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Articles : “The world’s changing so quickly around us!” – An Interview With Jake Ewings (Ebonivory)

By on May 26, 2020

As has been proven over the years, full-blown concept albums can be hard to pull off. For every instance where the artform was executed to seeming perfection, for every Operation: Mindcrime, The Wall or Scenes From a Memory, there are several attempts that fell a little short of their lofty ambitions. The lads in Ballarat-based progressive act Ebonivory would have been well aware of this as they approached the creation of their sophomore album The Long Dream I, but they did not let that dissuade them from attempting such a monumental task.

Now, despite the long and laborious task that it was, the album is ready, and at the time of writing, just a couple of short weeks from release. The results of their efforts are stunning, as progressive music punters will soon discover, and guitarist Jake Ewing joins us from his home in Ballarat, where he is currently working from home during the Covid-19 crisis, to chat about the album’s creation, its concept and plenty more besides.

“We’re actually a little bit relieved that it’s finally done,” he states, “it’s a bit of a weight off the shoulders to finally get it packaged up, get it mastered and in a kit ready to go off, now we can just sit back and enjoy things for a bit. Obviously we had different plans (before Covid came along and threw everything into disarray), but having said that it’s great having all this time to sit back and continue writing. It’s a good break, where we haven’t had that time before, because it’s just been mix and master, work on the album and play the shows, we can take a step back and get back into writing.

“So at the moment, it’s a mix of the two, working from home and then jumping on the guitar to do some writing … don’t tell the boss!” He laughs, “and I think the rest of the guys have been writing heaps too.”

And it’s a good thing too, since the new album is part one of a two part suite, and part two will be following on from it, although the band is putting no timeframe on the release of the second stanza of the Long Dream saga. “There’s nothing to announce at this stage, but obviously if you release part one, there’s going to be a part two,” Ewing says. “We’ve already written some songs for that, and that’s what we’ll be working towards, we just don’t know when it will be done.

“But it’s two parts of the story, that’s the part we’re in now, and things are changing so quickly around us and the world’s changing so quickly around us, and a lot of the themes that are in part one, musically, we didn’t want to let go of. There’s a lot of rhythmic things that appear throughout the album and a lot of melodic themes that we really wanted to explore more. So a part two has to happen. As for when, god knows, but it won’t be as long as the first part, I promise that much!”

Indeed, the first part of the story has been a very long time in the making: “some of those songs we’ve worked on for years and years,” he reveals. “Actually, fun fact, Tales of Termina, about five or six years ago, (frontman) Charlie, (lead guitarist) Louis and I jammed that song out in a little project where Charlie was playing the drums, Louis and I were doing guitar, we didn’t have a singer, it was just going to be an instrumental metal band, and we used the main verse riff as part of that instrumental piece, so that song’s been in the works for five or six years. And some of the others have been around just as long.

“So it’s sort of a culmination of a lot of work, and it’s just a relief that it’s done.”

As for the concept of the piece itself, unlike several other progressive rock and metal concept records, The Long Dream I is more rooted in reality and the everyday life of a working musician than it is about any sci-fi, mystical or metaphysical themes and ideas. “A lot of it is self-referential,” he says, “the journey of it, I mean, the album’s been such a big part of all of our lives, and especially Charlie. He’s really the lead on this, the composer extraordinaire. A lot of it is about the struggle of making the dream of making music life, work. When we started the album, we’d put out two EPs and an album, and we were sort of in a bit of a rut, playing the same venues with the same bands. And it’s still kick arse to get out on the weekend and play some guitar and sink some beers, but it wasn’t the dream you had in High School to be going around the world playing guitar.

So they were some of the themes when we first started the album, but then, conversely, now we’ve started with (Melbourne music management and record company) Wild Thing, things started to change. We started doing great shows, started getting great turnouts and an excellent response to all our releases, and it’s been fantastic. So we started getting those feelings of hopefulness, and that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. So it’s all about that journey. Not just the dream of playing guitar, but just your dreams in general, and seeing it all move along and start to become reality.”

Despite the fact that those dreams have started to come to fruition for Ebonivory, things often crop up to get in the way of their progress, things completely out of their control. Enter Covid-19. If not for the dreaded outbreak, the band would have been on their first ever tour of North America by the time you read this. And not just any tour, they were heading Stateside with Brisbane legends Caligula’s Horse. It’s a huge letdown for the band, but there is still a sliver of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

“Oh, what a nightmare!” Ewing exclaims, “as we speak here, I would have just about been on a flight to Los Angeles to tour with Caligula’s, so we’re all a little bit crestfallen by it. Plus there was going to be an Australian headline tour when we got back from that. It hadn’t been announced, but I think it’s safe to say it’s cancelled before it’s even announced. It’s not great. When I was a teenager, playing Rage Against the Machine riffs in my bedroom, that’s the kind of thing that I dreamed about. To get that close to it and it slipped away, it’s painful.

“But we’ll be going back in 2021, very early in the year, so all is not lost.”

The Long Dream I is out on June 5th.

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.