Sydney genre-melding quartet Hellions are just about to back up their 2016 critically acclaimed Opera Oblivia with new album Rue.
The record sees the band keep all that Hellions goodness — layered instrumentals with contrasting lyrics delivered so powerfully you can’t not listen — but shows growth in the musical attitudes of the boys.
Rue doesn’t follow any rules, it deals with dark themes of pessimism and the hate that fills the world, and it delivers its message in such a fun and cohesive way.
The album is full of fun, punchy riffs and complex machine-like percussion, complimented by Matt Gravolin’s melodious singing and brought to life with Dre Faivre’s hip-hop heavy vocal fusion.
Music Feeds caught up with drummer Anthony Caruso a few weeks before Rue‘s release on 19th October, to talk about some of the intricacies of the album, what makes us human and the band’s East Coast launch plans.
Music Feeds: ‘Rue’ is just a couple of weeks away from release now, how are you feeling?
Anthony Caruso: Really good, we’re so ready for this record to be out it’s like beyond a joke, we’ve been working on it for what seems like forever. It’s overwhelming with excitement, but also that little bit of fear that comes with hoping people like it.
We started writing it as soon as we wrapped up the last record, but we started recording it in August last year. So insane, the process going from start to when we finally signed off on 5th August. So 12 months from starting recording to wrapping it all up.
MF: You guys launched ‘Hellions Hotline’ last week — what were the responses like?
AC: To be completely honest we were kind of nervous about how it might go. Ideally we wanted people to use it as almost like — outside of social media — literally a direct line to the band, we were like this could go either way, we wanted people to like ask questions, tell us what they think or just have conversations with us.
There was a part of us that was like ‘people are just gonna take the piss’, like just people saying rude things or something like that. Surprisingly, everyone has been so kind and so pleasant, besides like a few of our friends who’ve gotten involved. Some people are saying unbelievably nice things and it’s like there’s so many messages at the moment that we’ve been like ‘okay don’t post the number for a little bit while we catch up’, because we’re trying to reply to them all!
The weirdest messages have come from JJ the singer from Deez Nuts, who knows too much about us personally… so he keeps asking these weird questions and I’m like ‘how does this person know?’ then cross check the number and I’m like, ‘Oh, there we go.’
MF: So getting into the new album, I definitely think ‘Rue’ is some of your best work yet and it’s kind of like it picks up from where ‘Opera Oblivia’ finished. It’s full of these infectious tracks with these huge singalongs, but the lyrics deal with dark themes. Did you guys intend to write it with that kind of contrast?
AC: That’s something we’ve always been a bit of a fan of… The last record was… the feeling that generated from the lyrics wasn’t reflective of the way the song sounded. We touched on it with ‘Thresher’ on the last record, the topics were kind of grim but musically it sounds quite uplifting. We didn’t intentionally go into the record with that in mind, that we wanted to really juxtapose the songs.
Also, there’s something to be said upon reflection even though it wasn’t purposeful, I think it’s maybe like a natural thing to do. There’s two main themes throughout the record but a lot of it is… not negative, but a bit of a downer or self-reflective anyway. Where it sort of made sense for the songs to sound good because like although we love emo music and I guess there are elements of emo throughout there, and we want people to listen to this record and for it to not be 100 per cent depressing [laughs].
MF: You mention there’re two main themes in the album, what are those?
AC: They’re kind of divided, sort of like, philosophical pessimism and humanitarianism as well. We’re kind of like of the opinion that those two opposing frames of mind make us human. It’s us capturing those moments personally and detailing the journey of life or towards some kind of lasting purpose… what are we here for… in spite of those opposing frames of mind.
MF: Hellions albums are always pretty conceptual, ‘Opera Oblivia’ especially but ‘Rue’ to an extent too, and there’s a lot of references to Greek Mythology. Why is that?
AC: That comes from Matt, our guitarist and main lyricist, he just reads so much. He’s been into it since he was quite young, but in the last few years he’s really gotten into the philosophical sort of books and writers. So that’s where a lot of that came from. He just absolutely loves it and it’s almost unavoidable for him to reference because it’s such a big part of his being, at least at this point in time or in his life.
MF: The lyrics in ‘The Lotus’ have similarities to ‘Lotus Eater’. What’s the connection there, or should we view it as a part two?
AC: I guess… yeah it’s a part two. It’s more of a continuation of the themes we brought up in the first one. ‘Lotus Eater’ kind of elaborates a bit more on the dangers of choosing to not deal with practical sort of concerns or the reasoning behind ‘we are the way that we are’. Whilst still continuing to kind of crack under the pressures of life.
Yeah so it’s definitely a continuation, it’s a part two. We were lucky enough to have our friend Beth Luna come and really personify The Reaper, and her character. Yeah it was so shocking to us because she was at the studio at the same time as us. We were like, ‘Have a listen to the first song and have a listen to the new one.’ She’s such an animated person as it is, we felt like she could really bring this character to life and yeah… she did that! [laughs]
MF: Is Beth Luna the voice in ‘Theatre Of’ as well?
