Meditations & Revelations

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SAFIA’s long awaited second album ‘Story’s Start Or End’ hit the airwaves this August. Predominantly recorded at Canberra’s ANU, its production brought on major personal revelations for frontman Ben Woolner. COVERED. editor Tara Wesson found out more. 

With the new album, at a certain point you scrapped everything and started over. How did you sense the need to do that? It’s always an exciting time when you finish a body of work, and then you’ve kind of got this free rein to go anywhere. Initially, after that first record, you know, we had a lot of big ambitious ideas. It’s not that we didn’t like them, I still go back now and listen to the stuff that was basically formative to getting the album to where it is.

Do you think this album became profound in a different way to what you first expected? It became profound to me. That initial thing of wanting it to be this profound thing, this artistic piece, was born from insecurity, of not being ready to do that. You want to do this big thing to hide the fact that maybe you’re not ready. And so my desperate urge initially to do that, was kind of not doing that. And so it became a thing of letting go of wanting to do this. The overarching message should be that we can’t hope to truly enrich people’s lives or the world around us if we don’t first project who we are as individuals and become comfortable in that. 

Do you think that touring this album will be more personal than touring Internal, your previous album? Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think being able to know that these feelings, these songs are out, music is almost like therapy, in a way. It takes on a different nature. And I think it’ll become quite joyous with the opportunity of us being able to play these songs to people.

And you’ve mentioned meditation and mindfulness in relation to this album. What effect has that had for you? For me, there’s always a lot of thinking going on, a lot of ideas and, and, you know, a lot of instinct. But I think there’s a point, in the middle of it, where it’s kind of all really bubbling up, and I’ve had things I needed to address that I haven’t. And like with anything, you’ve got to come to it yourself. And the intent has to be right. And it’s a very individual journey, and it’s no simple answers to any one thing. But for me, it was kind of a perfect storm of things building up. I began doing that, and it’s provided a good outlet for me to step out of myself and understand some of my behaviours and, and, you know, attempt to make some positive change and take a bit more control. 

Finally, how did the album cover art come about? Well, when we started obviously we had very clear visual ideas in our head about what these songs sounded like. But when we write, we write very visually. And we see landscapes and we want to kind of create worlds and obviously, there’s a strong thread of interstellar and worlds in here and a strong thread of science fiction. So when we were searching for an artist, we came across this guy, who’s a VR, an augmented reality artist. And some of the worlds he was creating with his VR outlets, it just fitted perfectly with what we were creating. The shape and the centre shape and then the outside became this thing of these two different worlds. And the record is often this battle of two different things in conflict, or the thing that’s on the surface, but then there’s more to unpack once you get into the songs. And so that artwork seems to perfectly represent these two different challenges. •