After releasing their debut album I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here, embarking on an extensive tour around Australia and capturing a bunch of hearts in the process, we sat down with vocalist/guitarist Tom Lanyon to talk about the local music scene, touring and inspirations.
By Mark Plummer
Ceres is quite a name – going back to Roman mythology – how did this name come about?
I wish the name had a some sort of higher meaning, but it really was a bit of an after-thought. Around the time Rhys (guitarist) and I were cobbling the band together in Melbourne, I went to California for work. The whole time I was there I kept hearing about a fairly nondescript town out the back of LA called Ceres. No idea why, but the name got stuck in me. When I got back to Melbourne, Rhys wanted to know what we should call the band. So there it was. It was just the two of us, so I assumed no-one would ever hear the band name anyway. I think we liked it because, back then, we thought it was just a name of a town. We wanted a name that didn’t really allude to anything. Turns out it is so much stuff: Roman goddess, dwarf planet, organic food farm in Brunswick, Melbourne… there is even a small town called Ceres about an hour out of Melbourne. Good one huh?
Were there any particular bands or records that helped to inspire your debut album?
Records that specifically inspired the album, I’m not too sure of. It’s a hard one. I guess everything influences us in some way. I know sonically, we had Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything To Nothing as a bit of a sound guide, but listening back I don’t think it sounds much like it. People point us in the direction of The Get Up Kids, which I we couldn’t be more humbled by. We wanted a dusty record, something with a few scratches. Something honest sounding, with as little gimmick as possible. It sounds slicker than a 90s emo record for sure, but I think it still holds some of that spirit. Hopefully, anyway.
What was your songwriting process for I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here, does one person take charge of the lyrics and getting first ideas down or is it a collective effort?
It depends. Mostly, it is me bringing an almost completed song to the band that I have written on acoustic guitar. It usually happens right at the end of practice, when everyone is packing up gear, someone asks if I’ve got any new stuff. If it is good enough, and if it fires the lads up enough, they turn their amps and flick snares back on and we see where it takes us. That is usually a sign of a good Ceres song, if Grant and Rhys turn their amps back on. If not, I keep it quietly to myself.
Other times it is just something that happens when we are all in a room together and a song naturally kind of falls out. Jam Song is one of these. We promised we’d call it a better name when recording it, but it kind of stuck.
The lyrics for the songs, unfortunately, are all mine.
What was the message behind the album, is it a collection of separate stories, or do you have a main theme running throughout?
I wanted to call the record I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here as a kind of irony. Most songs are about the past, and wanting for things to be different, or of not knowing what to do. They are mostly intertwined. There is a lot of uncertainty in the songs. The lyric in Jam Song that opens the record sums the feeling of the record for me: ‘I know that I’ve got to get out of here, I just don’t know what I want anymore’. So having such a definite statement for the title of the record is a reaction to that feeling. Plus, it helps to add a little hope to what is a bit of a downer of a record. Pulls it out of the dark a little.
Did you experiment with any unique recording techniques in the studio or decide to just play around and see what sounds you could achieve?
Aaron, our producer was always down to try weird things. If it were up to me, the record would’ve sounded like some minimal art-pop avant-garde hell ride, so I’m glad he pulled it back into line. Give me an inch and I’ll take a mile. We wanted it just to sound real.
The songs are honest, so should the recording be. Everything was through a variety of amps, no digital stuff. We would record parts to cassette and play them through an old boom box recorded by a vocal mic to really mess with the sound. Jam Song’s fuzzed vocals are an example of that.
Aaron found an old reel-to-reel voice recorder at a garage sale, and it ended up having this kid singing old Elton John songs a cappella – so we used him throughout the record. And everything was recorded to tape, then recorded back into the computer, that’s where all that dust comes from. So stoked we did that.
The drums have a very carefree feel to them, they seem to be free to do what they please and have great rolls and fills throughout; having seen bands who reign their drummer back, is this an approach that you feel suits your music?
Frank, our drummer, is ridiculous. He’ll hear a new song for the first time, play it through once and dream up the most incredible drumming on the spot. Then we’ll play it through for the second time and he’ll out do himself again. He is constantly trying weirder fills and timing. Reigning drums in never stood a chance with Frank. We are lucky to have him. We have no agenda with songwriting, or the way we want our band to sound – so that’s what Frank wants to sound like when he drums I guess. Luckily it suits.
What aspirations do you have for I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here, have you got your eyes set on anywhere overseas to tour or is there the rest of Australia to conquer first?
I have a funny thing with aspiration or ambition. As a band, we had none. We didn’t even think we’d leave the practice space, let alone record a full length and tour and do interviews and all that. Personally, I like that we are just taking it as we go. Seeing how the mop flops as they say. I think people put too much pressure on their dreams, and the stuff they need to do to get there become biased or forced or not honest. As for the release, we’ll tour Australia again, but not for …Anywhere But Here. To play shows in another country would be amazing, but it’s not a huge deal for us. I think the record has surpassed anything we could’ve dreamt of, so we are happy. If it all ended today, I’d be so stoked, and just go back to writing songs in my bedroom that no-one will hear.
My personal favourites from the album are Try To Keep You and Three Times; are there any tracks that are particularly enjoyable to perform live?
Funny they are your favourites, because we don’t play those live. Thank you for liking Three Times though, I think that is the one we are most proud of. I like playing Jam Song live, but that may be because we play it last at shows and it means I get to get off stage and go sit down. I like playing the last half of Syllables too, the crow has started clapping along. The rest hurt my throat.
Are there any bands within the Melbourne (or even Australian) music scene that have helped to develop you as a band?
I feel like I’ve neglected the Melbourne music scene. It’s supported us so much, and I’ve made so many friends from it now. But before our band started, I had no idea. Hardly knew any bands, never went to shows. I don’t know why. I saw live music, but was never a part of the scene that is raging in Melbourne right now. Not that it’s a club or anything, but I definitely feel grateful for all the support from bands in Melbourne and all over Australia. It’s a special thing, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find it. So if there ever is a next record, I know it’ll be influenced by our new friends and the bands they are in.
Finally, how would you describe yourself to someone who’s never heard your music?
Hopefully it’s honest. I just want people to listen to us and think that we mean what we make. That’s all.
Many thanks to Tom for taking the time to chat to us. ‘I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here’ is out now.