We Unearthed The Amity Affliction’s First Ever BLUNT Cover Story
Slip out of the Delorean and into the colourful year that was 2010, back when Fall Out Boy bid us adieu and Periphery’s debut self-titled effort kicked djent into high gear. As we stare down the barrel of a fifth Amity Affliction album with This Could Be Heartbreak set to drop next month, we’ve rolled up our sleeves and dug deep into the vault to bring you their first ever BLUNT cover story. To birth their hotly anticipated second album, Youngbloods, the Brisbane party animals retreated to the busiest spot on the planet for a spot of relative quiet. Unfortunately for them, BLUNT’s Adrian Kelly interrupted their wrap party for the scoop.
The six men of The Amity Affliction have a well deserved reputation for partying hard, be it their wild live shows, guesting on fellow DTD crew members’ recording projects, their shambolic UK tour videos or their signature package event, the BLUNT endorsed Drunk And Disorderly tour. Fortunately, they also pen cracking tunes and have been packing out venues across Australia with their super catchy punk metal jams. The latter is the reason they are currently holed up in a small apartment in New Jersey’s Union City, clutching as many 40oz brews as their hands will allow and celebrating the fact that the recording process for album number two has been completed.
“Our rooftop looks out over Manhattan,” explains co-frontman Joel Birch. “We pretty much face directly at an old hotel named the New Yorker, which has a massive, classic American neon sign, and the Empire State Building is situated right behind it. It is very picturesque.”
For a band that has been in operation for eight years, The Amity Affliction have only a small handful of releases to their name. Given that the band has completed such heavy domestic touring that they now know petrol station attendants all the way from Rockhampton to Broken Hill on a first name basis, this is not surprising in the slightest. With the ever building crowds, growing sales figures for 2008’s debut full length, Severed Ties, and more international tour offers, it was clear that Amity needed to take that great, ill defined voyage and “step up” for their second long player, and it seems pretty clear the special ingredient was a man named Machine.
“There was definitely cabin fever; there is a lot of stress when there are six dudes in the band.”
“We put together a wish list of engineers; well actually, the rest of the band did as they actually know what they’re talking about and what they are looking for,” laughs Birch. “Machine was at the top of their list, the only person I put down was Devin Townsend! Working with Machine has been heavenly and definitely made me feel like a loser for not thinking about him in the first place. I guess the guys picked him cause of his previous releases; Every Time I Die, Lamb Of God, Four Year Strong; but to me it just feels like he attacks each new release with a new strategy. He really moulds himself around each person’s personality, rather than just saying, ‘Thanks for your demos, they sound great. Now I’m just going to make them sound like a record’. He is really encouraging and always really open to ideas. He was always suggesting ideas, ways we could try things to sound better and that sort of thing. Collaborating with Machine on the bridges of some of the songs worked extremely well for us.”
“It was good,” says Ahren Stringer, bass player and co-vocalist. “Machine and I didn’t always see eye to eye though. There was definitely cabin fever; there is a lot of stress when there are six dudes in the band plus Machine and [photographer, James] Hartley.”
Ahh yes, the lovable James Hartley; BLUNT photographer, a man voted number five in our 2009 poll for “Hero Of The Year” and the target of Amity’s new single, “I Hate Hartley”. Surely The Amity Affliction don’t actually hate their dear friend?
“Well… no,” starts Birch, “but we’ve had “I Heart Throbsy” [off of 2007’s High Hopes EP, a reference to The Daylight Curse guitarist of the same name) and “I Heart Roberts”(off of Severed Ties, a reference to the lovable rogues forming the Roberts clan], so we decided, you can’t heart Hartley.” Is that distinction on purely phonetical grounds or Amity flat out don’t like the poor chap? “You just can’t,” explains Birch. “You can’t heart Hartley, the motherfucker. In the morning when you wake up, and he’s farting inches from your head, it’s just… he’s pretty much the antithesis of what you want to wake up to!”
With the more aggressive musical accompaniment of “I Hate Hartley” and working with a producer known for his Lamb Of God records, have The Amity Affliction created their heaviest recorded output with Youngbloods?
