After a seven year split, Brisbane punk-rockers Speedlab made their triumphant return to music with …
Melbourne’s premiere metalcore mainacs, Drown This City, are hard at work on their next release. Whether or not it’s our first taste of that is up in the air, but the band’s new single—the savage and shred-heavy Third Law—is an unmistakable banger nonetheless.
With its release drawing acclaim from all corners of Australia’s heavy music scene, it’s without a doubt in the world that Drown This City are about to hit the big leagues. But before they dominate our radios and make the common festival mainstage their bitch, we’re keen to dive a little deeper into the building blocks behind their signature flair. Namely, the records that made frontwoman Alex Reade into the unfuckwithable force of brutality she is today.
We asked Reade to hit us with her five favourite albums of all time, which, given Drown This City’s mosh-spurring energy, include as many no-brainers as they do head-tilters.
Before we dive into these records, I have to say, you’ve picked some fucking gems right here! Any excuse to talk about mid-2000s emo and hardcore, I am all about.
I noticed that as well when I was sort of going back over them, I re-listened to them all and had a think about it, and I was like, “Hang on, all of these are from 2006 and 2007—well, my top three are anyway.” I think it was just, like, the golden age of our scene back then. It’s a shame, it’s not really the same anymore.
I don’t want to jump the gun and say music peaked back then, but…
Oh, it did! Music peaked in 2007 for sure.
1. AFI – Sing The Sorrow
What is it about this album that tugs at your heartstrings so dearly?
Of all the ones I picked, this is probably my least favourite in terms of every song being brilliant, but it just means so much to me because it’s the first time I had ever heard AFI. Davey Havok is a huge idol of mine—he actually inspired me to go straight edge for a couple of years, which was pretty hectic. He’s also vegan and I’m vegan, and I just think he’s such an intriguing frontman. Like, his voice is so different to what he looks like, and I think that’s amazing. And this album is just … My favourite song is actually This Celluloid Dream, because it’s just so weird. I don’t know why I love it so much, but it’s really happy and I love the punk guitars, I love all the gang vocals, I love Davey’s voice … It’s kind of like a mix between happy and dark, which is really what I love about the whole album. I wouldn’t say they’re my favourite songs of all time, but I’ve been listening to this album for, like, 15 years, and I just can’t stop listening to it. I think it came out in 2003, so what is that?
Yeah, that’s exactly 15 years.
Holy shit! So yeah, I mean, it stands the test of time. I always go back to it and listen to it again and again, and I still get that nostalgic feeling about it.
I haven’t listened to this album in at least five years, but I gave it a spin last week to prepare for this chat, and it just … I was instantly whisked back to primary school, when I’d listen to it on my little portable CD player with these big, obnoxious headphones. I think it’s actually aged pretty well.
Yes, exactly! And yeah, I owned it on CD, which is ridiculous. I actually still have the disc at home somewhere, which is just stupid. Who buys CDs anymore?
You mentioned that this album was actually the first time that you’d ever listened to AFI. Do you remember what that experience was like?
Actually, that’s a lie—I did hear Miss Murder first, which is embarrassing, but this was the first album I bought. I heard Miss Murder on the radio and then I went and bought this album, and this was so different to me at the time. Miss Murder was being played on rock radio and it was just super poppy and generic, so when I went and heard [Sing The Sorrow], I was like, “Oooooooooh! Like, this is …” I thought it was really weird, because I hadn’t listened to a lot of punk or emo sort of stuff back then, so I was like, “This is experimental!” But listening back to it now, I’m like, “Nah, it’s just good punk.” It’s just really good, accessible punk. But I don’t know, I think it’s Davey’s voice that gets me. I just love him.
… but I’m definitely the only one of us that really, really froths them.
[ Alex Reade ]
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a concept album, but I reckon it has this flow to it where it feels really special when you listen to it from start to finish. And that’s something I realised is pretty common with the records you’ve picked—is that an important thing for you when it comes to a really good album?
