Ark is In Hearts Wake’s richest and most complete album to date, filled with a mixture of the most vital and invigorating music they’ve ever written with a cutting-edge relevant message. In celebration of the album’s release, we sat down with frontman / lyricist Jake Taylor and guitarist / songwriter Ben Nairne sat down to discuss some of the themes it discusses while getting a deeper understanding of the band’s creative process.
What does Ark mean to you?
Jake: “The central concept of Ark is that the Earth is essentially a ship where very living creature – every animal, man, woman and child – was born. Providing shelter, it has sustained and nurtured us with everything we’ve ever needed. If one part of the ship is compromised, all life is threatened. If we don’t work together to repair our home and restore its integrity, we will all go down with the ship.”
Ben: “To me, Ark is a musical expression of where we are in our lives at the moment as a band and as people. It’s a project created by five individuals coming together to share their stories, both musically and lyrically.”
Where do you think the human race is travelling?
Jake: “We are definitely on an epic journey of sorts, but I also feel that right now we are caught in the eye of the storm – a storm we have created. We are adrift and if we are not careful we will destroy ourselves. We need to chart a new course so that we can find safe passage.”
What were some of the influences for the music on Ark? Did you draw from certain experiences you had or intentions you wanted to convey?
Ben: “I drew influences from the area we live in and the activities that are associated with living in that area. Most mornings, I would get up early and go surfing to start the day before I began working on music. Sitting out in the ocean is a great way to clear your mind and help you focus on what it is that you’d like to do. In a sense it helped breathe life into the music.”
Ark continues Earthwalker and Skydancer’s theme of placing humanity as a much smaller force in comparison to nature, but a force that nonetheless threatens the global ecosystem. What do you think it is about man that drives us to try and stand up to / defy nature?
Jake: “We, the curious ape, have evolved to believe that we are somehow privileged with the right of ownership. But we cannot control what cannot be controlled and we cannot own what is only borrowed. It’s almost as if we stand up to the storm as an act of defiance, and yet the truth still seems to allude us: In order to survive we must let the storm be the storm! We think we have a right to conquer, but we are only enslaving ourselves.”
When looking at these issues, do you feel strong or powerless?
Jake: “Issues? As in negative issues of the world? There are so many and they can be overwhelming if you allow them to be. The key is to transmute the negativity, by transforming it into positive re-affirming action.”
Aside from Equinox, you hadn’t written and recorded an album since Earthwalker / Skydancer in 2014. Was it challenging to return to that mindset and write Ark after so long?
Ben: “I had actually started writing the music for Ark before well before we worked on the Equinox EP but it wasn’t until we were approaching the time in the studio that I began to feel the pressure. There was plenty of material to work with, but I have to admit I was second-guessing myself on a few things because sometimes you’re not sure if certain things are going to work out as you had envisioned…”
By releasing albums back to back, it meant that you essentially didn’t have new material to play on the road for quite some time. Did that pose as a challenge or an opportunity when it came to writing Ark?
Ben: “I think recording a double album posed both a challenge and an opportunity when writing for Ark. It meant that we had ample time to work on the album in between our busy touring schedule but it also meant that our music could change dramatically between albums because it had been so long since we had been in the studio.”
The music on Ark definitely comes across as a lot more natural and effortless. Was there a concerted effort to create an album like this?
Ben: “It definitely came more naturally than anything else I had previously written. I would sit at home and jam the parts as though I was playing them live to help find that natural groove and allow the songs to progress naturally, rather than trying to make two completely different parts work together. After playing ‘Warcry’ live I already feel like this process will benefit our live show hugely and can’t wait to play the rest of the album.”
How do you balance the lifestyle of being in a band with a desire to help the wider world?
Jake: “There are so many things as individuals we’d like to do in the future to further help the world. Travelling constantly, we have to remind ourselves that there is only so much we can do right now. Planting a forest for the Earthwalker campaign & working to restore waterways on Ark, are just some of the things we’ve done. We are doing the best we can to bring balance into our lifestyle by spreading our message far and wide.”
How do you feel your songwriting has changed between album cycles, and an extensive amount of touring? How do you feel your career trajectory has affected your songwriting?
