Q&A Scene: Declan Nicholls ~ inovo


Tell us about your new single Swim Alone

The song itself was originally a different song that we wrote with our old guitarist I mentioned earlier; Jamie. It was called It Swims Above and had a very similar meaning, but once Jamie left the band we needed to reimagine the song since our sound became far less heavy and significantly more atmospheric. The song is about a dream I had many years ago involving a giant cosmic humanoid entity floating through space, and I was a soapbox prophet on the side of a road trying to warn people that it could come any day to destroy Earth. I wanted to make sure the song had an ethereal quality at times, while also swelling into raving lunacy and fear at other times, to give a realistic emotional journey to the listener.

What’s your favorite work at this point in time?

My favorite work of ours at the moment would have to be the new music video for Swim Alone. We put an insane amount of time and effort into it and it turned out exactly how we wanted it, which meant the work we put in actually paid off with something we’re all really proud of. I also think it’s the perfect amount of creepy, which is the aesthetic we’re aiming for!

How would you describe your sound in food form and why? 

I would describe our sound like a bizarre foreign delicacy from a far off land. Something with tentacles and fur. The first impression is weird, you hesitate and you’re not sure if you’ll like it. It’s also pretty funny-looking, which is confusing. But then when you taste it, you’re surprised by how much you like such a new and hard-to-describe flavor, and now you just want more. Either that or it kills you because you didn’t cut off the poisonous stinger.

Tell us a quick, on the road or studio, anecdote.

It was absurdly difficult to record the vocals for our cover of ‘Thong Song’ by Sisqo, because Rhys and I would absolutely crack a rib with laughter after every single line I recorded. Probably took 2 or 3 times as long as it should have because we were just having WAY too much fun.

What, or who, inspires you?

If we’re talking creatively, I’m usually inspired by anything that horrifies or fascinates me. I love the mysterious, and I’m always looking for things that really disturb or intrigue me so I can write a song about it. It’s a fun exercise that usually results in a lack of sleep. Worth it.

Which song do you wish you wrote?

I wish I wrote Trains by Porcupine Tree. The song is such a journey of beautiful poetry, unpredictable songwriting and unique dynamic elements. It’s honestly hard to describe the feeling it instills in me, even after having listened to it for years. Absolutely timeless song.

What’s next for you?

More song releases! We can’t wait to show off all the songs that will feature on our first album (Desmoterion). Otherwise we’re already working on new material, so after the first album we’ll be exploring new spaces and continuing to hone our craft.

What’s your scene?

My scene is a night in, painting miniatures and hanging out with my partner Franziska. Either that or a big board game gathering with friends or relatives. 

Come and dive into the ambient, hazy realms of Brisbane alt-prog rockers inovo with the group today releasing a brand new single Swim Alone. An atmospheric and immersive outing that meshes grooves with moody textures, inovo’s new track also comes armed today with a visceral accompanying music video, drawing you deeper into the band’s sonic universe ahead of inovo officially launching Swim Alone in their hometown on Friday 31 March at BackDock Arts in Brisbane.

Pulsing with artsy alt-rock and explorative flourishes, Swim Alone firmly displays inovo’s love of unorthodox rhythms, a la Karnivool, Incubus and Tool, along with the colourful, textured storytelling of the likes of Tesseract, Devin Townsend and Thrice. With guitarist Rhys Tyack editing and tracking parts in the band’s studio, Swim Alone also reached its layered and dreamlike present state via James See mixing, and Steve Smart wrangling the levels for mastering. Moody, modern and sonically expansive, Swim Alone’s surreal qualities stem partially from an actual dream experienced by vocalist Declan Nicholls, with roots also flowing from a song devised by the band’s former guitarist. “It’s about a dream I once had about a gigantic humanoid entity drifting through space, swinging off of planets to change its trajectory,” shares Declan of Swim Alone’s origins. “In the dream I was a prophet on earth that had predicted its imminent approach to Earth, and wanted to warn everyone that it will be here soon and bring about the end of the world”. “Swim Alone is actually based off an old song our ex-guitarist Jamie created called ‘It Swims Above’,” adds Rhys. “We loved the elements but couldn’t perform it when we were reduced to a smaller group. It’s completely different but if you squint your ears during a full moon you can hear a glimpse of similarity.”

