The Night Terrors
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The Night Terrors

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“I think that we were very much a weird little prog band for a long time,” Miles assesses. “The last record that we did was sort of a demo that we worked on to the point where it became an album and was released, much to our surprise. We’ve been in the band a long time and had a lot of people come in and out of it, so every time that happens things change a little bit. The album took us around the world a few times, and we managed to meet some of our heroes and all that fun stuff. Just being in other towns and listening to other music is how we evolved in a more electronic direction. We also just got better at using our gear. We’ve been using these 30-year-old synths for a long time, now we’re just exploring the more traditional uses for them, really. That’s sort of the way it went.”

Despite trends leading to many similar artists employing the use of laptops (sometimes exclusively so), the utilisation of digital programming hasn’t found its way into The Night Terrors’ musical philosophy. “The [upcoming] album doesn’t have any MIDI on it at all, it’s entirely old school sequencing. I definitely prefer the sound of organic things. For us being a sort of rock band with electronic elements, [the rock element] sort of just disappears. So we’re not really analogue purists. There is a lot of great electronic that is made [with computers], but we come from a background that is so much more punk that it’s natural for us to play with bits of gear rather than computer programs,” Miles reasons.

Presenting a captivating mix of the human element and the cold, otherworldly distance is the prominent employment of a nonstandard instrument – the theremin. “Apparently it’s the second-hardest instrument in the world to master – apparently the harp is the hardest,” Miles raises. Upon first listen to the single Monster, it’s difficult to distinguish whether a theremin or an operatic falsetto is producing the soaring tones on record. It’s an impressive skill,  one which Miles honed with one of the masters. “I went and studied with Lydia Kavana, who is the grandniece of Léon Theremin [inventor of the instrument]. She’s the world’s best classical theremin player, and been on the Ed Wood soundtrack and done other Hollywood work. I taught myself then spent a couple of months with her, then played a theremin festival in Germany with her. I met a lot of thereminists too,” he recalls. “I suppose it’s my own personal little battle to make the instrument work in a rock context. Most theremin players who are really good – and there are some incredible ones – mostly play classical or new music kind of areas. There aren’t too many people doing it successfully in the rock context. As we’ve discovered over the years, it’s probably because it’s very difficult to hear. I love that instrument and I like the way it’s a bit of a divider of audiences as well – some people really like it and some people really hate it. It puts us in a really interesting spot, trying to find new ways for that to go rather than just being spooky or noisy. That’s the challenge,” he muses.

“The actual instrument is really your body,” Miles explains. “It’s quite a fallible thing – you can hear the person’s mood, how much sleep they’ve had. It’s very sensitive to all that stuff, which is a bit perilous when you’re on tour. But that’s part of it. I spent a lot of time worrying that it was so sensitive to all that and it was making the shows a little bit unpredictable, but that’s what’s cool about it as well. It’s a bit of a tightrope act.”

Expect to hear plenty more theremin on The Night Terrors’ upcoming full-length, which we can expect to drop sometime this year. “It’s completely finished, we recorded it last year and got Tony Espie to mix it – he did Since I Left You by The Avalanches and worked with Cut Copy. The way it turned out was a lot more psychotic and aggressive than we thought it would be, which is quite interesting. There is a lot less of the slow, pretty stuff that was on the last record and a lot more of this dance-y stuff. I’m interested to see the response,” grins Miles.

BY LACHLAN KANONIUK