AC: Yeah so that was actually one song to begin with. So she features on both of those. ‘Theatre Of’ was originally one big song, ‘Theatre Of The Lotus’. Sort of towards the end I’m like ‘well maybe we should make these separate tracks’. We wanted to feature that ‘Theatre Of’ interlude in its own right.
MF: One of my favourite lines in the album is in the title track, ‘Are we remembered by our faith or skin tone? Who we fuck, who we don’t?’ I feel like it comes back to those two themes you mentioned, pessimism and humanitarianism — can you tell me about that?
AC: That was the first track that was written for the record. It started off as a bit of a love song, and then during the process of writing it — it’s kind of obvious in the lyrics as well — that tonal change in the song.
Yeah around the time were the Orlando shootings, at the same time we were writing the song. It started as a love song, but then that horrible situation came up and then the song took a turn. The main point of the song is so much about the world being rife with bigotry and loathing and contempt. So much is based around fear on conditions that we don’t necessarily get to choose. It’s our way of saying, ‘We are all in this together and there’s no real need for hate, like we can just… all be friends.’
MF: Hellions are often described as genre-melding, and there’s a few songs on the album that highlight that, ‘Get Up’ and ‘Harsh Light’ especially. Dre’s vocals are sort of punchy and reminiscent of rap, so there’s this cool pop-punk, hardcore, hip-hop mix. What are the influences there?
AC: I think a little bit of everything. A lot of that hip-hop or rap influence does come from Dre, that’s what he likes. I think that’s why the band has that genre-melding experience overall, because we all listen to quite different music. Everyone’s tastes get their say. So much of that hip-hop influence does come from Dre and myself as well as a drummer. Hip-hop and R&B is so based around beats and stuff.
As far as the delivery of the vocals, that’s something that feels way more natural to Dre and it’s something our producer, Shane Edwards, just knows how to get out of him in such a unique way. It’s a combination of Dre being Dre and Shane really knowing how to push him in certain ways to get out of him what you hear in the end product.
MF: You guys released the film clip for ‘Smile’, can you tell me a little bit about it?
AC: We worked with Aimee-Lee X. Curran. It was awesome, it was such a fun and professional experience. It was definitely one of the more smooth running clips that we’ve done. Sometimes film clips can be a little bit daunting, it always seems to be a challenging experience ,but this was so good.
She took our ideas on board really well and developed it into what it is you see. She managed to really catch the vibe of the song and the theme we were going for with it. It’s easy for things to trail off and become convoluted, and you watch something or see something and you’re like, ‘What does that even mean?’ To me at least, it seems so black and white, like ‘this is the point we’re trying to get across here’.
Which is cool, I really like that. It was just a really pleasant experience overall, the cast were so fun to work with, the crew were awesome, the band had such a good time, we were, ‘Wow, let’s do that again.’
MF: There have been quotes posted intermittently on the Hellions’ socials leading up to the release, what’s the go with those?
AC: They’re our inspirations. What Matt kind of does is puts together these huge flood sheets, ’cause he just writes everything down and then we go through them and make songs out of them, essentially. Those quotes, some of them are what inspired the themes in specific songs, but others are ways that songs are able to be tied back to those writers and those quotes. It was our way of trying to get across a bit the themes of the record and the songs. And give a little bit of an insight as to where all of this comes from.
MF: Hellions are taking ‘Rue’ down the East Coast to celebrate its launch. Can we expect any treats or anything exciting?
AC: Well, yes! We’ve gone into these shows wanting them to feel a bit more like a party than a regular show that you go to. We’ve got some special guest DJs coming in, so in Brisbane we have Columbus doing a guest DJ set, in Sydney we have Tonight Alive, and in Melbourne we have Pagan doing a guest DJ set.
We wanted the opportunity to celebrate the record coming out with fans and friends and stuff, but also another way to sort of hang out with everyone. Like our plan is to just head out there on the night and mingle and have chats with everyone. The traditional format meet-and-greet doesn’t sit too well with us, it never really has. It just feels strange, we’re not really those kind of guys. For us to stand there and a line of people come up to us one at a time and shake our hands and get a photo just feels really foreign. It absolutely doesn’t make us feel comfortable, and I don’t think anyone that experiences those kinds of things could be made to feel comfortable in that sort of environment.
We’ll be doing some in-store signings and stuff around those. But the whole point of the shows is to celebrate the record and hang out with everyone and speak to everyone and just have a good time, really [laughs]. I guess the exciting part is we’re gonna try and cram in as many songs as we can in the time we have. Some stuff from Rue, stuff from the last record and a couple of older ones. We’re gonna put a little bit of effort into some DIY Hellions decorations around the place, then we’ve got the guest DJs which should be fun, then we’ve got the AM/PM DJs as well at all the shows.
It’s exciting for us because we’re gonna get to hang out with everyone and hopefully that’s exciting for other people to come and hang out with us and see us play a show at the end of the night.
‘Rue’ is out on Friday, 19th October. Hellions will launch the album with a trio of East Coast dates later this month, kicking off this Saturday in Brisbane.