If you haven’t spent any time in the orbit of Lucid Planet then go right now and spin their superb sophomore album II over on their website before reading any further. The lazy comparisons are of course Tool, however voyage deeper into their diverse universe and experience everything from reggae villages, psychedelic djent-ed mountain tops and psytrance forests.
It’s an album that rewards every repeat listen as the subtleties and sub stories reveal themselves in constantly changing ways further propelled by a nebula of accompanying artwork and visual interpretations befitting the sonic journey. Now while you’ve got the album playing, check out the chat I had with all three members below covering song writing, independency (the band self-produced and recorded most of the album, yet its studio polished) and maybe some new music to look forward to.
Thanks guys for choosing to spend some lockdown hours to chat about music and share a few beers on a Friday night. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Michael: Lucid Planet is a psychedelic, progressive band from Melbourne. The core members are myself (Michael – guitar), Darcy (guitar/synth) and Luke (vocals/bass). Our most recent album Lucid Planet II was released in November 2020.
I’ve always liked the short experimental tracks that bands like Tool and Pink Floyd use on their records…
Chris Cameron recorded the drums for II, can you tell me the relation he has with the band?
Michael: When production began for album two, Chris reached out to the band online expressing his interest in being involved, despite already having numerous other commitments, musical and otherwise. The fundamental drumming ideas had already been programmed so we had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted. Chris brought his own incredible energy and skill to the task, fleshing out our ideas in ways we never imagined possible so we were really happy with the entire process. We have been in regular contact with him since the release as a sort of unofficial member and he is very excited, as are we, to be staying on board for gigs when COVID lets us get back out there. If all works out, the door will be open for Chris to join as a full-time member of the band.
There’s a real flow throughout II, particularly as one song comes to a close, the build starts for the next song. Was that something you consciously worked on early in the songwriting process?
Darcy: I’ve always liked the short experimental tracks that bands like Tool and Pink Floyd use on their records but we wanted to make ours more a part of the songs themselves, rather than standalone tracks. So yes, they were designed with the intention to flow through the album.
Luke: We did set out from the beginning to have a flowing, cohesive work designed to be heard from start to finish, but there were certain elements that could only really come together and be fully realised later in the production.
Opening track Anamnesis is a great song and everything you want from a progressive album opener. Track two, Entrancement, quickly changes the mood with tribal drumming, chanting and flutes throughout. What’s the story behind this song?
Michael: The song originally started as an opener for our live gigs years ago and is one of the oldest ideas on the record. Earlier band members designed the fundamental idea, stumbling across flute player Emir Khosrowshahi on YouTube. It was then taken from a very short and basic idea and fleshed out with verses, choruses and a consistent droney/meditative feel throughout, with a focus on a certain set of effects on Luke’s voice to create a demonic, evil’ effect, and Jade Alice [guest vocals] complimenting this with an angelic, pure presence.
Luke: We wanted Anamnesis to be the big progressive introduction song to the album, but then challenged the listener in song two with a completely different journey and energy. The idea here was to throw off the listener’s assumptions about the album early on with something unexpected, prompting the feeling that anything could happen next.
We wanted Anamnesis to be the big progressive introduction song to the album, but then challenged the listener in song two with a completely different journey and energy…
On Organic Hard Drive the album continues to explore varying genres by morphing from a heavier progressive song into a psytrance banger. Is that song born from the merger of Lucid Planet and from Darcy’s electronic side-project, Shwusu?
Darcy: No, it was always written as a Lucid Planet song, however some of the skills I learnt from my experience over the years with electronic music did contribute to a particular focus on the dynamics of the thumping electronic finale. I’ve wanted to achieve a song like this for a long time and it was awesome to deliver that big and epic sound in Lucid Planet II.
Is it something you plan to play live?
Darcy: We are working now on a way to do the song justice. It’s probably inevitable that the live version will stray, either a little or a lot, from the album version. Either way, it will have a huge amount of energy on-stage just as it does on the album.
Luke, how did you find taking lead vocals for album number two?
Luke: We auditioned a number of vocalists but I spent most of that process coaching them through the atmosphere and execution that the album needed. We eventually figured that it just made more sense that I have a crack at the role officially, despite not having done any serious singing on-stage or on a full musical release before. Michael and I would have long lyrical writing sessions and the entire vocal recording process took 3-4 months overall, layering multiple lead and harmony melodies for each song on the record, along with layers of guest vocalist Jade Alice‘s beautiful contributions. It’s worth also noting that Darcy’s vocal production skills, having vastly improved from album one, really achieved the best out of my voice on this record.
