“It takes courage to heal:” Order of Owls on mental health and ‘What Becomes’

Order of Owls swung by Happy to chat about music, mental health, and what it was like filming a music video at Australia’s most haunted location

Order of Owls tackled the demons of mental health on What Becomes, a teeth-baring metal cut that arrived like a jet engine on the airwaves last month.

Refined in its approach to classic metal and incisive in its take on the process of healing from mental ill-health, the single establishes Order of Owls as a gloriously loud voice to watch. 

Order of Owls interview

Below, we caught up with bandmate Nathan Mesiti for a deep dive into What Becomes, the importance of sonic consistency, and how it “takes courage to heal, forgive [and] accept.”

Catch our full interview with Order of Owls below, and scroll down to listen to their new single. 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

NATHAN: Hey there! Today has been spent mixing a few recorded live shows for a couple of young bands starting out so they have something to share.

I’m almost always doing something in the studio and I like being the guy that can rock up and provide those opportunities to acts and musicians starting out on their creative journey.

Order of Owls interview

HAPPY: What does a typical day look like when recording a song like ‘What Becomes’?

NATHAN: That’s a little hard to answer as all of the material we’ve released to date was all recorded at the same time, one person at a time over a period of time.

When going into a recording situation, I have a preference to not have any surprises going in and to make sure that everything planned for a track is captured when it’s time for that.

However, writing is a completely different story. “What Becomes” was a song that Tim wrote and I developed which is usually the way in this group.

I like to take influences that I know the guys like and spread them out over a track. In this case, I wanted to showcase the swagger of our rhythm section.

Johnny and Ramon lock in fantastically well together despite their very different tastes in music. There was a lot of care that went into balancing Tim’s rhythm and melodies with what the Rhythm section was doing and what guitars would be over the top.

HAPPY: How is ‘What Becomes’ an evolution of your sound in comparison to recent release ‘Freedom(ination)’ and ‘Speak Up’?

NATHAN: Frankly, it isn’t. Common traps that bands fall into are usually using all their tricks all at once OR using too many in a disparate way.

The three tracks that we’ve released have different elements that are based on the same core sound. Freedom and What Becomes share a heavy rhythmic sensibility but you can’t really dance to Freedom and What Becomes isn’t as heavy as Freedom.

Neither is as high energy or anthemic as Speak Up but they all have unique atmospheres that exist in different places of the same universe.

Order of Owls interview

HAPPY: The single tackles topics around mental health and healing. Why is this important subject matter to you?

NATHAN: Music draws upon experiences and expression. As creative types, we’ve selected mental health as our primary focus as it’s something we can strongly draw upon. 

Frankly, we’ve all needed therapy in one form or another and we’ve all noticed our lives become exponentially better as we learn to engage ourselves in our lives.

It takes courage to heal, forgive, accept, let go, to participate in the pursuit of becoming as realised a person as you can be.

Lastly, music is best when it’s honest and vulnerable so while we create a fictional universe for our songs to exist in, they aren’t too far removed from our own real life experiences. We want to join the chorus of voices that affirm; you are not alone.

That chorus can never be loud enough.

Order of Owls interview

HAPPY: ‘What Becomes’ marks the first time the band has collaborated with another artist on a track. Why was this collaboration necessary for the single?

NATHAN: Because Jake is a beefcake shredder and one of the best guitarists I know. But seriously, I’m not a very experienced lead guitarist despite what was performed in Freedom and Speak Up.

Though I can do it, my lead vocabulary is still gaining traction. So in the spirit of allowing progression in our sound, I wanted to hear what someone else would do and it ended up being something radically different to what I’d do!

Learning to play what Jake contributed was also a massive challenge but ultimately, it expanded my vocabulary.

HAPPY: Any spooky stories from your time spent filming the music video at the notoriously haunted site of Aradale Lunatic Asylum?

NATHAN: Sadly, I didn’t personally experience anything at all. No weird bumps in the darkness, no sounds. Nothing. What was a little unnerving was the site not having any power, save for part of the admin building and the morgue.

It was very quiet, very still. We barely had enough power generation available on hand between a little generator and an inverter feeding off Ramon’s van for the lights, smoke machine and PA.

Every 20 minutes or so, the generator would stall out and take the lights with it. When we lost the daylight, the darkness was overwhelming especially in the dining hall where the main band shots were done.

There were no nearby lights or light pollution at all. Just void. I do have a funny story to share though, I got to the morgue well in advance of the rest of the crew to open up and set up a few things.

Instead, I hid in the body fridge and waited for them to show up. When they did and settled in a little, I flung open the fridge door and squealed as loudly as I could. It was wonderful to see everyone shit themselves at the same time.

Order of Owls interview

HAPPY: Why was this site selected for the music video?

NATHAN: Hospitals and healing go hand in hand, but anything can happen in a lunatic asylum. If you examine our song lyrics, there’s a loose story in there about someone who’s learning themselves in a way I described earlier.

It’s a very loose story that weaves symbolism and metaphor with montages. The metaphor of an asylum is a strong one and pretty evident of madness, confusion and a bevy of darker emotions.

Aradale provided a wonderful setting for us to merge the distorted visuals of Freedom with the symbolism of Speak Up.

HAPPY: Anything exciting on the horizon that you can tease for us?

NATHAN: Well we have a show coming up in Geelong as part of the Melted festival which is going to be pretty damn awesome so it’d be great to see people come to that.

But we’re always working on something and pushing ourselves. It’s likely that another trio of tunes will be released soon and we’re excited to create visual content to attach to them.

Order of Owls interview

HAPPY: What makes you happy?

NATHAN: After countless hours of writing, producing, recording, mixing, mastering, filming, editing, grading, planning, releasing and the mountain of things a band must go through to get any attention, just getting to the end of it all and being able to present our work with the statement say “We did that and we did it well.

While we’re humble in what we do, we know that we’re worth every single bit of effort we put in.”