Between screaming for The Amity Affliction and doing design work for half the bands down the east coast, Joel Birch is a busy man. Lucky for us, he took some time out to answer these questions
Amity are all set to release their 2nd EP at the end of April – what can we expect from the record?
I’m not really sure how to answer that one…It’s a lot different from the last ep, insofar as the sound goes I suppose it is still us, so to speak, but there is definitely a great amount of growth that’s happened since our last ep. My vocals and Ahren’s as well have progressed quite significantly between our self titled ep and high hopes; there was a lot more thought that went into high hopes with vocal arrangements and the dialogue between us works far better on the new ep for sure. The music has stayed ‘ours’, but in saying that we’ve had a lot of time for everyone to adopt far more outside influence than on the prior release. Back then Ahren and Troy were listening almost exclusively to metalcore, whereas now they’ve been listening to everything from indie to metal which has had an adverse effect on their writing, most noticeably so in the melodic side of things I think you can notice that they’re much better at writing that now. Troy definitely stepped into his own on high hopes, and the addition of keys has bolstered the sound even more, trad has added a new depth to the sound of amity that would never have been possible without him.
What brought about the change from Modern Music to Skull & Bones?
Well first of all we were never signed with modern music. That was purely a pressing and distribution deal, we forked out all the money for recording and also paid half of the pressing costs. The move to Skull & Bones was just the next step for us. It’s been 2 years since releases so we had to do something and I guess they approached us at the right time. We did all our pre-production with the label manager Dan Fields and he was siked on how it was turning out and offered us a deal. After we bounced the contract back and forth between them and our lawyer it ended up being quite a reasonable deal so we signed a short-term contract and here we are…there have been hiccups, but that’s to be expected on any label I’d say.
Should we expect any surprises from High Hopes? You guys haven’t morphed into Panic! At The Disco have you?
Not at all…there are some different elements, but that’s to be expected of course. Like I said, the keys have bolstered our sound, Ahren’s vocals are just getting better and better as time goes on and my own vocals have definitely stepped up compared to the last release…I don’t sound like a seagull anymore.
Amity seems to be going through band members at an increasingly rapid rate – how close are you guys to rounding out your line-up?
Hahaha, it’s not as bad as it seems. We just went through a really bad patch. Losing garth was just the beginning i suppose. We weren’t sure what to do so we enlisted a guy on bass, who then went to guitar and he just didn’t work out at all. There were some definite attitude problems there, he was backstabbing us to our friends while we were away on tour and a whole lot of other issues arose as time went on. It just became such an uncomfortable situation that we kicked him out. Troels quit as well, so we’ve been stranded for a little while but things seem to be slowly coming back into place. We’ve got a tour coming up with irrelevant which should turn out really well, they’re great guys and we’ve all been into their music for years, hopefully we can cement our line-up on that tour, it’s looking good at the moment, but you never know.
What touring plans do you guys have in the works – given the quality of the demos you guys have on MySpace am I right in assuming you guys are going to be spending a lot of time on the road this year?
Hopefully, we’re working on it for sure. We have the irrelevant tour to kick off our EP, and then it will most likely be a solid year and a half of touring that, hopefully writing our first full length while doing that. Fingers crossed I suppose…Troy and Ahren are already working on new material, I’m not sure where we’re heading musically just yet, but from what I’ve heard it will leave high hopes for dead, which is what we aspire to do each time we record. You know the usual band banter…next record better than the previous etc etc, nothing new there…
Tell us about the recording of High Hopes – who produced it, any guests etc…?
It was produced by us, we felt we knew exactly where we wanted to go with it, so we were far more comfortable doing it that way. There was a long time where we were writing, re-writing,doing it all again etc etc so we got to refine it quite a bit. Despite that though there are still parts where we all cringe, it happens. We were lucky enough to get to work with Anj from Soundhouse Studios down in Adelaide as well on this one, he did a cracking job. The final product is great, I’m really happy with how he mixed everything together…
Is there a primary song writer in Amity or is it a collective effort?
Ahren and Troy write all our songs, that’s pretty much how it has always been. We all input our ideas at band practice, but primarily those two are responsible for everything. The songs usually evolve from one or the other playing their song and then we take it from there.
You are one of the founders of “Death Before Dishonour” magazine, what prompted you and the rest of your crew to start the magazine? What were you hoping to get out of DBD – both personally and professionally?
