Byron Bay is perhaps chiefly thought of as a hub for laidback hippies and sunbrowned surfers, but in recent years it’s also become a breeding ground for some of the country’s most formidable metalcore music. Following the world-conquering lead of hometown heroes Parkway Drive, Byron five-piece In Hearts Wake are flying the Australian flag on this year’s Soundwave lineup. The youngsters aren’t afraid of the big leagues, and have set their sights high with latest single ‘Skydancer’.
“The lyrics and the imagery are all about reconnecting man with nature,” says lead singer Jake Taylor, on a mission to promote unity with our surroundings. The single is a core component of the philanthropic Skydancer Project. “It was releasing a song for free,” explains Taylor, “but people could pay something for it if they wanted to and they knew that 100 per cent of their donation would go towards non-profit organisations that helped out indigenous communities across the world.”
The project proved quite successful, collecting over $3,000 during October’s fundraising period, which was split evenly between three charities (aiding Native Americans, Kenyans and Indigenous Australians respectively). Taylor is proud of the fundraising results, but says it wasn’t just about the money. “Money’s 50 per cent of what’s being given to these organisations, but the other 50 per cent of it is raising the awareness. If anything that counts for more than the money itself. It obviously makes a difference knowing that there’s people that are giving a shit.”
Striving to generate awareness about concrete human struggles marks a departure from the content of the band’s debut record, Divination. The 2012 concept album interpreted different cards from the Major Arcana Tarot deck (for instance, songs were subtitled with names like ‘Death’, ‘Strength’ and ‘Judgement’). Looking ahead, Taylor says album number two will also be a concept album, taking the sentiments expressed in ‘Skydancer’ as its point of departure.
“I want to take the ‘Skydancer’ bigger-picture aspect to the next level – being more than just about tarot cards or being more than about people working nine-to-five. Talking about the bigger things, which we all definitely see on TV and the newspapers. We still want to have fun, but [also] be a part of the solution and not the problem.”
In Hearts Wake’s determination to spread a proactive message shows they uphold the ‘peace, love and understanding’ attitude that permeates their hometown. However, their aggressive metalcore sound seems an odd way to express it.
“You can’t have light without dark,” Taylor says, “and I feel that the metal/hardcore scene has got a lot of darkness – a lot of what people hear as angst, [but there’s] constructive criticism involved. If you were to tell someone to wake up and change their ways of doing something in life, you wouldn’t whisper it to them, you would most probably tell them very loudly and sternly, or shout it. It’s got a powerful feeling to it, the music that we play. To spread messages of awareness and change, it’s a fitting genre that we’ve found that works for us.”
The Skydancer Project proves the singer’s stated intention to generate positive change isn’t simply a clever marketing strategy. Similarly, In Hearts Wake uphold a genuinely personal relationship with their audience. “We always push ourselves to be the best role models we can be,” says Taylor. “There’s no onstage persona; we don’t put on our make-up and get onstage. We’re the same people on and off. It’s all about helping people to realise that we are the same people as them.”