Everyone Loves You.. Once You Leave Them is the latest album from the veteran Australian band The Amity Affliction, and their first for Pure Noise Records. Vocalist Joel Birch gives us the scoop on the new record, sharing his battle with bipolar disorder, the recent fires in Australia, touring in North America and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: How has the band’s sound evolved from Misery?
Joel Birch: The record speaks for itself, I think. We’ve taken the good parts of Misery and applied them to the new music, while bringing the guitar back to the front, which is nice.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
My family came over, so all my favorite memories from this one were from outside the studio. Zoo visits, Smithsonian visits, and returning home to my family each day instead of sinking into some horrible state of loneliness. (laughs)
What inspired the album title?
You know how people achieve success and people tell them they’re only doing it for the money, then they kill themselves and those same people cry about it and tell everyone how much they loved them? That. That is what it is about. I fucking hate it. People are so disingenuous when someone passes away most of the time, I hate it.
Was there any hesitation in sharing your battle with bipolar disorder in your lyrics?
Nope. I write for myself now, I don’t write for other people, so whatever I write is raw, and it is important for me to get it off my chest. I have been given this amazing outlet, and I hold it close to my heart. I tried writing for our listeners, and while it was good at the time, and I felt positive about giving people hope at the end of each song, I decided that it was a little disingenuous and so I returned to writing explicitly for myself. I believe people have that same connection with the lyrics just knowing that I am also suffering under the burden of mental illness. It’s not easy, but music helps, my friends in the band and management help, and of course my wife does the heavy lifting.
How has your life changed since your diagnosis?
I’ve found my mood to be much more stable since going on medication, which is the most positive change, and I suppose it gave me some answers for all the behavior and emotions I suffered beforehand without really knowing what the fuck was going on. It has given me a more balanced mental approach to my depressive episodes, but sadly all the medication does it blunt the knife, it doesn’t stop it from cutting.
Talk about the impact of the fires in Australia and what you guys are doing to help raise money for Australian Bushfire Appeals.
We just put on a benefit show in Melbourne, and I’ve personally donated money to several GoFundMe accounts. I believe Ahren has done a print which also raised money for the fires. All in all the public has done more for the country than our weak, pathetic, government. Climate inaction is only going to see these conditions worsen in the future, so fundraising is going to have to become the new normal for us here in Australia.
Has what you expect from a record label changed over the years?
Mostly we’re trying to not give away 80 percent of everything we make so we’re not stuck on the musical hamster wheel we were on at Roadrunner. Pure Noise are already so amazing to work with. It’s so much better dealing with an indie: less cogs, fewer opinions, much easier.
How was the video shoot for “Soak Me In Bleach”?
It was awesome. We got to work with an awesome crew, they shot it all on film which I loved, and the day was super easy.
How important are videos these days?
Unsure. I put a lot of stock in them because I love the entire process, but I don’t pay any attention to analytics, and most record labels have bumped them down the priority list, so perhaps they don’t mean what they used to.
You’re doing a U.S. tour later this spring. What are your favorite things about touring here?
Over the past decade we have made so many friends there, and we’ve also come to know most of the cities we play quite intimately, so it’s become somewhat of a second home for us. It’s cool to visit, it’s been a bit sad for me the past few years watching the political and social landscape change so dramatically, but thankfully music transcends all of that and we get to be a part of a huge emotional release for a lot of people. Coming back there over and over has made us develop an affinity for the country, and we all love it, I even asked our manager how hard it would be to get residency there. (laughs)
Where haven’t you played live that you’d still like to get to?
Indonesia. Not sure the others give a fuck about going there though, so not sure we’ll ever make it.
With so much material now, how do you put together a setlist for a tour, and does it change from show to show?
We just look at the numbers these days, so if anyone wants to hear a song live they’d best get their streaming service set to repeat!
What’s the strangest item in your tour rider?
There’s nothing strange on there anymore. When we started seeing a small modicum of success we asked for a puppy or kitten to be brought but it never happened, so if you’re out there reading this and have a puppy or kitten and want to bring them to our show…
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I enjoy painting murals, and I really love carrying my camera around wherever we go and documenting my travels.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?
I went and saw The Gentleman recently and I can’t see that getting topped for me this year, it was phenomenal.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
Your Old Droog, Moonbase, Eto & Body Bag Ben, Ameer Van, ANKHLEJOHN, Benny The Butcher.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Go follow my photo account on Instagram, woo!
(interview published February 21, 2020)