Paul Wolinski of the Sheffield experimental band discusses recent projects, political influences and new ways of working
Since the release of their first full-length in 2004, Sheffield instrumentalists 65daysofstatic have been steadily evolving, sonically growing arms and legs in all directions. Last year's replicr is a product of this continual transfiguration, the album itself built out of the debris of previous projects and new ways of working.
'It's very much a studio record, or at least we set out to make it without worrying about how we would play these songs live.' Paul Wolinski explains. 'Because in the studio, it felt like we were four co-producers rather than four musicians who had any clearly defined goals. It was really freeing and exciting to make this record. And we were really proud of where we managed to get to.'
Certainly, replicr's melancholic and stark terrain feels like the score to a 21st century-specific existential crisis, and for Wolinski and the rest of the band, it's been impossible not to feel that need to respond to the state of our current social and political climate in their works.
'Everything we do is entirely influenced by the political situation and the world, much more so than other kinds of music we listen to.' He says. 'I think that the most crucial role for an artist these days is to try and imagine better futures. If no one could even imagine better futures, then I don't know how as a civilisation we can ever head in the right direction. And that's a good role but that requires a certain amount of utopian thinking, which is not something that comes naturally to 65days!'
Replicr follows the quartet's unexpected foray into the world of videogames with their expansive and cinematic companion soundtrack to the 2016 hit game No Man's Sky. The project took more or less three years, after which the band turned their attention to Decomposition Theory, a project based on algorithmic and live generative music techniques which they toured across the UK and Europe.
'Rather than playing songs that people knew, we were doing shows where it was different every single night because it was all being generated in real time and that was really interesting. We amassed a huge amount of material and slowly that started to be refined and evolved into what would become the last record.
'Because of how big the No Man's Sky project was and because of how long the album was,' Wolinski continues, 'what we actually really wanted to do was make a record that was very tight and focused and maybe like 40, 45 minutes in length. And that's exactly what we did.'
Alongside the material that made the record, there was plenty more that the band were reluctant to part with, and with good reason too, as Wolinski notes. 'We had literally hours more material that we really, really liked. But we didn't want to just release this kind of sprawling triple album or something like that. We wanted that short statement.'
So with this in mind, 65days launched A Year of Wreckage in May 2019, a year-long project delivered via Bandcamp, with a new release for subscribers each month. 'A Year of Wreckage was a way of not compromising the record that we wanted to make, while also finding a platform for all the material that existed around it. We tried to make each release different so sometimes it would be a really long kind of drone EP and other times, it's just loads of crazy break beats and glitchy rhythms. Or one of them's full of pianos and tape hiss. It's been nice not working with a record label and just being able to do it ourselves, directly with the fans.'
Though the project has now come to a close, it's been a largely positive experience for both the band and the fans that have signed up, offering something unique and personal. For now though, the band are looking ahead to their postponed tour, which was originally due to take place in May.
'We were always most excited about playing our new material live and there's a good chunk of the record that's sounding really good,' Wolinski says, returning to our discussion about taking replicr on the road. 'But we've also made an effort to refresh our back catalogue. So we're revisiting some old songs that we've probably not played for seven or eight years or even longer, and we're going to squeeze them into the set somehow.'
While this short tour represents the end of one substantial creative arc for the band that in some ways started in 2017, fans will no doubt be pleased to see 65days with their epic soundscapes, both old and new, before they inevitably return to the frontline with their next big experiment.
65daysofstatic's May tour dates have been postponed. They play Gorilla, Manchester, Wed 16 Dec; Summerhall, Edinburgh, Thu 17 Dec.