Hello prog rock fans. I’d like to introduce you to your new favourite band: Gladiolus. Hailing from the heart of South East Queensland, Dan Hendrex, Anson Nesci and Joe Shirley combine all the best bits of bands like Periphery, The Ocean, Devin Townsend and The Contortionist and turn them into something entirely new. Just this month they debuted with an epic introduction Chrysalis. The single is sparse in its’ production, carried by Dan‘s layered vocals with immense attention to detail with harmony and texture. The instrumentation and overall build of the song is expertly crafted; with every listen you find a new detail you missed on your last listen. The song starts large yet somehow finds a way to grow even bigger, taking many twists and turns, engaging you from start to finish (and inviting you to keep it on repeat).
I’ve been so impressed by how the group have grown since the songs were first conceptualised by Hendrex himself, made simply with a standard Focusrite interface, a Fractal Audio AX8 and a wealth of ideas. I just had to learn more about the group! Luckily, Dan and Anson had some time to spare in between their busy schedules of creating some of the most impressive local music around right now.
Congratulations on your debut! Can you take us through what Chrysalis is about?
Dan: Thanks so much! We’re wrapped with how it turned out. Chrysalis is a song about personal realisation—finally understanding (or at least believing you understand) where you need to be.
Imagine you’re amidst something larger than you are… something that is going to define who you are moving forward and, initially at least, you don’t know how to respond to it. This song represents a huge turning point in your own mentality when everything comes together. It’s a fundamental shift in your understanding. It’s taking a step back organising the pieces and trying to understand everything better; seeing the higher self, the next step and being in awe of it. It’s an awakening of the spirit. A eureka moment.
I love the way you approached the song’s production and how it never really ‘goes’ where you’d expect. Can you take us through which songs/ artists you used as inspiration?
Dan: Devin Townsend’s ‘wall of sound’ type production really drove the sonic qualities of Chrysalis. I’ve always enjoyed how he fills the sonic spectrum with immense layers of vocals and synth. It’s very extra… very bombastic! I think that sort of style you see in pretty much all of his music (particularly noticeable in the music off of ‘Epicloud’ and ‘Transcendence’) definitely informed the way that we put this one together.
What does the songwriting process look like in your band?
Dan: We’re definitely still experimenting with how we approach writing as a band. Quite a lot of the stuff we’ve been working on started as complete demos back when it was just me, but they often change a little over time, and there’s a couple that we’ve written together as a unit.
Usually one of us will have an idea or two that we’ve thrown down on our PC’s at home, whether it’s 2 or 3 completely disjointed riffs, an entire song already structured minus an instrument or two, or something in between. That gets circulated to the others to add their own parts and sections as they see fit. We’ll cling onto the stuff that sounds good and eventually the riff salad becomes something tangible as it’s refined. Sometimes it’s perfect off the bat, sometimes it needs a slight alteration or one of us can bring something more interesting to the table for our instrument, but it’s largely an iterative process with no real order.
Lyrics weren’t something I considered in the beginning, so they’ve kind of ended up being the last thing we’re putting together for our current material. Anson and I do that—he’s got a poet’s brain, which always catches me off guard. I’ll help and collate it and write the melodies whilst also adding a bunch of my own ideas and filtering out things that don’t make sense or don’t sit well in the context. We both really inform each other and keep it all in check.
Anson: I highly recommend reading the poetry of T.S. Eliot. His style and vibe have left a huge mark on me. Really great stuff.
Dan: Lately Anson and I have started sitting down and doing some ‘stream of consciousness’ jams where we’ll jump into a session and just play things as we feel them, section-by-section, fully realising each part of the song before we move on to the next. That’s been working really well for us, and I hope we can use that to our advantage moving forward.
Can you take us through how you came together as a group?
Dan: It was all kind of strange and disjointed. I started messing around and wrote 3 or 4 songs before I put feelers out for anyone interested in collaboration in 2017. I put feelers out for anyone interested in collaboration back in 2017. A few people briefly came and went, but nothing crazy came of it straight away. I think the Facebook ad was up for a few months in various groups before Anson saw it and messaged me. I’d almost completely forgotten about it at that point! We bonded really quickly. I had him visit my parents’ place to jam to some of the early tracks and it was an instant connection with him for me, so that fell into place rather easily.
