Drawing you into a world of dreamy shoegaze and pulsating charm, the new single The Black Bull out today from Melbourne-based artist Sainthill is a lush and evocative journey taken from the talented artist’s impending new album Dream Animal, set for release on Friday March 1. A track many years in the making, The Black Bull also arrives today accompanied by an aptly whimsical music video.


Equally melancholic and intimate yet up-tempo and immersive, The Black Bull’s origin story stems back to 2018, with Sainthill, aka Tom Larkey, first tracking drums for the track pre-pandemic. With sonic inspiration from artists like Slowdive and Interpol helping to conjure the captivating single, the journey to creating The Black Bull can also be traced back to Sainthill’s extensive collection of dream journals, as he explains, “The Black Bull is a fairly up tempo song with pulsing bass and shoegaze elements like a mega-reverbed tremolo picking in the chorus. Also, I was learning to play So. Central Rain by R.E.M. and realised I’d lifted half the chord progression quite by accident! The origin of the song, like others on the album, begins in the hundreds of dream journal entries I have kept over the years that have an exceptional amount of animal appearances, and these were the frameworks for lyrical narratives. The Black Bull takes a potentially obvious metaphor (a black animal as depression) and then tells the story of someone taking matters into their own hands – in this case to train as a matador and overcome the bull (as grotesque as bullfighting is).”   


Working once again with John Lee at Phaedra Studios (Lost Animal, Mod Con, Grand Salvo), with Lee mixing both The Black Bull and the broader Dream Animal album as well as playing and recording all of the drums, Sainthill also teamed up with Pip O’Brien, Grantley Smith and an obliging friend to step into the role of the titular bull to bring the accompanying music video for The Black Bull to life, as Sainthill reveals, “There are three characters in the clip: Blue Guy, Red Guy, and The Black Bull. The Blue Guy is the part of us that is optimistic, curious, but struggling. The Red Guy is our inner strength, and he essentially saves the day – by way of a good old fashioned sword fight with stick.. The Black Bull is the obstacle to overcome. At first mysterious, frightening, oppressive, but ultimately something that can be made peace with. Pip O’Brien helped me shoot the initial scenes (she shot a beautiful clip for Cold Hands Warm Heart). I needed some further footage, so an old friend Grantley Smith who happens to be a director and quite handy with a camera, helped me out. I also managed to convince my friend Tom to be in the clip as ‘The Bull’ and wear a ridiculous helmet.”


Partially recording Dream Animal at home (“in the evenings when the birds stopped chirping outside” as Sainthill reveals), the overall album is a fascinating foray into imaginative and innovative dreamy, shoegaze-laced rock. Five years in the making, Dream Animal trips the light fantastic in pure chameleonic fashion, between its heavy synth fever dreams (Lyrebird), melodic rock-meets-chamber music opuses (Cat Called Gram), galloping melancholia (The Clydesdale), eastern-hued enchantment (Leporine Lover) and digital dreamlands shaped alongside organic instrumentation (Nothin’ Except Dream). I dream a lot, and I have hundreds of dream journal entries,” Sainthill explains, unfurling the stylistic threads throughout Dream Animal. “I noticed an exceptional (or perhaps disturbing?) amount of animal appearances, and these encounters became the basis for metaphorical stories of lost cats, vulnerable horses, and sinister bulls. Chiming guitars and swirling keys ebb and flow, while sprightly rhythms carry simple yet elegant melodies Each song features some sort of narrative (mostly including animals), and these narratives are frameworks for moralistic tales and reflections on the subconscious. The themes include love, loss and renewal, romantic elusion, depression, dream symbols, setting things free, looking after the planet, and music-making itself.”   


Hailing from Tasmania and now based in Melbourne, Sainthill was seemingly destined to create bewitching, bittersweet rock, named not only for his mother’s maiden name St Hill, but also for his first cousin twice removed, Loudon Sainthill; an iconic Australian artist and stage designer whose work in the 1950s was described by his lifelong partner as having ‘a special quality of enchantment, mixed so often with haunting sadness’. Growing up in Hobart and spending bountiful time in nature, Sainthill’s love for music and creativity in general blossomed from a young age, discovering Bruce Springsteen when he was five before going on to release his debut EP I Am a Monster in 2009. Now with three albums under his belt, Dear Victoria, Man Alive and Folk Romantic, Sainthill continues to explore character-driven narratives alongside a gamut of hard-hitting themes, and his upcoming full length, Dream Animal, is a celebration of dream pop soundscapes forged with indie rock and folk; and it’s also one that promises untold beauty and intrigue for the listener, as Sainthill concludes, “Dream Animal is a concept album of sorts; the songs are borne from sleep, and thus make the perfect soundtrack to close one’s eyes to, and lose oneself in.


The Black Bull is out today, Friday February 2.

Dream Animal is due out on Friday March 1.






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