nipaluna/Hobart’s post punk powerhouse Verticoli have provided Backseat Mafia with an exclusive listen to their new album, ‘The Echo’, and it is a gorgeous, cathartic cataclysm of sound and fury. Verticoli have drip fed us with a few anticipatory singles – ‘Pride And Legacy’ and Sailor’ – over the last year – perfectly restrained and simmering dollops of post punk pop that have displayed a stature and grace way beyond their years.
The album as a whole is has a steely spine that offers a visceral and heart racing rollercoaster ride across choppy waves, while providing respite with its melodic thrills. The band says of the album:
‘The Echo’ is an eclectic album inspired by an obsession with music that brings with it both highs and lows. The track itself ‘The Echo’ is a coming-of-age story of a boy (Sam) who grew up with values informed by a passion for music and the ongoing struggle that presents for someone whose music never really found a foothold and is still trying to find his place in the world. Other themes include escapism, depression, paranoia, getting punched in the face, and love sickness. It also touches on confronting a future potentially raising children, reflecting on my own upbringings and relationships within my family.
The greatest surprise – a pleasant one – is that the album as a whole is a lot harder than the singles released so far would suggest. It features crunchy heavy metals guitars laced with a melodic timbre recalling to some extent the iron and lace combination of bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Feeder.
Opening track ‘Undercover’ is a frenetic blast of thunder that discloses the augmented barbed wire and fibre in the band’s sound.
‘Pride and Legacy’ is an earthquake: a pulse-quickening anthem of the highest order, filled with arching guitars and impassioned vocals that create a surround sound cinematic experience for the ears.
The triumphant march of the song references our parlous times. Lead singer and guitarist Sam Hunn says of the track:
‘Pride & Legacy’ was written when I was reading about Roman Emperors going away to conquer lands in return for the respect and admiration of their people. A certain archaic pride-filled attitude to warfare, where your ability to conquer the ‘enemy’ reflects your worth. The troops are the fodder sent away for you to become great. Obviously, a characteristic of many leaders throughout history, even today sadly. This served as the basis for the song lyrically. Musically I just had a progression of chords I wanted to shape up into something, and I think the ‘epic’ and full feeling of the chords in the intro and chorus was asking for some kind of drama in the lyrics.
Wider than the skies above Tasmania and wilder than the deep forested hinterland, the song is a triumphant and euphoric blast of goodness that puts in sharp focus the dynamism of this band. They share with fellow compatriots EWAH and the Vision of Paradise and A. Swayze and the Ghosts (antipodean favourites from the same town) a sense of untrammeled explosive passion.
The accompanying video is an enigmatic representation of conflict, never more perfectly envisaged than in a chess game. Filmed, directed and edited by Lachy Hamil, the video depicts a sepia-drenched amphitheatre of onlookers, intensely discerning the choices and plays of two chess players with turbulent cuts to performance shots, displacing members of Verticoli from the war table to the stage. Hunn explains:
The song is about war as a means of generating power and prestige, rather than to defend against an evil enemy. Chess seemed like a good analogy for ‘war games’. Jez and I are tyrants.
The ironically titled song ‘Hits of The Summer’ pounds away at the senses with its stabbing, punching riff and punky delivery: a veritable wall of sound that reaches a dynamic crescendo. The track is shouty, sneering and full of an attitude that is invigorating. This rich vein is further ploughed in ‘Silent Scream’ with its visceral sneering attack, leavened by sky-scraping choruses.
Single ‘Sailor’ is an atmospheric enigmatic gem that sparkles intensely with a slow burning fuse. It has the driving energy and poise of something by The National with an ominous edge redolent of Interpol, Nirvana or early The Cure: a guitar driven undercurrent with yearning vocals coasting across the surface.
