The Butterly Effect: Anatomy Of A Break Up
In 2001 a band from Brisbane appeared out of nowhere with a slice of nu-metal-influenced rock: the song was “Take It Away” from the group’s self-titled EP, The Butterfly Effect. Triple J loved it, the kids loved it, and the band were propelled into the A-league through powerful live performances, berths on every major festival going and singles like “Crave”, “One Second of Insanity” and “A Slow Descent”. Having been quickly snapped up by Roadshow Music, their debut album Begins Here cracked the ARIA top 30 in 2003, making a powerful statement of intent showing a band with endless potential, ready to take on the world.
Fast forward to 2012 and the four members – guitarist Kurt Goedhart, drummer Ben Hall, bassist Glenn Esmond and frontman Clint Boge – are about to embark on their final tour together, following Boge’s announcement earlier this year that he was leaving the band. It’s accompanied by a career-spanning best of, Effected, and draws a line under a decade of music. Official word is that the split is amicable, with the three remaining members looking forward to the next chapter and Boge relishing the opportunity to focus on his solo career and his other band, Thousand Needles In Red.
“It’s bullshit,” Boge declares. “It’s a lie, and that just shows me how fucking gutless and stupid it’s become: they can’t even stand there and say, ‘Well, actually we weren’t getting on, the relationships and the respect level wasn’t there, we didn’t like what he was putting down.’ They pushed me far enough, and you can’t survive in that environment.”
Most bands go to some lengths to preserve the idea of the group as an unassailable unit, often only admitting private splits and internal ructions years after the event.
“Andrew, the media training went out the window on this one,” Boge declares around the middle of our conversation. “I thought, ‘Nah, I’m gonna open up to .’ I’m good to play nice [for the tour], but I can’t forget what the last ten years have been like.”
The story of the Butterfly Effect, the way the members tell it in four separate interviews, has been one of internal turmoil, opportunities wasted, successes compromised and creative dissatisfaction, all overlaid by a fierce determination to move forward at all costs.
“It’s been falling apart for years,” Goedhart sighs. “The wheels have been coming off, realistically, since the Imago sessions, when we went overseas to record with [QOTSA/Bad Religion producer] Joe Barresi: that was the first noise that was coming from under the bonnet. Shit went down over there and we’ve been struggling to get the car running smoothly since then.”
The album went to #2 in the charts and cemented the band’s growing reputation, but also seems to have sealed in the poison in the process.
“Joe said that he would have cancelled the recording session two weeks in, and his response to why was that we were not a band,” says Boge. “There was no cohesion as a band, no camaraderie going forward – we all got along, to a degree, but I spent six weeks on the Imago tour and Kurt didn’t talk to me once.”
“We’re not a great group of friends, the Butterfly Effect,” Hall shrugs. “We’ve never really been all buddy-buddy, let’s go to the pub. We met through other musicians, and we played together and it was just right. Whenever I was listening to it I’d be thinking, ‘I don’t care if that guy’s a cockhead, this music is awesome.’ And these last three years we just weren’t getting that, so something had to give.”
“And it wasn’t always complicated,” Boge points out. “In the beginning it was amazing. Writing the EP, doing Begins Here was tremendous. But something happened after Begins Here…” he trails off, sighing. “I lost their respect personally, for actions of mine. ”
“Like getting drunk at inopportune times, and I had some run ins with some high-up people in the music business. I might have offended somebody. I went off at Kurt a few times for things that he’d said that I thought were pretty shit. And nothing was ever resolved properly, nothing was ever forgiven, I feel. But the other guys said other stupid things when they were drunk and high, and that seemed to be OK. It just seemed to go away for them.”
The frustration in his voice is clear. “There was always something bubbling under the surface with me and Kurt,” he declares. “Half of the things they talked about in the room behind my back, I was never privy to. If someone had said, ‘Hey man, the way you behaved the other night when you got really drunk was really shit and reflected poorly on the band,’ I would have gone, ‘Oh, fuck, sorry man,’ you know? But to spend six weeks touring the biggest record you ever wrote having your guitarist not even talking to you, and asking Benny and Glenn, ‘What the fuck have I done?’ to which was responded, ‘Ah, you need to talk to Kurt about that one’? This sort of behaviour was going on from very early on.”
It was with this level of dysfunction that the band started work on their final album together, 2008’s Final Conversation Of Kings.
“There were already big problems as we were going into that,” Goedhart declares. “It’s such a misaligned record, a complete mismatch. I don’t think it’s what any of the four of us wanted to release. I think each individual member has a proud moment, where you can go, ‘Yeah, we nailed it there,’ – but as an album, no. We can’t even agree on which songs we like.”
“Some ideas aren’t fully played out until you get into the studio, and by the time you listen back to it later you go, ‘Jeez, that’s just terrible,’” Hall explains with a tired chuckle. “”In These Hands” is a really great example of that: it had some really great parts that we just couldn’t flesh out. If we’d had another two months it probably would have been thrown away, but because we had those ideas we thought there was enough merit in pursuing it. And once we finished it, we thought, ‘Well, that is a terrible piece of music.’’’
