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The Amity Affliction

While maintaining the passion, integrity, and unflinching honesty that has characterized their career, in 2018 The Amity Affliction are striding into new territory. With Misery, their sixth full-length, the Australian unit have woven electronic elements and even bolder hooks into their signature sound, and they have done so with humbling confidence. “It was time for a breath of fresh air, and more so for us than anyone else. We’re all really excited about the new direction, and we’ve made a record of which we’re super proud,” states vocalist and lyricist Joel Birch. “Our whole career, we’ve always felt that we’ve had to prove ourselves. We’ve had to prove we tour enough, that we’re good enough, and we’ve never been given a handout. We’ve never really been supported by other bands taking us on big tours to help us get bigger. With this record we’re standing here and stating here we are.”

The reinvention is evident from opening track “Ivy (Doomsday),” swathes of electronics suffusing it, yet with its anthemic chorus, crushing breakdown and Birch’s confessional lyrics, it remains instantly recognizable as the work of The Amity Affliction. Throughout the album, while they push their sound in previously unexplored directions and imbue every track with a distinct identity, everything they do remains fundamentally true to who they are, both as individuals and as a unit. “It was definitely somewhere that we were headed. Everyone’s a bit older and musical influences change, and how we envision the band changed,” explains Birch, who goes on to stress that they did not rely on outside musicians to help them realize this. “We always handle everything ourselves, and our producer Matt Squire helped us get the electronic stuff the way we wanted it. We came to him with clear ideas and placeholders of the sounds we wanted, and he helped us nail those down.” While they retained the formula of guitarist Dan Brown writing all of the music, Birch providing lyrics and bassist/clean vocalist Ahren Stringer weaving the two together implemented on This Could Be Heartbreak (2016), the band worked more cohesively than on any of their previous releases. With the departure of drummer Ryan Burt, they also recruited Defeater drummer Joe Longobardi, and having worked with producer Will Putney on 2014’s Let The Ocean Take Me and This Could Be Heartbreak they decided it was time for a change. “Will’s amazing and a good friend of ours, but we were writing songs that we didn’t want processed through a metal producer. We felt it would be a waste to try to go in this direction and have the same process applied to it, so we went with Matt and it was a super positive experience.” Tracked at Buzzlounge Studios in Beltsville, Maryland and Noble Street Studios in Toronto, as far as Birch is concerned the most stressful part of the process was recording several parts with clean vocals, rather than solely the screaming that fans are familiar with. “I was full of self-doubt. I was coming out of the booth during pre-production like a frightened little lamb,” he laughs wryly. “I was asking if it was okay, and everyone was telling me yes man, it’s good, or we wouldn’t let you do it!”

Having penned the heart-wrenching lyrics for This Could Be Heartbreak while caught in the throes of alcoholism and substance abuse, which only exacerbated the mental illness he has long struggled with, Birch wrote Misery over the course of the two years of sobriety that began just prior to the release of its predecessor. However, neither the band’s successes nor eliminating alcohol made his depression easier to deal with, and the lyrics for Misery reflect the difficulties he continues to face in his everyday life. “There’s been a lot of change and a lot of work to be done on who I am, and understanding who I am as a person without the addiction present. It will always be there, but I’m now living my life without substance abuse and all the things that used to define me, and made life difficult. I also had a really crazy relationship upheaval around the last record, but we worked through it and everything’s great in my relationship now. But, shit doesn’t just disappear. I find myself saying a lot on social media recently that success doesn’t change your mental health, and music remains my way of moving past certain events in my life.” For the most part, Misery is a record about addiction, and while rife with religious references, all of them ultimately come back to the role alcohol played in his life. Many of the songs are also aimed at Birch’s wife, and his awareness of the pain his decisions have caused her. This is definitely the case on standout track “Drag The Lake”, which is also about the cycle of self-abuse. “You can take a few turns in your life before you die, and I’ve definitely had a few in my time, and none of them made me sober. It was my wife that did it, but none of this was easy for her.” The title track also addresses this. “That song is about me holding onto her but still feeling like I’m just floating along, unable to ever really get out of my situation. There’s also the line ‘misery loves company, that don’t mean a thing to me,’ because this is an everyday thing to me.” However, it is stark album closer “The Gifthorse” that is perhaps most affecting, written following the suicide of Birch’s close friend, Shane Collins of Brisbane band The Gifthorse. “The line ‘There’s a message at the bottom of this bottle and it’s calling out to me’ is his line. He wrote that. Dan wrote the music for that track fairly quickly after Shane died, and I heard it and said I want to put these lyrics to that song, and he said that’s why I wrote it for you. It’s a really beautiful thing that he did, doing what he could to help me at that point.” Having admitted that all of his vocal parts for This Could Be Heartbreak were recorded while drunk, it was not until Birch listened back to the songs that he realized how bleak a place they came from, and how grave a situation he was in, which compelled him to enter AA. With Misery, all of his parts were tracked sober, though he candidly admits he was no more self-aware while in the midst of laying down his vocals. “It was a very abstract experience. I didn’t really read the lyrics, I wrote them and put them away, and while I was in the booth I did it line by line. It’s strange to be not very cognizant of what I’m putting out, and I’ve listened to the songs, but I haven’t really let anything sink in yet. I know they’re very dark, because when I was writing them I got a few emails and messages from people who had read them asking if I was alright. I don’t think I’ve really processed them thus far, and I don’t know why. I still haven’t grieved properly for Shane either, this coming in just bits and pieces in strange circumstances. I’m sort of waiting for the pin to drop, and I feel like it’s the same as far as my lyrics go. Maybe they’ll affect me more in a year, who knows?”

Having been diagnosed as bipolar prior to embarking on this summer’s Warped Tour, Birch is hopeful that medication will help him better deal with the extreme highs and lows he has long faced ahead of the shows that will take the band around the world in 2018 and 2019. While admitting that staying sober during the first year of touring following the release of This Could Be Heartbreak was difficult, and led Birch to cutting himself off from the rest of the band, such issues have since been resolved, and both he and his bandmates are looking forward to playing the songs on Misery to their fans. “This really is the most excited we’ve been with our own music in a while. It was funny, we always put records out every two years, pretty much like clockwork, and we were feeling like maybe we should make it three years after this, but while we were in the studio Dan was already saying how excited he was to write the next one!” Birch laughs. “And I’m getting more confident about my clean vocals too. ‘Ivy’ is the hardest song to sing and on Warped Tour that’s worked out okay, so we’re feeling good about this.”

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Publicity:
US – Amy Sciarretto
UK – Hayley Connelly
EU – Denise Pedicillo
AUS – Hayley Wilson
GAS – Mirko Glaeser

Booking:
EU/UK – Marco Walzel
AU – Caleb Williams/ Stephen Wade
ROW – Dave Shapiro

Management:Caleb Williams at UNIFIED Music Group

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