The boys in Vices are moving forward in the local hardcore scene. Spreading good vibes with punk jumps and some of the best hardcore punk in Australia, the band has been touring throughout the year, from headline shows to supporting Gideon this year. The group’s second album, ‘We’ll Make It Through This’, their best work to date, is just about to drop. We spoke with vocalist John McAleer about how 2014 has been for the band so far.
After listening through the album a few times, I’ve found that it’s all a lot darker in its tone and lyrical content than the last album. Why have this shift in tone now?
A lot of stuff happened to me in the last year and so a lot of the stuff I was writing was a lot darker. The music just then went along with that. That was just the mood that everyone was at. It’s just what everyone has been dealing with the past 12 months, just came out on that record. That’s how we deal, how we cope is by putting it into the songs.
When I saw you guys play with Gideon earlier this year, you said something along the lines of, ‘When I had money, I wasn’t happy. But now that I’m broke as Hell, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been’. What’s your opinion of the whole money VS happiness idea? Because that seemed to be a strong re-occurring theme in the album.
Well, I think it’s all bullshit really. I spent a long time working when I was younger, minimum 40 hours a week up to 80 hours because that’s what I thought you’re meant to. That if you can work, then you should work. I was earning more money than most people I know from about 18, and it doesn’t bring any joy at all. I don’t even know what I did with the money really. I saved a bit of it, but it seemed like the more I made the more I spent. I got to the end of that eight years and I got offered a redundancy at work, and that was right around the time we were writing this album. Just going from that and being so focused on getting more money to have more freedom, to now living the way that I do, without a lot of money. I just have more time, and I think that time is the most valuable thing. Not money, money doesn’t get you anything in the long run. At least that’s my eight years of experience.
So it’s a bit more philosophical this time round?
Well, we are a bit older now and we’re dealing with some more grown up issues. Life really set the tone of it I think. There were definitely a lot bigger issues that I had to deal with then just hating myself like on the last record.
Lyrics and themes aside, musically, I’ve noticed there was a lack of the heavier growls and breakdowns.
Yeah! Well when we wrote the last album, some of us came together from a metal band. So when we started playing this music we didn’t want to let go of all the heavy stuff. Very quickly after that though, we found that we didn’t really like it anyway. So right after that album, we just went away from breakdowns and heavy vocals. Even when we play them live we don’t play them the same; we play things a little more punk like.
You recently finished up a regional tour with the guys in Ambelside and Hourglass, how did it all go?
It was really fun, both of those bands are really great. It sucked that Hourglass got knocked out a bit early. They were already shot one member and then Craig got his face split open by their bassist at the show and they thought that his brain might have been bleeding. The emergency people told him that playing a show wouldn’t help. They wanted to keep going but with only two of their four members left they decided to call it. Then Hindsight jumped on, and I really like them so it was awesome to have them on board for the rest of those shows.
It was really cool to go to places we’ve never been before. That was the whole point of the tour before the new album came out, to just go to new places and tour the first album one last time.
Nice! I know that Marcus [drums] broke his leg, or his foot, right when that tour started, didn’t he?
(Laughs) Yeah, he snapped his ankle. We were playing sports, and Jai threw him the ball and he was chasing it, he was staring up at it and he ran straight into a fence post. He hit it and he twisted it, and the fracture actually spiralled up the bone. It’s called a spiral fracture when you hit with enough impact while you’re still rotating. We all carried him, laid him out in the back of the van, drive him into the hospital, we sat there for ages, and we had a show out in Sydney that night. When they said that they couldn’t do surgery until tomorrow, we just all drove out to the show and he set up left-footed instead of right. The top was right-handed and the bottom was left-handed. I couldn’t tell, and I don’t think anyone else could, but it sounded perfect to me. We went back into the city that night and he went in and had surgery in the morning.
It was hard to tell one of your friends that you’re in awe of what they’re doing, cause we just rag on each other the whole time. But I was actually so fucking impressed that he could do that. Like I try to kick a ball left-footed and I just fall over.
Wow, that’s actually really impressive!
(Laughs) Yeah man! He didn’t even have a run, though, like he just said ‘Yeah, I think I can do it’. So we set up the kit and started playing and that was it.
Fair effort. In December, you’re supporting Counterparts on their Australian tour. To support a band like that must be really exciting for you guys, yes?
The last record I was listening to today was their last one. For all of us, they are all in our top five bands. They were one of the main influences when we started playing this music. For me, Counterparts, Touché Amore, and Hundredth were the three bands that we really wanted to tour with, and now we’ve played with all of them and toured properly with Hundredth. It’s going to be sick to have them in the van with us too. We did that with Gideon.
