“I had a major breakdown, I just wanted an escape, so I drove my car straight for a tree,” he explains. “I didn’t think about the consequences. It was just this moment of needing to escape. The song is about a conversation I had in the ambulance with God” – Zech Walters
What do you do when your life is falling apart? When you’re clinging to hope, only for it to be fading fast? Such was the scenario facing Melbourne trio Woodlock over the past few years as guitarist/vocalist Zech Walters struggled through an acrimonious relationship breakdown that caused him to question his very place in the world. The trauma and its after-effects ripple through the band’s breathtakingly candid debut album, The Future Of An End.
“When you’re going through stuff it so often feels like there’s nothing beyond it,” comments Zech. “The title of the album has this idea of, where do you go when you are in the midst of it? What is the future when something like this comes to an end?”
As Zech’s world crumbled around him he found solace in the garage of drummer Bowen Purcell, where he spent three months pouring his heart into writing music. Throughout, his bandmate would tend to him with tea and, Zech laughs, “stupid amounts of alcohol.”
It’s indicative of the bond between the members of Woodlock, one that was forged when New Zealand-born brothers Zech and Eze Walters (guitar/vocals) struck up a friendship with Bowen after moving to the Victorian country town of Yarrawonga. In search of adventure, the three traveled around Australia busking, before eventually settling in Melbourne. It’s that same bond that saw Zech’s bandmates put their friendship before their career and temporarily pause touring to help and support him – this at a time when Woodlock’s international profile was growing, having just completed tours of the Philippines, China, and Canada off the back of 2016’s “Something Broke That Day” single. The title track of the 2015 Sirens EP, meanwhile, had reached iTunes Top 50 charts and Top 10 spots on Spotify’s viral charts globally.
The time off the road wasn’t, however, wasted – when Zech emerged from Bowen’s garage, Woodlock had the bones of around 70 or 80 new songs. Adding to their emotional complexity was the fact that just as Zech’s relationship was falling apart, Eze had fallen in love and was getting married.
“Our songs have always been hopeful,” explains Eze. “And Zech was coming up with these pretty heavy songs. I was helping him finish them and I kept trying to add these aspects of hope to it. So, when you listen to the album, it’s like a clash of two realities.”
That clash can be heard in the synth-driven pop-rock of “Feel It Coming,” an upbeat, uplifting and anthemic song despite it tackling the idea of exploding anger. “For me, it’s about realising I had a breaking point, I couldn’t sit there and play quietly forever,” Zech offers. “People talk about bottling stuff up and then exploding, and I was very much that way. It’s an unhealthy way to go about things.”
The Future Of An End starts with one of its bleakest yet most captivating moments in “Watchmaker,” a solemn, brooding song written about one of Zech’s lowest moments.
“I had a major mental breakdown, I just wanted an escape, so I drove my car straight for a tree,” he explains. “I didn’t think about the consequences. It was just this moment of needing to escape. The song is about a conversation I had in the ambulance with God.”
While not following a chronological timeline, much of what follows on The Future Of An End is an exercise in Zech dealing with the emotional fallout of his breakup.
“When people’s relationships end, they never think of the relationship in a timeline,” he says. “They’ll remember all the good times and then they’ll remember the bad times. And it’s just a reflection of the mental space of somebody going through a relationship breakdown.”
Recorded sporadically over nine months in a variety of locations – from Bowen’s garage (“Superhero”) to Homesurgery Recordings in Melbourne – the trio worked with producers Hayden Calnin (Didirri, Harrison Storm, and a solo artist in his own right) and Jackson Barclay (Vera Blue, Winterbourne, Timberwolf).
Though early releases such as their debut EP Lemons led to Woodlock being labeled a folk outfit, The Future Of An End is a far more sonically and compositionally complex offering. Found sounds such as traffic noise create a textured sonic bed that makes the album a perfect headphone listen, while the band experiments throughout with synths and samples.
“We wanted the music to serve the purpose of the song,” explains Eze. Adds his brother: “We’re not trying to change who we are as a band, but when you’re in a new studio and there are all these different instruments you can try out and make sounds with, it was just the way the songs ended up going.”
Given the circumstances surrounding their creation, it’s not surprising that these songs are some of the most frank of the band’s career. The cracking you can hear in Zech’s voice as he sings of losing “the future I had dreamed and hoped” in the brooding “Superhero” captures the raw emotion of the moment – one the band was unable to recreate in the studio, so they ended up going with the demo recorded in Bowen’s garage. “All three of us have very strong beliefs,” says Zech, “and I couldn’t understand why my marriage was breaking down even though I such a strong support network and my own pillars of belief. The song talks about the revelation that I had in fact tried to rely on myself entirely, and through that had become incredibly selfish and shut others out. It examines the need for a hero, and the recognition that we are not alone in this world.”
Meanwhile, “Collateral” considers all the people affected by a relationship’s breakdown. Though the music – a dynamic mix of organic, acoustic elements and electronic flourishes – dates back several years, its lyrics were written during Zech’s divorce. “When people are going through a break-up, you put the right conditions down for a fire and it damages everything around it,” says Zech. “There’s a lyric which talks about the Molotovs we throw, but others around us are on fire. It’s the idea of, we’re sitting there trying to hurt each other, but we ended up burning and hurting everyone else around us.”
At the other end of the emotional spectrum are songs like “Settle Down” and “Start Again.” The former is a jaunty yet organic pop song about the urge to quit one’s job (“After the onslaught of an emotional breakdown we thought we’d break it up with a song about not wanting to work,” chuckles Eze). The beautiful, pastoral “Start Again,” meanwhile, was written during what Zech calls “a hopeful phase” and is a true family affair, with Zech and Eze sharing harmonies with their sister. Some of the songs on The Future Of An End are so personal to Zech that he sings lead vocals for the first time in the band’s career, perhaps most heartbreakingly on the gentle acoustic lament “In Your Mother’s Arms,” a message to his son.
Given the familial bond that exists between each member of Woodlock, the album should end with “Friends,” a song that Zech calls “my hats off to people around me that stuck by my side,” and features the line, “I was lost in suffering, so when the walls came crashing down, no truer friend is there I’ve found.” It’s an emotional end to an intensely personal, yet ultimately uplifting and relatable album.
“I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the album through and not teared up,” says Zech. “It’s our proudest work so far,” concludes Eze.