Lately, life is what I would imagine Groundhog Day was like for Bill Murray. All I seem to talk about is mental health and the Rona and I feel like I am on repeat. But that’s because life has been disrupted, everything has changed, and it’s left a lot of us feeling pretty crappy. Talking about mental health is obviously super important, and I harp on about it because it’s very important to me. Novus has felt the effects of the virus and is a band who deal with heavier subjects in their songs. I was lucky enough to chat to Novus bass-man Zac James about the pivoting (cue Ross from friends) the band has done this year, their first-ever headlining gig and of course their newest single ‘Reflect’.
It’s always important to check how people are going, but it seems even more critical in the current environment, so I start with the all-important question- how is the band doing?
“Yeah, we’re good, really good. We had different plans than the ones we’re now left to, but we’ve just kind of pivoted. We kind of stopped, took a moment and thought, alright how can we best maximise the circumstances that we’re currently in? Which resulted in writing more and focusing more on who we want to be as a band and what we’re trying to do.”
I joke that pivot is everyone’s keyword at the moment, “What else can you do?” Zac laughs.
“I feel like it [COVID-19] has highlighted a lot of things that you just did because that’s what you do, but you didn’t have to or want to. I think everyone’s discovered the value of quality of life.”
We move onto the band’s latest single ‘Reflect’ which has only just been released, and I ask how it feels to have it out in the world.
“It feels amazing. We did a lot of things for the first time on ‘Reflect’, like, the clean vocals, and there are a lot more layers. We really thought about where we wanted the track to go and what we wanted to achieve with it. So far, it seems to be paying off, which is really exciting.”
The song deals with heavy subjects like fighting your demons and self-reflection, and Zac explains why it was an important song for the band to put out.
“John, our drummer, is our lyricist, so it’s obviously close to him. But for me, I’ve been through that mental low before, and it’s a super important song for me. [Going through] that has made me stop and be able to think about it, and it’s helped me help others. Nothing I say is going to pull you out of where you are, I’m not a therapist (laughs), but through my experience and looking back on everything, there’s these little key moments that will happen. And you’ve got to decide whether you want to run with that or not and if you do, you’ll come out of it and be a better person for it.”
Intense subject matter is not something that Novus shies away from, all of their songs deal with important things like mental health and other struggles. Zac talks me through why the band think it’s essential to write about these things.
“It wasn’t something that you would talk about 10 or 15 years ago when we were growing up and were impressionable. That’s not how people dealt with things, they either hid it, were ashamed of it, or it was a sign of weakness, and it’s not a sign of weakness! If you talk about it, you will probably get through it a lot quicker and come out better for it. That mindset isn’t valid anymore, it’s important to talk about these things and get through them, and it’s no sign of being weak, it’s okay not to be okay. Other people may be going through it, too; it’s good to know you’re not alone. That’s why we all love this music, its relatable and there’s an emotional connection there.”
Zac says that the recording of ‘Reflect’ was much faster and easier than their previous single ‘Hopeless’ and that it was done out of the studio he runs, Sinking Ship Studios, which is by the beach.
“We’re lucky that we can demo songs in that environment and it was pretty easy, compared to ‘Hopeless’, which took us a long time. And the studios are down near the beach, so if you need a break, you can just duck off for an hour, get some fresh air and then come back. It was a really nice time.”
We chat about the fantastic film clip which follows the story of the song pretty closely.
“We worked with Matt from Whisko Creative, who we met at local shows. He was super helpful, we came to him and said we want to go narrative based with this, what’s the best way to portray it? A lot of what you see was his ideas, we just let him run with it, and he nailed it.”
Novus has actually played ‘Reflect’ to a live crowd, playing it at their first post-COVID gig in July. Zac says the band will be playing it again (and for the first time since it’s release) at the band’s first-ever headlining gig at Mo’s Clubhouse in the Gold Coast this Friday night.
“We got to play the woolly mammoth in July; it was really weird. One hundred people cap, everyone’s sitting down, it’s like playing to a dinner party. You’re doing your thing, and they’re not allowed to move. It was weird, but it was fun.”
Zac then drops a bombshell and says that the band has a few new things to try on stage again. Does that mean there is new music and a release on the way?
“Ah, yeah, there might be, we’ve been writing heaps. I can’t confirm anything, but it’s been a crazy couple of months, let’s put it that way.”
Fans of the band will notice that ‘Reflect‘ features clean vocals from vocalist Dean Ross-Swaver which is a change from previous songs, and I press Zac to see if that will be a regular feature moving forward.
“It’s definitely on the cards; we’ve always kind of wanted to go that route but the songs we were writing at the time didn’t really have space for that kind of thing. We’re trying it out, and it seems to have gone alright. We’ll probably try and write more with those sections in mind.”
It is an incredible direction that I feel has added even more depth to the heavy themes of ‘Reflect’, and I can’t wait to see the band continue on this path. Get your ears around ‘Reflect’ while we wait for a hopefully not too distant release announcement…
Interview by Caitlin MacDonald (@cait_2tone)