I know that when we toured with Hundredth, we really only saw the bands at sound check. I don’t think that a lot of people really know that when you’re on tour with another band, that doesn’t mean you actually see them. You’re driving all day long, you get to load-in, then the show starts and the music’s so loud that you can’t get to have a conversation with them. So that time at load-in was all we really saw of Hundredth. Which sucked because we wanted to hang out with them as much as possible.
On the topic of Counterparts, one of the new songs, ‘Permanence’, gave me a very strong Counterparts vibe. Would you agree on that?
That’s actually what the guys said when they heard the lines I wrote. Right up until I wrote that new song, I was listening to their new album on repeat so no surprise that influence is in there (laughs).
The way he [Brendan Murphy] phrases words, and especially on their new album. It didn’t change how I wrote things, but it just gave me new possibilities for the phrasings. Hearing that and then working with the lyrics I had, it really influenced me. Not the content itself, but just how his singing fits with the music.
Right on man. On social media, you guys have a very friendly and chilled out persona, do you think that helps with connecting and communicating to those who follow the band?
We’ve always been a band that didn’t really have any hype. We just have a bunch of fans that we were friendly with. All the people who like the band, we actually hang out with. It’s not like a fan-band gap. We get really cringe when we see things getting in the vicinity of hype. Like, ‘Big news coming at 4pm!’ or any of that shit. You know that feeling you get when your skin starts crawling? Well, that’s how we feel. We got asked to write ourselves a bio and none of us could do it. I just felt really sick trying to write it so we got a friend of ours to write it for us. Even then, we had to just send it straight in without reading it, otherwise, we’d edit it or pull it apart. Bumping up your own ego just seems really weird to me.
But it seems to have worked for us, though, like people always come and chat with us at the merch stand. So how we are online is kind of how we are in real life.
Well said. Now, how do you guys feel about having a 12-second song [‘Vices Go’] that has got people to go and get it tattooed on them for life?
Well, I apologise to all their mothers (laughs). I think it’s the coolest thing. I don’t know what it is about that song and why everyone likes it. We just thought it was kinda funny, so we did it. Now we haven’t played a show without playing it. Ever. Before the last tour, we wrote up the set list, and Marcus wrote it out and he all the songs flow together but he didn’t have ‘Vices Go’ on there. I think Jake just looked at him and said ‘What are you doing?’ So I honestly think we’ll be playing it forever. It’s an easy song to play too (laughs). Everyone started punk jumping instead of moshing so I think it’s pretty cool.
(Laughs) Glad to hear you’ll always play it! I’ve always wanted to know if the band ever associated religiously and if you still do?
When we got together, everyone in the band was Christian. I don’t know if you’d call us a Christian band, but everyone was Christian. Then about a year ago now, there was a spiritual shift in the band. Two of us weren’t really on board with it, while the other two were. It was kind of strange at first as that was the main thing when we got together. It’d be like an Edge band not being edge anymore. It’s like, ‘What do we sing about now?’ It was kind of weird, especially for me, as I know that I don’t believe this anymore, but it means a lot to two of my best friends. The way I wrote some of the songs, where I was saying that I don’t align with this anymore, I took them to the guys and said that if they find it offensive, then I won’t sing the songs. But when they went through the lyrics, they said that it was all really honest and that it can connect with a lot of people.
Sometimes you’re raised a certain way, and then you have your own life experiences, and that can change your perspective, as it did for me. But they were all really cool about it and supportive. They’re not the kind of Christians that you hear about. Their not the crazy Fox News Christians, and they are not extreme fundamentalists or anything like that. Their just these two really nice guys (laughs). Even with being in a band with a guy whose singing about disagreeing with one of the pillars of their lives, they were still like, ‘As long as you’re being honest, we love you’. We did have to hash out when that shift happened and have some open conversations, but we just kept moving in the end.
That’s the best outcome you could have had, man. That could have ended the band if it all went pear-shaped.
To be honest, I was really nervous. Having to tell the guys that I don’t believe what you believe anymore. One of the members said that he’d been feeling the same way and he didn’t say anything because he just loved being in the band and didn’t want to cause an issue. We made sure that everyone equal in terms of how we do things and that everyone had an equal amount of expression.
Glad to hear it all worked out in the end, John. Thanks for your time man, it’s been a blast to talking with you today, and I’ll catch you guys on tour in December.
Oh awesome, thank you, man!
‘We’ll Make It Through This’ is out November 14th via Resist Records. Listen to the album stream here.