Joel Birch – The Amity Affliction ‘Proving a Point with The Heaviest Music We’ve Ever Made’
My love affair with The Amity Affliction dates back to my introductory years to Australia’s heavy/alternative music scene in the mid-2000s. The moment I heard 2008’s Severed Ties, I was hooked – mainly due to the band’s ‘give no fucks’ attitude at shows they played (back then to 30+ people at Thriller/Rosies etc), and those heavy songs became a real-life soundtrack for my infamous partying years.
Over the years they’ve been active, TAA have undergone many lineup changes, as well as a change in the musical landscape, which saw them release back-to-back peak-Amity albums Youngbloods (2010), Chasing Ghosts (2012) and Let The Ocean Take Me (2014), before melodies took centre stage instead of their gloriously heavier instrumentals on This Could Be Heartbreak (2016), and the 80s disco/synth revolution on experimental album Misery (2018), which upon release, found fans at a crossroads (more on that soon).
But on Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them (2020) Amity harked back to their heavy eras, with plenty of new elements throughout courtesy of blast-beating drummer Joe Longobardi and bassist Ahren Stringer‘s additional guttural growls proving those heavy influences were still present within the band… they were just waiting for the right moment to come out again.
That moment has arrived with their forthcoming 8th studio album Not Without My Ghosts, set for release this Friday, May 12th, which not only signals Amity’s first self-produced record, but their heaviest collection of music to date – and as a long-term fan of the band, I can back these claims with two big erect THUMBS UP!
I sat down with frontman Joel Birch, for a look back at the band’s extensive career and musical soundscapes across their eight releases, but first, we touched on the self-produced approach to the record and if that came about due to restrictions with previous recording sessions.
“We always go into the studio with a full album. We’ve never gone in with partial songs or riffs or anything like that. So we’ve never actually been restricted. We’ve always just thought we needed a sounding board kind of thing, [such as] someone to bounce our songs off and get some feedback… And then, on the last album, [Everyone Loves You…]; the producer didn’t really do anything, and we were like, well, we don’t need one… I don’t think we’ll go to a producer again. For us, most of the magic now happens in the mix.”
Changing plans is nothing new to TAA. In recent years, they swapped from international distributing label Roadrunner Records, to Pure Noise Records, which sparked debate throughout the scene about whether they had a say in the band’s musical directions. Joel was quick to shut down any of those rumours, explaining:
“I saw a lot of people saying, ‘Oh, the record labels [changed], they’ve ditched Roadrunner and now they’re going heavy again’. Roadrunner had nothing to do with anything. All they did was release the music. As far as input goes, we’ve never let anyone have any input.”
“Even on this record, Pure Noise are great. They asked if they could hear it and we were just like, ‘Nah, you can hear it when it’s done. It doesn’t sound right yet’. And that was it.”
With an impressive 20 years (in 2023) in the game, by now the group surely know what they’re doing and even with Joel admitting the band had ‘a bit of trial and error’ with their music, they acknowledged as musicians, ‘you can’t just do the same album every time;’ because, as history shows, the pitchforks come out on social media and the backlash begins.
I jokingly questioned if Amity’s return to heavy came about from fan backlash or expectations swaying their motives in the studio, to which Joel (mid-laugh) replied with:
“No, it was fan backlash [laughs]. But you know, we’ve mixed it up and now we’ve come back and it’s for sure the heaviest music we’ve ever made. And I guess we just wanted to sort of prove a point. We can still do that; we can do whatever we want basically!”
You put the songs out [and] you’re scared people are gonna shit on you. I, always look forward to the fucking million jokes about the ocean references that haven’t been there in a long time.
“We did the selfish album [Misery]. We just wanted to do it and so we did. We’ve never shied away from doing what we want; it’s how we’ve always operated.”
The discussion continued around Misery, and how Joel was ‘pretty confident that it would be a grower, because I knew it was so different to what people were expecting,’ and he’s not wrong. Here we are coming up almost 5 years later and many of us (myself included) ate the words we dropped upon first listen, and that album has since become a significant turning point in the band’s back catalogue.
Birch then brought up the internal struggles the band faced following the success of earlier albums – the ones that set them up for international success and recognition – and the pressures that came with following up their most successful material to date.
“If you write Let The Ocean Take Me; it’s kind of hard to follow up an album that did what that did for us… When we put out This Could Be Heartbreak, it felt a little bit [like] the curse of following up your fan favourite album, you know what I mean? Like, we put out this album that everyone was like ‘fuck, that’s perfect Amity right there’. And we were like, ‘yeah, it is, and we don’t really know what to do now’. Then we put out This Could Be Heartbreak, and we just needed a shift, within the band as well.
Musically, we all just felt like we needed to shift somehow and we did it. And, obviously, it didn’t do super well (immediately), but then, the further we are from the record coming out, the more people like the record.”
It’s a strange thing to put out a record and cop so much hate, and then probably the same people that were shitting on it are all about it now…’
This furthermore pushes the fact that (as a society) we need to not only stop shitting on bands in general, but actively start sitting on music longer than our initial, immediate reactions allow us. There’s so much going on in heavy music these days that it takes more than a simple instant reaction to understand the full creative intentions included.
And when bands like The Amity Affliction start listening to fans, and proactively give them what they’ve been asking for, maybe we should also appreciate the gesture on top of the music, as it shows growth, progression and understanding of the individuals that got them to where they are in the first place. That, and these new tracks are fucking killer!!!
Amity are embarking on tours across the world including the United States in May, before heading to the UK and Europe for Summer Festival Season in June. They then return to dominate Australian stages this October. All shows are selling fast, so get in early and get ready to throw down to the heaviest Amity tracks since ‘Jesse Intense’ dominated MySpace! Read our review here.
Interview by Paul ‘Browny’ Brown @brownypaul
Not Without My Ghosts is out Friday, May 12th via Pure Noise Records.
The Amity Affliction – Not Without My Ghosts tracklisting
1. Show Me Your God
2. It’s Hell Down Here
3. Fade Away
4. Death and the Setting Sun (feat. Andrew Neufeld of Comeback Kid)
5. I See Dead People (feat. Louie Knuxx)
6. When It Rains It Pours (feat. Landon Tewers of The Plot in You)
7. The Big Sleep
8. Close To Me
9. God Voice
10. Not Without My Ghosts (feat. phem)