Perfectly complementing the glossy darkness and cascading grooves, the accompanying music video for Swim Alone marries the track’s lyrics of uncertainty and angst with riveting and disconcerting visuals. Shooting the video themselves over a series of weekends, special effects masks, costumes, body organs and props were made by guitarist Rhys, whose work as a cinematographer has seen him shoot music videos for Halfway, Sarah Stockholm, Daylight Ghosts and many more. Drawing together a team of actors, friends and crew, the clip ultimately oozes with sharp aesthetics and boundless imagination. “Declan writes all the lyrics which invokes a very vivid representation of the story and meaning,” shares Rhys of making Swim Alone’s music video. “I wanted the story to take some of that and combine it with the feeling I had when I wrote the track. In the video we incorporated quite a lot of symbolism and centralised the theme around confinement, while keeping a cosmic horror aesthetic. We wanted to create a visceral dimension to parallel our reality, or collective experience, relying on semiotics for layers of meaning. Every shot was storyboarded as we didn’t have a lot of time on-set once people had intestines glued to their stomach or full-faced latex masks muting sense receptors.”

Sharing a love for thought-provoking music and haunting tonalities, inovo started life when Declan, Rhys and drummer Jackson Caswell met at university before evolving into their present iteration, with bass player Karl O’Shea joining a few years later after meeting in a shared rehearsal space. Originally called Solus before changing to inovo, Latin for ‘in the egg’ reflecting the conceptual and embryonic nature of their songs, inovo is ultimately passion project dedicated to making music that each band member loves, with significant emphasis on storytelling, irregular rhythms and arrangements that pervade deep into your soul.

inovo’s live show is an equally memorable affair, with the band set to launch Swim Alone on Friday 31 March at BackDock Arts in Brisbane – and there may just be a few surprises in store. “We may have a few surprises coming up, maybe…” teases Jackson of the upcoming launch show. “We like to keep things fun and unpredictable,” adds Declan of inovo’s live performances. “We tend to move with the music, so one minute we might be chill, and the next minute really not so chill”.

A labour of love, Swim Alone is just the beginning of a huge 2023 for inovo, with the group primed to reveal even more musical goodness in the near future. “It’s very relieving to release Swim Alone,” says Rhys. “We’ve been working on these songs for quite some time so it’s exciting to release our child outside of our collective womb into the big wide world”. “We worked so hard on this song and the video,” concludes Declan, “and now that it’s finally going to be out there in the world I just hope it’s something people connect with and enjoy. We have so much more to show you guys, so if you like what we do – then watch this space. Also, I love you.”

Swim Alone is out today, Wednesday February 22, and the band will be sharing a new single every fortnight thereafter, leading into the album, Desmoterion, which is set for release on May 10.

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For more information: inovo

About Mary Boukouvalas 1612 Articles
Mary is a photographer and a writer, specialising in music. She runs Rocklust.com where she endeavours to capture the passion of music in her photos whether it's live music photography, promotional band photos or portraits. She has photographed The Rolling Stones, KISS, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer, PULP, The Cult, The Damned, The Cure, Ian Brown, Interpol, MUDHONEY, The MELVINS, The Living End, Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against The Machine, The Stone Roses –just to name a few - in Australia, USA, Europe and the Middle East. Her work has been published in Beat magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, Triple J magazine, The Age Newspaper, The Herald Sun, The Australian, Neos Kosmos, blistering.com, theaureview.com, noise11.com, music-news.com. She has a permanent photographic exhibition at The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Victoria Australia.