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Don’t be shocked, but Ceres have made an album about love.
Gone is the dark night of the soul that propelled 2016’s Drag It Down On You,
replaced with a desire to spread positivity in the world via their third full-length, We
Are A Team.
“That was the whole reason for this album to be,” says frontman Tom Lanyon.
You can hear it from the first line of the record – “I’m gonna get happy” – to the
swooning, string-laden closing track “Something Good” with its refrain, “I think
something good’s gonna happen”.
It’s a far cry from where Lanyon found himself following the release of the Melbourne
band’s 2017 standalone single, “Stretch Ur Skin”. A break-up song that provided
Ceres with their biggest radio hit to date, regrettably it also caused some collateral
“You break someone’s heart, and then three months later you release a song that
breaks it back open again,” sighs the singer-guitarist. “I thought that was really
selfish of me. It put me in this crazy funk; I should have been more responsible with
what I was doing. I just felt really bad for that situation.”
So much so that the frontman questioned the point of the band continuing as he
struggled to see the merit in writing new material.
“I thought, I don’t want to put anything else out. I didn’t want to write a song. There
was a year where it all went flat.”
The turning point came months later, as Lanyon and his current partner embarked
on the early stages of courting. Her father Viv was, prior to his passing, an artist, and
one day Lanyon took some of Viv’s work to a framer in Abbotsford. The singer would
later write about the experience in the first single from We Are A Team, “Viv In The
Front Seat”, a song that not only heralded the start of a new relationship, but a new
beginning for the band.
“When I wrote ‘Viv In The Front Seat’ I thought, I know what I can do now. I can write
a goddamn love record. I can write love songs and be positive, and this could be a
positive change for the band.
“We Are A Team is not this dark, at the bottom of everything kind of record. It’s a
more uplifting thing.”
Of course, this being Ceres – pronounced, just to be clear, ‘series’ – We Are A Team
is still riddled with self-doubt and anxiety. It may be an album about love, but that can
work both ways.
“There’s a little bit of self-doubt, and what are the reasons that someone loves
someone, and I realised that the whole album is complex in that way – it’s still about
me trying to figure out things,” says Lanyon. “In a classic Ceres way it’s still
melancholy for some reason. But there are euphoric parts too.”
Those parts can be heard in tracks such as “Water The Garden”, a lushly
orchestrated indie-pop song that floats by dreamily with lines such as “I am going to
walk home with the biggest smile on my face”, and features guest vocals from
Melbourne singer Jess Locke; the stirring, anthemic emo-rock of “Me & You”, a song
that Lanyon says “binds two people together”; and the driving desperation of “I Feel
Better Outside”, in which Lanyon pleads for his partner “to make me good”.
The singer regards “I Feel Better Outside” as a companion song to “Something
Good”, the last line of which finally sees him reaching a place of contentment as he
intones, “I’ll shut my mouth.”
“I’ve written this whole self-indulgent record where I’ve been talking nonstop, and
now it’s finally like, ‘Okay, I can just shut my mouth and listen to you. I’ll just be, and
With the exception of two songs – “Stay Awake” and “Collarbone, 2011” – Lanyon
wrote the album between February and September 2018, when Ceres gathered in a
house in Apollo Bay with producer Tom Bromley (guitarist for UK outfit Los
Campesinos!) and Grammy-nominated engineer Andrei Eremin (Chet Faker, Tash
Sultana) to record We Are A Team.
Setting up in a seven-bedroom house on an idyllic rural property without phone
reception or internet, for 16 days they “all completely lost [their] minds”.
“Everyone fought,” chuckles Lanyon. “But everyone was firing on such creativity and
trying to do the right thing, and everyone has strong opinions. It was a struggle to get
it done. But I think that means we care and we tried our hardest. I’ve never worked
on anything as hard.”
Turn the volume up at the start of the hushed, intimate “Stay Awake” and you can
hear the wind howling through the house’s rafters; at the end of “Something Good”
you can detect the sound of it creaking. The fact that the house became a part of the
recording tied in nicely with the album’s themes, as the property belongs to the
family of Lanyon’s partner and was a favourite location of Viv’s.
“For us to make a record about that family’s niece or daughter in that house is pretty
incredible,” says Lanyon.
Viv’s art also forms a visual link between the LP’s singles and the cover of We Are A
Team. The single art for “Viv In The Front Seat” features a dangling rope; on “Kiss
Me Crying” the rope is starting to wriggle; and the front cover of the album sees a
pair of scissors cutting the rope. For Lanyon it represents his journey from the
despair he felt in the wake of “Stretch Ur Skin” to the place of happiness he finds
“The rope was almost reminiscent of a noose, you’d almost be tying a noose,” he
offers. “But the album is a dedication to love, and the cutting of the rope is a cool
symbol for me of just saying, ‘Not today, rope’, and the rope just slithering away like
a piece of shit.”
While the album might mark a shift thematically for Ceres – which formed in 2012
and is completed by guitarist Sean Callanan, bassist Grant Young and drummer
Frank Morda – musically We Are A Team continues the band’s ability to create
stirring, life-affirming indie-rock anthems, albeit with a more nuanced, mature
songwriting flare that reflects the roadwork and emotional growth of the past three
It’s a more intimate yet less claustrophobic record than Drag It Down On You, and all
the more affecting for it. Ironically, the sense of space and airiness that flows through
We Are A Team came as a result of Ceres staring down the very end of their
“In my mind we weren’t doing another record, and then this reason for it just came
along,” says Lanyon. “There was a feeling of letting go and making a record that we
want to make, just not caring about the consequences and having a crack at it.
There was a lot of following your instincts, just don’t sweat it. It was a more freeing
“But I’ll tell you what, it’s hard to write a love record. It’s so much easier to be
negative about stuff.”