Despite a fresh move south of the NSW border, Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani is on top of the world. And why wouldn’t he be? His “tiny shitty band from Newcastle” have just unleashed their huge new record The American Dream to widespread critical acclaim, they’re one of the most-played acts on triple j right now, they’re gearing up to embark on a monster tour of the USA with Neck Deep before coming home to play their biggest national Aussie headlining tour ever this October ahead of appearances at the brand spankin’ new FKA Festival and UNIFY Gathering 2019. Oh, and he also happens to be head-over-heart-eye-emojis in love.
Speaking with Music Feeds from his new digs in Melbourne, the career sadboi doesn’t hide the fact that he’s finally pretty goddamn happy, having undergone a massive personal metamorphosis after falling for a girl from Texas who kicked his arse into gear and made him want to clean up his act. The self-destructive, substance-abusing, self-confessed “arsehole” who penned many of the songs off The American Dream is virtually a stranger to the John Floreani who greets us over the blower for a chat, and he’s all the better for it.
But DW, that doesn’t mean he’s about to stop writing “tragically sad songs”. As Floreani assures us, even the happiest tune off The American Dream still make him tear up with the same lonely emo tears that have fuelled his music since the beginning.
And finding love certainly hasn’t turned him soft, either. The Trophy Eyes leader is still as fiery and unfuckwithable as ever. His Twitter page reads like a how-to guide for dealing with trolls and cyberbullies, particularly the “elite pop-punk kids and hardcore kids who don’t really listen to anything that doesn’t have a breakdown in it”, who haven’t always taken kindly to the band’s musical evolution. Or, indeed, their sense of style, as evidenced by some of the backlash against Floreani’s outfit in the band’s new ‘Friday Forever’ video.
Basically, John Floreani DNGAF what you think. If you like his music, cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. Just don’t call him a “basic bitch” or he might go full blown Bad Santa on your ass…
Catch our no-holds-barred chat with the crop-top-rocking legend below.
Music Feeds: There’s so much to talk about with the new album and tour – and I promise we’ll get to that! But first… I wanted to ask you about a poll you posted on Twitter asking which Friends character you are! People voted overwhelmingly for Chandler – do you see yourself as a Chandler?
John Floreani: Ummm, not at all! Nah, not really [laughs] I’m probably mostly like Joey except not as, like, dense. I dunno! I just made a bet with Ryan [Locke] from Seaway, I’d commented on something he was saying and was like, “That’s so Ross!” And he was like, “Oh no! Am I Ross?” And I was like “Let’s make a poll and see what Friends we are… and we have to get them tattooed!” And I got Chandler, but I kind of want Ross, because I hate Ross and I think it’d be heaps funnier.
MF: Wait — so does that mean you’re going to have to get a Chandler tattoo now?
JF: I dunno… I think we’re gonna regroup and I’m just going to put the idea forward that maybe I should get Ross, because I think that’s funnier. If I’m allowed.
MF: Who did Ryan get?
JF: He got Chandler too [laughs]. Matching Chandler tattoos! It sucks.
MF: Chandler bros! So still on the topic of social media, you’ve spoken about ‘You Can Count On Me’ being a reaction to cyberbullying and the judgmental treatment a lot of artists experience on social media today… Can you tell us a bit more about your thoughts on that?
JF: Yeah, it sucks. It sucks to time-stamp your music with an issue like social media too because I’m sure in 10 years we’ll outgrow this issue and it’ll be something else… As an artist — well, I don’t want to say “artist” because it sounds so douchey — as a creative person, you expect criticism, and criticism is cool. It’s helpful, it’s handy and it’s feedback — it’s what you need when you’re a creative person.
But there’s a difference between criticism and bullying and what people think it is that we do as musicians when we write songs. I remember scrolling through social media posts and finding people who were like, “I hope you roll your car and die”, or attacking you personally — your physical attributes — or even, like, attacking your family, saying things about your family and stuff like that. It’s brutal, man, it’s brutal. And all these people are like 14-year-old children who sit up in their bedrooms on their phones or whatever, and their parents are downstairs totally oblivious to what’s going on.
And it’s really strange, it’s strange to me that that’s, like, what controls the scene now. That’s kind of what depicts what’s good music or not, and that’s really strange to me. These people who haven’t really lived a normal day in their lives, who’ve never actually worked or felt heartbreak or known loss or anything like that — or even tried really, really hard to obtain something before, work hard at a goal or create something — these are the people who are upstairs ridiculing it, and that’s really strange.