“It’s not all heavy,” explains Birch, “it just seemed like a really good mix of what we had before, for Severed Ties, and what we wanted I guess. When we did Severed Ties, we didn’t really think about whether we wanted a heavy record or a poppy record. To be honest, I don’t think we really thought much about anything, we just fucking did it, if you know what I mean.”
An enduring facet of the whole Amity experience is the willingness not to take themselves too seriously. This is more than amply evidenced in the continuing absurdity of their song titles. Continuing their thematic journey (whatever that might be), the new record is set to feature songs such as “HMAS Lookback”, “Highway To Purgatory”, “HBTSSTD” and “Fuck The Yankees”. BLUNT asked Birch if he’d care to explain any of them.
“I have no idea what ‘Fuck The Yankees’ is and some of the others aren’t fit to print,” he answers evasively. “There is a song called ‘RIP Foghorn’,” chips in Stringer. So who was Foghorn? “Foghorn was this dead chicken we found on the side of the road in a black plastic bag with one leg sticking out,” explains Stringer. “We literally found it on the sidewalk, on the way to the studio, wrapped in a black plastic bag. We passed it almost every single day for two weeks. At the end, there were two other full chickens who didn’t get the plastic bag treatment.”
While not quite as drastic as being murdered and left in a black bag on the street, The Amity Affliction have had more than their fair share of personnel file through the band. BLUNT asked Birch to give us a rundown of their extensive line-up woes.
“Amity started with Lachlan, Troy, Garth and Ahren in fucking Gympie in 2001 or 2002,” ponders Birch. “They moved to Brisbane in 2003, then I joined the band. The first person to leave was Lachlan. He left to go and be a Christian and worship God. I hope he reads this and regrets his fucking stupid decision!”
“You can’t heart Hartley, the motherfucker. In the morning when you wake up and he’s farting inches from your head, it’s just… He’s pretty much the antithesis of what you want to wake up to.”
“We got Troels in after that, he played on the High Hopes EP and at that point in time we also had Chris Burt on guitar, he got kicked out before that record came out. After Chris Burt we actually didn’t have a full time guitarist until… Chris Burt, when he rejoined,” laughs Birch. “Sometime after The Getaway Plan tour in 2005, I got kicked out – I was so shit, I sounded like a fucking human seagull. After that, our bass player Garth Buchanan got asked to join Behind Crimson Eyes so he left and the band broke up. That’s when Trad and I started hanging out. He’d been kicked out of The Scare and I’d been booted so it was two men being extremely emotionally fragile! After hanging out with Trad, Ahren and Troy we just said fuck it and got back together. We got Ryan to fill in on drums and a succession of temporary guitarists. One of those fill-ins, Marshy, saved our lives when our van nearly rolled in the desert after getting hit by winds, that was terrifying. Now we have Clint on guitar.”
Clint Splattering is, of course, the guitarist whose intricate delay soaked lines were one of the highlights of the latter years of The Getaway Plan. How has Clint changed things in the Amity camp?
“Clint has brought heaps to the table,” says Birch. “He’s added a new dynamic. He is Clint, he’s the guy that likes metal and ambience so how can you really go wrong?!”
For a band that has been doing this rock’n’roll thing for so long, and with the prospect of another long touring stint awaiting them at home alongside Misery Signals, Confession and Flood Of Red on their BLUNT presented album tour, what is the idea behind the title Youngbloods? Guitarist Troy Brady fields this one.
“We’re all pretty fucking old,” he laughs, “but we all still feel 17 and being over here doing what we’re doing personally, I can’t speak for everyone, but it’s amazing.”
“The whole album, lyrically, is geared towards young people,” explains Birch, “just trying to get more of an acceptance feeling out of people who listen to our music. It’s more of a positive record than the last one.”
Brady continues, “I’m going to put it out there as someone who doesn’t know all the meaning to all the lyrics, but the way I interpret them, I feel like you get a little bit of tragedy then a little bit of feel good at the end of the songs. I’m not a lyrics guy, but the few that I take away make me feel good at the end of the song instead of bad.” And really, that’s all anyone can ask.
Featured in BLUNT #90 – May 2010.
This Could Be Heartbreak is out August 12th via Roadrunner / UNFD.
Grab a pre-order bundle: 24hundred
The Amity Affliction / Trophy Eyes / Driven Fear / Sensaii
Fri Aug 19th – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+) SOLD OUT
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