Ben: “I don’t think the writing process has changed too much; if anything, it’s a little more refined because we have a better idea of what’s going to work after going through the process a few times before. The fact that we’re touring a lot more now means that our time at home is much more precious and we have to find a healthy balance between working on music and spending time doing other things we enjoy. It’s important to find this balance.”
Where do you generally draw your inspiration from when songwriting?
Ben: “I like to draw my inspiration from being outdoors. I like to break up the day and allow you to get some fresh air and clear your mind. If the surf isn’t good there’s plenty of waterfalls around our area to explore and I like to play a few rounds of golf a week too.”
When do you feel most inspired, and why?
Ben: “Anytime in the morning is when I usually feel most inspired, I try and wake up early so I can get the most out of my days at home. The mornings are when my ears are nice and fresh and I can sit down at my computer with a cup of tea to listen to what I’ve been working on and decide if it’s going in the right direction or not. Once I’ve made that decision I can work on making changes and coming up with new ideas for the rest of the day.”
On ‘Passage’, the lack of a global leadership is addressed. Do you think there is a way for world leaders to respond to these issues in a realistic way?
Jake: “Our world leaders should be realistic by acknowledging that the current systems in place are projecting us towards an unrealistic future. Perhaps we need to call for a new global stewardship that has the sole responsibility of harmonising our ways of life with that of the Earth. One of the first issues we need to address globally is how we generate electricity because the current infrastructure is old and outdated. We need to shift towards sustainable and renewable methods. I realise big changes like this cost billions and cannot be done overnight, but what good is money if there’s no planet to spend it on? The time to respond is now.”
Feelings of isolation are channeled on ‘Frequency’. Is that something you personally can relate to?
Jake: “As an only child I remember spending hours by myself in the backyard, creating a world within my own imagination. I had a great time but I think I discovered more about myself than I did of others. As you grow up you start to carry more of the past with you and sometimes I feel like it’s just easier to be alone. But it’s not. At the end of the day, we all strive to collaborate and celebrate life with other people. We all want to love and be loved in return. I think it’s is all a part of finding my purpose. Quite often we get caught up in our own little worlds and think ‘poor me,’ when really we need to learn to truly love ourselves, so that we can truly learn to love others.”
The track ‘Now’ suggests a desire to return to a childlike state of perception. Do you think the innocence of youth is something that could possibly have a negative connotation, especially when dealing with issues as complex as these?
Jake: “No. The return to ‘childlike state of perception’ I am referring to in ‘Now’ is not referring to carelessness, ignorance or lack of intelligence. I am speaking about a present state of mind when one allows oneself to be completely aware of all surroundings. Immersed in the moment, this is where time seems to lengthen. If you’re in the natural ebb and flow of the world, you are within as much as you are without. Anchored in that state of being there is an understanding that all we have is NOW. Here I believe we have the depth and capacity to deal with any complex issue, empathically and intelligently.”
‘Nomad’ details a time when you were lost in the wilderness in Tahoe. Were you ever scared or fearful that you might lose your life?
Jake: “Losing my life? No it hadn’t quite got that extreme. I had a couple of fearful moments in the shadow of the mountain where I was like, ‘Hang on a second. I’m all alone and on the fresh trail of a Black Bear.’ Panicking is practically the worst thing you can do in any situation. If you are in tune with nature it will not harm you. So I quickly snuffed out any fear and started searching for a creek bed that would eventually lead me down the mountain.”
How do you think the music of Ark reinforces the album’s message as a whole?
Ben: “Each story on Ark is unique, and I feel that musically throughout the album there is a wide dynamic range to help tell these stories. It’s always important to ensure the music is suitable for the story that is being told.”
What song are you most proud of on Ark?
Ben: “I’m really proud of ‘Arrow’. Originally, I had actually written it for myself as a bit of fun but I showed the other guys and they thought it would be cool if we tried changing a few things to make it work with the album. I listen to a lot of London Grammar and Daughter and really like the beautiful guitars in their verses – I never thought we could incorporate that into our sound so I’m really happy that we made it work.”