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Joel Birch Talks The Amity Affliction’s New Album, The Ghost Inside’s Bus Crash & Big Asses

Written by Brenton Harris on December 14, 2015

Gympie (QLD) hardcore heroes The Amity Affliction have been on a seemingly never ending ascent since the release of their breakthrough second full-length Youngbloods in 2010, with their gritty yet life affirming anthems finding a special place in the hearts of legions of fanatics worldwide.  

Having firmly entrenched themselves as heavyweights of the metalcore scene with follow up 2012’s Chasing Ghosts (which debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts and blew up globally) and a near constant touring cycle,  The Amity  Affliction took an even bigger step forward with their second consecutive ARIA chart topper 2014’s Let The Ocean Take Me,  establishing themselves as legitimate headliners, and a can’t-miss act at festivals both at home and abroad.

Having comfortably outgrown the venues usually associated with acts of their genre, The Amity Affliction are making the bold step up to arenas with the “The Big Ass Tour” where they have joined forces with A Day To Remember, Motionless in White and Hands Like Houses to shake the foundations of some of the biggest arenas in the country.

With new single Shine On racing up the charts, a new album in the works, a baby on the way and close friends and intended tour partners The Ghost Inside in hospital following a severe bus crash, vocalist (and unofficial therapist to hundreds of thousands worldwide) Joel Birch spoke with Music Feeds about “The Big Ass Tour” and all things The Amity Affliction.

Watch: The Amity Affliction – Shine On

Music Feeds: Hey Joel, thanks for taking the time to have a chat to us during your brief downtime, how are you feeling?

Joel Birch: Feeling pretty good man.

MF: The Amity Affliction are about to head out on the Big Ass Tour, one of the largest scale metal/hardcore headline package tours Australia’s ever seen, are you excited to be hitting the stage again?

JB: I don’t really think about the tours until after the tours end and then I sort of decompress and take it all in; in but just going to be fun I think and think it’s going to be pretty crazy to see the size of those crowds and see how that many people respond to what we’re doing up on stage, that’s probably going to be the craziest part for me.

I don’t really care all that much about the bands we’re taking with us, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, they’re all really good  I just think it’s just going to be a really fun tour for everyone involved.

MF: Are you at all worried about the scale of the arena’s having a negative impact on your ability to connect in the meaningful, intimate way that some of Amity’s fans love and hope for?

JB: Not really, I spoke to someone about this recently, and it was the first time I’d even really thought about it. It’s just a different way of connecting. There’s so much energy being thrown around the room from everyone, that I don’t think the size of the arena really inhibits people getting into it at all. It doesn’t inhibit me or my ability to commit to the performance and connect with the message we’re putting out, so I think it’ll be the same fun, just on a bigger scale.

It’ll be a different show to the Tivoli or the Roundhouse or something where you can see the beer flowing, and people get a bit carried away, but I don’t think it’ll be different in a negative way, it’ll still be fun and I don’t feel like there’ll be any emotional disconnect at all.

MF: As a band you have quite a passionate following, a lot of which is related to fans ability to connect to your lyrics and the life experiences you’re sharing, as your profile continues to grow and your life changes for the better, are you finding it harder to relate or connect to them?

JB: No, not really because it’s a permanent problem for me, that’s not going to ever go away. So that’s just an ongoing thing for me, and I write about what I know. So it’s not like I’m having to force anything out when I’m writing lyrics or anything, I write about exactly how I feel at that point in time, so it doesn’t ever feel contrived.  

I still have my slumps but the main difference now is that I have my wife who’s a huge support for me, all that’s really changed is that I now have a more positive base to fall back on. I still have the same sort of mental health issues that I’ve always had.

MF: That positivity comes through in your new track Shine On. What has the response to the track been like from your perspective?

