Unitopia celebrates 25 years of soulful storytelling
Unitopia is an Australian music group using progressive rock as a framework, but also including elements of world, classical,jazz, hard rock, and groove. Unitopia began when a mutual friend introduced Mark Trueack and Sean Timms after realizing the two had similar musical tastes. Twenty-five years ago, on 25 September 1996, the duo began work on a track which was to become "Take Good Care" and a songwriting partnership developed that led to the band's debut album 'More Than a Dream', which included contributions from conductor/arranger Timothy Sexton and the Adelaide Art Orchestra, Pat Schirippa, Constantine Delo, Bradley Polain and Ian 'Polly' Politis. After spending 8 years on the album, More Than A Dream was independently launched in October 2005 to a sell out audience at The Cavern Club, Adelaide. Further live work followed in Australia, including supporting Daryl Braithwaite and playing the Norwood Food and Wine Festival. In March 2006, Canadian label Unicorn Records re-released 'More Than a Dream' internationally.
Wishing a consistent team both live and in the studio, Trueack and Timms recruited Adelaide instrumentalists Matt Williams (guitar/vocals), Monty Ruggiero (drums), Shireen Khemlani (bass) and Tim Irrgang (percussion) to complete the Unitopia line-up. In February 2008, Unitopia signed a worldwide publishing deal with Shock Music Publishing, which became Perfect Pitch Publishing in 2010 when publisher Clive Hodson took over the company struggling financially.
In July 2008, the track "Lives Go Round" from 'More Than a Dream' was included on the CPR Volume 3 compilation CD. In August 2008, Unitopia became the first Australian band to sign to Inside Out Records, the world's largest progressive rock label, signing a three album deal.
On 18 November 2008 Unitopia's second album 'The Garden' was released after 3 years of writing, recording and mastering. The band's influences stretch all across the progressive scope and make for a very intriguing sound that has one foot in "retro"-70s style progressive while still being able to sound like other artists in the modern progressive scene. They have a rather large sound to them, which is no doubt helped by their 6-member roster. 'The Garden', released internationally, is a double CD with 15 tracks and over 100 minutes of music. According to Review Busters "This double disc release is defiantly one for the ages. Unitopia offers a unique blend of progressive rock with some symphonic parts that are incredible. If you never heard of this band then you will want to pick up everything they have to offer, The Garden is a non-stop ride into a progressive sound that is easy on the ears, yet at the same time it offers everything you would have ever wanted from a progressive release."
"'The Garden' is epic, diverse, grandiose, musically brilliant, lyrically complex and just a tad self-indulgent. In short, everything a good prog rock album should be.' Billboard magazine wrote, "'The Garden' is a respectable, nicely crafted example of what prog rock had to offer in 2008. 'The Garden' has a lot of heart."
On the release of 'The Garden' Cross Rhythms broadcaster Jonathan Bellamy suggested that the message of 'The Garden' was hope coming from despair. Mark Trueack agreed. He said, "We try to not be doom and gloom; there's enough of that from the media, from just general aspects of everyday life, and so we like to say things in a positive way as much as possible. That's not to say that everything is sort of very, very light and breezy, we do have some very strong feelings about certain areas of concern in this world, but that's not to say that you have to portray that in a negative way. We always try to be as positive and uplifting and optimistic as we can."
Shireen Khemlani and Mike Stewart left in 2009 but the band was joined by Shaun Duncan on fretless and fretted bass, and Peter Raidel on saxophone.
With this new lineup Unitopia released their third album 'Artificial' in 2010. Jones, Duncan and Raidel were replaced, respectively, by David Hopgood, Craig Kelly and Ian Ritchie, who performed on the More Than A Garden Of Dreams tour of Europe in 2010 which included Summer's End Festival, a progressive rock festival in England. Prior to its release in Europe on 3rd May and in the US on 4th May, a press release described 'Artificial' as using "symphonic, progressive, world, jazz and art rock elements to illustrate the dichotomy of an artificial world that is developing within our real world and how we as human beings relate to each of these worlds." Rayna and Mark Monforti from the Music in Widescreen website and progrock.com radio have chosen “Artificial” as Best Album and “The Great Reward” as Best Track for their 2010 awards. "Artificial" was proclaimed Album of the Year 2010 by The International Independent Radio (AiiRadio.net), Best Album of 2010 by paperlate.nl, an internet magazine from the Netherlands and nominated by the international Jury of Progawards in Italy for Best Foreign Record and Best Production.
One Night In Europe, released in 2011 is the first double-DVD plus double-CD containing live recordings of the Australian prog band Unitopia. The images were recorded at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer, The Netherlands on October 15, 2010. This concert was part of the first European tour called 'The More Than A Garden Of Dreams Tour 2010'. This tour brought the band to The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Great Britain. Additionally, 5 songs were broadcast and recorded Live On TV Limburg (Live Performance On TV Limburg, The Netherlands): Angeliqua, More Than A Dream, Nothing Lasts Forever, One Day and Reflections. These are available on YouTube on the 'Video' page of this website.
In 2012 with Ritchie replaced by Daniel Burgess on saxophone, the band released its fourth album 'Covered Mirror Vol. 1: Smooth As Silk', in December. It's a concept project, imagine hearing classics arranged in progressive style.
