Ōtautahi’s No Broadcast released the latest of their captivating post rock projects on April 1st. No joking here, it reveals a higher level of cohesiveness and more polished production than anything they’ve done previously. Josh Braden – lead songwriter and driving force behind the band – discussed with Jade Finkle the creation of ‘Lie In Orbit’, how No Broadcast and the music scene as a whole have changed during the 15 years he’s been with the band, and teases another album ready for release in the not-too-distant future.
No Broadcast are much better described as studied, rather than prolific. ‘Lie In Orbit’, the follow up album to 2015’s ‘The Blueprint’, was four years in the making. High quality musicianship, intricate songwriting and a spacious production style define the band’s post rock sound.
“The writing was done first,” says Josh Braden, “and we were playing a bunch of these songs live on our last tour. They’d already been written, and we were fleshing them out and experimenting with bits live. So it was really done in steps.”
For the most part Braden initiated the writing process, recording song structures and then getting the others to flesh them out, under direction. He describes the conception of the album’s nearly seven-minute long title track as an example.
“That is me sitting in a very small room in England, when I was over there, with an acoustic guitar, just playing over a chord sequence. And I just played it for ages. The whole song is just one chord sequence, and the dynamics lift and stuff, and different textures come in and out. But it really is just that chord sequence, and the feeling of being on the other side of the world in a small room with a guitar – it was just, like, this eeriness. It was just a feeling and an emotion that was cycling around that chord sequence.”
It’s a sense that perhaps applies to the album as a whole.
“Lyrically, it speaks of people lying in their own orbits of a conditioned mindset, the thoughts and perceptions of themselves in their reality.”
Lie In Orbit is one of the softer, more introspective tracks, but as Braden describes that message carries across, even into the album’s more raucous moments.
“Some of the aggression is the discomfort that that can cause in the world, and in the people themselves, the non-acceptance of being able just to lie back and let those mind habituations be.”
With its ferocious, complex rhythms and intense, energetic vocal performance, On The Fence provides a good example, as he explains.
“It’s about where you sit in your own self. Like, ’Are you this way or that way? How are you going to choose?’ And the franticness of the inability to make the decision and to commit.”
On The Fence is one track that began its life in a different way to the isolated songwriting approach described earlier. The structure came together pretty quickly, he says, over one afternoon.
“That was just a jam with me on the drums and Kieran [Colina], the bass player. We came up with that 6/8 groove, and then the two of us sorted out a structure and recorded it as a demo. Then I started to smash out some guitar craziness.”
The recording process was another matter with a lot of the time spent, particularly over the drum sound. Braden talks about things he’s learned, out of mistakes made on previous projects, that helped push ‘Lie In Orbit’ in the right direction.
“This all stems from our first EP,” he reveals, referencing 2011’s ‘Null And Void’. “The drums on that are awful! There are so many nasty resonances that we couldn’t get out, and that’s why the album sounded like it did. From that point on, I’ve developed a bit of a complex with putting mics around drums, because I never want to go through that mixing process again!”
While most of the parts were recorded in Braden’s home studio, the drums were again done in a local rug gallery, with the assistance of engineer Thom O’Connor. Wary of the potential issues encountered during previous mixing sessions, they went to extreme lengths to capture the most perfect sound possible from the start.
“We went really hard out with particulars on the drums; the tuning, the skins, cymbals and stuff like that. Way more than what we’ve done on other records. We tuned the drums to notes that would work with all of the songs. We figured out there were three particular notes we could tune the toms to that would work with all of them.”
It wasn’t until the drum tracks for the entire album had been fully recorded and mixed that they moved on to the next stages: bass, guitar, some extra synth layers from Melbourne-based Mathias Dowle, and finally vocals. With all the recording and mixing complete, Braden says he sat on it for a while.
“I was trying to think of the best mastering engineers. I did a lot of research into getting it mastered by someone, and ended up going over to the UK to get it mastered.”
The first thing anyone will notice when listening to No Broadcast’s music is the overwhelming prominence of Braden’s psychedelic electric guitar noise.
“I tend to do a lot of guitary textures and that sort of thing. It sort of hints at melodies and themes and motifs within the loop layers and textures.”
Asked what specific tricks or pieces of equipment he uses to achieve such unique soundscapes, he names Crowther Audio’s famed Kiwi-made Double Hotcake overdrive pedal, and explains some of his own recording techniques.
“I split out to stereo, so some of the tracks are ping-ponging delays between the two amps, and I’ve stereo mic’d those.”
The Double Hotcake is also used on the bass guitar (“It’s a Hotcake album!” Braden declares), as well as an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff pedal and Orange AD200 amp head. Despite the bass guitar mostly being used to hold down the rhythm and harmonic structure, it has a specific, carefully sculpted sound.
“We had quite a 5k zing in the bass, that kind’a bitey 5k cut, and a bit of a scoop.”
Generally known as a three-piece rock group since their inception as Anthesiac, back in 2007, things have shifted since the release of No Broadcast’s 2015 album. They no longer credit the usual three members on this release, instead referring to themselves as a collective.
“Everyone’s sort of got busy doing other projects. Like, there seems to be a change in what’s happening with bands and musicians, everyone’s cross-pollinating and stuff, instead of just being this ’core unit/band’ kind of old-school situation.”
The credits for ’Lie In Orbit’ lists 11 members, with none of their roles labelled. When the band plays live (something that hasn’t happened for some years due to Covid), they do intend to revert back to the power trio dynamic.
“I think the three-piece live functioning unit is a very good one. It works well, it’s efficient to tour with, and sonically you can do a lot with it.”
But even having said that, he is vague about who’s in that core group, citing difficulties pinning down certain members and reliance on who happens to be free at the time. This newly collaborative approach affects upcoming projects, too, Braden revealing the band has been working on another new album over the last two years, and that it has just reached completion.
“That has taken a different turn, musically, because of the whole environment the band has been in. It’s more chilled and textured differently, with different instrumentation and stuff, just because of the different musicians we’ve had. It’s written on acoustic guitar, it’s way more chill, and it’s much different to this body of work we’ve just released.”
The reason why this new album isn’t already out is that the band is toying with the idea of a vinyl release. Several novel ideas for physical media have been used on recent releases – ’Lie In Orbit’ comes with an art print, the preceding eponymous single came with a bag of coffee, and ’The Blueprint’ was released as a beer bottle with a download code.
“We were still trying to keep that physical, tangible thing, but incorporating the music on some sort of other item,” he explains, lamenting the movement of the music scene away from its physical origins.
“There was this physical connection to the music. I think with these modern platforms, even though they’re a great way of finding new music, there’s something lost. So to keep that alive, we’re trying to do a physical item with the release of anything we do.”