JB: I don’t go looking for it, I know that the worst response we’ve had so far is that people say it sounds the same, which is fine because that’s who we are and that’s what we do. I mean we’re not a band that’s ever likely to go away and write some crazy prog album and just drop it on people unexpectedly. We write what we write. I don’t really understand that point of view either, or people that bother commenting on it. I know that if I like a band I like the band for that exact reason, that they sound like themselves. If it bores you or whatever why not go and listen to something else?

I mean there’s a lot of other bands in the world at least one of them has to offer what they’re looking for, so go listen to them, and let the people who like what we do, like what we do.

MF: It’s funny too because it seems that when bands in that scene do make a radical change to their sound, they cop a ton of backlash for it, so it’s kind of a catch 22 for bands.

JB: Definitely. Those are probably the same group of people too, so yeah, fuck ’em I guess? I haven’t heard anything bad, but even if I did, fuck those people anyway.

MF: Did you think that was an unfair criticism anyway. There’s definitely some new elements in Shine On?

JB: Yeah I thought it was different too. I thought it sounded really upbeat and happy and that it had some new musical elements as well, but yeah, apparently I’m wrong and it sounds the same, so what do I know?

MF: Is Shine On indicative of the overall sound of the next record?

JB: I think it’s indicative of parts of the new album but not all of it. Some of the songs we’ve got are way heavier than what we’ve done last two albums. So It’s kind of hard to say at the moment I know that Ahren and Dan have like fifteen songs together. Usually I’m the guy who puts twenty songs by now and they’re catching up but now I’ve only got five, so I’m the one that’s lagging, so it could go anywhere from here really.

MF: Does it ever blow your mind that people have your band’s logo or some of your lyrics tattooed on them?

JB: Always man, always. It’s very flattering when they get a good one, it’s kind of cringe worthy when they don’t get a good one and you’re like “oh man, why did you do that, you could have gotten something good done”, but different strokes for different folks you know.

Watch: The Amity Affliction – Skeletons

MF: The Ghost Inside have unfortunately had to drop off of the Big Ass Tour due to the horrific bus crash they had, how did that impact you guys, and were you surprised by the supportive response of the punk and hardcore community in the aftermath?

JB: Something people in Australia need to understand is that while they raised about a hundred and thirty thousand dollars, and that’s a lot of money, they’re looking at over a hundred thousand dollars of treatment each, just because of the US healthcare system and the way that it operates. So it’s not like over here where if we have had that accident that money would have covered our medical costs and also have gone to us living like post crash and getting back up on our feet. That’s all going to go straight to the hospital.

So they have not raised that much money in perspective to what they’re going through.The response and the support was pretty incredible worldwide, so while it wasn’t surprising, because that tends to be how this community is, it was definitely appreciated by everyone.

As for the impact on us, it was a pretty rough couple of days, definitely, because we were sitting in the back room at a show in Hamburg, getting live updates when the Paris attacks happened and that was all pretty frightening and fucked up and hectic considering we were basically doing the exact same thing not all that far away geographically. We were obviously still overwhelmed and fucked up by the fallout from the Paris attacks that when we got word of the bus crash happening a couple of days later it really had quite a massive impact on us. It was all very messed up, a messed up week.

We’ve stayed in constant contact with the guys in the band though and they’re all doing well and despite being really beaten up they’re maintaining a positive approach to it all. The drummer Andrew is hilarious and the first thing he said when he came off of a breathing apparatus was asking the nurse to give him a sponge-bath. So they haven’t lost their sense of humour.

Obviously there was a lot of back and forth between us all, and they’re very thankful for the support and to be honest we’re all just super thankful that they’re all alive, because we’ve seen the bus and it definitely doesn’t seem like they should be.

MF: Have you given any thought to getting together with the other bands on the bill and playing some The Ghost Inside tracks in your sets or to finish off each night?

JB: It’s funny you should ask that because we were going to and we had planned to do it instead of walking off stage for an encore call, however once we ran through our set and had a look at all the songs we need to play, and how everything needs to be set up and configured for our lighting and all that stuff to be triggered so it flows within the set, we realised that we just don’t have enough time, but we definitely gave it some real thought and it’s the thought that counts, right?

