Sometimes when it's right, it just works. This was the case with 'Shambhala', the debut single from Melbourne/Adelaide-based musician Porcelain Eyes, released by local record label, Dead Family Pets. At just 21 years old, Tom Wormald is writing music with unforgettable melodies and catchy rhythms that redolent of greats such as Tame Impala and The Beatles. I got to have a chat with the driving force behind Porcelain Eyes regarding his new release, how he got started and the exciting things to come in the near future.
Shambhala at its core is a song about love. It encompasses the idea of love being an all-consuming entity, the possibility that this is true happiness feels like. The notion of Shambhala is a metaphor for searching for something that seems unobtainable to most. An exoticism taken from the Tibetan Buddhist ideology, it is discussed as being a mythical kingdom, something hidden from the rest of the world.
When discussing where the concept came from, Tom stated, "I have always been drawn to the idea and the word Shambhala. I found it in the Uncharted games and that's where it kinda came from." It was a track that came him about almost instantly, and basically "Within a few minutes, I had a song" says Tom. "I have always had it written in my notes thinking that it was a cool metaphor... When looking through them again to see what I wanted to write the lyrics about, that word stood out straight away."
The track manifested after Tom went through a major break up. It's a song that describes the sense that you have found something that seems completely unobtainable, a "metaphor for looking for something your whole life and never finding it, but you have an idea of what it's going to be." Tom describes. A lot of the music Tom has written was after this significant event in his life, so naturally, the track manifested from that period of bereavement. It focuses on the feelings that he had during the relationship, that sensation of this one person being everything that you were seeking, being everything that you ever needed and wanted.
Tom didn't always write the lo-fi, psych-rock style of music that he is now releasing. Although he played the guitar from a young age, he more wrote electronic music as a teenager, only occasionally busking with his acoustic guitar and mostly playing covers. After studying music production back in Adelaide, he began to progress his songwriting when it came to electronic music. Over time, he became heavily influenced by artists such as David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac. He said that in the early days of him writing music, "what [he] was writing didn't have any real meaning to them and they weren't that great. When I started listening to bands like Tame Impala and The Beatles, it started to push me to write not just new songs, but great songs." Listening to such bands made him pick up his guitar again, writing about the experiences in his life and starting to create music with meaning. He listed The Beatles having an immense impact on him personally and creatively, helping him to direct him in his songwriting and the kind of music he was wanting to make.
After moving to Melbourne, he began to study audio engineering. He recognises that as a big impact on his music, as he said that it allowed him to hone his abilities as an electronic artist; it also helped broaden his horizons and learn more about creating music as a whole. "It's very fulfilling to do everything yourself" says Tom, "to record everything yourself, and even to be creative in the recording and the mixing is immensely satisfying." Although Porcelain Eyes are stylistically different from the electronic music he wrote in his youth, he still incorporates it into the music he is writing today. "The music I am making now is almost derivative of the electronic music I used to make." He has been able to find a harmony of the two sounds, creating something all-encompassing that seems familiar, giving a loving nod the legends of the past; however, it also finds a prominent home amongst recent greats such as Temples and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Studying audio engineering has allowed Tom to record and mix everything himself for Porcelain Eyes. Despite music being Tom's main focus, audio engineering allowing him to develop his skills and gave him the tools to create the music he was writing. It also allowed him to have something other than his music, being fully aware that a career in music might not happen immediately. "The reason I did audio was because I wanted to be real with myself in that if music happens, it happens. If it doesn't happen, then it doesn't happen" Tom states, "You have got to be okay at what you do and a lot of it is luck... you have to get the right ears on your songs. So, I thought that if I studied audio, it would: a) tie in with my music and help me to further develop it; b) get a reliable career out of it. It all sort of ties together." Studying audio engineering allowed Tom to self-record his music as well as write it, giving him access to the tools he needed to be able to do this.
Unfortunately, with a global pandemic, Tom was suddenly forced to relocate back to Adelaide. He hadn't quite finished recording everything, so it forced him to get into gear and finish the recording he songs. "I had recorded everything but the vocals in Melbourne… when I got back to Adelaide, I recorded the vocals in just two days, which was really intense." Although moving back had clearly thrown a curveball for Tom in regards to music, he was determined to get everything finished, despite no longer having the equipment readily available anymore. "I had been delaying these kinds of things for my whole life, and it's been to my detriment. I had put so much work into this, I didn't want it to just fall apart, otherwise, it all would have been for nothing."
Shambhala is just the beginning of a larger project for Porcelain Eyes. With more music having been recorded back in Melbourne and completed while he is in Adelaide, he plans to release more music in the near future. Under the Dead Family Pets label, they are going to release stand-alone singles, for the time being, then hopefully release the album as a whole in the near future. "I wanted to write a concept album that chronicles [the story of] a relationship, and Shambhala is a part of that [potential] album." He has been working on this music while back home in Adelaide and is hoping to complete it and release it sometime in the near future. He mentions the songs being a blend of his main musical inspirations, with some songs being reminiscent of more 50's rock, and other beings similar to his debut single with the psych-rock, 70's vibe.
Shambhala was released on the 28th of August via Dead Family Pets and is available to listen to now on Spotify and Apple Music!