Shifting from metal to punk rock, to power folk, local Canberra band Northbourne Flats describes themselves as an ‘evolving beast’. The band takes inspiration from a range of artists, sounds, and genres, spanning from Tool to Missy Higgins. I chat to Kahlil, Jamie, and guest vocalist Ruby Delgado about their new single ‘Paralysed’, a slow-building, eerie masterpiece produced by Guy Lilleyman at Amberly Studios. ‘Paralysed’ grips the listener with themes of dark fairy tales, reflected by an acoustic medieval folk sound in the beginning which crescendos into powerful rock, smoothed out with shimmering harmonies.
You formed the band in 2015 – how did that come about?
Kahlil: We were initially a high school band. A friend of ours (Bradley Cronan who is now the drummer for Yours Truly) wanted to play gigs and he needed a band to do it. They approached me to join and the name of the band was ‘M0lch’ at the time. From there we just got a band together and we’ve had a few different friends join us over the time. It’s an evolving beast.
How did you come up with a name?
Kahlil: A friend of ours used to live in flats. We were hanging out there having drinks one night and trying to think of a name that was better than ‘M0lch’. ‘Northbourne Flats’ came up and get sort of stuck. At first, it was a bit of a joke…I think it makes people giggle.
How would you describe your kind of sound and genre?
Jamie: Recently, we’ve had a review in the BMA Magazine from Vince Lee who described it as ‘power-folk’ which we thought was quite descriptive. We’ve always had a bit of trouble because we started off being quite heavy and we really like metal. We’re playing heavy stuff and then we also liked acoustic music. More recently, we’ve kind of turned into something that’s a bit more like punk rock, I would say.
We were just confused for a few years, trying to figure ourselves out.
What artists do you draw inspiration from?
Kahlil: Our music is based on a wide range of sounds and a wide range of artists. I really like Jeff Lang and we like heavier music Tool and Karnivool.
Jamie: There’s also a lot of John Butler Trio, Ben Harper, The Waifs, Missy Higgins. Australian indie-folk music was a big part of my life growing up so its where the sound comes from, whether I mean it to or not.
Your new single ‘Paralysed’ came out on September 29th. How did you all work together to create the song?
Jamie: ‘Paralysed’ is quite old really for us – about three years old and we’ve been playing it live for quite a while.
Kahlil: Typically, we’ll write a song and then later go back over the material and rework it and make it more relevant to us now. That’s a skill that we’ve developed over time. Before
recording ‘Paralysed’ we decided it needed a fresh take and that was a really rewarding process, especially for me. I love being able to refine and sharpen songs.
Ruby, how did you come into the song?
Ruby: The lyrics were already written and imagined up by these guys. They have much lower voices than me, so I had to tweak the melody a little bit. Then, when we were in the studio, I just laid out the harmonies piece by piece.
Kahlil: Watching Ruby record those harmonies…she just nailed them all first go; we were completely stunned.
What are you working on in terms of music?
Kahlil: We’ve got a gig coming up and there’s going to be some new songs on the setlist for that. I’m always excited about the new stuff, I’m really keen for that. We’ve also filmed a video with Vacant Room Records at Sancho’s Dirty Laundry so that should be making an appearance at some point soon.
Jamie: We’ll definitely go back into the studio soon because we like having things on Spotify. It’s nice for people to be able to listen to the things we slaved over for so long. The recording is a really fun process; I love it so much.
Actually, we filmed a music video last night. We’ve got Declan from ‘Pleased to Jive You’ to help us make a video for ‘Paralysed’. Declan’s a wizard with the camera so we enlisted him to help us.
Kahlil, you tend to write about quite dark themes in your songs. ‘Paralysed’ touches on dark fairy tales and sleep paralysis. Where do these themes come from?
Kahlil: ‘Paralysed’ was inspired by an episode of sleep paralysis that I had which got me researching it. I discovered this whole tradition of creating nightmare fairy tales to explain it in times when people didn’t have any scientific explanations. There are very similar stories in so many different cultures and historical backgrounds. It makes sense when you don’t know what’s happening to you.
The idea of telling stories to connect with other people and to share experience was really fascinating to me. Once I had my own experience with sleep paralysis it opened up the idea of writing about it to me.
Jamie: Some of my friends have told me they only realised they have experienced sleep paralysis after listening to the song and looking into it. It was interesting that there’s been so many people that have never really known what it was, and it’s been nice for us to get that message out.
Check out Northbourne Flats’ new single ‘Paralysed’ featuring Ruby Delgado on all major streaming platforms!