Michael: I think we eventually worked out a way to play to Luke’s strengths and the layering gave the record a mystical, earthy, shaman quality.
Apart from the drums, II was recorded and produced in Darcy’s home studio by the band to a standard some studios can’t even achieve. What are your thoughts on using a home studio?
Michael: I love the autonomy and freedom the set up gives us. We’ve bought our share of gear and software over the years but once you are set up, you can spend as long as you need to play around with sound design and experiment. It really enables us to focus on the art instead of worrying about paid studio time.
Darcy: You’ve just got to learn your DAW (digital audio workstation) and how audio works, which takes some time but there’s plenty of YouTube tutorials to reference. And while having all that time sounds great, one downside would be the inclination to get caught up in the minutiae of what you’re doing, sending yourself down a rabbit hole over minor things purely because you’re not paying for the studio time. My advice is don’t sweat the small stuff, otherwise you’ll end up doing something like making adjustments on a snare for hours, and if you’re focusing on that kinda stuff then you’ll find that you’re writing songs that might have a great snare sound, but the big picture songwriting stuff has suffered by the wayside.
Michael and I would have long lyrical writing sessions and the entire vocal recording process took 3-4 months overall…
The band has won awards from MetalStorm.net and featured in articles from Ultimate Guitar. What are your thoughts on social media in general and its effect on the band?
Luke: Those article mentions and reviews were a really proud moment for us. When we initially reached out in promotion of II we found there were little responses, mainly due to the lack of backing from any record company or industry insider. Pretty much all of the pieces written so far have just discovered us on their own and through word of mouth, which has been great. All of the independent promotion we’ve done was a worthwhile effort, but these days we prefer to focus our efforts on what we’re good at which is creating, rather than marketing, and having faith in the music and in the community to spread our message.
Michael: We are proudly an independent band which does have its challenges. We run an independent website and online store, packaging and shipping customers’ orders ourselves and maintaining regular correspondence with our followers.
Darcy: We are lucky that our genre of music does have a strong underground following and word of mouth helps a lot in spreading our music.
You have amazing artwork accompanying II which was also extended to the visual experience of the full album on YouTube. Who made the video and was it always the intention to release this form of media?
Michael: I made the visuals from the adapted artwork of Mr Crystalface. I wanted to create an experience that encapsulated a listener or viewer, encouraging full attention to the deeply layered nature of the music with a visual accompaniment.
Luke: Michael and I were living together at the time, and at one point he would have spent the better part of four weeks doing 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week working on the visuals in anticipation of release day. Leading up to crunch time, there was a period where I didn’t really seem to see him anywhere except at his computer [haha].
Darcy: The final version, after hours and hours of rendering and re-rendering, completed its full upload with only around 3-4 hours to spare before our live online album premiere. We recommend not cutting it that fine, ever!
Lately we’ve been working super hard on practicing and putting together a really epic live experience for when that time comes…
Do we have similar visual experiences to look forward to for live gigs when they return?
Michael: We do have some things penciled-in, it’s just hard at the moment to know if they will get bumped because of COVID. We want the shows to be an authentic Lucid Planet experience so we have some big plans for when we can get out there again, using some of the visuals from the record but also exploring different spaces as well.
Luke: Lately we’ve been working super hard on practicing and putting together a really epic live experience for when that time comes, with full support sounds, extra voices and effects, cued visuals and more. I’m personally just focusing hard right now on singing and playing bass at the same time, which is a new thing for me, but it’s all starting to come together well.
Last question, is there any new music to look forward to?
Michael: There are many ideas floating around right now. We might look into something in a smaller EP format so we can play around and progress the sound with less pressure than an epic and sprawling album. It would be great to experiment with more ideas and to show an evolution from II. An EP could be a good way to do that before embarking on another full-length addition.
Very big thank you to the Michael, Darcy and Luke for being generous with their time (could have easily kept talking for twice as long). Looking forward to the future from you guys.
Lucid Planet II is available now on CD and digital download along with merchandise, including the awesome laser-etched glasses, over on the bands webstore.
Interviewed by: Maxx