Jono Hawkey & Jared Mclaren – Bloom ‘The Kings of Sad But Heavy Core’
Sydney based melodic hardcore group Bloom have been gathering enormous amounts of momentum recently. On the back of their EP In Passing (our review here), I grabbed vocalist Jono Hawkey and guitarist Jared Mclaren to chat everything that’s blooming for the band, from their new signing to Greyscale Records to navigating a music release in the current COVID-19 climate.
For those who are unaware, who are Bloom and what are you aiming to achieve?
Jono: We are five kids from Sydney, well I guess we aren’t really kids anymore. When Jarod and I finished high school we wanted to make music together. That idea has evolved into five best mates who love and write sad but heavy music. The whole experience has been an incredible mix of playing the music that we love to play, and we get to hang out with people who we love to spend time with. The whole thing has snowballed from a couple of young adults who are fresh out of university making music together to actually making a name for ourselves.
(Laughs) What we are out to achieve is absolute world dominance. A headline tour with Metallica supporting, we want to be the kings of sad but heavy core.
Well, to be honest, I think you are well on your way. I have been listening to your new EP non-stop since it landed in my emails, I cannot get enough of it. With the amount of heavy emotion on the EP, were there moments when songwriting became too overwhelming?
Jono: It was an interesting one because usually, the lyric writing for Bloom songs come from a combination of ideas from myself, Jared and Oliver. Because this was written about a specific experience, majority of it came from me. When we were brainstorming ideas for what we wanted the EP to be about, I remember thinking how I didn’t spend a lot of time with my grandfather when I was growing up, the time I spent the most with him the most was as he was passing. Sure, writing about it was emotion and heavy-hitting to come back to, but in a way, it kind of felt like a storytelling process.
We wrote the EP around the time we recorded it. At the time, Jarod and I were sitting around together to discuss things that have happened to us on a personal level and what sort of experience we wanted to get out of each song. We tried to make it as honest and as accurate as possible. Songs like ‘The Service’ are a literal recount of events. As I was working out what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it and what the best delivery would be, I found that after I had mashed these lyrics into my head, they occasionally lose a lot of their impact because I had gone over them so many times.
The best example I have of being taken back by the intensity of our lyrics was when we played a couple of new tracks at Invasion Fest. I found it wasn’t until I was on stage performing that it really hit home, otherwise it’s just words on a piece of paper, while you’re writing it anyway.
Jarod: I remember when we first played ‘The Service’ at an AM//PM show in Sydney. We had finished the set, and the crowd were cheering for us to play more songs, so we decided to play ‘The Service’ and afterwards Jono mentioned to me that it was a lot more challenging than he had initially thought. Jono, I think you were surprised by how much it impacted you.
Jono: Yes, absolutely!
Jarod: It seemed as if performing the song in full carries a lot more weight. When we are in the studio, we write different sections of the songs at different times, all while throwing ideas and rhymes around. It’s confronting performing the song from beginning to end, especially when there is a room full of people watching.
You guys came down to Melbourne to record this EP with Christopher Vernon (Better Half, Belle Haven). How was that experience?
Jarod: Every time I have talked to someone about it, we always sing our praises of Chris. We have recorded with other people before, and it seems that nobody else seems to have the talent that Chris has. With a song like ‘Cold’ for example, we have the song wholly written, which in essence, wasn’t very different from how the finished product sounds. He added two or three things to that song, which weren’t necessarily massive but what he did held its value, and it almost seemed as if he wrote half the song. Those little inputs that he had were substantially better than what we could come up with, he has the ear for it, and he knows what we want out of the song. We had listened to that song for six months, so it is hard to break from the vocal rhythms we had come up with or the leads we would come up with. When he started throwing out little ideas, it got us in that mindset of thinking of new ideas. I enjoyed the approach he takes, the attitude he has, and I feel like he respects us when we say no to some of his ideas. At the end of the day, it is a collaboration as he is the producer, but he also knows that it is Bloom’s songs. He strikes a fantastic balance there.
Jono: He does a great job of making it feel as if you aren’t sitting in a tiny room for twelve days straight with little natural light, even though we were. He is an extremely warm and fun person to be around; he somehow manages to balance productivity and goofing around perfectly. So when we travelled down to Melbourne, it was the five of us plus one good friend, We all wanted to write and record the best music we possibly could, but it was also a holiday in a sense, we wanted to have fun. Chris did such a great job at keeping the energy up and making everyone feel as if their opinion is validated. It was a constructive, collaborative environment. At the moment I cannot imagine working with anyone other than Chris.
Jarod: Also, twelve days in a row is so many days in a row, but at the end of it, we didn’t want to go home. I could imagine that if we didn’t gel with him as well as we did, it would have been a tough slog.
Is it important for you as performers to show your emotions on stage?
Jono: Yes. The things that we write about are pretty full-on, especially with this release. Some of our songs on this EP are a little bit more general, like ‘Daylight’ and having people associating or connecting with that is all part of the craft. If we were to perform that song, we would just embrace that. That’s what we expect to happen when all we write about is sad shit.
