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Pax Cultura

4th April 2023

Interview: Chris Richmond

Photo Credit: Stefan The Photographer

'Heavy Machinery' is the debut single by Pax Cultura, an indie-rock gang of players who hail from somewhere between Cardiff, Surrey, Hampshire and Brisbane. The track itself is fantastic - a massive whirlwind of a cinematic banger with huge melodies and atmospheric lyrics - and the accompanying video is equally as enrapturing. We were lucky enough to speak to Pax Cultura about the origins of the group, their music, and what the future holds for the promising indie-rock collective. 

Your debut single 'Heavy Machinery' is out now - it's great, by the way! How did the song come about? What's the inspiration behind the track? 

Thank you so much for your kind words, we’re glad you’re enjoying Heavy Machinery as much as we are. It’s a good question and the song came about in an abnormal way for me. I (Lead singer - Will) had been playing around for some time with chords and structures in my home studio. I had a rough harmonic sketch down, but then decided to free flow in a stream of consciousness for the lyrics to see what might happen (usually I have a pretty clear plan from the start). I left the song for a while and then when we returned to the demo track as a band, the words ‘heavy machinery’ popped out as a beautifully visceral concept to build the song upon. So, from there we began to form and shape the song with this idea of industrial gritty machinery informing our sonic and creative choices. When sitting with the words ‘Heavy Machinery’ for a while, they really began to resonate with me and I decided to write about the overwhelming brokenness I can find in myself and the need for some serious Heavy Machinery to fix what’s happening in my inner world. I can often see within myself toxic habits or unhealthy ways of thinking that harm myself or others. It can feel like no matter how much I know they’re not good for me, they seem to work their way back into my life, often feeling like there's a war raging inside me; my flesh against my spirit. This song was written as an acknowledgment of the pain of the mental battle, the allure of the darkness and the understanding that it’s too big for me to handle by myself. For me that leads me to cry out for God to do a deep work in my life that’s going to need some serious machinery to fix. 

What's your process when it comes to songwriting and production? What does each member bring to the table? 

Our process normally originates in Will’s mind. He goes away and comes up with song ideas and vibes, then brings them to the band. Together we decide on the song ideas we love, ones we could potentially love and ones we don’t think are for Pax Cultura. For Heavy Machinery we were all on board from the start - it had this raw grit which really shone through. Will then stems out the demo and we all take it away, ditch what we don’t like and get creative adding our own flavour to the tracks. We then bring it back into one project and we merge it together. This task usually falls to our drummer and producer extraordinaire Katie who wades through what we want to keep and culls what we don’t. She presents the findings to the band and then we go from there. We’ve found this process has really sparked our collaborative creativity, allowing each of us​​ to bring our own influences to the table. We’ve found that we hear everyone's unique creative voice much clearer than before when we would try and arrange in the room together. Interestingly this process was actually an outcome of lockdown where we suddenly couldn’t create in the room together and so came up with this solution.

The music video is great, too - what was the inspiration behind the concept for the video? Did you have fun shooting it? 

Oh mate, we had a lot of fun shooting this! We really wanted to collaborate with another art form to convey the song in a fresh way. Will got in touch with his friend, Lewis Williams, who he knew way back from his musical theatre days in school. Together they fleshed out what you see in the video. When thinking about the concept for the video we wanted to convey really clearly 3 defined spaces for the viewer to engage with that represented the song’s meaning in a clear way. #1 - the outer and external world represented in the car park and street shots contrasted by spaces #2 & #3 which were shot in the gym with stark colour contrasts to represent the inner realm and the battle between the warring healthy and harmful desires. Will talked the concept through with Lewis and left him alone with the song to create the initial dance which was then tweaked and shaped together later on. Lewis started with the idea of ‘dark’ and ‘light’ and processed how that could move. After that he developed one single routine for both concepts but chose to change the intention and execution when dancing each one through. For example when depicting light, the moves would feel more soft, floaty & have more extended movement. But when depicting the dark it would be more rigid, heavy and sharp. The single dance idea with different intentions allowed him to create the story of the inner workings of this man battling with his anxieties/demons.

When thinking about how to recreate the concept visually and capture it, we called up our friend Herbie (who Katie knew through various work contacts). He was so on it with catching the vision and added his camera and creative skills to bring it all to life. A particularly fond memory of the day is that we totally had not planned to have those crazy lighting effects going on in the chorus before the bridge where it all gets hectic. Herbie was just turning the main lights off and on to see if they were going to be of any use and they turned on in random orders which created this really disorientating effect and we just knew we had to fit it in somehow. So for those shots, there’s no fancy lighting desk doing effects, it’s literally Katie and Zac standing in the corners of the room switching the lights on and off randomly! Fun times.

Check out the music video to 'Heavy Machinery' by Pax Cultra.

What's the origin of the band? How did the project come about? How long have you been active and how long has it taken to get to the stage of actually releasing music? 

So as band members, we span 3 different countries which we think is pretty cool - Wales, England and Australia! The initial concept for the band took form in the throes of university life. Will and Katie met first and formed the seed of what now has grown to be Pax Cultura. With the addition of Zac & Alex, and years of experimenting and refining our sound in bedrooms and stages, Pax Cultura has finally taken shape and formed itself into what you hear now. In real time terms, these songs you're hearing now have been on a long journey. Heavy Machinery was first demoed in Jan 2020, so it’s taken 3 years to get to what you hear today! Some of the others are relatively young as well; the youngest of our songs is not even 1 yet. Mad times. The process has probably been longer than we expected due to the arrival of some babies in the band families, but we’re happy with the pace and that we’re finally able to release stuff for people to hear.   

Who are your musical inspirations and what aspects of the project do they inspire? Whose career would you like to emulate? 

Each band member brings their own unique influences to the table with artists ranging from the likes of Bon Iver, Jamie Cullum, Jordan Rakei, Jeff Buckley and Bros. Landreth through to Paramore, Foals, Matt Corby and Héctor Lavoe. From a song writing and harmonic perspective Will took a lot of influence from Jordan Rakei specifically in the use of more ambiguous and moody harmony. Outside the band, another two people that have greatly influenced our sounds are our trusted friends; engineer Andy Maxwell and string arranger Jamie Philokyprou. They’ve both brought fuel to the creative fire in their unique ways and helped to tweak, refine and realise the vision for the project.

What are your plans for the future? Can we expect any live shows? Are you working towards an EP / album?

Yes, we have plans and plans and plans. We’re expecting to be releasing a few singles in the coming months (next one on April 28th! - heard it first here) journeying towards our EP release hopefully around September/October 2023. To accompany the EP launch we’ll be holding our first headline show in London on Oct 4th 2023 where you’ll be able to hear all the curated songs in their raw live forms and maybe (if you’re lucky) even hear some new material we’re working on. Keep your eyes peeled on our socials for more info. 

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