The Amity Affliction have been on a steady upward trajectory since the release of debut album Severed Ties in 2008. They’d been slogging it out with demos and shows until that release and 2010’s Youngbloods, when the band started to become more confident. Their sound and direction was further solidified with 2012’s Chasing Ghosts. But it’s on new album Let The Ocean Take Me that The Amity Affliction come into their element, reaching the emotional core of their musical statement.
The heaviness and aggression is still there, but the melodies and lyrics are more personal and cut deeper. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety throughout the album – stress, panic attacks, the heart-racing aftermath. Vocalist Joel Birch explains that part of the change in theme stems from a near-death experience last year.
“I’m not the only one in the band with anxiety issues,” Birch says. “Ahren [Stringer, bass/vocals] has been crippled by it once before. He actually fell over and was paralysed, could not move, and they called an ambulance thinking he was dying. It turns out he was actually having a panic attack. Ryan [Burt, drums] also suffers with it as well. It’s a central theme because I’ve dealt with it over the last year, or the year leading up to writing Let The Ocean Take Me, but I wasn’t planning on writing about it, it’s just how it worked out.”
When undergoing a course of cognitive behaviour therapy to address anxiety issues, doctors often stress (there’s that word again) that a certain level of anxiety can actually be motivational. It’s only when things go too far that the ‘fight or flight’ reflex is tripped. Is this something Birch has been able to control and consciously harness?
“Well, I’m on medication and according to the doctor I’m chronically depressed… I try, but…”
For anyone who’s gone through the same thing, there’s a lot to relate to on Let The Ocean Take Me. You don’t need to be in a hugely popular hardcore band to be able to empathise with what Birch and his bandmates are going through. It’s the sound of someone who has good moments and bad moments.
“Well, that’s cool because I was actually worried that a lot of my lyrics were too dark and people would feel almost a disconnect from it. But from everything I’ve heard so far, everyone that experiences the same sort of emotions has been responding in a better way to how they did with Chasing Ghosts. That album had a third person narrative to some of the songs, and this time it’s like it’s more about what I feel and how I go through it. And I think a lot of people who have the same sort of issues as me are responding much more positively and in a much more emotionally cathartic way. More so than an in-your-face topic.”
The recording sessions for the album were much more relaxed this time around. Birch got to live at home and was even able to go surfing when not in the studio. Producer Will Putney has worked on enough of the band’s projects to know how to help it to realise its musical vision.
“He engineered Youngbloods, he mixed Chasing Ghosts, so he has a pretty good understanding of our personalities, having worked with the guitars a lot on Youngbloods and also having seen me have a meltdown on Youngbloods, when I nearly quit the band,” says Birch. “And he’s the same age as us so the music is relevant to him. We really couldn’t have picked a more appropriate producer. We’ve always had a very strong sense of ourselves and our music, and we’re never, ever going to buckle to any outside opinion.
“Like, I don’t ever let anyone fuck with my lyrics, ever, ever – but Will put some changes to me that I made on the record in such a way that it was far more acceptable for me. He would just point out things that could be stronger, almost like an essay where you’ve got to outline the meaning in the first paragraph, then get to it, and then wrap it up at the end. He would provide me with that kind of input and I would change my lyrics accordingly. It worked out really, really well.”
Let The Ocean Take Me out now through Roadrunner / Warner. Catch them live alongside Architects, Issues, Stray From The Path, and Deeznuts at the Hordern Pavilion on Thursday September 4, tickets available online.