I guess that idea came to me that we — especially Trophy Eyes, when we started writing music — we didn’t want attention or to ‘be famous’ or any of that stuff — not saying that we are famous — but we didn’t want that thing. We didn’t wanna be rockstars. We didn’t wanna impress anybody. We just wanted to write music that we liked, that was fun, and it still is fun. And that’s what we do. We write music that we wanna write and that we enjoy, and we gotta put that out there and that’s how it is. And when someone comes along and says like “hey man, I hope you roll your car because you wrote a song I don’t like”, it’s like, “well it’s my song. I don’t give a fuck if you like it or not. It’s mine, and I wrote it because I liked it.”
And people just think, like, it’s their music and, like, we owe them because “I bought a ticket to your show, man. I pay your wages”. It’s like… “You idiot! I can’t even pay my fucking rent, like, what do you mean you pay my wages?” It’s just such a giant misunderstanding. And these people — they think they know you as a person and I guess ‘You Can Count On Me’ is just an attempt to kind of humanise what it is that we do.
We’re only some shitty tiny band from Newcastle that got together and wrote some songs as best we could and we were like “Man, they sound OK… and let’s keep doing this ’cause this is fun!”, we didn’t really wanna impress anybody. And then somebody comes along and goes “Hey! You didn’t write a song that I like so fuck you!” It’s like… “Wow [laughs] Where’d you come from? And I wasn’t trying to write a song that you’d like, I was writing songs that I like, they’re for me. You can listen to them if you like, you can buy tickets and come see us if you want to, that’d be cool?”
MF: And on your own Twitter page you seem to be pretty good at dealing with cyber bullies, you don’t seem to be one to suffer fools… do you think that’s the best way for artists or anyone really to deal with these trolls who try to bring them down, standing up to them?
JF: Yeah, although ignoring it is even better. I’m a pretty fiery person, maybe because I’m Italian or whatever, I have a bit of a temper. And I suppose, when I see that stuff, I can’t help but be like, “alright motherfucker, let’s go!” But at the same time, now that I’m a little bit older, having dealt with it a little bit more recently, especially because of elite pop-punk kids and hardcore kids who don’t really listen to anything that doesn’t have a breakdown in it. And when they hear that, they go, like, “you’re an arsehole”. And it’s like, “Alright. Let me tell you the billions and trillions of reasons why you’re an arsehole and I’m not!”
But I’ve kind of gotten past that because it’s exhausting! And there’s just so many idiots out there, it’s really hard to defend yourself against them. Actually – I take that back, they’re not idiots. It’s just, like – there’s a way to say things. And if you don’t like it, then fine, don’t like it. That’s up to you and there’s literally millions of other things to listen to in the world, so go listen to them.
But yeah, I got better at [dealing with] it and it’s easier now to ignore it. I think the best way to combat that stuff is to ignore it because, like, they’re looking for attention. People who do that stuff, antagonise you, they want a rise out of you. And it’s easy to get a rise out of me because I bite. I like it [laughs].
And also, the world doesn’t expect it. I remember some kid calling me a “basic bitch” because I spelt the name of their local pizza shop wrong. And I was like, “Alright, you’re gonna have it then!” so I went off at them, I let it fly, and the whole world was like, “Whoa, you can’t speak to her like that, she’s a little girl!” And I was like “…yeah, but, she spoke to me like that?!” It doesn’t matter how old you are, you don’t speak to people like that. Like, in any other given situation, would you walk up to a 26-year-old man and say “Hey, you’re a basic bitch” like, on the street? No way! I dunno, but long story short, I guess the best way to combat it is just to ignore it. Because otherwise you start swearing at little kids and then you look like an arsehole!
It’s weird, I got this Bad Santa vibe right now. Have you seen that movie? I’m like that on the internet at the moment.
MF: OK well let’s move on — just quickly, still on the topic of lyrics — it seems like a lot has changed for you personally between the headspace you were in when you were writing these songs and now… For example you’ve said it’s difficult for to listen back to ‘More Like You’ because you remember the person you were when you wrote it and you feel sorry for that person. Can you share with us a little bit about what you were going through at the time versus where you are now?
JF: I guess that song — especially the first verse — was written about a lot of self-loathing, self-hatred, and just kind of, like, self-destructive behaviour that I used to be heavily involved in. I guess before — where I came from a few years ago — the space, the environment and the mental attitude that I had, there was a lot of violence, a lot of drugs, a lot of substance abuse. Basically every way that someone could sabotage themselves. I was not a great guy to be around. But I think after that I grew up a little bit, seeing the world a little bit more and moving away and… so I met a girl from Texas and, again, I was out of my mind drunk. And I liked her, I met her and I liked her. And she hated me [laughs] It was a great look at myself to be like, “hang on, I am an arsehole”.