That’s a really good question! I don’t even know … I’m not even that much of an “album” person, so looking at these albums and why I’ve picked them, I think it has more to do with the fact that they just got me. They just hooked me in and I managed to listen to them from start to finish, over and over and over. And normally, with a lot of bands that I listen to, I only really like one or two songs. Well, maybe not one or two songs, but I’ll like all the main bangers and put them into playlists on YouTube. But with these, it was the whole albums that really caught my attention.
I think that’s a really interesting thing that’s come out of the so-called “streaming age”: you know an album is really good when you want to listen to the album and not just a playlist with one or two songs from it.
Yeah, exactly. I think that’s really rare in this day and age. People don’t really do that as much; it’s like, you can get through two songs from a band and then you’re like, “Ugh, I need something else now.” No-one is having that moment where they sit down and really experience the album, really looking forward to the next song and knowing which song is going to come next. That used to be such an important thing, where you’d be like, “Oh my God, I’m so excited! This is the song I can’t wait to hear next!” The flow of the album doesn’t mean that much anymore. Y’know these bands would have put so much effort into the track order and the interludes and the way they all work together, and people don’t even listen to or appreciate that anymore.
The production on this record is just intense—there’s a lot of atmospherics and layers in the mix with all of these little instrumental flourishes happening, which is something I see a lot of in Drown This City’s music as well. Is there much of an influence that you pull from this album, or AFI in general, with your own songwriting?
I think I’m the only person who really loves AFI in our band [laughs]. That’s a really big compliment, so thank you, but no, I think I’m the only one … Actually no, our guitarist Laurence [Appleby] does love AFI. Any of the punk stuff that we have probably comes from him, and maybe from him loving AFI as well, but I’m definitely the only one of us that really, really froths them. Even their latest album, The Blood Album, is amazing. I love that album as well; in fact, that’s probably the only album in the last year that I’ve listened to from start to finish as well.
I think The Blood Album gets a bit of a bad rap. Reviews haven’t been the best but it slaps so hard.
It’s so good! It’s got all the best parts of AFI, and it’s so sophisticated and stripped back and deep and meaningful. I love it.
2. Parkway Drive – Horizons
This is the quintessential Australian metalcore album. Whenever you ask someone what their intro to the scene was, there’s a 99% chance they’ll say, “Horizons by Parkway Drive”. What is it about this record that you think has made it such a classic album in Australia’s heavy scene?
I mean, it’s just absolutely fucking brilliant. And musically too, it’s so standalone in terms of its style. No-one sounds like Parkway Drive and no-one can do what Parkway Drive do as good as they do it, and I think that is just absolutely fucking brilliant. Every song is a banger … Ugh … I just don’t even know how to begin with this album. The first heavy concert I ever went to was when Parkway Drive released this album! I’m from Brisbane, and I remember buying tickets to see them play that album tour from Off Ya Tree in the Queen Street Mall.
No-one sounds like Parkway Drive and no-one can do what Parkway Drive do as good as they do it.
[ Alex Reade ]
Back then I had no tattoos and I was just this little blonde kid from Brisbane, I had no piercings, nothing … I went downstairs and I was like, “I wanna buy tickets to see this band, Parkway Drive,” and the guy looked at me and he was like, “Are … Are you sure?” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely Parkway Drive,” and he was like, “I don’t think you mean Parkway Drive.” I was like, “No no no, I want to see Parkway Drive.” I went to see them at the Gold Coast PCYC, and I think that’s why this means so much to me, because it was the first time I’d ever seen a Parkway Drive show. It’s a really beautiful album as well. Like it’s brutal, but it’s also beautiful. The guitar parts are beautiful, and, like … Ugh. I just … I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it, I just love it.
Literally the next note I have on my cheat sheet is, “Ask if she went to PCYC shows.”
[Laughs] I did! I did!
What were they like?
So I’ve seen Parkway play maybe five times, and the PCYC show was the best. It was at the Gold Coast PCYC so we caught a train and a bus from Brisbane, and it took, like, an hour and a half to get there. It was so old school—you had the line of hectic emos that went halfway down the street, and because the rooms were so big and they weren’t as popular back then, the circle pits were just insane. Like you know when you go on YouTube and you click on a video like “World’s Best Circle Pits”? That was the caliber of how ridiculous it was! And it was probably the best show I’ve ever seen them play. It was just so out of control.
