Religious Observance is a Melbourne based sextet that produce a heavy style of sludge/noise/doom on par with many of the genres’ biggest names. They’re a busy group, and one who knows the Melbourne circuit better than most. With the temperamental reopening of their home city, the band are returning to their usual tricks of both playing and putting on shows, as well as recording a follow up album to 2018’s (rather fantastic) Utter Discomfort. Discipline Mag had a chat to bass player and occasional vocalist, Campbell Stephens, about the current state of affairs for the band.
Hi Campbell, thanks a lot for taking the time to speak with Discipline Mag. With 6 members, Religious Observance is quite a big band. Who are the current members and what are their roles in the band?
Religious Observance are:
John – noise
Andrea – drums
Wayne – vocals
Ben – guitar
Adam – guitar
Campbell – bass
The lockdown in Melbourne and 2020 in general presumably brought about a great deal of challenges. How did the band endure this time, did you face any major challenges, and did the band come out the other end intact?
I actually moved back to my hometown for most of 2020 and have only been back in Melbourne for roughly the past 5 months. We were supposed to record our 3rd album in the first quarter of 2020, however with COVID that got pushed back. Then once things started getting shut down and we went in to lock down it was postponed indefinitely, along with an Aus tour we had planned.
Luckily, we were finally able to get into the studio and record the new album earlier this year.
The 2019 7inch, Belanglo, appears riddled with influences for the band. Musically with the Mayhem and Deep Purple covers, and thematically with the reference to Belanglo State Forest (where Ivan Milat took his victims). What other influences, both musical and not, would you cite as important to the DNA of the band?
Aside from the more obvious thematic and aural influences we take influence from many different pieces of art. Having 6 members in the band who are all interested in many different things allows us to draw from a broad range of influences. Personally, I take influence from films and books I enjoy, often basing lyrical phrasing around them.
You seem to have a knack for putting on shows which has culminated with UMACfest. What was the idea behind UMACfest and what is it you want to achieve?
UMACfest started very unofficially and was just for a bit of fun to get a bunch of local bands I like on a bill. Now that I’ve done it a few more times I’ve been able to showcase some really cool underground acts and try out some different things that have sometimes worked and sometimes not. I haven’t locked anything in as of yet but am definitely thinking about the next one.
Being an offshoot of the Umacollective, the “collective” in the name presents this as an organisation of sorts. Are you able to shed any light on the purpose and intended outcomes with the Umacollective?
Funnily enough this came about as I was messing with the idea of starting up a local art collective, the name itself actually stands for Unnamed Melbourne Arts Collective. Nothing really came about from this as it’s very hard to coordinate lots of different people and have them all be as enthusiastic about it as I am. So it just ended up being my own thing and the name stuck.
On June 19th (2021) you are putting on the Birthday Brutality at The Tote in Melbourne’s Collingwood. What is the event about and what can attendees expect from the show?
Basically, another one of those ideas that starts as an offhand remark and then snowballs into me committing to putting on an 8 band, whole venue festival for a bunch of our birthdays (mine included). There were definitely several moments (if not entire weeks) when I regretted committing to this as it is my first-time planning something like this since I booked our ill-fated 2020 album launch tour and it proved very stressful. However, now that everything is locked in and it’s inching closer and closer, I’m pretty excited about it.
It’s basically just a giant birthday party with some of the best Australian heavy acts you’ll find.
Since playing live again, how have you found the reactions from audiences?
The audience reactions have been very positive for the most part. The initial excitement of shows being back has definitely died down a little, but people are still keen to get out there and see live music.
I for one took a few shows to brush the cobwebs off and feel normal playing again.
As someone with a sense of authority over what qualities constitute a good show, what do you think those qualities are? Additionally, what are some standout gigs that you have seen over the past few years?
I find this one a bit tough to answer because I’m constantly unsure of what I’m doing, I basically just wing it every time and then reflect on what went well and what didn’t.
I have a horrible memory but the first show that springs to mind was a couple of years ago seeing Drivetime Commute at a packed Last Chance, that was an awesome show and the perfect room for that band.
Something I’ve noticed is that the 2018 release, Utter Discomfort, has been uploaded to YouTube by ROB HAMMER (for anybody unfamiliar – the channel specialises in album uploads from the broad spectrum of doom with the intention of spreading awareness of bands to the channel’s audience). How do you feel about these new and inventive ways to share music with the world? Do you feel it helps or hinders the purchase and exposure of Religious Observance’s music?
I think it helps us with exposure for sure. As to whether it leads people to purchase our music or not, I honestly couldn’t tell you.
Religious Observance is notable for the inclusion of noise instruments like pedals, contact mics, synths etc. This not only contributes a harshness to the (already overwhelming) sound, but also adds the ability to include samples. Why was it that the band felt the need to incorporate this element? And are the noise influenced sounds, like the track “In Ano”, something the band intends to include in future works?
The band was actually formed when noise act Colostomy Baguette? (Wayne and John) joined with sludge quartet She Beast (Ben, Adam as well as formed drummer and bassist Colin and Serena) so it’s always been there. We haven’t written another piece quite like “In Ano” since its release, however I would say we’ll absolutely dip our toes into outright noise once again in the future.
Being a band from Melbourne, a city considered to have a larger music scene that other major cities in the region, who are some local artists you enjoy, or feel are conducive to your mission with Religious Observance?
There is no way to answer this question without leaving out so many deserving acts, but I’ll just go ahead and list a bunch that come to mind immediately. Whitehorse, Diploid, Sundr, Jalang, Mammon’s Throne, Carcinoid, Too Birds, Sepsis.
What does the rest of 2021 hold for Religious Observance? Should we expect new music, tours, or anything else?
Our new album is currently being mixed by Dennis of Bongripper. If all goes well, we should be able to have it out in the world before next year and hopefully finally get around to this Aus tour. I’ve also been tossing around the idea of doing a rural skate park tour as a bit of a semi joke but who knows…