“I had to threaten to quit the band if “Worlds On Fire” didn’t go on the album,” Boge declares. “I just sat there and went, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you guys? And Kurt’s response was, ‘Oh, it’s too Muse-y’ and my response was, ‘I don’t fucking care if it’s an exact rip off of Muse, it’s the best song we’ve got!’”
“Obviously there are songs that Kurt loves that I can’t fucking stand, some things that Clint loves that I can’t stand, but as a general rule I think it worked fairly well for us,” Hall shrugs. “Generally, whenever Clint was excited about something it was good, or if Kurt was excited about something it was good.”
“Two or three of my proudest moments as a songwriter and being in a band are on that record,” Esmond says carefully. “I think every record that we have we always shoot to the stars, but there’ll be one or two tracks where we go ‘…mmm, ehhhh’. But that’s why we’ve been semi-selective with our setlists live, because on every record there are a couple of songs where you go ‘eeeeh’.”
“The amount of times I’ve had to whinge, bitch, pull fuckin’ hair, gnash teeth just to get a song on the setlist – it’s fuckin’ unbelievable, dude,” Boge declares. “Fans would come up to me and say, ‘Man, why don’t you guys ever play “Sweet & Low”? Why aren’t you playing “Phoenix”? Why aren’t you playing “A.D.”? Why aren’t you playing “Without Wings”? And I’d simply say to them, ‘Man, you’re talking to the wrong guy,’ because you’ve got a guy who just sits there and says, ‘Uuugh, I don’t wanna play that song, it sounds gay.’ Well you fucking wrote it mate, so what does this say about you?”
A soul-destroying tour followed, and then the band retreated to write album number four. Things did not improve.
“It seemed like it was the three of us going, ‘This music’s awesome,’ and Clint going, ‘I can’t find that place.’ I think that Clint just wasn’t into the direction we were heading,” Hall explains. “And it’s very disappointing when something that’s come so naturally to you for such a long time just doesn’t work anymore. And you get pissed off: you go, ‘Fuck man, go home and sort it out, whatever it is that’s stopping you from creating, go home and make it happen,’ you know? He wasn’t having a good time, and he wasn’t enjoying the music.”
“I got in trouble for not pulling my weight on the songs, yet it took Kurt two years to write five songs,” Boge counters. “And once I’d delivered the lyrics and the melodies, they kept changing, so therefore the lyrics and the melodies wouldn’t fit. I asked Kurty one day how come he was putting eight or nine riffs in songs, and he said, ‘I’m not sure what your vocals will be able to sing on, because you’re not singing very well so I had to put more riffs down to see what you’d sing best over.’”
On a personal level, the relationship between Boge and his bandmates was rapidly unravelling.
“There were a couple of band meetings where I feel like I was the focal point of the night’s discussion,” Boge reveals. “When you walk into a band meeting and everyone suddenly goes quiet when you enter the room, that doesn’t bode well. And I actually thought we were going there to have a chat about another member of the band who I thought was not pulling his weight and then it suddenly turned on me.”
Which member wasn’t pulling their weight? “Glenn. They wanted to sack Glenn. And that was in January last year, when I really saw the cracks starting to appear. And then I think it was in June or July there was another band meeting where I was the focus point again, and they started asking me if I still wanted to be in the band, to which I answered, ‘I don’t know.’ A band’s supposed to be a band of brothers, going forward, writing tunes, delivering great emotional music, and I could not stand out there in front of thousands of my fellow countrymen and bullshit them.”
So what was the moment when Boge realised that things had reached a crisis point?
“It was last year, in September. I got an email from Benny saying, ‘Look mate, I won’t beat around the bush: your melodies aren’t strong enough, we question your enthusiasm for the band, we want you to work with Kim [Benzie] from Dead Letter [Circus] on these songs, and I took that as one of the greatest fucking insults I’d heard. I was just like, ‘What? You want the guy who wrote “Beautiful Mine” and “Gone”, you want that guy to start working with other people because you don’t feel
his melodies are strong enough? Fuck you!’” he snarls. “And yes, my ego was bruised, but I just thought, ‘This is bullshit: this has gone from them trying to marginalise me to I’ve just become the session muso.’”
A confrontation was inevitable. “I went into that room, and I said, ‘I feel like I don’t have a friend here.’ You could’ve heard a fucking pin drop. No-one said, ‘Man, that’s so wrong, we are totally on your side, we back you 110 percent, we are your friends.’ No-one said a word. The silence was so loud, dude.”
The rest was predictable. “I said to Glenn – and I picked him because I knew he’d give me a straight answer – I said, ‘If I could’ve heard the things you’ve said about me in this room and in private and behind closed doors, would I wanna stay in this band?’ and he tried to give me a politician’s reponse, like, ‘Oh, Clinty mate,’ and I was like, ‘No no no, tell me’. And he said ‘no’. And that was exactly when I said, ‘I quit.’”
