TRACK BY TRACK: Optimism In The Age Of Information - Obscura Hail Talk 'Siren'

16 September 2020 | 1:06 pm | Sean Conran

With their latest EP, 'Siren', Obscura Hail cement their reputation as an outfit with a firm grasp of the emotional zeitgeist, handling modern-day heaviness with the gentle, clear-eyed intelligence of forebears like The Cure and Sujan Stevens. Singer Sean Conran takes us through the approach and inspiration behind the record.


The instrumentation is our heaviest yet, to give a voice to the guilt, shame, anger and frustration that comes with feeling powerless.

Its rhetoric is about the purpose of power in the presence of crisis and its roots are in the motivation and awareness given to me by punk songs growing up.

I wanted the narrative to express the discovery of this voice breaking through blissful ignorance, in favour of real change extending beyond experience.

There were so many mixes since the first demo, and the futility of achieving the best one ended up being the perfect routine to refine the substance of the message.

We wanted the lyrics to stand on their own as a sea shanty or lullaby, to allow the song to exist in multiple forms without losing the impact. Tamara and I were binge-watching the news around Greta Thunberg and the support she was receiving, and so the song emerged from the restlessness. It's got a bit of Year 2000 Silverchair mixed with my Rat!hammock era.

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Born in the age of information, the Doomer is fatalistic, apathetic, a symptom of the overwhelming awareness of suffering outside of their control.

Idle Hands

We watched the teen satire Idle Hands one night and it massively influenced the 'coming of age' lyrical substance/narrative, and the restlessness that comes during the transition. Recording almost immediately after the movie finished, I took direction from early live recordings of Brazilian bossa nova, from chord structure to the call and response, and borrowed shapes and riffs from the remains of alternative album demos with naively optimistic themes. The comment on personal responsibility just felt a bit easier to swallow with a glaze coating from a golden era.

Photo by rcstills.


This is a reapproaching of an older song, originally planned for a private audience. The very same vocal melodies are now supported by ambiguous loop recordings from the archive, creating a consistent feeling that resembles my early 2000s 'So Fresh' era (had Len's Steal My Sunshine on repeat for a while).

The song stands as a pretty important monument to my childhood, the edges feathered by frequently laid sediments of nostalgia, on which I rely to preserve the pillars of my identity.


Distrust in authority, conspiracy for corruption. It's simple, repetitive, with its core borrowing a mood that charged She Wants Revenge's Tear You Apart and The Presets' Waiting For You. Many of the parts are meant to feel erratic/anxiety-inducing, and I took a lot of advice and direction from my uncle, who also composed and recorded the synth parts.

He helped shape my pop sensibilities from an early age, and even provided me with my first tape multitrack. It's no wonder we share similar views on authority. Uniform is a trip through potentially valid paranoid thoughts.

Photo by rcstills.

Town Cryer

This song is about depression; the narrative enters an individual's conscience and dances between different perspectives.

It's appropriately tricky to sing about because I don't want to trivialise mental health.

The consistent fingerpicking, lack of chords, driving beat and erratic bassline translate the claustrophobia, though directed with gentle optimism. I took a lot of influence from early songs from The Cure, like Close To Me, Disintegration and Boys Don't Cry, all sincere with the dark themes, but uplifting in arrangement and delivery.

While writing/recording Town Cryer, it sat on a knife's edge between two opposing demos; one that was seriously sincere, and another playfully pop. 

Rather than have them compete, the theme depended on the presence of both, because there is no real certainty without contrast. The layers were required to communicate the persistence of anxious thoughts, their erratic fragmented patterns, and the unpredictable states of mind, while leaving room for hopefulness. 

The vocals are cautiously and softly sung, the arrangement is unconventional and open-ended, and the mix sits intentionally close to the ears so to emulate urgency.

Siren is out now. Listen to it below and order it on Obscura Hail's Bandcamp.