In August 2020, In Hearts Wake released the world’s first carbon-neutral album, ‘Kaliyuga’. With the help of an “earth accountant”, the Byron Bay metalcore band made a log of the carbon burnt through their flights and travel, the electricity used in recording, and even the food they ate during their time in the studio.
After tallying a total of 26.37 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, they offset their expenditure by investing in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor. For the album’s physical release, In Hearts Wake pressed records on recycled vinyl, packed them in sleeves made with soy-based inks and glues, and refused to sell them in shops that required plastic shrink-wrapping (which didn’t hurt sales too badly: ‘Kaliyuga’ was still the band’s fastest-selling album to date, and debuted at Number Three on the ARIA Albums Chart).
‘Kaliyuga’ was the culmination of what In Hearts Wake had spent over a decade grinding towards: an environmentally sustainable way to operate as a globetrotting band. The ambitious and groundbreaking effort is chronicled in the band’s new documentary, Green Is The New Black, which also covers their eco-conscious touring endeavours – ticket sales of which have funded over 16,800 trees being planted, and over 160 tonnes of carbon offset – and how the disasters that punctuated the making and release of ‘Kaliyuga’, like the Black Summer bushfires and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, had a significant impact on the band’s operations.
The core message of Green Is The New Black is that, as climate change ravages the Earth at alarming speeds, the music industry must embrace more environmentally sustainable practices. That message is galvanised by the catastrophes shrouding the film’s release: much of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland – where the band’s four members and extended crew are stationed – has been obliterated by extreme flooding. The band have personally mounted efforts to help their local regions bounce back, and are using Green Is The New Black to further their push: all proceeds from the film’s premiere at the Bangalow Film Festival on April 12 went to charities assisting the Northern Rivers’ flood recovery efforts.
NME caught up with In Hearts Wake frontman Jake Taylor – who co-directed, edited and produced Green Is The New Black – to chat about the film and album.
What do you hope people get out of this film?
“I hope they not only feel inspired in some way, but like they have a sense of awareness around what’s happening to the world, and how they’re able to be part of that change in their own lives, in their own way. And I hope they experience that awareness in an inspiring way, rather than feel it with a sense of heaviness, or that they’re not doing enough. Because y’know, the world is in a bad place, but that’s not the message we want to bring. We want to bring a sense of hope. That’s how we’ve got to approach this – with the faith and belief that we can actually make a difference.”
Was there anything you personally learned in making this film?
“I had no idea that someone out there was powering their concerts with a solar battery. That was such a great discovery. And just all the facts [about climate change]. They’re harrowing facts, to be honest. I couldn’t quote those before [we made] the film – I mean, I knew it was bad, but when you hear someone who’s qualified with that information go into the details, you’re like, ‘Oh, shit.’ It just fuels the urgency of the mission even more. We also learnt what our carbon emissions actually equal, in terms of the output. It’s hard to see what it looks like – you don’t really know what 27 tonnes of carbon looks like – but when you’re able to quantify it, things like that are pretty eye-opening.”
“I don’t even want the sacrifices to feel like sacrifices – I hope they can actually feel like benefits”
How much planning was involved before you even set out to make a carbon-neutral album?
“There was a lot of grey area, for sure. It was just asking a lot of questions, and being okay with asking questions, even when you know you might sound ignorant. Because in this day and age, when the internet is so brutal and people are so quick to point fingers, it can be hard to admit when you don’t know something. I’m not here to judge people or say what’s right and what isn’t, because if we had to learn how to run before we could walk, we wouldn’t get anywhere. We’re all human, and we have to be able to admit when we’re misinformed or aren’t doing what we should be. It’s when we’re doing things that we know are wrong, that we have to step up and be like, ‘Hey, that’s not on.’”
Accountability is a crucial part of that. There’s a part in the film where, during the ‘Ark’ tour, Sea Shepherd caught you up on using pool toys as props – and calling things out like that is important, because then you’re able to make changes in a positive and more sustainable way.
“Yeah, it’s what you do from there that really counts. But it’s not our job to point at anyone and say, ‘Hey, you’re fucking up here, that’s not on.’ Everyone’s going to do what they’re going to do for their own reasons, and we’re just owning what we want to do and what we want to change within our own sphere. But there are areas where it gets a bit funny – you can’t be out there preaching that you care about the environment more than anything else, then set off an explosion of fossil fuels, ’cause that’s a bit contradictory. That’s where you need to step back and go, ‘Hang on a second here…’”
There’s also a bit where Eaven [Dall, guitar] talks about the band having to make sacrifices during the production of ‘Kaliyuga’ to make it all work sustainably. What were some of those?
“I don’t think there were that many sacrifices made in the recording, because we didn’t actually know how it was going to work out. We went in blind and went, ‘This is what we want to create, let’s document how we can do it.’ That’s where the grey area came into it: now we know what sacrifices we’ll need to make for the next record, but we didn’t really know, beforehand, what those would be. So it was a process of documenting [the production] and recording all of the figures for that, finding where we could be more sustainable or environmentally friendly, and asking ourselves, ‘OK, how can we put this into practice for the next record?’”
How do you see yourselves putting that all into practice for LP6?
“Well, I’ve realised that some of these changes can’t happen overnight. If we were going to have a zero-emissions record, I think we’d all stay at home, not even drive out to see the other guys, record it all online, and make it a very minimalistic thing. But we don’t want to do that at the expense of the art – we have to make sure the art is still quality for the fans, and speaks to the band truthfully. So it has to come in steps.
“I don’t even want the sacrifices to feel like sacrifices – I hope they can actually feel like benefits, to a degree. What needs to happen now is the awareness, and figuring out how to do it step by step until we can go all the way. I hope one day we can record here, fully off solar. The water itself would come from springs or rain, the food would be planted outside and we’d all be gardening it ourselves… Y’know, really go to the nth degree. And the art itself, you’d listen to it and go, ‘Wow, this doesn’t sound compromised in the slightest – it actually sounds better!’”
Green Is The New Black screens in Sydney and Los Angeles today, with more showings planned in Brisbane, Toronto, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and London. Find more info here