“In the grand scheme of things, I do understand both their points of view better than each other does of one another,” Esmond adds. “I understand why Clint needs to do the things he does maybe in a way that Kurt doesn’t, but I also understand Kurt’s frustration in a way Clint doesn’t. It’s the job of the bass player to be conciliatory musically, but I think it’s probably a bit the case personally as well.”
“It was Kurt’s band, and he treated it like his own private project,” Boge spits. “Benny was the fence sitter, and Glenn was just happy to be there. And that was the worst thing. That really pissed me off. I was alone in that band for a long time.”
Esmond feels like it’s history repeating. “I was in a band with Clint before Butterfly Effect and we went through the exact same process. So I’ve had a bit of practice at it. If he’s unhappy, it doesn’t make for a good working environment.”
“Second week of September, I actually went into the band room and said, ‘That’s it,’” Bode concludes. “To which Kurt’s response was to say nothing, and as I was walking out the door he said [sing-song voice] ‘bon voyage!’” he laughs bitterly. “Like a fucking wanker.”
Even so, all four members declare that they’re looking forward to the tour.
“I’m glad that we are able to do a last tour, because to disregard all we’ve done for the last ten years would just be fuckin’ rude,” Goedhart declares. “You know, sometimes people get tattoos, so it would really rude not to show some sort of appreciation for the last ten years and how it has affected – fuck, I hate that word when I’m talking about the Butterfly Effect,” he laughs, “how it has affected people. I’m glad that it’s ended this way so we can actually close that chapter. I think it’s gonna be good for us and it’s gonna be good for the fans. A lot of bands just become defunct and you go, ‘Ahhhh, I didn’t get my chance!’ So we’re stoked to do this.”
“I’m happy to be doing this tour with my entertainer hat on rather than my artist hat, because it’s for the fans,” Hall agrees. “And I am intensely appreciative of everything that we have thanks to the people who give a shit about the music we’ve written. I like the idea of going out there any paying our respects to our fans, and to Clint, and to our legacy.”
“This is the most excited I’ve been about a tour ever,” enthuses Hall. “I’m just so glad we can have a tour. I think we’ve gotten complacent about that in the past couple of years.”
“I just want to do the tour, say goodbye. It’s for the fans – that’s the reason that I’m doing this tour, because I really wanted to tell [the band] to get fucked, to tell you the truth,” Boge insists. “Why would I wanna go and hang out with a bunch of people who don’t like me? My motivation is purely for the fans, to say goodbye properly so that they have a chance to see us.”
The remaining trio did entertain the notion of splitting up after Boge’s announcement, but as Goedhart puts bluntly it, “We’re only losing one quarter and to go back to the start again after building this brand for so many years and working so hard, why go back to the start again? I mean, a couple of us are definitely the stronger parts in the creative force of the Butterfly Effect, so we would have just started something else that sounded like the Butterfly Effect with a different name. We thought maybe it was a bit silly to do that.”
“You don’t put ten years into a business and then just walk away from it,” Esmond shrugs.
“Obviously there was a shock with Clint leaving, but the three of us were like, ‘Well, we still enjoy coming in here every day and we’re still enjoying the process,’ so we’re just trying to piece it together without him,” says Hall. “Which is not the way we would have preferred for our careers to have gone, but unfortunately he wasn’t interested in being in the band anymore.”
Once the tour is over, the search for a new singer begins. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world to talk about at the moment, but obviously taking that next step to a new singer is the biggest step in this process,” says Hall. “We’re still enthusiastic about writing and playing – maybe even more so now, having had your career flash in front of your eyes. So when we get back from this tour we’re going to embark on a private but a very thorough search for the vocalist who hopefully can step on board.”
“It’s really easy,” Goedhart declares with a laugh, “you just find someone that sounds fuckin’ rad. It’s definitely not complicated. You definitely don’t spend hours going, ‘Hmmmm, it is far enough away [from Clint], is it close enough?’ You just listen to it and go, ‘Wow, that sounds fuckin’ sick – that’ll do.’”
In the end, as Esmond puts it, “When the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, something has to give.” And Boge is the first to point out “I know there’s my side, their side and the truth: it’s not like I sit there and go, ‘Oooh, they were bashing me!’” he laughs. “But there was a lot of inequality in that band. And things are better now than they were before – the pressure’s off, there’s no writing, there’s no finger pointing – but it’s a story that needs to be told.”
Goedhart shrugs. “It’s alright: we had a good stretch, we had a great ten years, we had some great times, we toured the world and stuff, so as far as we see it it’s the end of an era and the start of a new one. It’s time to disco! The party continues!” he laughs. “And the party’s just gonna get louder and heavier!”
The Butterfly Effect will tour Australia through April/May.