Interview: Tom Lanyon (CERES)

Interview: Tom Lanyon (CERES)
When I speak to Tom Lanyon from Ceres he sounds like a pretty happy guy, but that’s no surprise: it’s the day their new record Drag It Down On You started streaming online, so it makes sense that he’d feel a little relieved to finally have the full-length the Melbourne outfit worked on for two-and-a-half-years out in the world. Ahead of the headline tour they’re embarking on in support of their sophomore LP, we had a chat about nerves, being a bummer and impressing Los Campesinos!’ Tom Bromley.

The record started streaming on Rolling Stone today. What’s the response been like?

It’s been really good. I didn’t even think about it. We knew Rolling Stone were gonna premiere it and I’d done a track-by-track last week, but I just sort of woke up this morning and didn’t even think about it until it posted. I was like “oh yeah, shit, everybody’s gonna hear something that we worked two and a half years for right now”. I thought I would have to like, rev myself up for it, and get ready. But I’m so stoked with how it’s gone, everyone seems super excited. It seems like the reaction’s positive, which is good. I’m stoked, hopefully people can get through right to the end and really appreciate it.

So you weren’t nervous about it at all today?

I don’t know why I just didn’t think about it! I just sort of didn’t realise that people were going to listen to it today. It sounds pretty dumb but I was just … as soon as it posted, I was like “aw shit”, kind of getting nervous and then now I just feel great because people liked it. And you know, some reviews have come through and they all were positive, so I was just more excited than anything — not really nervous. I was kind of confident as well. Like we all really love the record so I was hoping that some people might be into it as well.

Are you one of those people that just goes with everything?

Yeah I think I am. I just kind of go with the flow, whatever will be will be, I assume. And once you put something like that out there you can’t do anything about it anymore, because it’s not your little secret now – it can be everyone’s. It’s just more exciting than anything I think, it wasn’t really a nerve-racking thing.

It should be exciting! The record’s called Drag It Down On You. What is “it”?

The “it” is probably me and all my stories and the ups and downs and the rollercoaster of the whole record – I’m sort of dragging that down on people and being a bit of a bummer. I’m sort of bumming people out and dragging my shit down on people and maybe I shouldn’t be. It was always just sort of like, me dragging stuff down on people, me bumming people out, I feel with this record. It’s definitely the darkest record we’ve made and the darkest stuff that I’ve written. So it just kind of worked out because I would be once it’s realised dragging it down on all of these people that I don’t even know. It’s kind of like an apology almost. Sorry for doing that!

Were you in a dark place when you wrote it? There are bands who are like “we know our music’s sad, but we’re actually really happy dudes”.

I think I use that as an outlet to get dark stuff out – like records, making music, writing songs. I can use that as a bit of a diary to get stuff out. I’m not really a sad person, I’m actually kind of a happy-go-lucky dude I think. But I can get that out that way, that’s a nice little avenue to get it out on. So maybe that helps. Songwriting is definitely cathartic for me. I just like sad music too, I don’t know why. I don’t know what it is about me, just that melancholy feeling, you know? It feels good to feel sad sometimes. So I think I wanna sort of my play my part in that as well. I just can’t write happy songs. I don’t know why.

Is it intentional that it helps the people who listen to it as well, or is that just sort of something that consequently happens?

It’s a very inwards looking record, it’s more about me than anything else, which is a bit selfish and narcissistic. It’s not really a positive thing for anyone really. But our music has somehow always had a sense of, even though the lyrics are dark, uplifting-ness, something in the music that can lift people out of some slumps, I think. I don’t think that’s a conscious thing, I think we’ve just always written music like that. And if that can help people that’s so cool, it’s a trip, because I know a lot of records have helped me out. If I could be in a band that does that for someone else then man, that’s amazing.

The sound of the album is very raw, not just lyrically, even with the unedited vocals. Did you do that intentionally to preserve that sense of honesty?

100%. There’s a lot of takes that probably should have been done again but, if anyone else was producing it. But Tom Bromley from Los Campesinos! came in and his idea was just as raw as possible sounding and I think that’s so good. It kicks you in the guts a lot harder if stuff’s a lot more raw. And the vocal takes that I’ve done, sometimes I listen to the record now and I’m like “oh, I probably should have done that better”, but Bromley was always so keen to make sure it’s the emotion first, then the performance afterwards. And I think it’s done such a good job for the record, I think it’s a shortcut to emotions, that sort of roughness and those itchy parts in my vocals and stuff like that. I’m so stoked he took it down that path.

Sometimes it’s nicer to listen to something that’s more vulnerable than rehearsed. You worked with some great people on this record, including Tom like you said, and I read that you’re a huge Los Campesinos! fan. Did that make a difference to the way it sounded? I feel like if I was showing stuff to a band I liked I’d want to impress them.

Yeah, maybe! Maybe as soon as I knew he was coming on-board I was like “we need to re-do all these songs” [laughs]. Na, like they were all demoed before we showed him, so I wasn’t trying to impress, but I was definitely nervous to see what he thought. And that was the first thing I ever sent him, those demos, and he replied saying they sounded great. I was like “shit, I can’t believe Tom from Los Campesinos! is telling me this stuff”. But then yeah we went in, we all wanted to impress ourselves, we all wanted to try 110% to make it the best record ever. There were 14 hour days in the studio, we just never left that place, we were just constantly trying to make it the best it could be. Not just for Tom, definitely for Tom but for us as well, and anyone else who wants to listen to it. We just kind of hope we haven’t let anyone down with our second record. Because it’s our first second record ever, so we’ve got to make sure it’s good.

You’re heading out on a headline tour to play these super vulnerable, honest songs. I know you’re a happy-go-lucky guy but it must be kind of daunting?

I don’t know. I was talking to someone the other day I was just like “if I was in a spoken word band or acapella group or something and I was just sort of sitting there reading a diary out then yeah, it would be so scary, I would never do it”. But if I write stuff down and you put a punk rock song behind it then I get excited. I wanna show people what we’ve got. I’m just lucky I’ve got a band around me who love it as much as I do. We kind of just try and give it everything we’ve got when we’re onstage. I’m just trying not to fuck it up, I’m just trying to play my guitar right and not sing out of key. And I do get tingles, like some lines, especially on these new songs, I’m so excited to play them. I do get tingles, in practice I’m getting tingles right now singing some of the lines out of the songs. But I never ever worry about baring my soul or anything like that; I think I’ve done enough with records that they just feel like good, honest songs now.

Drag It Down On You is out now via Cooking Vinyl Australia.

Interview: Tom Lanyon (CERES)
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