Formed in 2012 as a result of a conversation about a “Descendants, No Sleep Records” t-shirt at a backyard BBQ, Melbourne-based CERES turns out pop-rock with a dark edge and a punk/emo taint. After a highly successful tour in support of their album Drag It Down On You, the band is about to hit the road again in support of its latest single ‘91, Your House’. BMA talked to singer/guitarist/songwriter Tom Lanyon in advance of the band’s Canberra appearance.
The band name came from a random choice of the LA town Ceres (pronounced ‘series’), and the band has since learned that it shares the moniker with a dwarf planet, a Roman goddess and an urban farm near Melbourne. “We don’t know how to pronounce it half the time, but so long as people are saying it, we’re fine.” While Ceres is Lanyon’s first band, other members had a longer pedigree, as Lanyon says, “They’ve been in bands since they were kids or teenagers.” Members brought different tastes including emo, alternative, pop-rock, pop-punk, screamo and post-hardcore. As for Lanyon, “I really like singer-songwriter kind of guys, and the band hinges off the songs I write on an acoustic guitar, then take them in and make it a full band thing.”
Lanyon enthuses about their recent album tour, in which they sold out some venues. “We were stoked. It was a month after we released the record and we played a whole lot of Drag It Down On You. That’s pretty scary as you want to give people what they want and we wondered if people would like it,” he expresses. “It was crazy to hear everyone screaming back the words, really loving the record. It meant a lot to us. To get the reaction we did was a little life affirming.”
There was a big switch between the sophomore LP and the debut I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here. “The first record was writing stories and singing about other people, plus our shared experiences, and whinging about girls and relationships. Drag It Down On You was more introspective, trying to find out what is going on in my mind. This allowed it to get a lot darker. I love it and am extremely proud of it.” The recording experience was a lot easier the second time around too, with 14 days in Sing Sing studios, the producer from the debut as engineer and Tom Bromley from Los Campesinos flown in as producer. “The first time we weren’t 100 percent sure what we wanted to do. This time, we had more direction, knew what sound we wanted and knew we wanted it as dark as possible.”
In some way, Lanyon’s songwriting is more of a need to express himself, than being specific about how that expression occurs, and he admits that he might have found this outlet as a novelist or poet, or even a woodworker. “I was being honest about myself, who I was and what I thought of in my downtime. The songs on the record have to be written. Trying to write great sounding music is secondary to being sincere in what we do. It’s an accident if the music sounds OK. For me personally, it’s more about what the song says.”
Themes in the new LP revolve a lot around death. Lanyon is not sure of the source, but states that death keeps popping up in his family and it is hard to shake. “This cycle of death kept coming out and I thought I’d better run with it while it did.” The new single is particularly dark, about the death of his father from cancer. While this is a very heavy topic for a song, it succeeds in combining an upbeat melody with a dark message about illness and death. Asked if the band aims to present stark facts combined with accessible melodies, Lanyon replies, “We’ve been told we do that. It’s a super dark song, yet people jump around and dance to it.”
As to how it makes him feel to play it live – sad, angry or a source of release – Lanyon says, “It’s release for sure. The first time you play it, it’s weird and gnarly. I can’t believe I wrote a song about this. The more I do it and the more people sing it back, it changes into something different – more like a celebration. It’s crazy to sing about something so personal and have hundreds of people sing it back. It’s a surreal kind of moment, and I love it.”
Jess Locke and her band will play in support. “She writes amazing, beautiful, delicate songs and takes them to her band, who turn them into these great alternative songs.”
Ceres, supported by Jess Locke, Helena Pop and Video Breezy, play at the Phoenix Bar from 9pm onwards on Thursday March 16. Tickets are $10 on the door, with more details available at ceres.oztix.com.au.