accomplished musicians and all doing something really exciting musically,” Diery explains of the evening shared with Brisbane-ites Lion Island, Mr. Maps and Hunz. “It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword though because every band is so good, so getting everyone there to watch every band is gonna be the challenge. Hopefully everyone gets there early and stays all night.”

WHO: Hazards Of Swimming Naked
WHERE & WHEN: The Hi-Fi Friday Aug 20 - Time Off


"Hazards Of Swimming Naked / Lion Island / Mr. Maps / Hunz"

Local electronic three-piece Hunz produce a spellbinding set that could easily headline the night. Their soaring melodies and delicate glitchy ambience fill the room and the crowd is practically glowing from the energy of their performance. The sporadic use of a drum machine works well tonight and their newer material explores the dancier side of electronica.

Mr. Maps pull off complex math-rock compositions with impressive dynamics and time-signature shifts. They show off songs from an upcoming release, which sound rockier and less melodic than their previous. Compared to Hunz they seem slightly flat and empty on the expansive stage, but they manage to find their feet towards the end of the set.

If tonight’s line-up was a game, Lion Island would appear to be the odd ones out. However, what was once a folk band have now dropped many of their folk instruments in favour of electric guitars. This reviewer is torn between their Beirut past and new Arcade Fire direction, but there’s no denying they put on an excellent performance.

Hazards Of Swimming Naked close the night with their brand of metal-tinged post-rock. Their extended arrangements contrast drawn-out hushed subtleties with tremendously epic build-ups reaching prog-metal climaxes. While the band barely move at all, apart from a few metal stances thrown in, they are remarkably compelling to watch. They finish off what has been an excellent night of quality local bands.

TIAN ZHANG
- Rave Magazine


Discography

Debut album 'our lines are down' - 2009

Single "Making a Cyborg (Theme from Ghost in the Shell)" from Soundcrane - 2011 - Australian musicians offer a musical tribute to Japan, creating cover versions of famous or interesting Japanese music.

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Bio

Hazards of Swimming Naked are a Brisbane based instrumental group originating from Far North Queensland (Innisfail/Johnstone Shire).

Their music is a reflection of their surrounding environment and isolated townships and of the imposition of society on this environment and the way people interact with it. This sound has drifted over the years from dense terrorscapes to late night grooves to dreamy, serendipitous currents and paranoid messes.

While short punchy pop hooks will always have a place in the hearts and minds of the masses, we believe there is a place for music which is less immediate. Music which asks something of the listener…music which may at first confront yet leave a seed of intrigue in the listener’s mind...or which seduces and overwhelms the listener, removing them from their immediate environment, providing a reprieve from the chaotic over-stimulation of the external and allowing them to focus....kind of like acid really....