As a band known for supporting worthy causes, Unitopia has allowed the use of their song "Still Here" for the "Songs for Haiti" double CD and "There's a Place" for the compilation "Stomp out Cancer". They also donated part proceeds from ticket sales of their recent concert in Adelaide to the Childhood Cancer Foundation. The band is also making a difference with the project Bee Aware Now by doing a promotional song and video for the cause. One of Unitopia’s songs, “321”, is a touching tribute to the courage, ordeal and eventual rescue of the Beaconsfield miners. The track gained nationwide exposure including a segment on 60 minutes. In May of 2007, with support and funding from the West Tamar Council, the band launched the single “321” at the one year anniversary memorial in Beaconsfield, Tasmania to an audience of nearly 3,000 people. As lead singer Mark Trueack says, “Music is the doctor!”
In July 2016 Timms and Trueack put their differences aside and reconnected. They have released a remastering of the More than a Dream album and adding unreleased songs for an extended box set, and also written a brand new song called Dream Complete. Timms and Trueack have also put a band together called U.N.I.T. dB. This a special acoustic tour band that is made up of Southern Empire, Unitopia, Resistor, and United Progressive Fraternity.
ROSFEST FESTIVAL 2017
A surprise VIP performance had been announced in the 5 PM time slot, and materialized in the form of UNIT D.B. a one-off live band made up by the combined forces of Mark Truey Trueack (vocals), Sean Timms (keyboards, vocals), Danny Lopresto (guitars, vocals), Brody Thomas Green (drums, vocals), and Steve Unruh (flute, violin). Basically, an amalgamation of UNITOPIA, SOUTHERN EMPIRE, RESISTOR and SAMURAI OF PROG. UNITOPIA were supposed to play the festival back in 2010, but sadly, they broke up before they could, hence this specific show was a kind of a long overdue apparition by the Aussies.
I was impressed and really enjoyed their presentation, despite not being familiar with UNITOPIA’s back catalog or any of the other splinter bands. Gorgeous anthemic melodies which made a great contrast with the metallic edge of the previous show, Mark’s voice was warm and spot-on, and Steve Unruh added a myriad of soundscapes to the songs, playing strings, woodwinds and several other instruments.
Provided in the form of flawless musical execution (after apparently only one actual rehearsal, which is additionally remarkable) their music had the ability to take you away somewhere else and at the end of the set soothingly bring you back to your seat. A pending schoolwork is now my necessity to explore further into the former history of these fine musicians while truly hoping they decide to put out a live recording of their set.
In 2020 plans were made for a three shows in Sarasota and Chicago for a 'UPF America' tour consisting of Trueack, Timms, John Greenwood, Steve Unruh, Cam Blokland, Lisa Wetton, Luuis Nasser, Jamison Smeltz. The tour unfortunately did not materialize due to the pandemic although a virtual performance of Unitopia's Gone in the Blink of an Eye was produced by MusicInWideScreen (Mark Monforti) and released on YouTube (https://youtu.be/tu3n-keJ9Xw). It was also included on the remastered limited edition of The Garden in 2020.
Remastered and Limited Edition Vinyl
Unitopia’s Artificial was available for the first time on the LP format 8 May 2020, a limited 180g black vinyl edition of 200 copies. There is also a separate orange vinyl edition which is limited to 100 copies offered by Plane Groovy. Featuring stunning artwork by Ed Unitsky (including imagery on both sides of the lyric insert). We have heard that there may still be some copies available from Chris Topham at Plane Groovy (http://www.planegroovy.com/toppo.html)
Unitopia – The Garden (2020) 3-CD Digipack or Triple Vinyl Limited Edition on colored vinyl, release date: 12/15/2020. This three disc set is a remaster of the highly successful 2008 release the Garden. Also a brand new song Tears from the Garden and live recordings of songs from the Garden. Available from Progrock.com's Essentials (Mark Monforti) and available at https://essentials.progrock.com/product-category/bands-artists/unitopia/
Additional remastered vinyl editions are planned, including bonus tracks.
A reformed Unitopia consisting up the line-up of Timms, Trueack, Steve Unruh (Resistor, Samurai of Prog) and John Greenwood began recording songs for a new Unitopia album in 2020 called Seven Chambers to be released in 2022. The first song recorded by the new line-up was entitled 'Tears from the Garden' and is found on The Garden 2020 remaster.
Mark Trueack: I met John Greenwood in 2018 when I was introduced by Adelaide's Jimmy Keegan, (friend ) we needed a guitar player to replace him for UPF Acoustic as he suffered a hand injury. Meanwhile Sean and I were working on idea for the next Unitopia album based on our heart attack experiences, cancers, back injuries and tumours. Sean had avoided major surgery (stents). Truey has had back surgery going back to a car accident in a taxi when working with EMI with 3 operations over 30 years and continued pain. "The heart took me by surprise as my symptoms were not the usual signs, and came during a rehearsal on 7 October 2019 with nausea and dry retching. Next day called for an ambulance where the paramedics knew I was having a heart attack (just in time). The operation was on my birthday 10th.
So I thought maybe John would be a great addition, then I thought let's ask Steve Unruh as we have worked together for 8 years .. Let the music begin with a brand new Unitopia album called '7 Chambers' - Mark Truey Trueack