Did you end up catching the ten-year anniversary tour back in January as well?
I didn’t, sadly. The last time I saw them play was maybe a couple of years ago at Festival Hall. I think they played with Amity and someone else. I’m still a fan and I still appreciate their new stuff as well, but nah, I haven’t gotten around to seeing them in recent years.
3. August Burns Red – Messengers
11 years later, this record still just jams so fucking hard. Why did this one score a spot in your Top Five?
Truth Of A Lie is probably one of my favourite metalcore songs of all time! Vocally, Jake [Luhrs] is just nuts; his high range screams are insane. I feel like this is album is just real metalcore. I’m really bad with the terminology of instruments and shit, y’know, because I’m a vocalist, but even the time signatures have got that 3/4 kind of flow with the guitars, the drums are so hectic, and … The whole thing just blows my mind to this day. The lyrics on this album are probably my favourite out of all the albums I picked—except for maybe Alexisonfire—and I feel like all of the lyrics are really powerful, especially on Composure. I think everyone knows the lyrics to Composure, just because they’re so deep and powerful. And even the fact that they’re Christian, I really liked that as well. I didn’t know they were Christian until I’d really gotten into this album [laughs]. I just really appreciate this band and this album, and I still listen to it all the time.
Truth Of A Lie is the go-to track you show someone when they ask what the perfect metalcore song is.
Just his screams, man! Like, the way he holds out his high screams are just nuts. I’ve tried to learn how to cover that song for so many years and it’s impossible. He’s just insane.
I love that Jake’s style is just brutal, old school fucking screaming.
[ Alex Reade ]
I get a lot of an August Burns Red vibe from Third Law, especially in the vocal structures with that balance of melody and heaviness, and in the guitars with those thick, super energetic riffs. Would you say these blokes are another major influence for you?
That is such a big compliment, thank you! I mean, all of these bands and albums have gone into shaping the way I approach songwriting for sure, but when I’m writing, I definitely don’t try to think about any kind of influence, because I don’t really want to sound like anyone else. But in saying that, Jake’s range, and the high screaming where it sounds like he’s just tearing paint off a wall … I definitely like returning back to that, especially when everyone else is doing more yell-screaming and that emotive sort of screaming. I can’t really scream like that, so I love that Jake’s style is just brutal, old school fucking screaming.
I think August Burns Red are one of the few bands that are always consistent in their sound, but they’re consistently good with it. So even though they’re on their eighth album, they still have a really fresh and exciting vibe. What do you think of their more recent stuff?
I haven’t really listened to them in recent times, but I always come back to this album! I’m the type of person who gets super nostalgic over one thing, so if I find something I love, I’ll just destroy it. I’ll flog a dead horse, basically, so I don’t need any more of August Burns Red than this album. I will listen to this forever. Like, it’s really weird, but I’ll just listen to it over and over and over and relish in it every time.
4. Alexisonfire – Crisis
Even though it’s their third album, I feel like this is another one of those really classic records—everyone who frothed heavy music in school frothed this album. Do you remember the first time you wrapped your ears around it?
Yes! The first song I ever heard was Rough Hands, which is really bizarre because it’s the softest song on the album for sure. I heard it and I was like, “Oh my God, this is fucking beautiful, who is this band?” Actually, with every single one of these albums, the songs on it were pretty much the first time I’d ever heard the band as well. So Rough Hands was the first time I’d ever heard Alexisonfire, and then it just got me into this whole album, and I could probably say that this is the greatest album of all time in my opinion. It’s probably my favourite album ever, at least. I cannot stop listening to it, I will not stop listening to it; I’ve seen Alexisonfire play five times—I cried twice—and knowing that I stood on the same stage as them at UNIFY Gathering is probably my greatest achievement; I can happily die now.
