Hustling out of a Placebo concert at The Enmore Theatre late February, I was set upon by an army of botherers. I call them botherers; they are the type who usually try to corner you as you wander through the city, and attempt to remind you that whilst you’re listening to a downloaded copy of Hesitation Marks, the $20 you spent on headphones could have been used to build a school in Somalia. First world problems, I guess. On this occasion, one of the botherers handed me a CD. I took it, because free stuff is preferable to no stuff, and paid it no mind.
It languished at the bottom of my passenger footwell for weeks. One day, on a particularly dull drive from Wollongong, I picked it up, slotted it in, and was struck. Copia, a self-described “hard rock” band from Melbourne, are an energetic four piece comprised of Kahn, Parkinson, Bishop and Meyer, in the standard drummer, guitarist, vocalist, and bassist form. Hard rock may be a little… not ambitious, but slightly misguided. In Australia, hard rock consists of Cold Chisel, AC/DC, Screaming Jets… There is a definitive melodic element to Copia, as well as a willingness to experiment with synthesizers and huge, powerful riffs that send them more in to the category of metal.
Eleven : Eleven is their debut record. At times brutal, almost always epic, intensely layered, it certainly doesn’t meander. It is insistent, brash, and immediately likable. Thrashing power chords may be the refuge of the untalented, but Copia prove they have enough nous to create an epic sound without becoming stale. Their current Australian tour is almost too loud. Seeing them live in anything other than the kind of stadium their sound demands is an all out assault on the senses. Serious, intense noise.
Too often bands who mine a particular sound are pigeon-holed in to insufficient spaces. Doom metal is the immediate conclusion, with comparisons to Avenged Sevenfold, Trivium, or even something like Cradle of Filth. This tag would be doing them a great disservice. “Hold on / You’ll see / Where there’s a will there’s a way / Broken down and paralyzed / I’m facing imminent demise / The time has come to rectify.” Taken from the final stanza on their stratospheric “Fortitude,” which blends speed metal with a lovely set of strings and even a little break down when the lyrics kick in, reminding of Linkin Park; it is the most coherent compass to what Copia is all about. Speaking to the band recently, I asked them (interview below) their inspiration for the music, whether they were attempting to create a menacing presence, and how this tied in with song titles like “Elevate,” “Stand United,” and “Open Your Eyes.”
“All the tracks have a positive message in the end.” So, doom metal is off the table.
Opener “Pratus” goes some way to explaining the musical direction. A slow, burning march that begins with a muted fanfare and expands in to a beautiful Aussie rock riff, with chanted vocals that bleed immediately in to “The Awakening,” and that muted fanfare becomes a full blown explosion with prominent brassery doing the grunt work. It sounds almost revolutionary – “We’re awakening / So surrender to it all.” The awakening is no lethargic affair. As those strings screech through high frequency, the band double down on their stadium rock, lashing the track with drama and theater. The revolutionary theme continues on “Stand United” – “We’ll stand united in the fall of tyranny” would sound more appropriate in Crimea rather than Melbourne (although with good ol’ Tone in charge you could hardly blame them for finding inspiration in our disappointing democracy), and the aggression is doled out via the vocals is a rallying point, so beautifully emoted.
Each track has a story to tell. The jittery opening of “Elevate” belies another atmospheric movement, that breaks in to an almost nu-metal consistency, “We’ll rise above the vanity.” A thought carried over on “Transcending,” which utilizes delicate synth touches to temper the deep vocal growl, “By the lies of institution.” What these boys really hate though, above corruption and governmental greed is ego. And they reserve their harshest judgement for themselves. On the appropriately titled track “Ego,” our central figure is intoxicated with the substance of his inner self – one that rises forth when confronted and elevates him to the pedestal he deeply craves, yet outwardly admonishes. It’s the centerpiece of the record, a stunning give and take between the overt message and covert, passive undertone. In seeming to embrace this beast, this thing that resides in all of us like a malignant presence, he can immediately relate to the characters he assassinates elsewhere on the album. Those who are blinded by their ego, who relinquish control to it, those that the revolutionary rallying call of the irresistible siren songs Copia pen so hate, are exposed as weak and submissive in the simple admission that everyone has an ego, it’s whether you accept or reject it, “You won’t let me go, I scathe.”
Progressive metal in Australia has never been better placed. With locals like Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus, and up and comers like Life Pilot and A State of Flux, the landscape is standing on the cusp of a watershed moment. Consumer sentiment is slowly rejecting the traditional, radio-friendly sounds of our blessed late 90’s early 2000’s generation of Silverchair, Powderfinger, and The Living End. The punk mentality has always been at the forefront of Australian music, and Copia are channeling it in a heavier, darker way, yet one which has proven, on Eleven : Eleven to be sonically successful. Hopefully their latest incarnation sticks, because there is a deep well of talent in this band. 8/10.
Copia were gracious enough to answer a few of my questions, which is no small feat as they are currently embarking on their very first national tour. If you are in Queensland, you can still catch them on April 12 at The Tempo Hotel, and if you’ve missed them (trust me, you really did miss out), I am certain that as their tireless marketing campaign begins to bear fruit they will hit the tarmac once more and grace your nearest commercial hub. Here is my interview with the lads.
Ben: What’s the rock scene like in Melbourne?
Copia: There’s a lot of bands here which is great but not enough people to go them the all!
How hard is it for an independent band to make waves in the Australian music scene?
We’d say very hard, a lot of patience is needed.
How important is Triple J to your promotion and overall popularity? Would you say that once a band ‘makes it’ on to their playlist your fan base begins to grow?
Not necessarily, it can help for sure but unless they are playing you constantly on different shows throughout the week – it doesn’t seem to do much. We know of artists who have had no JJJ play yet have bigger fanbases then those that (we) have!
You’ve just begun your first ever Australian tour, and you performed at Bald Faced Stag in Sydney. How hard has it been to put together this Australian tour?
First tours are always the hardest to put together, because you are unheard of, so venues are reluctant to book you. It’s still early days and the thousands of CD’s handed out over the summer will still take some months to circulate and gradually will reveal where the fans are by them messaging us on Facebook!
How long did it take to record Eleven : Eleven?
About 8 months to record, but there was almost two years of pre-production continuing on from the end of ASM, so all in all a LONG time!
What’s the inspiration around the record? Tracks like “Hostility” and “Ego” have an almost menacing presence, yet “Stand United,” “Elevate,” “Fortitude,” and “Open Your Eyes” seem to have a much more positive message. Was that the intention?
All the tracks have a positive message in the end… it’s just that some of songs’ themes highlight the negativity we go through to get to the positive, which is like life. We can go through a lot of darkness to see the light. Overall, the album’s theme is about becoming consciously aware of what we are going through and changing the perspective of our minds, in order to change the reality we live in.
Finally, what’s promotion been like? I know I came across your music after being handed a CD after a Placebo gig, and I’m aware you’ve been street teaming pretty hard at Soundwave. Has this been expensive, and has it paid off?
It has been VERY expensive… it’s still early days to gauge whether its paid off but one things for sure a lot of people seem to have heard of us… Time will tell over the next year how many of those people actually like our music and come to shows later in the year.