Coming in hot from Southern California, identical twin brothers and experimental punk-rock duo The Garden …
The Amity Affliction are paying penance. Dragged at the altar for daring to experiment heavily on their last record, they’re ready to make amends.
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Of course, as Hysteria speaks to the band’s guitarist Dan Brown from his home in Torquay, they haven’t completely left their last record in the dust. “Basically on the last one we went a little too soft,” he admits candidly. “We were trying to find some new songwriting tricks and we had to take some risks. It’s more an 8 [to] 4 balance on that one [in favour of] the more popular, sort of softer songs.” Bear in mind that he’s discussing a #1 charting Aria album, which serves as their fourth consecutive record in pole position. This achievement also marks them as the first Australian band ever to do so. Not exactly an honour that usually comes with calls for a group to return to their sound from 2010.
It’s unfair to rake the band over the coals however, as the fans had clamoured for something different after the double dose of Let The Ocean Take Me, and This Could Be Heartbreak led to supporter fatigue. By delivering them what they wanted, fans appeared to be shocked at the consequences of chastising the band into a corner for not shaking things up when Misery came on the scene. Dan rightly says: “As a band we couldn’t do the same thing [again]. We had Let The Ocean Take Me and This Could Be Heartbreak, that were pretty similar. There was backlash about that … So we said let’s take a few risks and see what we can do and hopefully our fans come with us. So we did that on Misery and everyone said ‘this sounds too different!’. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t …”
I’ve played in heavier bands before Amity and enjoyed that, [but] I don’t think I’ll enjoy playing anything more than All My Friends Are Dead.
[ Dan Brown ]
It’s the curse that Amity have worn for nigh on a decade now. As Dan says, “The electronic stuff has been there since before I was in the band.” He’s not wrong: Stairway to Hell and I Hate Hartley are dripping in airy synths. So moving into Everyone Loves You…, the band had a mission statement. “For this one we figured we’d make it short and sweet,” says Dan. “We wanted at least half of it to be heavy. Of course when we finished we said ‘Oh let’s make our whole next album really heavy.’ I think as artists we’re moving slowly in different directions. We drifted over to the pop world but we didn’t make 12 out of the 12 songs pop. We like to play our music live; that’s the funnest part of the job, at least for me anyway. The heavier, faster songs are more fun to play live so our newfound love would be for the live, heavier stuff. It’s more fun for us and we’ve been doing it for a long time, if we’re not having fun doing it, we’re missing something. We just want to be genuine in the end.”
With the thunderous first single All My Friends Are Dead, casual listeners may write the whole record off as soon as they hear vocalist Joel Birch’s war cry in the intro. Serving as one of the softer takes of the record that takes the record in the opposite direction, Just Like Me has an infectious whistling melody that will take hardcore fans aback. Explaining the reasoning behind another risky move, Dan says that every album the band has done, Ahren [Stringer, bassist] has wanted to do a whistle in a song. He imitates: “Maybe we can do a whistle, maybe we can do a whistle?” He recalls in the studio: “We’re going no no, it’s not working. So we’re working on a new song and he’s like ‘can we do the whistle’… and we [asked]: ‘why do you love the whistle so much?’ I think it ended up being a reference to Circle Takes the Square—I could be wrong—but at the end of one of their songs he thought there was a whistle to see what they did. Bear in mind he’s been saying this for at least 10 years. We got there and we’re listening to the song, and Matt [Squires, producer] and I look at each other and go ‘that’s a recorder’ [laughs]. He’s like ‘is it?’ And we go ‘yeah that’s a recorder dude!’ So it stayed … it’s ridiculous isn’t it? We all had a go at [the whistle] to see who could whistle the best. It ended up being me, so that’s me doing the whistle [laughs].”
I couldn’t imagine anyone attaching themselves to a band that are just faking it. You can see right through that; especially Australians [can] …
[ Dan Brown ]
Which, as Dan says, may well have them rocket high in the charts in areas like the United States. But they’re also aware they’re not a band that stays just in Australia, or delves deep into the heavy-metal loving expanse of Europe. A global band has expectations in every corner, and keeping everyone happy is a mammoth task. Which is why Everyone Loves You… is bound to please. Chorus-lovers will lap up Baltimore Rain and Soak Me in Bleach. Pit warriors can’t deny that Coffin and Catatonia are up there in the heaviest tracks that Amity have ever produced. Unsurprisingly, All My Friends Are Dead is Dan’s favourite so far in a live setting. “I’ve played in heavier bands before Amity and enjoyed that,” he says. “[But] I don’t think I’ll enjoy playing anything more than All My Friends Are Dead.”
It’s reciprocal: if the band isn’t having fun, no one watching is either. Says Dan of the continuous support from those that have stuck by them: “I couldn’t imagine anyone attaching themselves to a band that are just faking it. You can see right through that; especially Australians [can] … we have a responsibility to our fans and we feel responsible to give them the same band.” And for fans that want to make their voice heard? Dan laughs when asked about receiving backlash: “We hear you, we see you. We have the Internet … [but] there’s going to be people that don’t like it and people that do. People will say ‘they’ve changed’ and some will say ‘it’s exactly the same.’ The part we’ll never lose is that we’re genuine and we’re always going to do what we like to do.”