We searched for a drummer for what felt like AGES until we met Joe through another good mate of ours who used to play in a band with him previously. We sent him some of our tracks to learn, then, a week later, we loaded up our gear and drove all the way up to this little shack in Numinbah where he was living at the time, packed into his tiny attic bedroom and auditioned him on the spot. We’ve all been goblin-ing around ever since!
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
Dan: Ohhh, there’s SO MANY! But I’ll give you 2. Karnivool are my favourite band. Their ability to create sonic landscapes that are so captivating but not necessarily tough to play is awe inspiring. Their rhythm section sounds immense. I want to write music like that!
Devin Townsend has also always been one of my role models. I love how he isn’t afraid to mess around with sound and he has some INSANE pipes! He might be the best vocalist in the game, and he said he doesn’t even like doing it! I’ve always been fascinated with his pitched screams—that’s an important part of his skillset that takes him to another level. I’ve tried to bring that into my own singing.
Anson: For me. it’s a lot of old and new coming together. Early prog really hits home for me, with bands such as Yes, Rush and King Crimson informing a lot of the musical choices I make. My Rickenbacker bass features heavily on our material because of Yes. As far as modern inspirations; Cult of Luna, Opeth, Karnivool and Gojira complete the circle for me. Martin Mendez of Opeth is a huge influence on my playing—I learnt to play because of his work. Karnivool and Gojira inform my tone and gear choices, while Cult of Luna is largely responsible for the more compositional/ structural aspects of my songwriting.
What would you say is the greatest album of all time?
Dan: Karnivool‘s album ‘Sound Awake’. Hands down, no question! Doesn’t get more perfect than that. Deadman into Change might be the best 2-track combination in existence!
Anson: Yes‘s album ‘Fragile’. That album changed my life. I heard it, then bought a Rickenbacker. RIP Chris Squire. I’m there are other bassists out there who would agree with this choice!
Did you find any unique challenges starting a band amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dan: Technology has made it easy to collaborate over the internet, making it far simpler to record good tracks from home. But that doesn’t necessarily come cheap! I think the main obstacles COVID presented for musicians was monetary stability.
If we didn’t already have the gear and jobs that managed to help us navigate the pandemic with secure, stable funding, it would have been way harder to develop momentum. It’s not like people could really gig in that environment either, so you can’t rely on that income and new bands don’t get an opportunity to cut their teeth in the local live scene either. That’s something we definitely missed out on. But it’s looking better everyday!
What are some of your favourite local artists?
Dan: I don’ t think Osaka Punch get enough clout for how good they are. They put on a hell of a live show and their tunes are really bouncy and energetic! It’s always a pleasure to see those guys play. I’m looking forward to see where The Stranger end up too. I think they’re going places.
Anson: I’m with Dan here concerning Osaka Punch and The Stranger. I’d personally love to see Opus of a Machine return to the stage soon. They’ve always been a local favourite. Lately I’ve been loving Hazel Mei. Seeing her live with her full band is a great time!
Dan: Dude, how did I forget to mention Opus? We have nothing but love for those boys. Absolutely stellar blokes making absolutely stellar music.
If you could play along side any band/ artist dead or alive, who would you choose?
Dan: It’d be really awesome to play a show with the Caligula’s Horse boys. If I was to be greedy,. I’d put Karnivool and Leprous on the bill too.
Anson: You’d think I’d love to play a show with Yes, given their influence on me. But I think their music wouldn’t resonate with that band or their audience. I would however love to share a stage with Cult of Luna, Opeth, Karnivool and Gojira. Maybe Primus if I wanted to get weird.
And finally, what can we expect to see next from Gladiolus?
Dan: You’d hope that after odd years of allegedly taking ourselves seriously we’d have more than one track lined up. Spoiler alert: we do! We’ve got far more, and I’m hoping we can show them to you real soon.
Anson: I’d say the next step for us is to get out there and play some shows. We’ve been chomping at the bit for a while now to get our boots on stage. We’re all really excited at the prospect of sharing some of our material with everyone in a live setting (the only way to hear more songs until our next release!). It’s fun and engaging stuff! It’ll knock your socks off.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab yourself some good headphones, shut off your lights and immerse yourself in Chrysalis, which is available now to stream on all platforms.