The first band t-shirt I ever owned was Alexisonfire’s one with the heart logo. They’re just outstanding, and, like, I can remember so many Bang! nights where Alexisonfire would come on and everyone would just be going nuts and singing along with each other. I’ve made so many friends singing This Could Be Anywhere In The World with strangers at Bang! [laughs]. I feel like it really is the album of, like, my time in the scene; it represented everyone and how everyone felt at the time, and I feel like it’s a part of my youth forever. It’s like really emotional how much I love this album [laughs].
It’s probably my favourite album ever, at least. I cannot stop listening to it, I will not stop listening to it; I’ve seen Alexisonfire play five times—I cried twice
[ Alex Reade ]
So you played with Alexisonfire at UNIFY Gathering last year …
I’d love to think we played with them [laughs]. I mean, did we?
You were on the same stage!
I mean, I guess, yeah … Actually, y’know what? Yes. We played with Alexisonfire at UNIFY! But even just playing at the same festival as them was just absolutely nuts. I didn’t get to meet them because there was just so much going on, and I’m too much of, like … I probably wouldn’t be able to speak if I saw George or Dallas—I’d just cry—so y’know, I admired them from afar, I’m happy to stay a fan forever. But yeah, this is definitely my number one album of all time.
It seems that whenever someone brings Alexisonfire up, the first album they jump to is Crisis. Why do you think it’s gone on to be revered as their best release?
I think it’s just really well written. Once again, I don’t think anyone sounds like Alexisonfire, and y’know, there are so many moments in every song that are just so powerful. You could go through every song and pick out a lyric that everyone sings and screams at that point of the song—like in Boiled Frogs: “My youth is slipping, my youth is slipping away!” Every song has so much meaning, and there are no empty songs on the whole record. I think they just nailed it. It was just like an absolutely magical moment in time, and it all came together to create this album.
I feel like it’s just the perfect teen angst album. Whenever you feel like the world is against you, there’s a comfort in having George Pettit just fucking scream in your face.
[Sighs wistfully] Ah, George. But like, it’s even more than teen angst. I think because they were all older and I was older, it was almost like, “I’m not even young anymore but I’ve got so much angst, and I need this so much!”
Alexisonfire is another band that recently did an anniversary tour. You were at that one, right!?
I was! I was there bawling my fucking eyes out [laughs]. Honestly, when I saw their farewell tour, it was worse than any heartbreak I’ve ever experienced. I saw them play that show at Festival Hall and I cried and cried and cried, and then they came back for UNIFY and played Festival Hall again, so I was at all of those shows as well, also crying.
I know you guys haven’t done the whole “album” thing just yet, but when you’re writing music with Drown This City, do you think about whether or not fans will be clamouring to hear it ten years from now?
I definitely fantasise about the future, and meaning that much to people that they would want that. But with Drown This City, everything we do still feels so new. We’ve been a band for almost three years now, but I feel like we’re still such a baby band. It just takes so long to find your sound, to find your place and find a full lineup that’s going to stick together, and y’know, we’ve had so many changes recently as well, so everything is super fresh. The only thing that I’m really focused on is that with every song I’m writing, I need it to be good. I need it to be better than the last song that I wrote, and that’s pretty much the only thing I think about. “Is the melody better? Are the lyrics better? Is the structure better? Am I performing better?” And I can’t think about anything else, or how much I could want for the future would probably consume me too much and I’d just give up.
So you’re just taking everything day-by-day for now, essentially.
Exactly. And normally I’m not that type of person, but with my approach to this stuff, I just have to take it day-by-day.
5. Muse – Origin Of Symmetry
This one stood out the most for me because when I listen to Drown This City and think, “Hmm, I wonder what these guys are into,” Muse is definitely not in the first page of bands I think of. What is it about this one that you love?
I think I’ve realised my theme with these albums: I’m such an emotional person, so all of these albums just mean so much to me emotionally. Whether they’re really good or not, I don’t know, but they’re important albums to me. This was the first album I ever heard from Muse, yet again. It was back in 2006, so it had been out for a little while, and it was the first time I’d ever heard a band that influenced me so much that I actually wanted to be in a band. Matt Bellamy’s vocals just blew my mind. The beauty of the music, and how addictive the music is … Like, my favourite song is Plug In Baby because it’s just such an insane track. I remember almost crying myself to sleep listening to this album because I had such a want to be a part of something like it. I had to have that; I had to be onstage and I had to experience that feeling. I think about six months after, I moved to Melbourne and joined my first ever band. And again, Matt Bellamy is a genius. I’d just never heard of anything like it before.
