Sometimes music touches you on an emotional level and penetrates deep into your soul. When I first listened to Without Belief’s new EP “The Parting Gift” I cried, no actually I sobbed.
Ralph Brown and Jake Kershaw, along with some very special friends, have created what can only be described as a heart wrenching journey through the stages of grief.
Recently I was lucky enough to be able to have a chat with Ralph, here is his story:
The EP is all about the grieving process. And it hits all the feels. You can feel the anguish and pain through out the songs.
Yeah, the main skeleton of the songs were done in the first few months of me losing Dad and Jake losing his Aunty. So it was a much more an emotion based process than normal. We were in a position were we had a lot happening and we were in a flow, nothing was really stopping it and everything just made sense at the time. If we were feeling depressed and we were really hitting hard we would both write the music and lyrics together at the same time through our mood. If we were feeling a little cheesed, mad or angry then that’s when we got to 'Anger'. The same when Jake was writing the instrumental versions of the song, what ever the mood was what was written on the day. It got to a point where 'Acceptance' was the hardest one to write because with acceptance neither of us were, or still are, at that point. We are both still feeling it fresh. The whole writing process for us was just do everything in the moment otherwise its not going to be as impactful on us when we go to the studio to track for release. I think that is what has made it more meaningful and close to home for us. When we went through the tracking process it made it very difficult to want to listen to the songs because it was more an emotional impact on how we were feeling. It was cathartic and very therapeutic but when we started giving the songs shape and character by bringing in Lizi, Mitch, Tom and David it became way to real.
I lost count of the times I would start welling up or get really emotional during the process. I remember going "Fuck this is an actual thing", this is the reality of it. It was making it real to a point where I won’t say I regretted doing it but I was hating on myself a little bit. Like "why did you have to go and do this to yourself Ralph, why did you make it so real. Good job!!" It was definitely needed though because I didn’t really grieve for dad in the first 2-3 months after his passing.
He passed away really abruptly, I only knew for a week or two prior to his passing that he was ill. When he told me he was ill I remember just immediately hitting the floor and crying, then curling into him and sobbing for what seemed like hours. After he passed we had the funeral and then the family all went their separate ways back to their lives, me back to Melbourne. I was working every single day and drinking lots to cope and process everything. It got to a point where I remember coming home and watching his funeral service and immediately thinking I don’t know if I want to play music anymore, or be in a band or do anything.
I started to spiral out with some dark thoughts, It got me to a point where I was like or I could do the complete opposite I can use what I’ve got right in front of me to write new music. To shift my approach to where this was going. At the time I was obviously in Hara Kiri , it made more sense over time that I couldn’t hold on to two bands to put into this project what I needed. The delivery and the message behind this needed to be on a whole fresh new platform. And that is where Without Belief came into the picture. I sat with Jake after he lost his Aunty and said I think this is the best approach that we can do for ourselves. He was without a band and wanted to expand his writing abilities. He had a lot of unfinished riffs and instrumentals that he wanted to work on and he just never had the chance to really use them. I thought this would be a better coping mechanism for him instead of seeing alcohol as the answer. I was already doing that and I thought I’d rather not have him go down the same hole now that he had suffered a loss as well. I figured it might be in both of our best interests if we could get this out of our systems together. Well you’ve done it extremely well, I cant wait for other people to hear it..
Yeah, it’s going to be so good. I hadn’t listened to it in a while and I’ve had it on today. Its been nice to go back and listen to it after having a break, after the recording process and everything. It’s definitely wholesome for lack of a better way to put it. Just knowing that I managed to get everyone I wanted in to a room, that had supported me in the last year. That supported Jake for that matter. Get them into a room and be able to write and create something that we can all resonate and relate too.
They have all lost people close to them too
Yeah we have all suffered. Mitch and Lizi have both already written songs about their loss.Tom lost his grandma and never really got a chance to write about it. I figured this was an amazing platform for him to do that.
It is and in the process you guys are going to help so many others. Look at the people that have already reached out to you and shared their stories
It’s been intense the number of people that have sent statements about how this has helped them and people providing more of their stories that they want to share.
And this is without people listening to the EP!
Yeah that’s the crazy thing. There’s been a handful of people that I’ve obviously played it to, as a musician you can’t help but want to leak your own music! I’ve shown a fair few people and they’ve sat there and been like -How long have you been sitting on this? Where has this been?
I had the same conversation with someone after I first heard the EP. was like "WTF did I just listen to?"
Yep I’ve had it a few times where its been "WTF Ralph!! Your plucking heartstrings and I’m not okay with this!" But I guess that was the whole point of it, it’s not so much to pluck heartstrings or to upset anyone. But I guess at the end of the day if it makes someone upset then my job is done.
