Since the chart topping success of ‘Chasing Ghosts’, The Amity Affliction have seen a level of accomplishment in Australia that has only been rivalled by Parkway Drive. The band’s latest release, ‘Let The Ocean Take Me’ is due for release this week. We talk to frontman Joel Birch about expectations for the album, the continual themes running through the music and what the group has come to mean to him after ten years.
After listening through ‘Let The Ocean Take Me’ I’ve found that it was a more positive side to The Amity Affliction, do you see the album like that to some degree?
No, I didn’t really think so, I was worried everyone was going to find it really negative. But so far everyone seems to think that it was positive, so that’s definitely a bonus.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you guys worked with Will Putney again for this record. What was the reasoning behind working with will him again for the new album?
Yeah, we did [work with Will again]. He did a lot of the engineering on ‘Youngblood’s and he mixed ‘Chasing Ghosts’, so we just figured we’d let him have a go at producing the whole thing and he just nailed it.
On all of your prior releases you’ve had song titles like, ‘RIP X’ or ‘I Heart Y’, but those kind of titles are absent from this release, was that a conscious decision or was it something that you guys didn’t really think about?
No, we thought about it. We’ve been going for ten years now so enough is enough we think. We gave them real names that actually have something to do with the song instead of names that have nothing to do with anything.
So, as a better way to translate the songs better to the listeners?
I’d say just so there’s a point of reference because even we get confused talking about our own songs because there’s no point of reference. Like our song, RIP Foghorn, I don’t even remember what that song was about cause there’s no real association to anything for it.
I know suicide and depression is something that hits very close to home for you personally and it is a very consistent theme in your music, what pushes you guys to keep discussing those themes in your songs after so long?
Well, I’ve got it. It’s obviously not something that goes away, and it’s my lyrics, my own way of dealing with my own shit, so it’s not a conscious decision at all. Well no, Chasing Ghosts was, but apart from that it’s just something that happens. Outside of Chasing Ghosts, it wasn’t something that I planned to write about, it just kinda happens. I just write about what I’m feeling at the time, and unfortunately, for me that’s been a recurring problem. In fact, we spoke about not writing this record like that and then I went through my own shit and this was what came out.
So it is a very cathartic way of getting everything out, but do you find that it works?
Yeah, but writing about it is one thing, it’s in the actual performing of it where the real outlet is. It’s definitely cathartic, music is meant to be. Music is either art, or music can be a release.
I can agree with that, for sure man. Two weeks ago you released that open letter about the latest single, ‘Don’t Lean On Me’, and I’m interested to know if you have had much criticism for taking that stance.
No, I think I worded it quite fairly. No one has really blown up about it. Some kids might have behind closed doers, but I haven’t heard or being sent anything so far. The whole purpose of it was to make sure there wasn’t any confusion and I wasn’t trying to shut myself off, it was just that quite a lot of people have over stepped the bounds of what I think is acceptable and appropriate to put on someone. Especially when I’m not a professional mental health care professional. I can’t give them the proper advice, you know? Don’t come and tell me that you’re going to kill yourself, I can’t help you, and if you are at that point, then you need to talk to a professional, not a guy in a band dealing with the same issues.
I can imagine that that must be a very stressful thing to deal with. With regards to the end of ‘Never Alone’, if you’re comfortable with discussing it, I’m interested to know if that was actually you, a reenactment, or you quoting someone else?
Ah no, I wrote that and then we got our friend, Realbad (Matt Rogers, guitar) from Deez Nuts to talk it all out for the song.
I felt that part of the song comes out of nowhere and it’s a very heavy thing to hear for the first time.
Yeah, that was definitely the point. It was meant to shock people into realising what goes on inside. A lot of people will just say the most ignorant shit like ‘Just get over it’ or ‘Cheer up man, it’s not that bad’ and yeah it’s not that bad, but it’s fucked in my head. It’s just not a straight forward issue, and you can’t articulate it, you cant say that ‘oh, I feel like this way’ because you sound like an idiot. It’s really tough for people to translate how you’re acting into a health problem, rather, that you come off as an arsehole or if you’re in your younger years, you’re an ’emo’ or a ‘goth’ or whatever. I really want people to be slapped in the face with it, I didn’t want to be gentle about it.
That part of the song does translate that idea really well, especially when showing it to people for the first time. Bit more of a lighter question, but since Chasing Ghosts, you guys have seen Parkway Drive levels of success over here, but I’m keen to know your thoughts on how you find the reception overseas?
Oh, it’s getting better, way better. I think doing Warped Tour last year around the US helped out a lot. We sold out a few 500 cap venues in Europe and in the UK, which was really cool and really unexpected. It’s been looking good everywhere at the moment. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that we can tour the world and people will pay attention everywhere. It’s a pretty bizarre feeling, especially earlier on.
That’s good to hear Joel. In terms of expectations, are you excepting the new album to do really well commercially?
I don’t know? I’m sure the record label hopes so [laughs]. I haven’t really thought about it. I don’t really care about that kind of thing. I mean it’s quite obviously doing better than Chasing Ghosts did, which is crazy but it’s the shows and the connection people have with the music is much more important than commercial success. I think that if you reach out to a handful of people enough that it changes their lives then that’s a much more monumental achievement in my eyes, than getting #1 on a music industry chart that I don’t give a fuck about.
It must have been a very weird but surreal experience for that to happen you guys, being a metalcore band and all?
Yeah, but that’s where you can sort of see that it’s all a croc of shit. Like Frenzal Rhomb, they’ve never won an ARIA and there are bands that no one has really fucking heard of that are beating them and it makes no sense. The whole music industry is just a big circle jerk if you ask me. But I’m a guy in a band so it’s apart of my life unfortunately.
Yeah, I can understand that kind of outlook, especially nowadays. Last question man, when you started the band what did it mean to you then, and what has The Amity Affliction come to mean to you now in 2014?
Well when I joined the band, it was because I just really liked the music they were playing. Troy (Brady, guitar) and Ahren (Stringer, bass/vocals) are actually in their eleventh year of being in Amity, but much to their dismay it doesn’t seem to count as the first release wasn’t until 2004 [laughs]. Anyway, I was in a band for a while, which came to an end, and a friend told me about this band called The Amity Affliction who were jamming next door and he showed me their demo and I thought it was really cool. I met the guys not long after that, then I got a call two weeks after meeting them asking me if I could sing.
And yeah, there was no real motive, I mean, they were cool guys, loved the music they we’re writing, it was all very simple. I think back then in Queensland we had north coast hardcore happening and all the bands were really supportive. Bands like Against, Wish For Wings, Mourning Tide, there was much more of a community and even if some bands weren’t hardcore, it was all one big community. I think that environment helped us find our feet and then we just toured until Youngbloods came out and people actually care. I think that it was Chasing Ghosts that helped us really break through and made us start to consider this as a full time career, and it made everything far more meaningful to me than just, ‘Yeah, we’re a touring band and now we’re gonna just go back to the real world’ [laughs].
‘Let The Ocean Take Me’ is out this Friday via Roadrunner Records Australia.