ORB chat doom-metal, the Geelong music scene, and album number four

Five years ago, I don’t think many people would have expected three of the dudes from The Frowning Clouds to start a doom-metal band. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened when Zak Olsen, Daff Gravolin, and Jamie Harmer formed ORB.

So recently, while they were on tour with Oh Sees, we caught up with the band to chat about their entry into doom-metal music, the Geelong music scene, and album number four.

Photos: Dani Hansen

When we said we’d start a doom-metal band, we said it with a smile. We thought it’d be funny“: We caught up with Geelong doom masters ORB for a chat.

HAPPY: Going back to when ORB first started… I understand the whole concept of being in a doom-metal band started off as a half-joke, is that right?

ZAK: Yeah.

DAFF: Yeah it was kind of a not-so-serious band, a jam band.

ZAK: It wasn’t a joke in that we didn’t care about it or anything, it was more just for fun.

HAPPY: Did you ever expect it would become what it is now?

ZAK: Nup, we thought we’d do a cassette tape and that’d be it. Maybe play with some local metal bands or something.

HAPPY: What was it about doom-metal music that made you want to start that kind of band?

ZAK: I don’t know what it was.

JAMIE: I guess we all played very different types of music before, so we tried to kind of mix it up.

ZAK: Yeah totally, and we had also just got really back into Black Sabbath at the time. I remember we’d try to jam War Pigs at Frowning Clouds practice.

HAPPY: Since then, you’ve incorporated a few different sounds into ORB. So did you ever expect the sound would grow and travel as far as it has?

ZAK: I think it was inevitable. We all bring in influences from the things we listen to.

DAFF: Yeah, we couldn’t be dreary all the time.

ZAK: So that has all seeped in, and it filters through this fuzzy power trio. But yeah, we take influence from heaps of stuff… from ELO to folk music. But if you filter it through fuzzy bass and guitar and drums, it comes out a different way.

HAPPY: I’m calling it that ELO are the greatest band of all time.

ZAK: Oh yeah, so good.

HAPPY Jeff Lynne writes the best vocal harmonies…

ZAK: He does.

DAFF: Yeah, he really does.

HAPPY: When you are putting together these songs, do you find that particular members are bringing particular sounds to the table?

JAMIE: Yeah I guess so.

ZAK: Yeah we all bring riffs and see if we can stick them together, and see if it sounds good. There’s a lot of trial and error. It’s just fun to play loud, simple songs live. They’re easy to get across to the audience.

HAPPY: Well, on the surface ORB seems like a jam band, but everything’s actually quite thought-out, right?

ZAK: Yeah, there’s no real jamming. Especially on the albums. Sometimes live there’s a little bit.

HAPPY: Is there jamming in the early stages of writing an ORB song? Or does someone arrive with a complete track for everyone to play?

ZAK: Yeah, there’s definitely jamming in the early stages.

JAMIE: A lot of the time, we’ll have parts that we dedicate to jamming, and then once you play it live one hundred times, you end up doing the same thing.

ZAK: And at ORB band practice we’ll often start out by jamming, then after 20 minutes we’ll get onto a groove that’s good, then we’ll stop and say “let’s make that happen“.

HAPPY: Do you use your live show as a way of moulding a piece of music?

ZAK: Um, not as much. More and more lately, we’ve been opening it up a bit. Sometimes our friend Callum plays guitar with us, and that makes it a bit easier.

HAPPY: Do you imagine, going forward, that ORB will start incorporating more jam elements?

ZAK: I like to think so, yeah. I think it’s harder than you think. You know, just to make a jam sound good – it can be really good or it can be really embarrassing. But yeah, we’d like to have more keyboards and stuff in the future.

HAPPY: Can we expect a seven-piece ORB in the future?

ZAK: Well three people makes it so easy to tour. It’s so economical.

DAFF: I don’t think we’ll ever go past five.

HAPPY: You guys have put out a fair few records in a pretty small space of time. Has that been intentional? Or have they just been falling out?

JAMIE: It doesn’t really feel that quick.

ZAK: I guess because it’s a band where there’s not just one person making songs, it’s a bit quicker.

HAPPY: Do you guys find you’re all generally on the same page when someone brings a new idea to the band?

ZAK: Yeah, I don’t think there’s ever been a song where we’ve said: “Nah, we’re not playing that“.

HAPPY: Is there another album on the way?

ZAK: Yeah, we’re working on some songs, but I don’t think we’ll rush the next one or anything. We just want to get it right.

HAPPY: I read that there’s not a single fuzz guitar on the new album.

ZAK: At the moment there’s not. But we’ve started on a couple of riffs with a bit of fuzz.

HAPPY: Is the new record different to past material in any ways?

JAMIE: Yeah, this will be the most different I think.

HAPPY: How so?

JAMIE: More poppy and synthy.

ZAK: Yeah.

DAFF: It depends. We have a lot of songs that are month synthy and poppy, but then there are other that are more jammy. So I don’t know if we’ll have them on the same album.

ZAK: It’s less riffy and heavy, and it’s more groovy and drawn out. At least that’s how I think about it.

HAPPY: With the second two records, you recorded them in the same session?

ZAK: Yep.

HAPPY: Was that because you found there were two schools of songs that you had to split?


HAPPY: With the metal music community… it’s a very intense music scene. Have you guys had any interactions with that community?

ZAK: We just haven’t had anything to do with the metal scene at all. I think they’d just see us as rock.

HAPPY: I remember when King Gizzard won the Aria for Best Metal Album, it didn’t go down too well.

DAFF: No, people weren’t happy at all.

HAPPY: How do you think the metal community would react if ORB won that award?

ZAK: I think they’d be pissed off. Because that King Gizz album was far more metal than anything we’ve ever done. I also just don’t think we’d ever win an Aria.

HAPPY: You guys are one of the many incredible bands to come from Geelong, and I’ve heard people refer to you as “the forefathers of the Geelong music scene.” But yeah, so many great bands coming out of that place. What’s the go?

DAFF: It’s just a boring town with nothing to do.

ZAK: It’s really got that small town vibe, so once one person starts doing something, everyone starts doing it.

HAPPY: What did the Geelong music scene look like when the Frowning Clouds first started.

DAFF: Pretty shit.

ZAK: Yeah it was really bad.

DAFF: A lot of shit hardcore bands.

ZAK: I thought we were the only garage band in the world at the time.

HAPPY: When did everything start picking up?

DAFF: I feel like that kind of music started getting really popular after the Frowning Clouds quit.

HAPPY: And then cam ORB.

DAFF: Yeah.

HAPPY: But back to the topic of choosing doom-metal… a few years back, I don’t think I would’ve expected three of the Frowning Clouds dudes to start a doom-metal band.

ZAK: Yeah, well when we said we’d start a doom-metal band, we said it with a smile. We thought it’d be funny.

HAPPY: Now, here we are.

ZAK: Here we are.