INTERVIEW: In conversation with Ahren Stringer (The Amity Affliction) in the Nightliner in Prague
The Australian metalcore legends in The Amity Affliction were recently in Europe to present their latest album Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them (2020, Pure Noise Records), which has been delayed so far due to the pandemic.
At the time of the interview, there was already a new single Show Me Your God from the new album, which is probably coming out soon. The song was also played live on the tour. Now, at the time of the video’s release, there is a new song – I See Dead People ft. Louie Knuxx, who unfortunately passed away.
We met up with the band’s founder and bassist Ahren Stringer in the Nightliner in Prague before the show and had a chat with him. Have fun reading.
This is your first tour back in Europe in three years – the last one was with Beartooth – how did you spend your down time during the pandemic?
Joel went to school to study law and he might go back to it, finishing his degree. And i just painted a lot of birds, played NHL, drank beer, posted memes and all that.
You also postponed this tour because of mental health reasons. What do you do to make sure to stay mentally fit on this tour?
I just try to go for long walks – I went for one today, it was so cold, I wish I had gloves, it was fucking freezing. But yeah, just active stuff. Joe does rock climbing, Joel works on his paintings and Dan is a different kind of human. He doesn´t really feel sadness, he can sit in a room all day and work on his computer. So yeah, we all have our own different capabilities about how we go about our day and rock out at night.
You´re obviously from Australia and I wonder how that reflects in your music. Especially now that you´re on tour with all American bands, what would say about that?
People always ask us that. My answer is always, for me personally, I started the band, I used to live in Gympie, a really shity boring place with nothing to do. And I kind of just watched all these other bands do what they do and I figured I can write a song like that and since there was nothing else to do, I started writing music. It´s similar with bands – without comparing us to them – like Oasis, they say the same thing that they were bored shitless in Birmingham and had nothing to. Trying our luck in writing music and it worked out.
You also live in Canada now I believe?
No, not anymore. I moved back to Australia during the lockdown.
Oh, okay. Well, I was wondering if Canada did have some influence on your music recently.
My wife wanted to move there to have an adventure. It was fun for the first year, but then Covid happened and the lockdown happened and it was just very miserable in that tiny apartment. Which is fine if you can go and do stuff but then everything was close. We spent a year in lockdown in Toronto and then we decided it´s time to move back. And then we spent another year in lockdown. And eventually we moved down south on the Bellarine Penninsula.
So Australia is probably the place where you want to grow old?
Yeah, being overseas for too long, we definitely missed home and realized that this is the place to be.
Alright, let´s talk about your music. The new single “Show Me Your God” is out and it´s significantly heavier and you mentioned it before that the new album will be much heavier than before. How do you try to stay musically relevant over all these years and all the bands that come and go?
I mean we obviously have our ears on the ground and see what everyone else is doing but we also just try to do what we want to do. So, if we want to try something new, we´ll do it. During misery, me and Dan wrote the music and listened to a bunch of pop, so we tried to go that route and we did that. It went really well worldwide, maybe not so much in Europe. But, you know, some of those songs from that record are still some of our most played songs like “Drag The Lake” and we play that live. But we also wanted to do heavier shit and be like “Fuck You” to all the haters, show that we can do that as well and showcase our ability to do any kind of style, really. But yeah, the next song is gonna rip everyone´s dick off (editorial note: “I See Dead People”).
Okay, wow, Show Me Your God was already quite heavy. So some Lorna Shore style now?
Do you think Europe is harder to break for you than America?
For us it definitely is! We did break in America, it´s our bread and butter. We´re biggest in America than we are anywhere else, besides Australia, obviously. There is a small population in Australia, but America is 10 times bigger than Australia, so we´re doing well in both places. To break European markets is much harder, I don´t know why, you guys seem to love Parkway Drive, but not us, I don´t why.
I can´t explain it either.
We´re definitely trying!
I heard you recorded this album in a really rural studio somewhere in New South Wales, Australia.
Yeah, me and Dan built a fortress of mattresses in the spare room of the house we rented and I recorded all my vocals in just a house. We only really needed a studio to record drums and guitars and stuff. We could have done Joel´s vocals as well but it might have been too loud for the neighbours. Might have got a few noise complaints.
Can you run us through the process and if that contributed to the more heavy style?
I mean we have just been to it as usual. Dan has written all the music and I have composed Joel´s lyrics to the songs and I get to choose the songs I want to sing on. Just a regular process. We mostly aimed at writing the most amount of heavy music, there is only really one soft song on this album. But we are constantly writing, we´re now already writing for the next album. We finished this album in June and it doesn´t come out until May. It´s just crazy.
The cycles are getting longer and longer.
