In 2014,Trophy Eyeswere little more than that one pop-punk band from Newcastle that your friend’s friend swore would one day blow up. The odds weren’t in their favour – it was, and still is a tumultuous time for the industry, let alone a band of their stylings – but alas, the quintet powered their way to the top of the game, their debut (Mend, Move On) stealing our hearts without fail and the international touring circuit embracing them with open arms.
Now, they’re taking another step forward with their second opus, Chemical Miracle. Though they’re adverse to the overzealous comparisons to other bands, it’s totally their Nevermind – from the pounding drums that open “Chlorine” to the drawling chorus that sends “Daydreamer” out on drowsy high, the LP is an emotional easycore rollercoaster. It also hits shelves today (via Hopeless and UNFD), so to celebrate, we caught up with frontman John Floreani to vibe on how Chemical Miracle defines a new era for Trophy Eyes.
So you guys are just coming to the end of this massive US tour supporting The Amity Affliction. How has it all been?
It’s been really good, man! Y’know, it’s kind of hard to convince a crowd to get into something softer on such a heavy bill like this, but the response has been something that we couldn’t ever have asked for. It’s been fantastic. After the Australian run, too, it’s been really cool hanging out with Amity, America is really cool, and the response to our new songs has just been crazy. It’s been great so far.
Listening through Chemical Miracle, so many of these songs sound like they’d blow the fuck up in a live set. Are you just itching to get this album out so you can play them all live? Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been playing the old tracks for, like, two years now, so I’m super stoked to have some new content out and be able to play some fresh stuff. The response for “Chlorine” and “Heaven Sent” has been awesome so far, and it’s just so refreshing to play them. The rest of the guys kind of light up when we play them, too, so we’re just so stoked to get the record out there.
With how atmospheric the record is, do you think Chemical Miracle will influence how a Trophy Eyes set goes down once it becomes the central focus? I’m not sure. It seems to be a part of our set now, with the couple of songs that we’re playing, so I’m not sure that the set will change. It’s always been a high energy, jump-around kind of fun environment when we play, and I can’t imagine it will be any different. But y’know, the songs on Chemical Miracle are much bigger and more epic than anything we’ve ever written before, so I don’t know, maybe there’ll be even more energy. We’ll see!
I know it’s super cliché and you’ve probably been asked it a billion times, but what is a ‘chemical miracle’? I guess it’s how I see life, down to the smallest detail. Everything in life that we know and see is a chemical, but we still don’t know why it exists or really how it exists. In that sense, it’s a miracle. We analyse what we have, what we know, what we’ve been taught and what we see, and then everything that we don’t know, there’s an excitement behind that. And I guess that’s just the best possible way to sum up life and the way that I see it. Chemical Miracle, as an album, is like a reflection of just your average man in his mid-20s: the things that I do, and the things that I’ve seen and lived.
It goes without saying that Chemical Miracle is a profoundly honest and emotionally vulnerable album. What was your headspace like when you were writing this album, and how did that lend itself to the way it all unfolds? I don’t know, it depends. I’ve done many different things to get songs out – I don’t really think about the things that I sing about until it’s time to write. A riff starts, and then a vocal idea or a melody will come up – some lyrics, and things like that – and they’ll just be things that I remember or things that I can adapt to what’s going on. I guess everybody feels kind of creative or emotional when it rains… I remember one day, it was pretty warm outside but I needed to write – I had a song in my brain but I couldn’t get it out – so I put a shower cap on and stood in the shower, and it sounded like rain on the roof, so I wrote the song like that. I can get pretty down and depressed when I write, but it’s all worth it in the end; I don’t ever want to sing about pizza, y’know? I want to sing about something that’s important to me, especially if I’m going to be so emotionally involved when I’m singing onstage. Writing is always emotionally and mentally draining, but it’s totally worth it. And this time around, especially, I’m super happy with the songs – this is definitely my favourite thing that I’ve ever written.
“There were never any moments where we’d sit down and go, ‘Alright, let’s piss everybody off and write a pop record.’ It all just kind of… Came about.”
Have the past two years of Trophy Eyes – with an endless slate of touring and an international rise – changed you much as a person, compared to who you were when you were writing Mend, Move On? Absolutely. Just travelling and seeing so much more of the world than I’ve ever seen before – that definitely made me kind of grow up and mature much more than I think I would have in the last two years if I wasn’t in Trophy Eyes. The past two years have changed the way I look at the world, the way I look at being in a band, the way I look at playing shows and how I look at music in general. And that has totally influenced our new record, for sure.
Even musically, the evolution between Mend and Chemical Miracle is enormous. Did that shift in style come naturally as you matured between cycles, or did you guys sat down and go, “How can we switch things up?” I think it came quite naturally, but at the same time, I guess it was just some kind of unspoken agreement that instead of writing in such a pigeonholed genre of music, we were just going to write exactly what we wanted. I don’t think there was any intention behind the change in our sound – I think it was just that after all of the time we spent on tour, after all of the experiences we’ve had and the different music we’ve listened to, it all just came out and gelled. And the first few songs that we wrote sounded like they fit that theme, so we just kept writing to that, I guess. But yeah, there were never any moments where we’d sit down and go, “Alright, let’s piss everybody off and write a pop record.” It all just kind of… Came about.