Sam Hunn from the band says of the track:
The first draft of ‘Sailor’ was something that was knocked up in about 45 minutes, and wasn’t a song that a lot of thought went into initially. It was a demo that would have sat dormant in the list of potential ‘B-sides’ if producer Jon Grace didn’t get his hands on it. I think he saw more potential in it than we did. Throughout the sessions for our album ‘The Echo’ it went from being really an after-thought track to a favourite for all of us. It was a case of a song really shaping up into a different and beautiful beast in the studio. It’s musically very simple. I think we all have a soft spot for it because the whole team, including producer Jon Grace and engineer Cam Hull, were involved in turning the song from a raw demo into what it is now.
Lyrically the song is essentially about failure being in the eye of the beholder. It was inspired by learning about the difficulties someone close to me had experienced in their younger years, which wasn’t kept secret per se, but certainly wasn’t readily shared. Knowing this made me feel less alone and self-critical, and started thinking ‘God I wish I’d known this earlier!’. That’s really the gist of the song.
There is a gracious, imperial movement to the track: a melancholic sheen on the elegiac pace set by the instruments and vocals.
Like EWAH and the Vision of Paradise, Verticoli seem to capture an icy Antarctic post punk edge in their music that is flavoured by the environment in the southern island at the edge of the world: raw, visceral and fresh.
The accompanying video by Creative Grit (Dane Meale) perfectly captures the breathtaking coastlines of Lewisham in Tasmania (just outside Hobart) with the band members small figures rowing over an expansive glittering ocean and landing on a beach. Hunn says of the video, which has an acute sense of place:
We were really keen to have Tassie as a feature of the video. It’s where we all grew up, and we love the place. Being out on the water and using those big wide shots from the drone showed it off. Sitting in a boat playing musical instruments while Jez rowed for an hour was also a good laugh! I guess the three boys in a boat on a journey towards the top of the dunes just kind of sums up the song lyrically (vaguely admittedly) and being in a band. The camaraderie, the sometimes difficult journey, the chance for failure, the video is less a ‘story’ and more a metaphor for trials and tribulations.
It is an enthralling and immersive video reflecting the song’s inherent power and stature:
‘True Love’ starts with a more reflective burn, with its scything guitars and impassioned vocals, but the song’s pulse ebbs and flows like the tide, while ‘Weak’ kicks off all restraints and blasts off into the ether with rockets on full power. Elements of classic new wave intensity from bands like The Undertones and Richard Hell filter through the shouty barrage of sound.
‘Alive’ veers into something more psych-infused and delicate, showcasing the extraordinary range of the vocals and the band’s capacity to explore different tones throughout the album. It is a bold and theatrical track, subtle and melodic.
Heavy metal riffs kick aside this track as the band launches with the snotty exciting riff-driven onslaught of ‘Surrender’. Final title track leaves us with a celestial and pure rock thrill; a complex layered track that combines a melancholic thread – I thought life ends at 27 – with an optimistic electronic thrum that ascends with a brutal force and a scything guitar solo that’s rich and satisfying, before ending in an acoustic, delicate finish.
‘The Echo’ is to some extent an album of incredible contrasts – from punky slamming thunder that roars like an out of control bushfire to restrained Antarctic chills and a cold distant delivery. It is an album of the elements: a reflection of the Tasmanian land from which it springs: a world of contrasts that can terrify and thrill within seconds, leave you agape with its raw beauty and power.
‘The Echo’ is out everywhere tomorrow (Wednesday, 9 November 2022) and you can pre-save it here.
Verticoli will be embarking on a national Australian tour in support of the album – details below.
‘The Echo’ Album Tour Dates
Thu 21 Nov | Rhino Room, Tandanya/Adelaide Sa
Fri 25 Nov | Volta, Wadawurrung/Ballarat Vic
Wed 30 Nov | Hiway Enmore, Eora/Sydney NSW
Thu 1 Dec | Hamilton Station Hotel, Mulubinba/Newcastle NSW
Fri 2 Dec | The Sunken Monkey Hotel, Darkinjung/Gosford NSW
Sat 3 Dec | Ric’s Bar, Meanjin/Brisbane Qld
Sat 10 Dec | Grand Poobah, Nipaluna/Hobart Tas
Sun 11 Dec | The Leadbeater Hotel, Naarm/Melbourne Vic