With an eclectic style that traverses the fuzzy grooves of stoner rock, the hypnotic tones of heavy psych and the light, floating aura of atmospheric pop, Australian “flower doom” inventors Turtle Skull offer music fans that rare, elusive opportunity that doesn’t come around all that often – the chance to hear something truly unique, for which existing descriptors simply don’t do justice. Though you could certainly argue that the band have a place somewhere under the constantly expanding doom metal umbrella, they use its tropes in a vastly different way than your average doom act.
Instead of pummelling mercilessly, the band’s music rides a groove to its fullest conclusion, retaining doom’s “hypnosis through repetition” mantra but replacing the apocalyptic sense of dread with a soothing, transcendental style. Their expansive track-lengths don’t seem like a daunting proposition, rather an exciting opportunity to lose yourself in the band’s transcendental, psychedelic odysseys.
The band’s self-titled 2018 debut showcased the immense potential of their unique sound, but upcoming full-length Monoliths is an even more thrilling proposition. It sees their disparate influences coalesce into a cohesive, captivating style that drifts from the heavy to the ethereal seamlessly. It’s a record that aims to utilise psychedelia’s penchant for trippy soundscapes to expand the mind of the listener, whilst the lyrics address real-world issues including greed, racism and colonialism.
To find out more, we spoke to guitarist and vocalist Dean about mind expansion, the healing nature of psychedelic music and the role music can play in healing personal and societal ills.
Despite your sound incorporating various styles (doom, indie, psych etc) it manages to stay cohesive and distinct. How did this unique sound come about? Did it take some refining or was it a more natural result of your various influences?
My initial vision was a heavy psych band incorporating all sorts of influences with no restrictions. And as I like to say about visions, it’s like walking towards a mirage and with each step it becomes a little clearer until it fully reveals itself (or not haha).
The early stage was such a fluid thing, there wasn’t really much time to think about how it would work or what it would become. And the result was our first record! That gave some direction and led to gigging and playing together more, and as a result more diverse influences were introduced. Which was refined and considered and distilled until we arrived at our second record. If that makes any sense? It’s definitely been quite a journey haha.
With the new album coming out soon, how do you think you have developed as a band since the self-titled debut?
I would like to think we have come a long way! Musically, I think Monoliths is a great snapshot of our development. It expands on all the ideas of the first record. We are tighter and more confident and the songs had more time to develop organically. The recording process was more refined and done in quite a nice studio (as opposed to a shed on a farm like the first record) so Dan (not only our synth player but our audio engineer too) had way more to work with. And each of us individually have had a lot of things going on in our lives which are reflected in the emotional depth of the record.
It’s amazing to think about the journey. At the start it was just a bit of an experiment, where we got together and recorded some songs, not really knowing what would happen next. Fast forward to now and we have two records, quite a lot of live experience, several festival slots and international support shows, and the coolest thing of all is we have fans who genuinely love our music which I feel very humbled by. All of that together has combined over time to get us where we are now, confident in our ability and so happy to be able to share our music with a receptive audience.
You’ve spoken before about your music forging a connection between us and the world, and also being about mind expansion. How do you approach trying to create music that induces these sorts of elusive mental states?
My ultimate goal is to make music that facilitates transcendental states of consciousness. It’s a huge goal and I’m still trying to figure out how to do it. I think a lot of things have to come together. Positive intention, emotional complexity, hypnotic rhythm and groove, set and setting for the listener on that day, and of course the elusive and unexplainable “vibe” that is somehow captured on special recordings or live shows. In summary, I don’t actually know but I’m trying haha.
If you approach your music as a doom fan, it sounds fairly ethereal and light compared to much of the genre, but you deal with some serious topics in your music too – the lyrics of ‘No News Is Bad News’ stood out on your first album, and you’ve mentioned that the new album deals with greed, racism, colonialism etc. What’s interesting is how your music isn’t angry even when addressing these topics, it’s almost kind of soothing, despite still being fuzzy and heavy. Was there ever a conscious decision made to explore those topics through this kind of music? And if so, is it to try and convey something specific?
Great question, and yes there was a conscious decision. I feel really strongly about all of those things so on one hand it’s a way for me to vent my frustrations but ultimately it’s to promote awareness and hopefully affect positive change. I love stoner doom and I love the “wizard lord astral traveller bong on the misty mountain top” type lyrics. But I also wanna hear diversity in music. So if I can use my small platform to bring awareness to topics that need more attention then I’ll try my best to do it! That so many people have asked us about the lyrics shows that a lot of people really do care.
As an extension to that, there’s often a sort of healing nature to psychedelic music. It can be perfect for internal exploration of our minds and bodies, as you’ve mentioned, but some of the topics you’re exploring are larger problems that we often think about in a wider sense rather than purely internally. Is the goal to try and connect the two and see where we might be complicit/complacent in the world’s injustices?
Another really great question! I hadn’t really considered it that way before. The flow between internal and external. I imagine where they meet creates a venn diagram with “your influence” in the middle. We affect the world around us but also we ARE the world around us. We are just atoms interacting with atoms. We’re just floating in the cosmic soup. And maybe it’s the same with our thoughts on an energetic level. What if there is an invisible energy field all around us and our thoughts and actions impact it, heal it, destroy it? The more positive we can do for and within ourselves the more we can change and positively influence events around us. The Dalai Lama talks about it all the time – when you’re happy you can help others way more effectively. So yeah it is to see where we are complicit and complacent. And hopefully this music provides a framework for the listener to delve within and think deeply about their place in the world and what good they can do for it.
What role, if any, do you think music can play in healing both personal and societal ills?
Music can be a call to action. To heal yourself, to love more, to fix things. It’s a form of art that is so influential and pervasive that it has a massive sway on people, even subconsciously. So if we want the world to be a better place maybe the first step is to start doing it in our songs.
Monoliths is out 28th August on Art As Catharsis. Order here.
Words: George Parr