With their new single ‘Show Me Your God’ creating all sorts of excitement and new album promised in the spring now is proving to be a busy time for Australian metalcore band The Amity Affliction. In the midst of their European tour, bassist Dan Brown took time out before the band’s Birmingham show (reviewed here) for an exclusive chat with The Midlands Rocks.
Coming from Australia, did you ever feel isolated with the majority of the music industry being based in the northern hemisphere?
Yes, in the beginning it was definitely hard to break out of Australia. There were bands who trail blazed before us, so thankfully we were able to navigate our way behind them. We do have record labels in Australia, but like everything in Australia they were so far away. Eventually, we got wind of a major who wanted to sign us and we jumped on that.
The band also originate from a small town, Gympie.
Ahren, our bass player and vocalist grew up there, and at the time most of the band were from there. It’s a very hinterland town with not a lot going on.
Do you think that relative isolation helped you shape a unique sound?
I guess it did by default. We’re the generation who grew up with the internet changeover. In our very early teens, there wasn’t much happening and then the internet came along and we had instant access to British and American bands. But before that bands were a lot more clueless, not knowing what the wider scene was doing.
I’ve seen various fads and trends come and go over the years, but metalcore has been pretty consistent. What makes it such a robust genre?
I think it’s because of its aggression. Things happen regularly in the world that people get pissed off about, so I think metalcore is the soundtrack to that. If we lived in a perfect utopia, you might see metalcore taper away, but unfortunately, we don’t. I also think it is a primal thing; the beating drums and yelling.
You’re currently blazing a trail across Europe. How has the tour been going?
Really good. We haven’t been back to mainland Europe since before Covid. We were one of the very last bands to tour before everything shut down, so it has been three years since we played there, and we’ve only been in the UK to play both dates at Slam Dunk last year. Apart from that we haven’t been here for so long, I guess that can help in a way, as long as people are still engaged, but thankfully the seem to be, so we seem to be right back where we were when Covid hit.
You have three highly energetic bands on the bill. Does that make you up your game to try to top them?
I think it ups our game, but not to top them. I’ll always check out bands while we’re on tour, but especially on this one, I think it is a great package.
Covid was a hard time for everyone. But as a musician and songwriter there must have been things you could draw from that experience and put into the music?
Obviously, there was a lot of anger around the whole situation, so I think that’s influenced the direction taken with the forthcoming album coming out this year. It’s definitely more angst driven. Being cooped up was difficult, especially for our partners, it was hard to stay home all that time. For me the silver lining was my young son, I was able to spend a few years with him that I wouldn’t have been able to if I was touring. As a band it definitely made us heavier, but I think most bands are doing that; coming out swinging.
Your songs touch on some weighty issues. What is it like inhabiting those songs on stage every night?
For Joel, he writes all his own lyrics and often from personal experience, he says it is cathartic. Sometimes he finds it difficult revisiting those emotions and we’ll often leave songs out of the set because he doesn’t want to relive those times. For him it’s a very emotional thing, but I can still relate to his words.
I’ve been reading the comments under your YouTube videos, and they’re all fairly positive. It seems one of the few places that men feel comfortable in sharing their emotions. Do you feel like you’re doing a public service?
Unfortunately, it’s always been hard for men to open up, but it seems like it’s getting better. It can be difficult for women too, but men stereotypically hold their feelings in but maybe when they’re on a keyboard at home, it’s like a test run to express their emotions. When I see comments like “This song has saved my life”, it’s unreal. If those songs stop someone making a fatal mistake, then it is job done and if it opens a dialogue, all the better.
What is your songwriting process? Do the lyrics come first, or vice versa?
I write music with absolutely no lyrics, they always come last for us. I always think in terms of writing an album, so I’m not trying to put an album’s worth of material into a song, because then you come out with an album that doesn’t really work. So, I like to think of an album as a song, with peaks and lows, from there Joel writes poems and then Ahren, our clean vocalist, he’ll look at what I’ve written and Joel’s poem and he knows what will fit together and then Ahren and I will work together from that.
And how do you walk the fine line between pleasing yourself as an artist and pleasing the fans?
It’s pretty easy for us. We work on what we want to do. There’s things we definitely wouldn’t do, we wouldn’t go and write a totally pop song, so we just write what we want to and people seem to like it. I think that’s genuine and maybe why we’ve had fans who’ve been with us for so long.
The forthcoming album will be the first produced totally in-house. How has it been not having a third party around to tell you when a song is finished and it’s time to move on?
I’d tell myself sooner when something is finished, if I feel something is complete, then it’s done. Not working with a producer has been good, we’ve had a lot of practice, it’s almost like a maths equation; we kind of know when something clicks and it’s something we’ve learned over the years. Once we’re in the studio recording, it has already been finalised. There might be one or two things we can change, but generally we won’t go and record until we’re ready.
New single ‘Show Me Your God’ finds the band veering into heavier territory again. How indicative is that of the new album?
Definitely, the album gets heavier than that one. I guess we put that one out because it contains a bit of everything on the album.
The new album hits the streets fairly soon, and then you’ll have another round of touring and promotion. Coming off the back of this tour, that doesn’t give you much time off.
We have a short break during which we’ll release another single, but once the album’s out we’ll hit that cycle again and we’ll be busy for two years, but we had all that Covid time off, so we’re ready to go.
Finally, you’ve been in the band for a decade now. That’s a good time to take stock. How do you look back on those last 10 years?
When I joined, the band I remember playing the song ‘Anchors’ with the guys and that was pretty cool. Then after I joined, I started writing music for Let The Ocean Take Me, so that was another milestone. Since then, we’ve all had personal things we’ve gone through, so it’s not just music; we’re like a little family. After all the line-up changes, it now feels right and I can’t imagine it being different.