Sum Of Us’ Bryce Carleton on Touring and the Brisbane Scene

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From a more chaotic previous iteration, the current stable of band members brings forth a sound that is essentially somewhat of a supergroup, with band members from Red in Tooth, The Archivist, Osaka Punch and Kodiak Empire. Owing as much to the frenetic mathcore of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Botch as it does to present-day Aussie prog such as Karnivool, this well-oiled unit recently banged out a stellar EP, ‘Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels’.

Bringing in warm and soulful vocal vibes from Kodiak Empire to the controlled aural cacophony, we caught up with vocalist Bryce Carleton on rounding out the lineup, playing in both bands, and what to expect regarding upcoming material. Joining up ‘felt like the final freedom, and the time to finally release for the band’, he notes, noting a surge of electricity on arriving in the SoU camp. ‘Coming in, Jasper (Webb, bass) we knew the other guys weren’t writing parts for whoever came in.’

‘However, even though we weren’t looking to make any changes, there were subtleties in what we brought and what we could add.’ It’s this tactful approach to the initial foray that seems to have already formed an organic and democratic part of the songwriting process. ‘It’s not so much matter of thinking of ideas when jamming, so much as us just playing with things’, he muses. ‘Some might like the idea of a certain passage, idea or phrase but we let everyone be heard and try finding that middle ground. Ultimately, we go by what we all enjoy hearing and playing as we play together.’

‘No to downplay our own influences or anything, but the whole idea is to be less about trying to play in a certain genre and more to bring out what everyone enjoys most about their own style of playing, have fun with it you know?’

This playful dynamic is not only palpable in the vocalists’ tone during the interview, its’ something readily apparent on the EP, a shapeshifting chameleon of genre, tempo, signature and key changes that move fluidly and playfully like water. Skirting happily in and out of aggressive tones, riffs and passages, it’s clear these guys don’t have hang-ups about subscribing or pandering to genre stereotypes.

But how does it differ singing for a looser, more post/prog-rock leaning act like Kodiak and these amorphous maniacs? ‘Interestingly, I found there’s a lot more pop sensibilities to the melodies I make with Sum of Us’, he notes, further adding to genre dysphoria. ‘I actually find it easier in places here, as it’s something of a more classic time-tested technique I can use. However, the real challenge is with phrasing – breathing, keeping on time, tight and sharp. I love the challenges of both bands though!’

And how do the lads perceive the lay of the land with such dense and esoteric music? Do they have faith in their local nook of the Brisbane scene? Obviously, any progressive rock or metal fan worth their salt would be wise to keep their ears pricked to the hotbed of talent developing in the Sunshine State. ‘The Brisbane scene is getting stronger all the time,’ Bryce agrees, ‘in fact, I’d probably say it’s the strongest I’ve seen it. There’s so many quality prog, heavy prog and progressive metal bands, and they’re all taking it seriously which is good to see.’

In terms of upcoming shows, Bryce notes that ‘We will probably be doing a lot more smaller and DIY-type gigs to begin with’, adding that he is ‘excited to see how Melbourne and Sydney audiences receive it’ – possibly hinting at future touring perhaps? We here at Overdrive are definitely excited to see how this off-kilter mechanised prog manifests in the flesh.

And what of the future? ‘Considering ‘Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels’ came out about 6 months ago, we’re in the process of writing for our next EP. The main goal of this project is to be bringing out content regularly, working at an efficient pace instead of building up and up and then having to take massive breaks afterwards’. Work smarter, not harder they say.

In regards to the next EP release, Bryce notes ‘the majority of these have been written from the ground up, and with a multitude of new writers it feels dynamically less condensed and intense, there’s more sections which will breathe and allow a bit more release of the tension. Not to say it isn’t going to be heavy, of course!’

If the four kinetic salvos of the ‘Sharp Turns in Dark Tunnels’ EP is anything to go by, we should be damn excited for what awaits us next.

Grab your copy of Sharp Turns In Dark Places HERE!