Not to discount Mend, but where that one feels like a very straightforward punk record, this one bends and bounces between genres a lot. Expanding the broadness of Trophy Eyes’ sound with Chemical Miracle, were there ever any limits set to where you’d let yourselves explore? Not really. We never wanted to write pop-punk or hardcore – well, not ‘wanted to’, but we never intended to – with Mend, Move On or Everything Goes Away; it was just a mashup of everything that we were listening to at the time. My references have always been Queen, The Killers or Coldplay, and then Touché Amoré and bands on the heavier side of the spectrum as well. [Mend] was never intended to be a hardcore album, or anything like that, but this time, I think we just got it right. I think we kind of gelled the sounds that we were listening to better. When we came together to write the album, it was more like… This might sound kind of pretentious, I guess, but we all spoke about writing music instead of just songs. That helped us as well – just focusing on the sounds, and exactly what was musically and aesthetically pleasing to us.
Does the lyrical background come into that at all? Like, with some of the songs, did you feel that you needed more of a diverse, or a more layered sonic landscape to get these messages across? The music definitely helps me write better. I feel like the music [on Chemical Miracle] is more in-depth and there’s better rhythm to the songs in general, compared to the last two releases. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re in a band for a few years: you just get better at what you do… Or you hope so, anyway. And it’s the same with my writing styles, I guess – I’ve been writing for a while now, and I write in my off-time, too, so after all of those years of practise, Chemical Miracle is the result. We really found our space and sound with this record, and that’s something that we’re super comfortable with now, so the lyrics just came to us. The music compliments that, and I think they work really well together.
“We want our music to live forever – something you can listen to when you’re old and think, ‘Oh shit, I used to listen to this when I was younger!'”
Taking everything in on this record, I get some crazy midnight road trip vibes, and, like I mentioned, some of these songs are just going to be massive live. But yourself, having pieced this album together, what mindset or environment would you say Chemical Miracle shines in as a listener? That’s a good question… There’s a lot of nighttime driving on highways with “Flashing Lights” by Kanye West playing, and everybody else is asleep in the car – that’s something that I remember thinking of and writing to. There’s a lot of winter nights in Sydney city, rainy nights in townhouse bedrooms or on terraces with tall ceilings and wooden doors… Train stations… That kind of stuff. Sad. Raining and morbid [laughs]. But at the same time, y’know, we recorded in Thailand, and that actually snuck into the record as well – that tropical holiday, paradise resort feel. We always write to that kind of rainy, cloudy, sad and emo aesthetic, but this time, there are a couple more positive vibes in there, too. That’s reflected in the lyrics as well – it all has a positive conclusion to it in the end.
So the record only comes out today, but with how much of a focus the industry has on anniversary tours and such right now, I’m curious – when you’re writing an album, do you think about how people will look at it ten years down the line? That’s definitely something we pay attention to. We hate fads and shit that comes and goes – personally, I’m a huge hater of how people jump on a sound or a theme, or anything like that – and we wanted to write something that, ten years down the track, will still be relevant… Or not even relevant, but something that you can still listen to and enjoy. A couple of my friends have said that [Chemical Miracle] sounds almost nostalgic – it’s like an old record that they’d never heard before – so that’s a good start. We definitely don’t want to write a ‘right now’ kind of record; we want our music to live forever – something you can listen to when you’re old and think, “Oh shit, I used to listen to this when I was younger!”
It’s been a fair while since we heard anything come from your acoustic project, Little Brother! How’s that travelling? Is it still something you’re working on? Yeah, absolutely! Y’know, there is a *million Little Brother songs – some of them are, like, a minute long, and some of them are seven minutes long – they all kind of just exist in my brain, and I play them every now and then. I think it’s just my girlfriend and I that know them, and she’ll request them every now and again [laughs]. Getting out to record them is financially hard, and also, the time management is something that I just don’t have at the moment – especially with this new Trophy Eyes record coming out and touring so frequently. And to begin with, Little Brother was just a release for me to write something and not have to run it by the rest of the guys – to just have something that was all me, and totally self-expressive, that I could release in my own time and not on a schedule set up by a label. There will definitely be more Little Brother, but unfortunately, I don’t really have a timeframe or a date… But it’ll be soon! But as soon as I get to slow down, I’ll be in the studio and there’ll be more songs.
So what’s next for the project? Do you see an album in the pipeline, or even another EP? I mean, the original goal was just to put songs out as I wrote them and as I please, but I don’t know, I’m definitely thinking that the next release will be an album… I’m pretty certain that the next release will be an album!