She was like, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” you know what I mean? “Look at you, you’re hammered. You’re supposed to be at this party shaking hands, you’re like a tiny shitty band from Newcastle and you have this opportunity to meet people that run your music world and, like, look at you” [chuckles]. And I was like “ow”. And she later became my girlfriend! [laughs]
MF: Wow! That sounds like the plot of some dark romantic comedy!
JF: Maybe, yeah. But I kind of cleaned my life up a little bit and I moved to Texas and I stayed with her for a little while and I dunno. After so long just being by myself and handling things myself — not really having anybody to answer to — that’s really a slippery slope when you don’t really like yourself, so there’s no real reason to behave or to have anything nice or to do anything nice or, like, look after yourself. There’s no real reason for that, you just kind of drive yourself into the ground and wake up and drive yourself into the ground [again]. It’s a disgusting process and I’m sure it looks quite ugly. But I got to Texas, and I met a girl, and it took a long time but it was nice and I met her family and it was a long process of making a turn in my life and letting people love me and kind of forgiving myself for a lot of shit that I did when I was a kid. And that’s what that song’s about, I guess. I was a very confused, angry young man. And I look back on that and it’s kind of like “wow, you poor guy!”
MF: But that’s such a beautiful story about the power of love! So are you guys still together, can I ask?
JF: Yeah, absolutely! We just moved to Melbourne together.
MF: Wow, congrats! So does this mean we might see you starting to write a few more love songs in the future?
JF: [laughs] I’d love to! But I’m only really good at writing tragically sad songs.
MF: You’re a sadboi at heart.
JF: [chuckles] Yeah, exactly. I think that’s where my creativeness comes from is that exact emotion. [My songs] can be nice, but they always make you feel sad… The last song off [The American Dream – ‘I Can Feel It Calling’] was kind of the closest I’ve come to writing a nice song, but it’s still, like, really sad. It still makes me cry!
MF: Well something to be happy about is the Australian tour this October — now this is going to be your biggest headlining tour yet! Have you guys changed up the live show at all in preparation for playing these bigger venues?
JF: Yeah, for sure. There’s gonna be a lot more production, a lot more stagey stuff like lights — aw man, I don’t know how much I’m allowed to give away. I’m in the office right next to my manager right now, he’d probably shoot me [if I said too much]… we might have some fireworks or something crazy like that, maybe pyro, I don’t know. We’re really going to try to make it something spectacular. I think because this next record is so theatrical we really want to kind of bring out something truly theatrical. I want you to feel like you’re at a show and you’re kind of like living through this giant American middle class normal man’s life story, you know what I mean? I want it to feel like that. I want it to feel like you’re watching a movie that was written by Bruce Springsteen.
MF: I’m guessing that’s why you chose to premiere it in such an epic, unorthodox way on the big screen?
JF: Definitely, yeah. The whole idea of that was to put a visual to the movie, and the visual is going to be life as I see it. So I’m going to try to get everybody in that room to kind of step into my head and listen to my songs and see what makes me tick – see images and footage of things that I like and love and places that I’ve been. It’s all kinds of stuff, like cartoons that I enjoy — like Ren & Stimpy — and then home video footage and, like, 90’s McDonalds commercials. I just want it to be a sensory overload and [for fans] to truly be immersed in John’s brain for the duration of the record.
MF: And what’s the likelihood of us seeing you guys gracing the Aussie festival circuit this Summer? Without giving too much away, do you have any festivals booked in?
Yes, we definitely do. I can’t really name them right now, but we’ll be playing festivals that we don’t normally play as well, that a band like us wouldn’t normally play. So you can see us kind of everywhere hopefully!
MF: I love that! I was going to say the tone of your voice on this album when you hit those low octaves gives me some serious Gang Of Youths vibes, could totally see you on a bill with Gangs!
JF: That’d be cool! I’m a huge fan of them so that’d be chill.
MF: It isn’t hard to see you guys getting to the point where you’re playing stadiums in the not too distant future either. Does that figure into your vision for the future of Trophy Eyes?
JF: Man, I dunno. It’s so weird because so many people have been saying that to me, but it’s like — I don’t see that. I mean, that would be cool. That might be something to fantasise about but I just see Trophy Eyes as like five smiling idiots who like hanging out together and I guess that’s what it’ll always be to me. It doesn’t really matter where we’re playing as long as they’re there, you know what I mean? I don’t really have a place to take it, just wherever it goes. And hopefully it keeps going.
Their new album ‘The American Dream’ is out now.