In an attempt to revitalise their local scene, Melbourne’s Clowns are throwing five unique gigs at …
Like clockwork, it’s Amity season. Something’s different this time though.
People have loved to throw hate on the band for their unwillingness to branch out from a tried and true formula. Some would say that AC/DC still have a career pumping from it, but we’re not ones to start a comment war by comparing the two. So, throwing out first single Ivy (Doomsday) is a bold move. Misery as a whole, the band’s upcoming sixth record, is an even bolder one.
Every record starts with singer Joel Birch. His lyrics are arguably the main reason that the band have managed to continue rising over a career spanning nearly 15 years. Although the lyrics are a mainstay for a reason: it seems that something fucked up has to happen to the singer before a record. Thankfully there’s a positive before Misery hits shelves. It’s common knowledge that the singer was rushed to hospital in Pittsburgh during the 2013 Warped Tour. Five years later, he’s managed to tackle the tour sober. Still a member of the party-hard DTD (Drunk ’Til Death) crew along with his band mates and a smattering of other lifers, it wasn’t the easiest to make it through the lengthy slog.
“I was obviously filled with anxiety and trepidation about it but it turned out being much easier.” He pauses and laughs: “Well, not nearly overdosing or dying of alcohol withdrawal is probably a much better outcome.” The singer goes on to discuss how the touring life has not only affected his own wellbeing, but also the ones he’s left at home. “Having a two and a half year old at home, he’s traumatised by it now. He’s got pretty bad separation anxiety. It’s the flipside to touring that people don’t often hear about … I’m home now though and hopefully I can mend that problem. But we’ll see.”
It’s not this that’s fuelled the lyrics behind Misery. Rather, after years of bouncing around diagnoses, Birch was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder prior to their Warped Tour stint. “I was actually experiencing a massive decline and a slide into meltdown while we were recording. Mate, I don’t know what it is but maybe it’s just a two year curse. It was really traumatic and definitely not a very fun experience to have me around.” Thankfully the band write everything prior to hitting the studio, and the singer admits that being sober for two years has given him the opportunity to reflect on how far they’ve managed to come.
I don’t feel like I need to be a 36 year old tearing a 22 year old a new asshole. If at 22 if I had some 36 year old burning me real hard, I’d be like ‘look at this washed up fuckhead!’
In a “look how far we’ve come moment”, Birch has created a trilogy of clips for the band’s three major singles: Ivy (Doomsday) and Feels Like I’m Dying have already been released, with the third Holier Than Heaven set for release soon. “It’s definitely my baby, and I’ve been trying to do it for years” says Birch. Budget and label concerns in past years have kept the lofty goal from being achieved, but they reportedly “bit the bullet” after the band’s continuing success of last record This Could Be Heartbreak. “Maybe Australia has noticed that we’ve … I don’t want to say pandered to, but we’ve made a point of targeting an American audience with previous clips. After getting some traction over in the US, it really felt like we could bring it home and bring it back to our roots to make a statement. There’s some obvious worship of Australian culture and the ‘great Australian outlaw’.”
Diehards from the times of Severance and Severed Ties (with these mentioned the singer laughs: “Wow look at you!”) will notice a few additions that hearken back to the band’s earliest days. On that, there’s no plans to bring a Severed Ties tour to the masses so it’s probably time to stop asking. But on Misery, Birch has also added something that no record has had so far. “Yeah it’s actually me singing on Burn Alive, Drag The Like and Beltsville Blues. We always planned on doing the pitched yelling sort of thing, but it wasn’t working. It was too abrasive while we were there. But I had a go at it, it worked and we were all surprised. I still suffer from crippling self doubt and I’m terrified that people will hear it and go ‘that’s shit.’ But hey, [Ahren and Dan] gave it the go ahead so what are you gonna do?”
It’s something they’ve dealt with for their entire career, but Birch isn’t one to listen anymore. “They love to hate. I just think fuck ‘em. I wrote Kick Rocks for people like that. I specifically wrote it for media and industry people to pull apart people’s personal expression. Really it’s a very emotional process for any musician to create an album; it’s not just us. We’re not special in that regard. Everyone that’s a songwriter is pouring themselves out into their music whether you like it or not. I just don’t think that anyone really has a license to fuck with it. Maybe you caught them on a bad day, maybe they didn’t feel like listening to your album that day. I don’t really put much stock in these people anymore.”
Hysteria mentions that he seems to have taken a higher road responding to criticism compared to recent years. Birch laughs and says, “You know something I’ve never understood? Why people in bands aren’t allowed to rebut a point or react to something that’s clearly seeking a reaction. We’ve never played the fucking industry game, we’ve never played the nice band game. We don’t feel like we need to follow a script or any sort of accepted behaviour as far as bands go. If you’re gonna be an asshole to us, expect us to be an asshole back to you … That being said, I don’t feel like I need to be a 36 year old tearing a 22 year old a new asshole. If at 22 if I had some 36 year old burning me real hard, I’d be like ‘look at this washed up fuckhead’,” he laughs. “I don’t know if I’ve risen above it though: you don’t know yet, the album’s not out! Maybe we’ve got some fire left yet …”