Prove your humanity

Melbourne indie trio, Obscura Hail’s frontman Sean Conran had a chat with Grok about the band’s latest EP, upcoming tour and an irrational fear of memory loss.


How did you come together as a band?

Well, I’ve been doing this for a while just solo. I’m just down in Melbourne, after about a year I put out a song that caught some attention. I was invited to Big Sound and formed a band. We didn’t have any percussion, but we had Jackson who offered his services as a guitarist and I got Tam involved as well—Tam’s my housemate and my partner. I was like hey I need to flesh out all the layers that I put in the music and I can’t do it myself. We sort of did it for the 2017 Big Sound, didn’t really know what we were doing and so we didn’t know what came out of it, but it was cool and we had a band from then. Steve came a bit later and we were a four-piece for a while. He was more earlier this year when we were like okay we definitely need percussion, we can’t use this Nintendo DS forever as a drum machine.


How has your sound shifted since your 2018 record?

I think it kind of ping pongs between two different things. I grew up listening to pop-punk, like Blink-182, and I always wanted to create music like that. I was in a high school punk band, so it seemed like every second record, especially when I was independent, I was making every second record more upbeat and more of like a playful thing. Pallbearer is more of a traditional sound. Lots of densely layered vocal harmonies and guitars. Earlier that year I self-released an EP called Pizza, which definitely reflected more of a playful video game type music inspired by pop-punk from my teen years.


So what would you say influences your sound?

Video games. I grew up playing games like Bioshock, and Fallout, and Quake. Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails composed the soundtrack to the first Quake game and I used to listen to that non-stop because it was the only music I really had access to while I was playing video games, because that was my real passion while I was a kid. I wanted to create a mood that fit a real environment. Akira Yamaoka from the Silent Hill series as well. Sun Kil Moon, Bill Callahan, Emiliana Torrini, particularly Emiliana Torrini’s Fisherman’s Woman. That album, I think my mum bought it and she played it heaps in my teen years. I just fell in love with the simplicity of it, it’s really tender. That and The Cranberries—my parents listened to a lot of them and They Might Be Giants.


Would you say that that helped inspire the tracks on your latest EP?

Because a lot of the tracks on there are quite old—The Thin Man and Sex Appeal and even Physic Cemetary they’re spanning back six years almost. The earliest would probably be The Thin Man which was more of a They Might Be Giants kind of approach because the music is always way more optimistic than the lyrics. The music gives the lyrics closure for me in that kind of relationship. They’re all scattered across time.

The reason why I started music was because I had a fear of memory loss when I was 16 and that was brought on by an amalgam feeling that I got in my mouth. The dentist told me the reason why I’m warning you about this is because there’s mercury in it and people got mercury poisoning and mercury poisoning I researched later, silly me, can lead to Alzheimer’s. So, I started to think I was losing my grip on what was happening around me and what was important. I thought I was forgetting very important things, so I developed this irrational fear of memory loss which led to me recording every night. I started thinking about what I was writing for the sake of my own memory and being able to externalise memory has made it a lot easier on my mind because I don’t have to stretch to figure out the details of what was happening around the time that I was writing those songs.


Do you still have that fear?

No, it’s really irrational. Maybe this routine is reinforced by memory a bit better. I’ll just say that I was saved by music.


Do you have a favourite track from over the years?

I think my favourite one was from Pallbearer, Sacrifice. I think there’s a lot that I get out of it when I listen back to it. I can listen over and over and not get sick of it like most tracks. That’s about trying to make a lullaby for those travelling to mars—the 2023 mission to Mars, you know when that was a thing? They were trying to see who was going to go…I applied for it, but I didn’t get it. That was a one-way mission, so I thought another way to be involved was to write from the perspective of someone who had been travelling for quite a while into space.


How would you describe your new EP?

It is energetic, goth basement pop? The origins are folk, they’re rooted in the actual lyrics. The focus isn’t really the music, it’s what I’m trying to say with it. I think with this one I’ve definitely taken heavier influences over the years. It’s a fun angle on another serious thing which is the feeling of indifference when it comes to realising somebody else’s pain compared to your pain and somebody else’s happiness compared to your happiness and the futility of trying to balance the two. All the songs arrive at this zero point, which is why it’s called Zero.


Can you tell me a bit about your Patreon page?

I try to do a post a week, four posts a month. I do three tracks, and they can be really anything—works in progress, ambience… the Patreon is one avenue that encourages me to keep going with it. I have a relatively small following there and it’s valuable when they actually give me feedback. It’s a little bit of encouragement.


What can listeners expect next from you?

We’re working on some more songs and they kind of reflect the same vibe of the EP right now and we’re going to combine all the songs later. So, we’re basically working on another EP which is going to be combined with this one so we can have a physical release. I’m not used to releasing things six months after they’ve been made, but I’ve really appreciated the time to reflect on them.

More cool songs, more releases, more videos. We just stared getting into filmmaking as well, so for every video clip that we’ve made so far for this EP we’ve made our own. It’s just fun. It’s better in different ways, just because it’s got a lot of us poured into it and there’s a bit more control and connected to the source.


Anything you’d like to add?

We’ve got a tour coming up for the EP. We’re playing in Sydney on the 29th of November at Low 302 and then Wollongong after that 1st December at La La La’s. Then after that, we’re in Melbourne on the 7th of December.