Psychedelic art rock is the probably best way to describe Gold Coast-Brisbane band Selve. Their new single ‘Snake of Light’ follows a young descendent of the stolen generation travelling around the country in a beat up red Corolla re-learning the old stories, coming into contact with the Dreamtime and developing a connection to the living spirit of the land, a snake made of light. Selve really transcend genres, incorporating Indigenous culture into current neo-psychedelic styles. Singer and co-collaborator Loki Liddle got a little deep with us recently.
When you write your songs, which I believed are derived from your stories, does the music find the story, or does the story inspire the music?
For the ‘Snake of Light’ EP it is definitely the story that inspired the music. ‘Snake of Light’ is a theme that has been weaving its way through my life for the last few years. The content of the EP is directly inspired by a prose novel by the same title that I wrote in 2018 and am still adding episodes to presently. It is also the title of the spoken word poetry production I am taking down to Melbourne Fringe.
One might say that I am somewhat obsessed…or possessed perhaps? Who knows? But it is through the overarching idea of ‘Snake of Light’ that I have been able to explore my own definition of what it is to be an Indigenous person today while also creating and discovering my own dreaming.
So yes. When Harry and I sat down in the pre-production stage I had four already written songs (lyrically and with rhythm guitar) that I was able to present to him. Harry and I shared a mutual passion for the songs and it was then a process of bringing the arrangements and compositions to life in a much more dynamic and interesting way.
This is where Harry weaves his ridiculous magic. The songs may have already had a skeleton but it is Harry who brought them to life and provided them an extra juicy dimension. Harry was directly responsible for writing the drum, bass, lead guitar, synth, keyboard and electronic parts for the songs. He also produced the whole EP.
It was a really awesome collaborative process. Harry brought so much of his own creative ideas to the songs that transformed them into their full potential while also maintaining the integrity of the intention behind them. He gave them blood, body and a sonic framework that has articulated the spirit of the songs far better than I could have ever hoped to by myself.
All that being said. The song ‘Lucid Leaves’ in the EP was our first experiment of creating a song together from scratch. It’s also one we’re very proud of. In that instance Harry created the whole track and I added the lyrics on top of it which made for a very different style that I think will be featured strongly in our future work.
‘Snake of Light’ is an amazing track. The ebbs and flows of the music follow the journey the story of the song. Do you find the psych genre suits with the story telling that comes within the music?
I connect a lot with psych bands like Tame Impala and Pond, so does a lot of Australia. There is a whole psychonaut subculture here seeking playful madness and big revelations. But far from standing on the frontline of the final frontier I believe the wave of this whole subculture is just discovering what our First Nations people have been telling us all along. I think as a country and a people that we will all benefit so much from listening to and learning from our current First Nation culture. Which is why with ‘Snake of Light’ I have tried to make a bridge between two cultures. Not to educate or anything like that. But just to spark an interest in the youth for investigating what our First Nations cultures have to offer.
To whisper in everyone’s ear that the answers might not lie overseas in some chakra popping monastery or some ayahuasca ceremony in the depths of the Amazon, but right here at home, in the culture and stories of the people who have been here for 60,000 years.
Being a two piece, how do you find the songs translate in a live performance scenario?
While Harry and I handled the record ourselves, we have recruited the help of some really good friends to help us perform the songs live. We have Reece Bowden on the bass, Harry Edwards himself on the drums, Rafe Shola on the keys and synths, James Pendrith on lead guitar, Creation Saffigna on the backing vocals and myself on rhythm and vocals. So yeah. It’s a freaking six piece ensemble which is a big expansion, but fun all the same.
What groups or artists have inspired your style and music?
I personally have been influenced a lot by bands like the Foals, Pond, Father John Misty, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Radiohead and your typical older bands. A more poetry and lyric based influence.
Whereas Harry comes from a very eclectic blend of influences. Bands like the Gorillaz, The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, The Beatles, Tame Impala and a whole bunch of electronic bands I don’t even know the name of. I could potentially get in trouble here for misrepresenting him. But let’s go ahead with it, it’ll be funny.
But Harry comes from an angle that is more about composition and production. He looks at a song as a whole and how the different elements serve to create the whole piece. Whereas my focus is mainly on creating a powerful story and universe the listener can fall into. But they would both be empty without each other. So yeah.
Where do you see your music expanding and in the future, will you be incorporating some of your dreamings into the songs?
Over time I’d like to incorporate more dreamings into my songs. But personally I’m still in my journey of rediscovery and reconnection to Indigenous culture. And I will never over step or over represent my understanding of Indigenous culture and law. I suppose as I discover more myself, I will naturally weave it into my art practise more and it’s something I’m very much looking forward to. But I wouldn’t have a clue what that might look like now.
What I do know is we are going to keep pushing ourselves musically. We had a lot of fun with ‘Lucid Leaves’ as an experimental psych-rock EDM track. And both feel like there’s a lot of room to play with that style and a lot of room in the current music scene for it. Selve is still always going to be very narrative driven, so I suppose the direction will depend on which character decides it wants to grab my life by the back of its head next.
‘Snake Of Light’ is available on all the usual channels.