That one is easy as far as the prompting is concerned. I was down in Sydney for semi permanent in 2005 and it was lunch time, I wanted to go and buy a mag that I could spend a little time reading that had, from front to back, music I was interested in. I didn’t find anything. When we got back to brisbane I had a chat with my business partner about it and we decided to start looking into it. We already did Artillery magazine at that point, so it wasn’t a matter of whether or not we could do it, it was just a matter of how to do it. We probably should have done a little more market research before launching it, I mean we’re still to this day ironing out cracks in the mag, but that’s to be expected. We’ve only been around a little over a year, so we were bound to have teething problems there. We were lucky enough to have a really great crew of people behind us who were willing to put in their time to write articles and edit the mag, without them it wouldn’t even exist, I mean luke and I are the backbone, but you can’t function without arms and legs; our writers and photographers the nation wide are what keep us motivated. All we were hoping to get out of the magazine was something we could hold and be satisfied with, something that we could use to try and help reach people who wouldn’t otherwise be reached with new bands coming from Australia, we really just want to showcase what an amazing array of talent we have right here in Australia. A lot of the time there is really no need to look overseas for bands, we’re catching up and overtaking a lot of os bands as it is, so DBD just aims to give that a helping hand.
You’ve been doing design work for some of the biggest bands in the country (The Getaway Plan, Avalon Drive etc…), what has been the most enjoyable project that you’ve worked on so far?
There are a few, but the stand-outs for me, the ones that I have had the fun doing would have to be The Wrath, Fifth Fam (hip-hop group from up here,) the new Say Nothing & Chase Manhattan split was fun, I’m really happy with that, and another one I did a while ago for US band Lokyata was pretty fun as well. Had to dig a fake grave for that one, the soil was too hard so we had to shoot a hole that was about 3 inches deep and make it look like it was 6ft deep…I enjoy designing anything for most bands, there are some that are a pain in the arse, but not too many. American bands are the worst for that…
What’s been your favourite Amity show thus far?
Taste of Chaos. It was amazing. I was probably a little too drunk, but I had the time of my life. We had some flattering comments come from underoath after we played which was incredible as well, we love that band, especially the new record.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at an Amity show?
Something crazy happens at every amity show. I haven’t played a show in ages where nothing crazy has happened…Ahren frog jumped off stage with his guitar once to fight with a security guard who was being an absolute arse, that was pretty amusing post-event.
What do you think are the pros and cons of the Australian hardcore/punk scene at the moment?
Uhhh…the punk scene seems to be stagnant, but what do I know. I don’t think there is enough support coming from enough bands to actually bring the punk guys back to regular touring. I could be wrong, I just haven’t seen a decent punk band play in ages. As for hardcore…well, it seems to be doing ok. We’re neither punk nor hardcore so both scenes are, I suppose, a little either side of us. We slide in where we can, we’re just trying to have a good time really.
Who are some Aussie bands that kids should be checking out at the moment?
A Secret Death. The Getaway Plan, Capeside, A Silent Fiction, The Daylight Curse, Western Decay, Pro Team, God So Loved The World, Ryu Vs Ken, The Paper & The Plane, Coma Lies, Her Nightmare, Wish for Wings, The Wrath, Infinite Thought Process, City in Panic, IN ASHES WE LIE, Horsell Common, Say Nothing, Chase Manhattan, In Fiction…and there’s this other band from adelaide who I’ve forgotten the name of, they’re like an indie/emo band, I heard it a few weeks ago they are incredible…There are far too many bands to name them all in this list…
What are the top 3 bands you’ve seen live (either local or international) in the last 12 months?
The Getaway Plan, every show they play is incredible…Underoath @ TOC & ISIS.
Top 3 records so far in 2007?
Comeback Kid – Broadcasting, Poison The Well – Versions, Dear And The Headlights – Small Steps, Heavy Hooves. And I’ll just say, that whatever A Secret Death come up with this year will probably be my absolute favourite.
What are your top 5 all-time records?
Shai Hulud – That Within Blood Ill-Tempered, American Nightmare – Background Music, Cage – Hell’s Winter, Good Riddance – Operation Phoenix, Ryan Adams – 29…it’s way too hard to pick 5, but that would be it at the moment I guess…way too hard.
Any last words?