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TROPHY EYES // “I Realised That My Career Was Probably Close To Over If I Didn’t Release Something”

Once again solidifying their status as one of the most compelling Australian heavy acts in the current stratosphere, Newcastle-hailing quarter Trophy Eyes have returned in 2023 armed with a brand new album; the vulnerable yet overwhelmingly powerful Suicide and Sunshine which seamlessly balances the luminous light and staggering darkness of its very namesake. 

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An album that captures the full human experience while also shining a spotlight on the band’s determined journey to branch beyond the confines of hardcore and any expectations in place during the lead up to their fourth full length, Suicide and Sunshine is an intimate and inescapably beautiful outing that welds dark pop, electronic hues and plenty of infectious melodics with grit and heavy finesse to grip you from start to finish. And in the lead up to the release of Suicide and Sunshine, vocalist John Floreani extensively parted the curtain, revealing to some of the firsts and milestone moments for him creatively and personally that accompanied Trophy Eyes album #4.

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“You know, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” Floreani muses of the impending release of a brand new album. “I’m excited, definitely, for it to be out. Weirdly enough, I’m stressed about social media. I have to upkeep social media, it’s a different game now, so that’s playing a big factor in the release. But ultimately – I don’t think it’s hit me yet!”

“It is our best work,” Floreani continues, “and I’m proud of it too, which is the first time ever for a release, that I actually like it. I’m excited, I’m sure it’s gonna hit me very soon.”

Laden with personal narratives stemming from Floreani’s own life, alongside experiences forged and shifted during the pandemic, Suicide and Sunshine was itself many, many years in the making, following on from the Newcastle natives’ 2018 release The American Dream. But while much of the subject matter and surrounding elements may themselves, on paper, lend themselves to melancholia and gripping gloom, the end result is a genre-defying blend of pure catharsis, with inspiration also coming in unexpected places during lockdowns and uncertainty.

“I was writing the songs for quite a long time,” shares Floreani of the early Suicide and Sunshine days. “I think it stems back to almost 2018. At the time, I didn’t know what it was gonna be, I didn’t know it was an album. I was just writing, because I always do.” 

“And then – the pandemic came along and kind of crushed all creativity and inspiration that I have, because I can’t just sit down and just make something up. I have to go and be inspired, or sit in a park, or be doing something. I have to always be moving. If I’m stationary, I kind of get instantly depressed in like three days if I’m not doing something.”

I had to find different ways like that to make myself do stuff, like putting on a shower cap in the shower and then sitting down like it was raining on me, just trying to pull out some kind of inspiration, some type kind of creativity
[ John Floreani – Trophy Eyes ]

“In that space, it got dark for me, and I couldn’t really write. And there was a lot of learning about who I am without the band. It was a trip, it was a lot more than I expected. I thought: “oh shit, we gotta sit inside for a little while”. And then all of a sudden it was existential crisis mode which was intense. I haven’t had to sit with myself for 10 years, you know, I’ve always been surrounded by people and it was very sobering.”

“I kind of had to work through that. And I kept writing, I had to go out of my way to find inspiration.”

Inspiration for Floreani came in commonplace forms during the pandemic, with seemingly mediocre moments like walking home with groceries and feeling the wind of cars rushing past igniting his creative spark. 

“That was the moment where all of a sudden I felt: oh, that’s something!” Floreani smiles, recounting a moment standing on the street holding bags of groceries. “It felt like something almost quite dangerous, and it was at a beautiful time of day. I had to find different ways like that to make myself do stuff, like putting on a shower cap in the shower and then sitting down like it was raining on me, just trying to pull out some kind of inspiration, some type kind of creativity.”

“It was hard and it was a long process. But, I kept writing it and the theme of it started to accumulate. I was finally looking at it as a physical thing and I could see an image now.”

Originally intended to be titled The Shape Of My Twenties, Floreani’s experience writing what would grow to become Suicide and Sunshine rapidly exceeded the initial personal title, with a photo of a space shuttle leaving the moon and the Earth in shot spurring Floreani to expand his creative vision to instead encapsulate the entire spectrum of the human experience. 

“After I came up with the concept, it started just pouring out of me,” Florenai shares. “And the writing was really good. I started to make trips to Sydney when the lockdown eased, and I was writing with a friend Fletcher Matthews, he’s a great producer who’s done a lot of really cool stuff. And it was there that the idea and the concept started to come together, writing really opened up because I was travelling again.”

“Finally before I knew it, I was in Thailand with the guys and we were there picking out of something like 30 demos or 30 ideas, maybe 20 something demos, picking the songs not for how they sounded, but for potential.”

“We made a short list and got to work. And that was a process, that was a long process, a five year process,” Floreani laughs.

While the wheels had been well and truly in motion pre-pandemic for Suicide and Sunshine, the end result was inescapably impacted by the state of the world during at the time. And in the lead up, there was another new factor playing into proceedings; notably the fact that the band decided to approach the new album as if it would be their last. 

