65daysofstatic, hailing from Sheffield, have a garnered a cult following all over the world, since their debut release with “Fall of Math” in 2004, with their albums having been critically acclaimed by the likes of NME, Pitchfork Media and Drowned in Sound. They are a band that has paved a distinct musical progression, mixing uplifting guitar based post rock with electronic music in a unique ways, defying conventional ideas about what popular music can be. Tracks like “Tiger Girl” start off sounding like something straight out of a rave, before giving way to euphoric layers of guitars and keyboards that would be equally at home in a symphony concert hall or a mosh pit. “Prisms” from their latest album “Wild Light” builds from bursts of punctuating electronic noise and stuttering snares drums into a kaleidoscopic mesh of dark pads and melodic guitar lines.
They are incredibly aggressive towards the idea of categorizing their music and trying to define their work as a band in conventional terms. Their categorization as post rock band is something they wholeheartedly reject: “Nothing. I’m not sure what post-rock is. It’s not a thing that we have ever called ourselves.”
I dig deeper and try to ask them if they believe the very idea of genre is becoming increasing redundant in the current musical climate. Their answers surprise me – “Music is becoming redundant in the current rising climate”
“As I we sit here there’s, like, a kilometre long convoy of Russian war vehicles moving into Crimea, the whole of Western media is reducing the almost infinitely complex narrative that caused this action into ‘Putin is bad; he has to stop’, I don’t even know what’s going on in Bosnia but it’s seemingly pretty crazy. I think, like, the entire Egypt cabinet resigned last week or something and that may or may not be to clear the way for whoever’s in charge of the military to sweep in and seize power in some kind of awful way. And the planet’s climate is on track to rise by 4 degrees at least, which basically means extinction. I try and keep up with it all, but my knowledge remains about this fuzzy.”
Love them or hate them, you’ve got to admire the ambition; you’re not going to get this depth of critical thought and ambition from McBusted. People have said that great work is produced by an artist struggling with his own form, and they seem acutely aware of the limitations of music as an art form: “That’s not the fault of music, or music journalism, or genre – it’s just that as a medium it currently lacks the vocabulary to deal with the world I am seeing on the internet and through my eyes.”
However, it’s not all pure cynicism; they seem to be inspired by these limitations to set their sights upon something higher by trying to deal with this inadequacy:
“I mean, if I was Billy Bragg, maybe I could write some lyrics addressing the complexity of Ukraine, but musically, that’s just going to be another folk song. I’d love to be able to bend noise toward this purpose. I think that’s something worth exploring.”
“I’m not being facetious here. It’s because I do not believe that ‘music is just music’. I think it’s so much more than that, which is why it’s frustrating that it is becoming increasingly inward-looking.”
I probe them about if things have changed for them since they have started making music, over the course of their near decade long career. Their progression as a band is something else that they find difficult to collect their thoughts upon; they seem feel on a never ending journey to in their creative process, always searching but never finishing:
“So much has changed. Making records is like slowly mapping out an unknown land. Every time you find some place new, and spend some time there, it changes you. Or maybe Super Mario would be a better metaphor. Every time you conquer this one particular land/castle/album you realise that the Princess has been taken somewhere else. You didn’t find what you were looking for, you need to try and do the whole thing again some place new.”
I try and see if they’ve experienced any changes as band in the interim between then and now. But the never ending creative quest is something that they seem to enjoy immensely, and they have the unabashed euphemism for writing new material as they did when they started out:
“But, you know, you level up a bit each time. Learn to recognise patterns, pick up some new skills… Resources get scarcer and it’s harder than ever to make it through the process of writing albums these days, but also we’re better at it that we ever have been” It may be a never ending game, but it’s an extremely fun one.
As a band they have always received more popular acclaim in East Asia, playing to rapturous audiences and selling out large venues. They have made an executive decision not to tour the USA, an unusual decision given in the music industry obsession with “breaking” America, but they seem to not like the concept of generalising their audience. Do they believe audiences differ much depending on the location?
“An audience is an audience. Like a snowflake. Imagine how unique a single person is – audiences are full of loads of them! Trying to generalise them by continents might be a little bit, um, reductive…”
Often described as cinematic, 65DaysOfStatic’s music suggests drama and movement behind the notes without ever saying so explicitly. It’s a term they don’t mind being applied to their own work; they admire a lot of the great film composers: “It’s a nice term, yes. Most of John Carpenter’s film scores are superb. Vangelis’ Bladerunner, Jonny Greenwood’s There Will Be Blood, a bunch of Clint Mansell soundtracks. John Williams, of course and Zimmer. I think that Silvestri’s Back to the Future soundtrack might be the best soundtrack ever written.” They show a wide appreciation for the different types of music that influence their sound. They seem particularly fond of classical music, amongst other things, “Rachmaniov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, most Arvo Part, Mahler’s Symphony No. 10. I’m not any kind of expert on classic music, that’s probably all entry-level stuff, but it’s all wonderful.”
I ask them about their opinions on the current state of the music industry, and if with the rise of the internet and cheap recording technology if the game had been permanently changed the game in any way or made it easier for fledging bands to get noticed, the answers again surprise me:
“It’s almost like time doesn’t move forward with this kind of linearity any more, you know? I read this, frankly, ridiculous report yesterday by a ‘trend forecasting group’ that was about ‘Youth Mode’.
They proceed to give me a quote:
“Being in YOUTH MODE isn’t about perpetually reliving yourself at a younger age, it’s about being youthfully present at any given age. Youth isn’t a process, aging is. In YOUTH MODE, you are infinite”.
They go on,
“It’s like, the same way the baby boomers are clinging on to the reins of power everywhere you look in Late Capitalism, the Millenials have just kind of swarmed and occupied popular culture and I have no idea how kids are going to be able to drive them out.”
Again 65DaysOfStatic have defined the conventionally held ideasabout the music industry. But do they think it’s easier to be a niche band to nowadays?
“To answer your question – I guess the definition of ‘niche’ means that whatever time it is, if that’s what you are it’s not going to be easy have no way of knowing, but what if more 14 year olds are making music on iPhones than guitars? How do you even start applying what being a band ought to mean to that?”
I then ask them about everything they’ve done, if there are any pieces of work that they hold particularly dear, and why so:
“65daysofstatic as a stubborn, ongoing idea is the work we’re doing now is what we’re doing I am most proud of. It feels like we’ve reached some happy tipping point where albums seem to have become windows into an ongoing, bigger idea, as well as standalone pieces.”
Probing them about how they feel about making music that is so far from the mainstream, I ask if their decision to make music largely without vocals is justified, considering how it may alienate large aspects of the audience. But there position as an experimental band is something they question:
“All depends who you’re comparing us to. Next to Coldplay I guess we’re pretty esoteric. Next to Autechre I think we sound like pop music. If we see ourselves as anything, it’s probably as a kind of portal for people who might listen to relatively non-experimental music, to lead them on to a load of even cooler stuff.”
It’s no accident that 65daysofstatic have consistently produced works of such quality and receive such acclaim for their live shows. They are dedicated to what they do, intelligently striving to break new musical ground and never slipping into old patterns and clichés in the process. Though the great Lou Reed once said: “One chord is rock, two chords is pushing it…three chords and you’re into Jazz”, 65daysofstatic are pushing the boundaries and succeeding handsomely. I hope, for everyone’s sake, that it continues.