Jarod: I feel that it is easier because our band doesn’t present a specific image. It makes it easier as we don’t always have to act tough or sad. There is space for that.
Now you have the pleasure of being label mates with Chris. Congratulations on your recent signing with Greyscale Records. How did this come about and what are you looking to get out of the signing with Greyscale that Bloom wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise?
Jarod: I think it establishes a strong support network for us. We had been working very closely with Josh Merriel and Dylan Gillies-Parsons from Greyscale for a short while, and it has been amazing to have these two industry professionals supporting us every step of the way. When we are trying to do something, in this case, release an EP, it is incredible to have their input. With everything we have released beforehand we had the approach of ‘let’s try this and see if it works’. Whereas these individuals have the experience behind them, and they already know what works. Also, the following that Greyscale have, or at least their bands have is astonishing. Alpha Wolf’s latest release was massive, and I feel as if a big part of that is because they have the support of these individuals.
Jono: It gives us opportunities, like this interview for example, which was instigated by Josh, and it allows us to get our faces in front of the people that we want to be seen by. The whole Greyscale thing came to be through our Invasion Fest set and conversations with the label, and it seemed to happen organically. I can not overstate how good Dylan and Josh have been to us and how supportive they have been because we come from a background of minimal band experience, both myself and Jared had never been in a band before Bloom. When it comes to taking bigger steps and working out ideas, it is incredible having people there who know exactly what to do and so far their word has been gospel. I could not possibly say a bad thing about those two.
Jared: Especially having Dylan, who is the frontman of a band who has toured Europe and are doing big things, for example, their last album did well and exceeded everyone’s expectations. He has the personal experience, and Josh has an abundance of promotional experience, it is a perfect mix between the two. We had none of this before.
That support network would be crucial in this time where you are releasing an EP in the middle of a pandemic. What sort of obstacles has COVID-19 presented for you?
Jono: The biggest hit that we have taken has been with shows. We were supposed to be supporting Saviour on a national tour, but that has been cancelled after already being postponed. We wanted to tour this release, but we are not sure if that will happen. This is the same pain that every band is feeling. When we first envisioned the release for this EP, there were things, shows and tours that we wanted to do but realistically it is not viable for now. The biggest hurdle has been trying to figure out how we can best support this EP after its release. One of the reasons we chose to release it now, rather than sitting on it any longer is because it has already been massively pushed back. We were ready to get the ball rolling with the release back in March, which is why we released ‘The Service’ around then. We got to a point where we thought that if we don’t release it now, the songs will begin to feel stale to us and we won’t be able to give them the breathing space that they need because we have got all this time off and all we want to do is go back to Melbourne and record more, to keep the ball rolling. We want to give this release the time it deserves because we feel that it is our best work. Having to continuously push things back in a time where everybody is unsure of what is going on has been a significant hurdle to move past.
Jared: We have gotten a little bit of confidence from seeing bands like Alpha Wolf, Yours Truly, Knuckle Puck and Movements seemingly go back to the usual release schedule because nobody knows how long it is going to take for everything to return. Alpha Wolf came in at number six on the Aria charts, Yours Truly played a seated show in Sydney recently, the Movements album seemed to be very successful. Seeing other bands successfully release music recently has given me confidence that we have made the right decision to get it out rather than sitting on it because it could be at least six months before it is safe for us to play a show.
Have you found it hard to gauge the attention of potential fans in places which you cannot reach during the release?
Jono: I blame this entirely on Spotify playlisting, but we have a decent following internationally, and we are continuing to see more and more engagement from overseas fans as time goes on. It seems to come down to the quality of the content that we are posting and the music that we release, making sure that the value and the production is more professional. I think these are the things that are drawing more people to us. I think this release hasn’t been too heavily effected by COVID, or at least how it is currently presented. We have still been able to get it in front of the people we wanted to get it in front of. Also, having the support of Greyscale has given this release the extra push to get it in front of the international markets as well.
Jared: I have noticed a lot more interaction on all of our socials, it is cool seeing new faces content and share the content that we post. Half the time, they seem to be from random places across the world, which is incredible. It has been so much bigger than our previous releases, so I don’t think in any way it has been a wrong move to release it now.
One thing that stands out to me when I listen to the EP is that there seems to be a massive Counterparts influence. Is that something that rings true?
Jono: I won’t even try to dance around it. We are all huge Counterparts sweaters and so many songs in their discography, like ‘Monument’ for example, every Bloom member will take that song to their grave. The songwriting is incredible; the lyrics are phenomenal. Without directly copying Counterparts, we wanted to have something that existed in that space because Australia has some fantastic melodic hardcore, but it isn’t as prevalent as other genres. We wanted to differentiate ourselves by making a different sound, listening to bands like Counterparts has helped shape the sound of our music.
Interview by Adam Rice (@adamrice1994)
Bloom’s In Passing EP is out now through Greyscale Records. Purchase here
BLOOM – In Passing EP tracklisting
1. The Service
2. The Boat And The Stream
5. In Passing
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