I love this album because it’s got this perfect fusion of bright electronics and huge, booming rock music. They definitely weren’t the first band to try it, but I think they were one of the first bands to really crack the code and get that style under lock and key.
Yeah, like everyone always says, “Oh, Muse sound so much like Radiohead, they were super influenced by Radiohead,” but I don’t see that correlation. I’ve listened to a lot of Radiohead and I get that they’ve both got high voices and whatever else, but Muse just hits so much harder. It’s so rebellious and loud and nuts, and it’s just amazing.
Matt Bellamy is a genius. I’d just never heard of anything like it before.
[ Alex Reade ]
Could you see Drown This City doing something like Muse did on later albums where you’ve got these huge bass drops and synth hooks standing alongside your breakdowns?
Anything is open to the future, but we recently departed with our old bass player, and he was the one that brought a lot of electronic influences with him and wrote that stuff. Most of the new stuff we’re working on is a lot more guitar-driven. We still are putting a lot of synth-y stuff in, but I’m not sure if that’s our path anymore… But I don’t know! And I think that’s really exciting as well, because I never even saw us writing new music. It’s a lot heavier and the guitars are a lot more prominent and more aggressive, and I’m really excited about that. I was quite emotional about losing touch with the electronic element of our music, but I’m okay with the change, so I don’t know where we’ll go from here. Who knows?
One of the things that Muse are most known for are their ridiculously massive live shows with all this intense pyro and technology at play. Is that something you could see Drown This City doing one day, when you end up playing these massive stages?
Fuck yeah! I mean, why not? I love In This Moment, I love Bring Me The Horizon, I love Parkway Drive—y’know, they’ve all turned their live shows into this absolute fucking spectacle of a show, and I think in the heavy scene, no-one really thought of doing that back in the day. Maybe the bands never got to the stage where they were earning enough money or playing big enough shows to do that. So if we ever get to that stage, then fuck yeah. I think we just need to find our thing, like… I don’t know what our angle would be, I don’t know how we’d want to express ourselves in that really overwhelming sort of way. But hopefully, when it happens, we’ll figure it out. When it happens.
Hypothetically, you’ve got the power to make a supergroup out of members from all five of the bands we just spoke about. Who plays what instrument?
I only know the singers of every band—y’know, because I’m a singer and that’s what I do [laughs]. I’d get all of them together! I think I’d have Davey as the main frontman, just because he’s my number one. So he would be the main frontman, and then maybe his screamer would be Winston—so we’d have two frontmen, Davey singing and Winston screaming—and then we could put Matt on every instrument. Maybe have Dallas and Jake as backing vocalists.
And just before I let you head off, what can you tell us about your own album? When can we expect Drown This City to drop that sweet, sweet debut?
[Laughs] Well, we’re definitely in the process! We’ve got a lot of songs. We’re recording with Scotty Simpson from Alpha Wolf at the moment—he’s the one that produced Third Law. I mean, I’m a big fan of the EP still. Y’know, it’s just short and fast and like a punch in the face, so maybe we’ll release another EP. I don’t know!
Do you have a release date in mind for whatever is in the pipeline?
We’ll be putting out some more content in the next couple of months, and then hopefully by the end of the year, we’ll have another full release ready to go. We’re just chilling at the moment, testing the waters with our new sound and making sure we don’t rush anything. I don’t see the point—we went pretty hard at the start of our career and then we had a lot of changes and we had to pull back a bit, so I’m pretty keen to just appreciate this year a lot more; just take it a bit slower and see how we go.
Drown This City’s latest single, Third Law, is out now via MGM.
You can catch Drown This City launching Third Law with shows in Melbourne and Sydney this week.
Friday June 1st – Workers Club, Melbourne
with Rumours and ATLVS
Saturday June 2nd – Chippendale Hotel, Sydney
with Arteries, Dreamers Crime and The Maybe List