While on his walk to work recently, Clowns vocalist Stevie Williams talked me through the band’s high-octane shows, crowd safety, their current success, & their time in Munich, Germany during the tragic shootings back in July.
Now, Stevie, the first Clowns shows that I bore witness to was with Outright and Rise Against in Melbourne, with Oprah’s show performing next door at Rod Laver Arena.
Ah, of course! That’s the one and only time that we will ever clash with Oprah. I’m pretty sure that that Rise Against tour sold more tickets than Oprah too, so suck shit Oprah [laughs].
[Laughs] punk rock tunes over her, always man. Anyway, I always wonder how Clowns can play these big shows – festivals or otherwise – and yet, it doesn’t really feel like the band is as big or as successful as you deserve to be? I mean no disrespect in saying that, too.
Well, I guess we are still waiting for our big break! But I don’t know, man. Some people say that, but if you look at our last music video, we play some big shows with lots of people coming out. Sure, it’d be sick if we could sell out Margaret Court Arena, but with our lyrical content and our musical style, that’ll probably never happen.
Yeah, I’d agree with that but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Plus, I wouldn’t say that that’s the goal of your band or music; it is all about having fun first.
Yeah! We started this band on the basis of doing things that other bands were afraid to do. I often think back to myself being in this band for seven years and think about the success that we have had and seeing the success of friends bands who haven’t done what we have, and I think maybe we should have been more careful. Maybe I shouldn’t say fuck so much in our songs or spit in people’s faces at our gigs. But I’ve picked this path and I’m rolling with it!
Right on! With playing live, do you ever think that maybe you give off the wrong vibe or maybe set the wrong expectation for new fans and listeners? Like how if you went to see Dillinger Escape Plan or At The Drive-In and they didn’t put on the high-energy shows that they’ve become renowned for.
I think with those two bands, their shows are such big that they’re almost spectacles; they’ve got all the lights and the big backdrop and everything. Granted we have had that at our shows and we have hired a light person or setup a big backdrop, but often we’re playing club shows and bringing all of that there kind of makes you look like a wanker. But with the vibe, I think that the video shows that we have had those big, “spectacle” shows and smaller clubs shows without all of the plastic bullshit. If we get a big festival offer, we’ll do it and if it comes down to it, we’ll play to just 20 people in a small venue. The vibe will still be there regardless.
Of course, and Clowns have played in some really small rehearsal in Asia to big festivals all around the world but your sound works in both settings. I find some bands work so well at a festival or arena show, but not so much in a club setting.
Yeah, I think that’s because our music is quite diverse and with the new record, it’s getting even more diverse. This whole band formed on wanting to play house parties and getting free beers at pubs. So our earlier songs were these crappy 4/4 punk rock songs that went for thirty seconds. As the band has grown, the sound has grown with us, and now we do have longer songs. We’ve been playing Bad Blood/These Veins at nearly every gig for the last year and that goes for six minutes but you’re right, it works in both places.
I think what helps make that all work is just how engaging your live show is! At that Rise Against show, you were in and out of the crowd so many times.
Well, it doesn’t matter what the size or how many people are there, it still is enjoyable. That one person out of the ten people at that crappy basement show in Frankfurt might be the booker at Download Festival, and he’s gonna want to know that you can control a crowd. If you can control ten people, then you can control ten thousand people.
Well said, man. With your on-stage antics, especially all of the stage diving, do you ever get concerns from your parents or family? Have they ever thought you go a little too hard on-stage?
They used to be really concerned about that stuff, but now they know what I do. My mum came and saw us play and I was hanging from the ceiling at the Corner Hotel. My parents were pretty terrified. I think that may have been the first time they’d seen us play in front of a large crowd. When I saw her next, she sat me down and asked if was ever going to stop taking risks. I just said ‘Hell no!’
[Laughs] Did she try and…make you see reason or did she just go ‘Well, it’s his life!’
No, I think that she kind of accepted that there was nothing to do to stop me. This band is effectively my life and it’s lifeblood’s is that are shows are dangerous. That’s what people come to see; danger or the excitement of us doing things that a lot of band’s won’t.
Also, it kind of sucks that our credibility has lead us to this point. I do really wish that people liked us for the music more and for not having me need to risk my life on a regular basis. But as I said earlier, these are my choices and I’m following through with them. Wouldn’t it be great if I died at a show? I’d go down a fucking legend or something! But no one would know how much of a fuckwit I really am [laughs].
[Laughs] well, let’s hope that this doesn’t happen anytime soon, man! But on live shows and dying, I think back to the incident with Randy Blythe from Lamb Of God, and much more recently, the incident with Parker Cannon of The Story So Far kicking a girl off stage. The LOG fan died and in the TSSF’s case she didn’t die, but that stirred the debate of live shows and crowd safety. So you must think about that a lot when you jump off something into the crowd or stage dive?
Yeah, it is a genuine concern to me. I know that some people may come to our shows and think that just we’re a bunch of meatheads and that we don’t care about our fans. But believe it or not, I do care about our fans. I’ve climbed up parts of the stage and looked down and realised that this is not a good idea; that I don’t want to leave the venue in an ambulance or hurt someone. A lot of the time, my role in the band is to police people, to tell people to just…stop. Some people really struggle with not knowing where to draw the line for what is and isn’t acceptable.
Good to hear man, and no one’s there to be a dick. Well, save for those people who do end up being “that” guy at a show.
Of course. my logic has always been that if you want to throw a punch or get rough, just tell your mates that you wanna party. That’ll be fine; that’s organised and consensual. Don’t just unleash on some unsuspecting poor person in the crowd!
Exactly! Now, moving away form your live shows, I know that you were guys were only a few kilometres away from where the Munich shooting happened last month, which must have been well and truly fucked.
It was seven kilometres away from our hotel. But we actually had no idea what as going on, we just through that there were a lot of sirens going off today. We were leaving the city at the time. Some people say that we were so lucky we weren’t right there, but I don’t look at it like that because a shooting can happen anywhere. If we were in Frankfurt, and the shooting happened in Munich, would people still have said ‘Oh, you’re so lucky it wasn’t in Frankfurt’. I just think it’s unlucky and tragic for the people who were.
But you can’t stop your plans because of that. We couldn’t just stop the tour because of a few terror attacks in Germany. That’s what those arseholes that commit these crimes want, for us to not tour there. But I would rather die in a shooting in Munich than cancel a whole European tour.
Yeah, the stagnation of a city or of people’s lives due to terrorism – of any kind – tells them that they win or have had the desired effect. I also don’t buy that these kinds of things are unthinkable, not these days with the frequency of such attacks, especially over in Europe.
Exactly., it’s fucked up. I think it’s important to live our lives and we do need to unite. These people that commit these crimes are mentally ill and have been radicalised. We really don’t need to be excluding one group of people just because they may be similar to one extreme group. Because that’s fucked up and it really pisses me off.
You know, as cliché as it sounds, music is such a big conduit for all kinds of people to unite, whether it be for protest or for fun.
Our music is not overly politically engineered and that’s purposeful. I do think that bands that stand with a political agenda are necessary and awesome – depending on what they promote – but a lot of people just wanna rock out to a song about skateboarding and forget about the world’s bullshit. That’s what we give people; a chance to vent and a chance to vent their frustration in a constructive manner.
That’s exactly what I got out of it when I saw you guys live last year. Just about leaving your own inhibitions at the door. With that Stevie, we’ll wrap this interview up here and I will let you get on with your day and your work!
No worries at all Alex! Thanks for interviewing me as well.
Clowns are touring next month with No Anchor. Grab ya tickets here and suss the dates below.