Also I know that A Day To Remember and Motionless In White are friends with them as well, so I’m pretty sure one or both of may be looking to work some The Ghost Inside covers into their sets.

MF: You touched on the Paris Attacks earlier, have those events impacted how you have to plan in terms of security or altered your mindset on how or where you’ll be touring in the future? Or are you viewing it as a one off, freak incident?

JB: I think in today’s global political climate, we unfortunately can’t just think of it as a one off incident. However having said that I tend to believe that you shouldn’t live in fear and you shouldn’t alter how you’re living or what you want to do because of events like this. Music has always been a huge fuck you to oppressors. I think music is a good vessel to show that you’re not going to allow anything to impinge on your freedom or on your ability as a human to express joy or to experience joy, in a safe, supportive medium.

I think in Europe there will definitely be increased security no matter what, which we’ve seen at some shows already with bag checks for weapons and stuff like that, however I honestly think the best thing we can do is get back to playing shows and attending shows and allow ourselves to get back to living our lives and doing the things that we like to do and that make us happy, free of fear.

MF: You’ve stated that you’re not going to tour Australia again until at least 2017, are you ever concerned that fans might see your apparent  prioritisation of other markets as an affront, or do you find they mostly want what’s best for you?

JB: One of the funniest reactions is from people who don’t even know that we’re from here, asking why we don’t tour down here more, and it’s like we toured Australia every few months for 7 or 8 years, so I think it’s okay for you to wait a bit while we give some other places a chance. We haven’t completely ruled out touring later in the year though, it’s just doubtful.

MF: With a new record to record and release and with yourself having a baby on the way, that line of thinking seems pretty practical anyway?

JB: We’ve got five months off touring at the start of next year which is the longest time off we’ve had for ten years, but then it’ll be straight back into it, hopefully with a new record and five months worth of energy ready to put into it.

MF: I know you’re not particularly fond of the tour moniker, however it does provide the opportunity for some fun ones before we finish up:

JB: Haha yeah, I’m not at all man, not at all, but go on anyway.

MF: A big ass tour requires a big ass sound set up, are you guys going to be rocking some crazy setups?

JB:I don’t want to really give anything too much away, but yes, yes we will.

MF: What’s the biggest ass you’ve ever seen?

JB: Probably somewhere in Middle America in Walmart. I saw one ass one time that was hanging over the edge of one of those carts that old people use, you know the little ride on scooter ones, well it was hanging over the edge of both sides, so that was pretty wild.

MF: Hopefully they come to the show and stage dive off of it?

JB: I’ve seen worse man, I’ve seen much worse.

MF: It’s a wild bunch of bands, who is likely to make the biggest ass of themselves on this tour?

JB: Ummm…well Motionless in White are straight edge, so it won’t be them, Hands Like Houses will be on their best behaviour so probably not them, so I don’t think it’ll be anyone really, at least not for party reasons, it’ll probably be more like someone who tries to jump on stage or off stage and just completely misses or something, but I’m hanging to find out.

There’s always something happening. Probably one of our drunk friends will do something stupid, I just don’t know which one.

The Big Ass Tour continues tonight in Perth. See the rest of the dates below and check out our review of The Amity Affliction’s Sydney Big Ass Tour show here.

Gallery: The Amity Affliction + A Day To Remember – Big Ass Tour, Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney 2015 / Photos By Liam Cameron

Big Ass Tour Dates
The Amity Affliction, A Day To Remember, Motionless In White & Hands Like Houses

Monday, 14th December
Perth Arena, Perth
Tickets: Live Nation

Wednesday, 16th December
Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Tickets: Live Nation

Thursday, 17th December
Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Tickets: Live Nation

Saturday, 19th DecemberSOLD OUT
Brisbane Riverstage, Brisbane
Tickets: Live Nation

Sunday, 20th December
Riverstage, Brisbane
Tickets: Live Nation


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