The Siren Tower, WA’s own blokes-you-can-trust, have just released a new single, Sovereigns.
Nothing is as simple as it seems with this band, however, as Sovereigns is the prequel song to 2017’s single, Invalia. It’s all part of a trilogy, with a third instalment due in 2018.
“Invalia, and this whole project really, was inspired by some interviews I saw on telly a few years ago,” says vocalist/guitarist, Grant McCulloch. “The interviewer was going around Sydney on Australia Day asking what the day meant to people, and everyone was happy to answer, but when asked what they thought it meant to Aboriginal Australians, who referred to the holiday as Invasion Day, their sentiment got quite dismissive, and even aggressive.
“There was a real lack of empathy that surprised me. Even knowing everything I know about race in this country, the brashness of it was still confronting. Not long after that I was writing Invalia, which takes place in one of the off-shore detention centres. The words are those of a father pleading for the staff to save his sick child.
“Sovereigns takes place a few years earlier and follows a former captain of one of our patrol boats. He had intercepted that family’s boat, and many others like it. He’s now struggling with the things he did to uphold Canberra’s policies. So, the overall arc is looking at the suffering on both sides of the fence, so to speak.”
It’s a bold, contemporary trilogy; which will play out over a considered amount of time to give each song its due weight. McCulloch says that, creatively, it was also a way of not only making interesting music but finding the most engaging ways to do it.
“Singles are great,” he says, “but we’ve always been a big-picture kind of band. We love intricate stories, rich characters and compelling packaging; so we needed something bigger than a single.
“The subject matter really helped to push us toward the trilogy idea because the issue is much bigger than one song. We knew one-voice/one-perspective wouldn’t represent the complexity of the subject matter, so fleshing the narrative out over years and really digging in seemed like the way to approach it.”
Such subject matter begs the question(s) - will our politicians ever learn? Will Australia ever get it right re asylum seekers?
“Let’s just say it would be a pleasant surprise if they did,” McCulloch responds. “The ‘stop the boats’ campaign was a bloody impressive bit of PR work that led to our electing a worm like Tony Abbott to office, and if that was all it was then it would just be egg on our face, but it was a fear-mongering witch-hunt that led to serious governmental policy being introduced and real lives being affected.
“So will our leaders ever learn? I think they’ve learned too well; they know how to manufacture consent and they do so with reckless abandon if it means votes. The question is, will our leaders ever actually lead, educate and inform rather than simply pandering to a nation that is drip fed information through a corporate-owned prism?”
In the midst of the issue lies the question - does music still have the power to educate or to fuel such conversations? Previous, perhaps simpler, eras have seen the phrase ‘protest-bands’ applied to artists such as Midnight Oil, U2 (in their day), The Clash, Billy Bragg, Tracey Chapman and the like. It’s not a description you ever seem to hear these days. Is musical anger still an energy?
“I hope so,” McCulloch says. “I mean, I know people have already started having discussion around Sovereigns, and the same thing happened around Invalia. We’re not a big band, and our network isn’t overly extensive, but that’s the lovely thing about networks, they’re all linked by various degrees of separation. At the very least, that gives this conversation a chance.
“But, at the end of the day, you have to win ears before you can win hearts and minds. So if the music is well crafted, then yeah, a great song can absolutely educate and illuminate. If your music sucks, you may as well be preaching to the cows (laughs).”
From touring consistently behind their 2014 album, A History Of Houses, The Siren Tower have built a strong live following round the country. McCulloch notes, however, that such extensive touring isn’t a given this time around.
“We love getting on the road and we did as much of it as we could after History but it cost us a fortune,” he says. “We don’t get a lot of radio play and that pretty much ensures tours run at considerable loss. On top of that it’s just myself, Mark (McEwen, guitar) and Brody (Simpson, drums) in The Siren Tower. We have awesome and exceptionally talented friends who round out the live band, but when it comes to bankrolling tours, it’s all on us. That’s the one thing that sucks about Perth, touring everywhere else is a bit tricky.
“With all that being said, heading back East is still a priority for us. It’s just a question of when does it become feasible. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.”
With the third gambit still to come in the asylum-seeker-trilogy, The Siren Tower are focussing on knuckling down to finish off their second album. It’s a music/life balance, after all.
“After History came out we all had to do a 180 and concentrate on our work lives for a while,” McCulloch explains. “It’s meant things progress a little slower than we’d like in Siren Tower land.
“We’re most of the way through writing the next album; currently we’re just looking at schedules to see when we can all get into the room to panel-beat what we have and knock a couple more things together. We’re stoked with what we’ve released this last year and some of the new stuff is killer, so getting this record done is our world right now.”
The Siren Tower launch Sovereigns on Saturday, March 24, at Badlands Bar with the help of Dan Howls, Good Grace and Life In A Glass House. Full details at www.facebook.com/events/180234572752956/
Download Sovereigns at www.thesirentower.bandcamp.com for a 'pay what you like' fee. All proceeds will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.