Yeah because they are releasing what’s being held in. Your helping them through that grieving process.
Yeah and it’s nice because obviously when you go through grief, especially when it someone close to you like an immediate family member it is a lot tougher than you ever think it would be. You’re going in to unknown territory, you don’t know what you are about to experience, think, say or do.
In Denial you can feel that. Your vocals are just so raw and angry and then you get Lizi come in and you get the whole confusion and chaos that comes with loss. That whirlpool of emotion
That nails it! I remember the tracking process for that and Lizi was literally like I just did this section in this kind of way because I feel like it really captures that confusion and denial. And she did it so well. She walked in and within the first hour she had nailed it
She would have been using her own experiences too
That was the whole point. That was why I wanted those 4 people to be on the tracks because I wanted to give them a platform they could use to tell their stories a little more comfortably I guess. A platform designed purely for it, it was nice to be able to share our stories together. You never hear a full story of exactly what happens in the songs. We all got to share in our own words
How did that process work?
I got Jake to write the instrumental part, I wrote a skeleton amount of lyrics in the style and form I wanted and then everyone with their sections got free reign to write whatever they wanted. If they wanted to take a section I had written and reword it to be theirs they had free run to do so.
So it was a real collaborative effort?
Super collaborative, tough because obviously there was no way any of us could be in a room together for weeks or months at a time until studio time but the way that it all just came together last minute was absolutely phenomenal. Going through Christopher Vernon for tracking and producing was unbelievable. I didn’t know how he worked prior to this but Jake thought he would be perfect for this project. I was blown away by how much care and passion he had for the project itself and the lyrics. I was expecting a lot to be changed but he hardly changed anything because he said he wanted to keep it raw.
He knew what it was, that this wasn’t just a band putting our an Ep. This was something special
It was amazing, the fact he captured that straight away. From day one he was amazing, right down to the last day when I was literally not wanting it to end. I liked getting cabin fever with him! He totally got it from the beginning and understood where I was coming from. He kept it as raw as possible and he loved every little contribution from everyone that got involved.
The first thing I noticed when I listened was the rawness in every song
Yeah it was very much untouched, even the instrumentals. A few day’s I couldn’t be there for the tracking and Jake would be like you know how that song sounded originally ? Well it was hardly touched but now it sounds like a proper song. I kept thinking what is happening , everything is going to smoothly. I didn’t understand I was expecting bumps.
I would take that as a sign that this project was meant to be!!
That was the funny thing about it. Just sitting there and going like this needed to happen on so many levels, not just for me but for so many people.
It’s been amazing. I‘m so grateful I followed my gut and went with Maddii (The Venom Collective) and for everything she has done. When I approached her bout it in late 2019 she just wanted to know where we were going with it. I gave her my massive game plan about what I wanted to do with this. She said the same, it was running to smoothly for the entire process. Writing the music with Jake, to getting the standard campaign up and running, how we deliver the stories to an end product. It’s crazy because I have never been in a situation where it has all run so smooth. It was terrifying to because I kept thinking something is about to happen, I don’t know where it is or when it’s going to happen but something is going to come and slap me upside the face and I am not okay with it. And it didn’t …….
With everything that has happened in the last year this was the smoothest process. I had a strong support network and team around me. Right from my partner Brooke who has supported me from when this idea was a seed, Steve Cannatelli (Future Artistic Development) who has been amazing to work with and always has my back, to you, to all my friends and the ones that I have made along the way in the last year or two through music. Everyone has been like this need to happen, this is going to be amazing, this is everything and more and defines what has happened in the last year to you. It’s just been mental.
I’m very interested and curious to know how it is going to be received because it is either going to be something people have on repeat or people can only listen to once.
The social media content has been well received. I remember the first day someone I know took a screen shot of my post and shared it on her page. So within 30 minutes of that first post it had left the music world and touched someone else.
I think that was amazing. I was actually having a rough day when you sent that message, and the fact that it resonated with someone that you know, with a story from someone I know and they had shared it on their socials was mind blowing. And that’s the amazing thing, that from day one it was already hitting people that needed to hear it or that it resonated with. The platform, like you said has no music yet and the stories on it are resonating with people.
One of my first questions when we decided to share stories prior to the release was would people think it was a community page and not a band page. Which turns out someone did!! But I’m glad that people are seeing it in different ways, because the music is not to everyone’s taste. Some people might only want to see it as a community where they can use it as somewhere to consolidate with others who are experiencing the same thing. And that is fine. It’s all about getting people together in one way to another to become a part of that supportive community.