It has been a steady rise for Melbourne punks Clowns. Recalling the frenetic energy of influences such as Black Flag and The Bronx, the four-piece are currently gearing up to release debut album, ‘I’m Not Right’ through Poison City Records this October, before kicking off a 21-date national tour in support. Killyourstereo.com chats with vocalist Stevie.
You guys are about to release your debut album ‘I’m Not Right’, for the uninitiated, what are Clowns all about?
I guess we’re just kind of a no-bullshit punk band. Our music isn’t corny, we don’t use any gimmicks or anything like that y’know?
For sure. You’re releasing the album through Poison City Records – but it follows a series of 7” you released yourselves. Is that DIY aspect something that’s important to you as a band?
Yeah, absolutely. I don’t think 7”s would have worked as well with a label behind it. It was all just a very close-to-home sort of thing and it’s definitely something that’s important to us, we’re definitely a fiercely independent band. I mean, we’re on Poison City now, but we’ve been around for a few years and in that we haven’t had a manager, haven’t had a booking agent, but we still did a shitload of tours, played a shitload of shows, played heaps of music, and it’s definitely what we’re about.
You recorded the album with Lindsay Gravina at Birdland Studios. What was the process of writing and recording the tracks like?
Well, it’s kind of funny – we didn’t actually go in to record an album when we went in. We’ve been working with Lindsay for ages, since 2011. We recorded the main songs off our 7”s at Birdland and those are actually going on the album, “Powders”, “Eat a Gun” and “Repeat After Me”. So it’s kind of a weird question when people ask us how it came about; it’s just like, “I don’t know”. Birdland’s only 20 minutes away so we just going there anyway. We weren’t doing anything, we’d made a mate out of Lindsay, so it was just a really organic thing. When we first went in there we didn’t realise we were going in to record songs that were going to be on our album, we were just going in to record shit. Poison City wanted to release it, and here we are, we have an album coming out. [Laughs]
Sounds like it all came together pretty nicely. The artwork for the album was done by a Sydney artist called Ben Brown. I think his aesthetic when it comes to his art – the whole kind of skate/punk thing he has going on – really suits you guys as far as your own aesthetic and music. How did that come about?
Our bassist is a bit of an art dude. He did all the artwork for our 7”s, and he’s just always got a keen eye on what’s going on in the art world and one of his idols of his is definitely Ben Brown. When we decided we were going to do an album he just said “No one else is doing the artwork except for Ben Brown”. We’d worked with him before, he’d done a flyer for us and a t-shirt design for our South East Asian tour. We emailed him and said “Hey man, we’re doing an album, do you want do the artwork for it?” and he turned around and said “fuck yeah”, and we were stoked on that.
You’re about to kick off a 21-date tour throughout the country in support of ‘I’m Not Right’. That’s a lot of shows, are you looking forward to hitting the road for that stretch?
I’m really looking forward to it. There’s nothing we love more than getting out of Melbourne, playing shows and meeting all kind of interesting people. We’ve never done a tour this big, so we’re sort of crossing into uncharted waters. Hopefully one of us doesn’t kill each other, or become limbless after it or something and we’ll come out of it one piece. I’m sure we will. Fingers crossed, anyway.
On that note, you guys have a reputation already for playing often and having a fairly relentless touring schedule. I was reading about your fondness for venues like house shows, skate parks, stuff like that. Do you guys feel as comfortable, perhaps even more comfortable in those kind of relaxed settings than in more, I suppose “formal” venues?
Yeah, definitely. I feel way more at home playing at a skate park or a scummy pub or something than some sort of fancy venue with high drink prices. These are the sort of places we’d be hanging out anyway so we love to perform there.
Any interesting live stories?
We’ve played all kind of weird places, man. The South East Asian tour was pretty crazy, we played a waterpark at one point – anywhere they could put a gig, really.
You guys have gotten comparisons to groups like Black Flag, The Bronx, Off! and so on. How important were those acts in shaping Clowns and are there any other acts that are important in that regard?
Yeah, for sure. Aside from the music – obviously our music is very influenced by those sort of bands – the whole sort of way they go around things has been a direct influence as well. Not really giving a fuck, you know? Black Flag were the sort of band that just toured a shitload, didn’t know if there’d be people there, but they were on the other side of the country playing a pub. If we hear there’s a pub in Canberra that we can play and we’re going on tour, we’ll book it and we’ll play it. If the shit goes down, well, it goes down, but whatever. In terms of other bands that are an influence, we’re very into poppier punk like The Hard-Ons, which I guess comes through in our choruses, they tend to be pretty catchy. We’re pretty big on Frenzal Rhomb, those guys definitely inspired us to do the “fast, short song” sort of thing. We didn’t need to do these 3-minute punk rock songs, we could just do short, fast songs as well.
So Clowns recently played the Poison City Weekender – I thought that was an interesting kind of mixed bill but the variety worked really well. What are your thoughts about Australia’s punk scene at the moment in that regard?
It’s awesome, there’s so much diversity, which is awesome. It would suck if all the bands in Melbourne just did the sort of style of music we did. There’s so many variations of punk going around and all the bands are best mates. For our album launch here in Melbourne we’re playing with Stockades, Hailgun and Chinese Burns Unit. Three bands that are totally different to us, but you can do a gig together and it still works and people love it, it’s sick.
Clowns will release debut album ‘I’m Not Right’ through Poison City Records on October 10, pre-orders are available through Poison City here. The band will tour from October through to December in support of the album, dates can be found here.