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he Amity Affliction have cemented their place as one of the most successful musical outfits in Australia in the last decade, so it makes sense that when we ask vocalist/bassist Ahren Stringer if he’s ever nervous about that success fading, he doesn’t hint at fear. “It’s never really daunting to me, I’m always a firm believer in our product and if I think it’s good, I just assume everyone else will,” he says. “You know, I’m the guy in the band who’s always a little more cocky than everyone else, who kind of just assumes that we’re going to do well with whatever we release. I think that’s just because I would never let something be released that I wasn’t 100 percent invested in. So I’m always pretty confident with everything we put out, or anything we book. Whatever turn-out we get is always a plus.”

 

Of course, failure doesn’t seem to be a fate on the cards for the metalcore stalwarts anytime soon. Their headlining tour in support of their upcoming record, This Could Be Heartbreak, sold out almost as quickly as it was announced. You would think that their premier status engenders some form of contentment, but things aren’t always rosy in the Amity camp. The heartbreak the record refers to is that of frontman Joel Birch, whose personal experiences – however negative – have been documented in detail across The Amity Affliction’s expanding discography. “[Joel] was having a hard time recently, he definitely went down the rabbit hole again,” Stringer admits. “He’s had a lot of struggle with depression, anxiety and alcoholism, and I think that was definitely fuelling the fire a bit. He was definitely in a rough stage during the end of recording. He’s come out of it good now, but during that, when he was writing all of these songs, I think heartbreak was definitely just him feeling really down and at the point of no return. But he’s come good and he’s on the right track again. That’s the thing with depression: alcohol definitely fuels it tenfold. So it’s something that he’s gained control of and he’s all on the straight and narrow.”

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With explanations like that to reference, it’s hard to question the sincerity of Amity’s lyrics. Resultantly, the common stream of criticism usually appointed to the gladiators of the Aussie heavy scene attacks elsewhere, pointing out a formulaic sameness in the structure of their tracks. Stringer isn’t bothered. He describes the “beat down-TAA” mentality as “a classic case of Tall Poppy Syndrome”. “I think most of the time it’s just a bit of a pissing contest. People don’t like to see Australian bands do well when other Australian bands aren’t doing so well.” While Stringer does note that the new record steps off the beaten path a little bit, it isn’t because everyone is pushing Amity to toe the line. “All Fucked Up” counts as the most left-field outlier that band has ever let grace an LP, an acoustic little banger delivered by Stringer himself. “If it wasn’t good enough, we weren’t going to put it on the album,” Stringer concedes. “But it turned out to be one of the best songs on the record, so we were super stoked. But it wasn’t like us trying to get a song that we could play on the radio or anything. It was just like, ‘Yeah let’s try a soft ballady song because we can’. And it’s something different, it makes the record more diverse, and it’s just a little bit of a kind of lull in between. That’s why we put it in the middle of the record, so you get all the heavy songs and then you get this nice break in the middle like an intermission.”TAAQuote02

 

Whether the Queensland outfit continues to take risks, even if they dabble in country music or deathcore, it’s undeniable that they’ll always have a following of mass proportions. That comes down to a connection with fans that runs deep enough to sustain Amity no matter what they choose to do. The dedication of the band’s following is owed significantly to Birch’s lyrics, which Stringer identifies as allowing him to connect with the listener, “whether he means to or not”. It’s an undebatable truth that Amity shows are a welcoming place for anyone who has ever felt lost, and the band distinguishes themselves from their contemporaries by playing their hearts out for everyone in the venue on the day, rather than just themselves. The scene as a sanctuary for its members is confirmed by Stringer describing it as a space where “everyone’s very open-minded and really respectful of each other’s safety. The only time I’ve ever seen anyone hurt at a show is from security not doing their job properly. Even when I was going to NOFX shows, if someone fell over, the whole crowd would pick them up.” He starts to show his age on his next elaboration: “As long as people aren’t getting hit in the mosh pit, doing fight dancing or whatever the kids are doing these days, I think it’s a fairly safe place.”

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Back when the first video for This Could Be Heartbreak was teased, which honestly feels like eons ago at this point, it was speculated that Birch would be departing the powerhouse that is The Amity Affliction. A dissatisfaction with the life of touring, which draws participants away from their families and into artistic nomadism, is reflected in cuts off the new record like “OMGIMY” (which stands for “Oh my god I’m missing you”). Luckily for our scene, when asked if there’s a chance of settling down, Stringer did not provide an answer synonymous with bad news: “He [Joel] kind of speaks for everyone when he’s talking about being away from home so much, and touring, I mean, it definitely gets the better of you if you let it,” the singer explains. “It’s also a catch-22: we have to do this, it’s part of the job. People probably laugh at that, and think, ‘Haha, yeah right, poor sods having to tour around the world’ but it does get hard because you spend a lot of time away from home and you miss out on a lot of the stuff that happens. Especially for Joel, like his kid’s growing up. It’s something that we have to do to provide for our families, and as much as it sucks, it’s just something that we’ve gotta do. Not that it sucks…the part that sucks is being away from home for extended periods of time. But it is definitely rewarding every time. If you’re having a shitty day and you go on stage and you play to a couple thousand kids, it all melts away, and it’s all worth it. There’s definitely no reason to believe we’ll be slowing down at any point in the near future.” B

 

This Could Be Heartbreak is out now via Roadrunner/Warner.
Grab a copy: JB HiFi | Webstore | iTunes