The Amity Affliction is an excellent example of what is going right in the metalcore scene - honest, bold, and unapologetic. After a great summer on last year's Warped Tour, the band continues to pick up steam as they approach the release of their stellar fourth album, Let The Ocean Take Me. I sat down again with vocalist Joel Birch on a bright afternoon in Portland, OR. You can read our last interview here. I also spoke with clean vocalist Ahren Stringer last summer, which you can read here.
Starting off, Warped was really huge for you guys. I was at the first date in Seattle and the crowd was huge, especially for an 11:30 time slot. What was your experience on the tour like?
It was pretty chaotic, very up and down. We’re in Portland now, and that’s where Ryan [Burt, Drums] stabbed himself in the eye. Overall, it was a really good experience. We had a few hiccups along the way, myself, Dan, and Ryan all copping it. All in all, it was a great experience and I hope we get to do it again next year.
What was it like having Chad Hasty [Glass Cloud] play drums for you guys?
It was cool, he’s an awesome drummer, but Ryan’s pretty irreplaceable so it was a different experience, but we were just glad he was good enough to pick up the slack and play as well as he did.
About mid-way through the tour or so, Matty Mullins [Memphis May Fire] performed a song called “Jezebel”, in which…
He called his own fans “sluts”.
And you called him out on it, and he responded by saying the whole thing was “pointless and ridiculous”.
Correct. And his tour manager wrote “when smaller shit bands start shit with bigger bands just to make a name for themselves” and our TM read it and spoke to him, and then he came on the bus and was fucking in tears pretty much and we told him to get off. And then I said that stuff about Matty because it’s bullshit; I think when you’re in a place of power as musicians are and you’re on stage, you should be using that place of power for something positive, not for fucking slut-shaming of all things. And he claims that he’s this amazing Christian…you’re actually just a guy with an ego that’s too big, and you need to chill out. And then he also pretended that he’s never met us before, which is also bullshit.
Where did you meet him before?
I had never met the guy, but Ahren [Stringer, Bass/Vocals] met him, so he’s definitely heard of us and he’s full of shit. And the last thing I read – we didn’t say anything about it, I apologized to production for causing a scene, not for what I said about him. I read an article that I apologized about what I said to him, and that’s bullshit, I stand by [what I said] 100%. I think he’s a piece of shit.
So you’d agree this attitude is what’s bringing the scene down?
Yeah, it’s the attitude of “I’m better than you because I’m on stage”, which is absolutely incorrect. You’re in a band to make music that people enjoy and they can relate to, which is awesome, so you should be just as respectful of them as they are of you, I feel. And then he fucking had the gall to say that God “blessed” him with a panic attack? As a long time sufferer of depression and anxiety, I was fucking disgusted by that.
So you had mentioned that you had apologized to production for causing a scene and not for what you said, and that’s something I appreciate about you – you’re straight forward and honest. Jason Aalon (letlive.) is another example of someone like that. Do you feel like musicians should be more unapologetically honest with their actions and what they say on and off stage?
Yes, because if I fuck up, I will admit that. Our songs have a great meaning and they’re honest, and none of us in this band did this to get rich and famous and have the adulation of thousands of kids or anything. We’ve been doing this band for ten years now, and for the first seven, no one gave a fuck – we toured the world, no one cared, and we still kept doing it just cause it’s what we love doing. We’ve never had any fucking money backing from a church or anything, we all worked jobs to fund it, we’ve all been broke for most of our lives…I just think band’s need to do it for the right reasons. It seems to me – maybe because I have friends doing it, but it seems like something that’s coming back.
Are there any other specific issues in the scene that you’d like to address, other than dishonesty and egotism?
I think there’s a big…I don’t want to say a “rape culture”, but a culture of bands using their status to sleep with fans, and I think that’s disgusting. We still see these fucking bands we go on tour with, holding hands with different chicks every show…I dunno, I might be backwards and old, but I don’t think that’s what it’s meant to be all about.
You’re on tour with Blessthefall right now, such a huge tour for you guys!
Legends, and they’re amazing dudes, which makes it even better.
Have there been any specific moments thus far on the tour that have stuck out to you?
No, the worst shows we’ve come off and said “that was weird”.
That’s not too bad.
Yeah, that’s fine. It’s been pretty amazing, actually.
What have you learned about the Blessthefall guys over the last few weeks?
They love hockey, and they’re all extremely nice people.
Yeah, you enjoyed that series with the Kings and Sharks, didn’t you?
Yeah, we’re trying to go see them in a few days, we’ll see.
