The Amity Affliction: The Big Ass Interview
Big Ass Times lie ahead for The Amity Affliction, as the Gympie-native moshcore mainstays prepare for their biggest tour yet, album number five, and of course, world domination. Matt Doria riffs with bassist and vocalist Ahren Stringer on how the little band that could became the massive legends that did.
Back in 2004, The Amity Affliction were playing lunchtime ‘shows’ at their high school in Gympie, kicking it with bar staff and hustling for opener slots at PCYC gigs. Today, they’re headlining festivals in Europe and throwing down with Canadians, flooding arenas the world over as one of alternative music’s most auspicious acts – probably not what the blokes were expecting when they put this out. 2015 alone racks up a jaw-dropping 153 sets for the Queensland moshcore unit, or one every 2.4 days. As such, downtime is especially rare, and savoured like nothing else.
“We’re definitely always itching to get home,” offers Ahren Stringer, the band’s clean vocalist and bassist, and only consistent member throughout their 12-year run. “We tour more than we’re actually at home, so when we do get some time off, it’s a godsend. We cherish every moment – even the mundane things like going to get groceries and stuff like that, it’s something you really start yearning for when you’re on the road.”
In Australia, you’d find a unicorn before you found a hardcore kid without at least one Amity shirt in their wardrobe. It’s without a doubt that the band’s homeland hustle has well and truly paid off – after all, their next run here is the Big Ass Tour, which in under a month from now will hit some of the country’s most respectable (and enormous) venues. Their international reach is also pretty stunning, with concerts packed to the rafters everywhere from California to the Czech Republic. But as Stringer divulges, there’s still work to be done. Crowds to be won over. Shirts – oh, so many shirts – to be worn.
“There are the obvious differences [between touring in Australia and elsewhere], like that we’ve already established ourselves as a band here,” he says. “We have overseas as well, but we’re still trying to push forward and get as big as possible, spread the ‘Amity Affliction’ word everywhere we can, just so we can keep doing this for as long as possible. It’s like, when we play shows here, we’re not trying to win over any potential fans – we’re just trying to please the fans we’ve already got. But overseas, we’re grinding and doing extensive touring to try and get to that level.”
“We’re still trying to push forward and get as big as possible, spread the ‘Amity Affliction’ word everywhere we can, just so we can keep doing this for as long as possible.”
A co-headlining jaunt with American buddies A Day To Remember, the Big Ass Tour wraps up an incredible year of stagedives and stubbies for The Amity Affliction. It brings them full circle as well, in a sense, as the quartet also kicked the year off with a trek across Oz soil. Spanning 18 dates through cities like Townsville and Geelong, the ‘Weigh Downunder’ tour was a drastic change of pace for the band, taking them out of the arena and into the RSL. And while the year that followed saw their popularity burst tenfold, Stringer says that Amity aren’t above treating their fans along the roads less travelled.
“We’ll definitely always have the occasional regional tours, just because a lot of people can’t make it to the big cities,” he assures us. “Australia is a very vast and distanced place, so we’ll always be psyched to do those tours. We’ve only done one of them in the last, maybe, three years or something, so they’re obviously not going to be very frequent, but we’re still going to do them. There’s not many people out in the sticks, so when we do those smaller shows in small towns, it feels just as rewarding as playing in a big room.”
As glamorous as it all sounds being an internationally successful touring band, one has to wonder how the band don’t absolutely hate each other yet. They’ve spent the better part of 12 years cramped up in touring busses, dodgy apartments, and in all sorts of questionable situations… How has that not ended in disaster?
“I guess we’ve just been together for so long that we just know when and when not to push each other’s buttons,” laughs Stringer. “We’re all very cautious and conscious of how everyone’s feeling, and it’s pretty simple – I mean, there’s no point in fighting, and if a fight does kind of erupt, we can just kind of go, ‘Yeah okay, I don’t want this to happen’ and shut our mouths, go about our business. But of course we do fight every now and then, which I think is healthy as well. When you put six dudes in a van together for two months straight, it’s bound to happen.”
That being said, to say that The Amity Affliction haven’t hit their fair share of speed bumps along the way would be less than equitable. The band have shuffled through an even dozen members since their inception, with founding guitarist Troy Brady the last to drop off at the end of last year, leaving Stringer as the sole surviving member of the Amity of ‘03. But now is not a time for looking down. No, as the band gear up for their biggest tour ever, their fifth album, and for the first time in a long time, a break from the chaos, Stringer is confident in the band as they stand today.
“We feel like this line-up, and just the band in general, is at the healthiest point that we’ve ever been,” he says. “We’re all the best of friends, and this is really a strong, well-oiled machine right now.”
“The main thing we always strive to do is just write better music, and I think we’ve proved that with every record.”
No frontman with any common sense would say otherwise, of course, but it’s clear to see that Stringer is being genuine here – especially considering that even with their touring schedule being nothing short of insane, the band found time to smash out a new single. The first piece of music to come from Amity without Brady’s input, “Shine On” topped the charts almost instantly. Its presence on the quartet’s upcoming album is unconfirmed, but fans can rest easy knowing that there’s 15 tracks ready to be laid down for that record in January. What remains unknown, however, is which direction Stringer wants to take Amity in for LP #5.
“There’s definitely no master plan,” he says. “The main thing we always strive to do is just write better music, and I think we’ve proved that with every record. It’s definitely been somewhat of a progression, and we’re always putting out better music in general. We just strive to master our craft, more than anything.”
If their popularity continues to surge at the rate it is now, Amity’s next full-length will launch to more ears than previously thought possible. The band have an island’s worth of hard work to thank for their success, but now more than ever, the way we consume music makes it easier for us to find our next favourite band in a matter of seconds. As Stringer hypothesises, this is why the alternative music scene is currently thriving, and can only go upwards from here.
“I think it’s a combination of radio play and the internet – everyone’s becoming more aware of this genre of music because it’s more easily accessible than it was back in the day,” he says. “Without the internet, it was hard to kind of hear about bands, unless you were listening to late-night triple j on a Wednesday. But nowadays, I guess it’s becoming more popular from things like social media. The internet is just a huge part of it, I think. People can find any band they want from any genre – you can hear one Parkway or Amity song on triple j and then look it up on YouTube, and you can sit there for hours watching that stuff.
“Bands like us and Parkway have kind of made it clear to other bands in Australia that want to take the next step, go overseas, and try to get as big as possible. The proof is in the punch, y’know? When people see other bands doing it, it becomes more possible for them. Just because you’re in Australia, doesn’t mean you can’t branch out and get big overseas. The sky is the limit.”
Gear up for the Big Ass Tour with Amity’s new single “Shine On”.
The Amity Affliction / A Day To Remember / Motionless In White / Hands Like Houses Tour Dates
Sat Dec 12th – Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney
Mon Dec 14th – Perth Arena, Perth
Wed Dec 16th – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Thu Dec 17th – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Sat Dec 19th – Riverstage, Brisbane – SOLD OUT
Sun Dec 20th – Riverstage, Brisbane