“I think the sense of urgency wouldn’t have been there,” Floreani explains of the inevitable footprint left by the times surrounding the making of Suicide and Sunshine, “because I realised. and this is kind of like in a transactional sense, but I realised that my career was probably close to over if I didn’t release something.”

And also, we were so badly battered that Trophy Eyes kind of had given up – and we all decided this is our last record. That’s what made this such a Trophy Eyes record
[ John Floreani – Trophy Eyes ]

“And also, we were so badly battered that Trophy Eyes kind of had given up – and we all decided this is our last record. That’s what made this such a Trophy Eyes record, I think, because we were like: “okay, we’ve explored enough with our sound now”. We’ve tried every avenue, we’ve had fun because there was never any time limit on what we were doing. In the end, I think that sense of urgency that this is our last one was huge.”

“We decided to wrap it all up and put all of these sounds into one album and make it unapologetically Trophy Eyes. It had to be us 100%. Without the pandemic. and without the dread of losing 10 years of work and giving up and being so defeated – we’d still be free to be experimenting, you know, it could’ve been a rap album that we put out this time,” Floreani laughs. “It could have been anything, because that’s what Trophy Eyes does. We just go: “let’s write some weird music”. That’s what we’ve always done.”

“Without the pandemic, I think it could have been a very different album,” Floreani adds. “It was very sobering to say: “okay, this is the last one. This is it. Let’s get together and write the perfect goodbye”. And what’s what it was: the big goodbye, the big thank you and farewell.”

“That’s why I think it sounds like it does. It would’ve been a very different album if we didn’t have our wings clipped like that.”

With multiple songs on the album providing significant insight into very personal and real moments for Floreani, including the heart-breaking Sean that Floreani penned on an acoustic guitar the day his friend tragically took his own life, Suicide and Sunshine flits between harsh and churning instrumentals and moments of tranquility alongside Floreani pouring his soul into every ounce of the album; a fact that Floreani himself felt just as deeply as any listener would when journeying through the brand new tracks.

“It’s probably the most honest and vulnerable I’ve ever been,” Floreani reveals. “And there’s stuff on there, especially on Sean, that you don’t tell anybody, you don’t even tell your mum that kind of shit.”

Teaming up with producer Shane Edwards to bring Suicide and Sunshine to fruition, with co-producing also courtesy of Matthews, the well-oiled Trophy Eyes machine took on new life via the band’s willingness (and an occasional push) to step outside their stylistic comfort zones.

“With Shane, he might tell you something different, but the reason that I always go to him is because I love him, he is family,” says Floreani. “But he has this incredible ability to pull out the realness in what you’re doing and cut away the bullshit.” 

“I’ll always come in and say I’m gonna put some flavour on this word and blah, blah, blah – and it’s all bullshit,” Floreani pauses, laughing. “Like – you’re doing bullshit. And that, I guess, comes from my punk beginnings. But there’s a certain amount of bullshit in every songwriting experience, and Shane will go in and pull out the real meaning behind the song. Then you listen to it back – and it doesn’t sound anything like what you wanted. And you’ll be like: “oh fuck, can you tune that or can you do this?”. And he’ll say: “nope”. But he is right and makes it very, very real. And that’s why I need him.”

“If I didn’t have Shane, I’d embarrass myself in five years. I’d look back at that and I’d be like: “ooh, that wasn’t me”. That was me, you know, trying to do a Britney Spears run or something like that. Shane knows exactly where to cut the fat.”

As for Fletcher’s addition, his handiwork is abundantly evident throughout the fourth Trophy Eyes album, gifting it, as Floreani puts it, “a breath of fresh air”.

“I respect what he does,” Floreani elaborates. “Fletcher’s very good at electronic production and stuff like that. I wanted something that can’t be done with pedals or analog instruments, like physical guitars, drums, all that kind of stuff. I wanted something new.”

“We listened to a lot of EDM and trance and techno and stuff together and that just has these primal effects on your body where you feel euphoria and love and like connection to the rhythm. It makes you feel very human, and I wanted to get those feelings in here as well.”

“I want everyone to feel like they’re in that weird dancing scene of the second Matrix movie!” 

And, as Floreani shares, much of the Trophy Eyes magic also stems largely from within its very own walls. 

“Blake’s [Caruso] got a great ear,” Floreani smiles. “You know when you hear something so simple that you just can’t help but smile and go: yes!! Blake’s got that ear for that. He helps us not be too weird, and to kind of stay on the straight and narrow. If it wasn’t for him, we’d be some weird math punk band or something like that!”

Currently on an national run to launch their brand new album, the Trophy Eyes train continues to go from strength to strength as they fearlessly journey into an insatiable new creative chapter in 2023. And for those yet to witness the current show live in action, there will certainly be something for everyone during the Suicide and Sunshine tour, as well as a chance to spend time in person devouring the new material so painstakingly created for many years.

“There’s gonna be some really cool moments,” Floreani concludes. “Definitely a lot of new music, but also the deep cuts. It’s gonna be a mix of everything, but most definitely a lot of new music as well.”

Suicide and Sunshine is out now via Hopeless Records.

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