Who do you want to win the cup this year? The Kings?
The cup? Blackhawks.
Any reason why?
Just because Chicago rules, and they’ve got a great train system over there.
How hard was it to pick a setlist for this tour? I know you’re middle of the stack, and you have this new album coming out…
Pretty easy. It’s easy over here, because we just play the song we love playing, whereas in Australia where we have to play for over an hour and pick fourteen songs.
You must be buzzing to play the new stuff though, more than just “Pittsburgh”, right? But you also have to play the older stuff people like as well…
Yeah, we’re playing stuff from the last three albums…
Tell me about this prank you pulled on Beau Bokan [Blessthefall, vocals]…
Oh that wasn’t a prank, he always comes in our van and moshes on us. So he came in and moshed on us and then we all held him down and tickled him. I think he was about to wet himself, and then he stole my phone. He won.
Let The Ocean Take Me comes out next month. I think it compliments the last album quite a bit, as it continues on with some of the same lyrical themes. Would you agree with that?
Yeah, it wasn’t meant to, I was going to be writing other stuff, then Warped Tour happened and I kind of found myself back in pretty much the same place as I was for Youngbloods. I wrote all the new songs in a bit more personal way than they were on Chasing Ghosts.
And those issues that you didn’t write about this time around or kept on the backburner, will those be in consideration for the next album you write?
Yes and no, I’m still not sure what to do with the next record, we’re a year away from recording, we have six months to think about it.
Speaking of recording, let’s talk about Will Putney. When I first heard that he was going to be in the studio with you guys, I was so excited, because he’s done such a good job lately with bands such as Like Moths To Flames, and he’s going to be working with No Bragging Rights soon. What influenced the decision to work with him? I know he engineered Youngbloods and mixed Chasing Ghosts…
So we thought we’d give him a go to do the whole thing and he fucking nailed it.
What sort of new ideas did he bring to the table?
I’m the wrong guy to ask as far as songwriting goes. I know with lyrics, it’s the first time someone’s gone through them with a critical eye and pointed out changes that could’ve been made, and he did that for me with every single song and then I did re-writes and the songs turned out way better.
What was the hardest part about writing and recording the album?
It’s just stressful. Whether you like it or not, you always end up with a certain degree of stress.
You just released the video for “Pittsburgh” about three weeks ago, and as of now, it has over 621,000 views [Interviewers Note: It now has nearly 1,100,000 views].
Wow, I didn’t know that.
Is that pretty mind-blowing?
The song title is based off the Pittsburgh date of last summer’s Warped Tour. Can you give the full story behind it?
The song’s just really a metaphor for going through a panic attack and sort of how you feel, like you’re terminally ill and you’re about to die. When you have a really bad one, you can’t walk and you become a cripple. It’s the worst thing because it’s not real, but it feels real and your brain is telling you it’s real, and it’s like there’s two parts of you and one just wants to escape but it just feels like you can’t at the time.
The next single is “Don’t Lean On Me”, and you actually wrote an open letter for it’s release. Can you talk about that?
Well, it’s a song about kids writing to me and some of the time it’s really heavy and inappropriate, like kids telling me they’re going to kill themselves that night, which is really unfair on me because I can’t do anything about it. So, “Don’t Lean On Me” is “don’t lean on me, because I’m having the exact same fucking issue right here”. I try and give kids help and point them in the right direction, but there’s only so much I can do.
“Never Alone” has one of the catchiest choruses I’ve heard in a long time. How’d that song come together?
That’s a question for Dan [Brown, guitar] and Ahren, they do all the writing.
What about the phone call at the end of that song?
I wrote that, that’s our friend @realbaddtd (Deez Nuts) speaking. I wrote that for him to say, just sort of how it feels sometimes. We got him to say that because he’s got a cool voice.
Yeah, it’s definitely one of the more sobering moments on the record, I felt like it came out of nowhere.
Wrapping up, what books are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel [by Jared Diamond]…hang on…
[Ahren Stringer approaches van, Joel asks him if he’d like to explain how “Never Alone” came together]
Ahren Stringer: I got the idea from an old James Taylor song, re-worked it and that was basically it. The verses were really metal and we changed them in the studio with a riff that Dan stumbled across and yeah, chucked a breakdown in there, and Bob’s your uncle!
When are we going to see you come back here? Sometime in the fall? Or is this it for the U.S. for the rest of the year?
No no, we’ll be back here in the fall…
Any hints as to who’s on it…
Thought so. But are you in the middle of the bill this time around, or are you headlining?
Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?