Formed from musical friendships forged in the crucible of working at one of Perth’s leading music stores, Material World Orchestra’s first single release caused a bigger stir than would a first release from most six-month old bands. ‘Lost In The Future’ is a slice of squelchy synth pop that channels a 70s groove fused with 21st Century sensibilities. It’s instantly likeable and will stay in your braincells long after the first listen.
Material World Orchestra have a sound as big as their name and, even at this early stage, their future’s looking so bright they’re definitely going to be in need of some shades very soon.
The response to this release is an indication of just how good this fledgling outfit is. And how good Material World Orchestra are is, in part, due to its members’ musical heritage. The band started out as a solo project for Shaun McIlroy (Black Birds, Puck), who was quickly joined by workmates Curtis McEntee (known for his solo work) and Jamie Turner (Myths, High Learys).
Looking at the members’ previous output, synth pop wouldn’t necessarily be their obvious next move. Seems McIlroy may have had too much time on his hands.
SM: “We all work in a guitar shop, so we get to talk about band shit all day, which is awesome. I got my first Juno 106 a while ago, which seemed like this big effects pedal with triggers. You can play notes and just make these crazy sounds. I had a little solo synth project called Material World, which was the early genesis of this stuff. I did a few gigs, but it really took off when we all started hanging out together.”
From there, momentum built, and the project began to take on a life of its own.
SM: “We didn’t really have a strong idea of what we wanted to do except play synths. We’re trying to find that balance between it being a little bit tongue in cheek, not too serious, but it is serious. There’s a lot of serious stuff going on.”
CM: “We take it seriously, and it is serious, but the messages are more far away ...”
SM: “We’ve all done a lot of indie, rocky, moody stuff in the past. I’ve really wanted to play something for a long time that’s just got a good vibe. It’s not dark and brooding, just take a break from that for a second and enjoy the good times.”
As for the creative process, the members of Material World Orchestra are quick to recognise their lineage and how this has helped to push their current project forward so quickly.
JT: “I think it’s worked so well because we’re all songwriters and have been in various projects, so when we first got together we all had songs. We had all these materials to start working with.”
CM: “And that helps keep moving things forward, because if one of us runs out of ideas, one of the others will have ideas. There’s always some impetus to drive it along.”
It’s hard to imagine a trio like McIlroy, McEntee and Turner running out of ideas, but we decided to play along for a bit and, boom!, things got beautifully weird.
JT: “We’ve got about 12 or 13 finished tracks.”
SM: “We’ve all got little studios at home and we tracked most of the stuff at my place. And then we’ve done a bunch of these things which we call ‘synthcations’. We’ve gone out into the hills, Air BnB’d it for a few days. We’ll go out there and take the existing beds of the tracks and then stay up late and work on the tunes and work on the sounds.”
CM: “Drink lots of beers and get weird with it.”
JT: “The sunshine ... out in the middle of the woods. That’s where we got ‘Lost In The Future’, that was the first song. We did it for about eight or nine hours, we did it in one go.”
SM” “We’ll set up and go as long as we can, until the shit talking gets absolutely out of hand, normally about fourish.”
Oh, how we love the idea of the synthcation. It’s not unusual for bands to go on retreat to write and talk shit, but we think this would be a special sort of hideaway with three very human musos interacting into the small hours with each other and all that hardware and circuitry. We can only speculate that they really must have needed their Weeties in the mornings ... or not!
With an album’s worth of songs already in the bag, Material World Orchestra are planning to release some more singles and then an EP later in the year.
JT: “The second track will be out hopefully the end of June.”
SM: “We’re planning to release about three singles and then have that run into an EP. And we’re planning a second EP after that as well. We’re trying to filter through the singles to get the best ones, keep putting out the best songs that we have and then, eventually, put out some sort of longer, but until we get a bit more of a following, we don’t want to waste anything.”
JT: “We just want to get our content out. The tracks have been done for close to four months, so we want to get them out.”
Four months! We just love their impatience. It bodes well for how quickly this project will continue to evolve. But how do they know if the tracks are any good?
CM: “You just know. We never really talk that much about it, you already know which are going to be the best ones because you kind of vibe them that little bit more and when you listen back to it, there’s more of those moments where this is happening ...”
SM: “I think it’s a combination of it’s got strong music elements and a strong lyrical theme as well. Whenever we can hook onto a strong lyrical theme, or a lyrical hook for a song, that’s where it goes from your average throwaway demo to actually having something.”
CM: “That was like with ‘Lost In The Future’ we have this thing we call the ‘mumblies’ where you’re just singing, but they’re not really words and you’re trying to have an idea. Shaun was doing that and I said, ‘It sounds like you’re saying ‘lost in the future’ there and he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, I think I did!’ So then all of a sudden we’re like, ‘That’s a cool idea, let’s expand on that.’ Once you get that idea and you’re all vibing on it, away you go.”
And the future?
JT: “The really freeing thing, as a three songwriter entity, is when your content sounds a bit absurd, like ‘Lost In The Future’, but there’s a longing to take someone there. There’s no limits, basically.”
Good call! Why impose limits when you could be anything? Material World Orchestra have a sound as big as their name and, even at this early stage, their future’s looking so bright they’re definitely going to be in need of some shades very soon.
Their first ever live performance is at Rhubarb Records on Saturday 1 June. This is a debut you should not miss, because you'll want to be able to say you were there.