It´s because of the vinyl! It takes longer to process.. logistics. I can´t wait for it to get out. We already hate it (haha).
You must have written it in 2021 when you recorded in 2022 maybe?
Well, Show Me Your God was written in 2018 I think and it was just too similar to “All My Friends Are Dead” so we saved it for later. It´s an old song.
How is having Joe in the band adding to the music? Is he in favour of heavy hitting?
Oh yes, he loves it. But he´s a bit bummed out, when he got in the band we told him it´s pretty simple play. (haha) And then we just went, nah you can do blast beats and breakdowns.
Well he is also in Defeater.
Exactly. That´s why we got him, we are all big fans of Defeater and they are great friends. We did a tour here, the Never Say Die and they were supporting and Warped Tour in America. But yeah, now he´s up for the challenge, he´s enjoying it. But also very stressful for him, I´m sure.
You are probably a good person to answer this question: What do you think of the state of the genre Metalcore today? Warped Tour isn´t there anymore, tours seem to get smaller but then you have those big bands like Parkway or BMTH. What do you think?
I mean there was a love hate relationship with Warped Tour, I´m glad it´s over. But if they brought back next year, I´d be psyched. But yes, there is a gap, something needs to happen to showcase all the bands below the giants in the scene. Which didn´t really happen, but I guess it´s kind of for a reason. All those other bands go a bit more mainstream, I don´t know.. Who´s to say, you like what you like. I like Lorna Shore, as you said, and if they got as big as Bring Me The Horizon I´d be like “ah fuck it I´m not listening to them anymore” (haha) You know what I mean? We´re all kids at heart, we´re all gatekeepers of the music. As soon as a band gets big, people don´t like them anymore, but it leaves space for someone else to get in. That´s life.
Do you have much of a say of who to take out on your tour? You have SeeYouSpaceCowboy, Gideon and Fit For A King right now..
I love SeeYouSpaceCowboy, they´re great. But it´s usually whoever is available, we get a list from our managers with that. Sometimes, like we had Counterparts cancel the tour, because we postponed it, and Fit For A King jumped on the tour, which we are psyched about, it´s a bigger band, so we sell more tickets maybe (haha).
So, this year just started but we already guess what´s happening next year – 10 years of Let The Ocean Take Me – maybe you will do an anniversary tour..
Oh nice! I actually also saw you at Unify Festival in Australia in 2018.
Oh yeah, sorry about that. We were forced to play songs we don´t want to and they were like “well that´s how we´re billing you” and we drank and did blow all day and performed really bad.
I just remember Joel saying “We will never fucking play those songs again”.
And we won´t. Nobody knew about them, nobody cared.
Do you think people take Let The Ocean Take Me and Chasing Ghosts as reference for everything you put out now?
It´s weird, because people always say they´re getting Chasing Ghosts vibes about new stuff and I always think it doesn´t sound anything like it. But it´s probably just me being defensive about, because to me it sounds brand new, it´s always strange. Maybe it does sound new and it´s fine – if you want to relate to other albums, that´s cool, but to me it sounds totally new and like something we´ve never done before.
Isn´t it maybe strange that people have this sound and vision of those albums and when you put something new out, of course it´s new, but they always compare it.
Yeah and there´s only like four or five chord progressions that anyone can really use, so it´s hard to make something up. But the proof in the pudding is that I wrote Chasing Ghosts, the entire album, and now Dan writes the music, so it has to be different. So it got nothing to do with how I am writing. Maybe my melodies sound different, but it´s hard to reinvent the wheel.
And I assume lyrically it is similar to what you´ve been writing about?
Yeah, it´s Joel talking about killing himself, basically. (haha)
What are the moments on tour or anywhere that you realize you still want to be in a band and enjoy it all?
I think it´s when you get off stage and you had a good show and everything goes right. Last night, it was a great show, but I´ve fallen asleep and my alarm didn´t go off, so I woke up five minutes before the show, I haven´t warmed up. But we still somehow managed to pull off a great show. And I felt thankful, we nailed it, we did our job. Most shows on this tour, like all the Germans show that are sold out, have been amazing. The whole day is kind of boring, miserable, you´re missing home, cold.
The European winter is the Australian summer.
Well I actually prefer this. It´s too hot right now back home.
And for the last question: What still motivates to write music and be in Amity today?
Well, I got a mortgage! (haha) But all jokes aside, we still love doing it. We want to write the music we want to listen to. And we want to keep our legacy going. This year we´ve been a band for 20 years technically, I started this band in high school in 2003. So yeah, it´s our 20 year anniversary and we just want to keep writing as much music as possible, release as much music as possible before we all call it a day. We will probably keep writing until our wheels fall off.
Is there something that still needs to happen that you´d be really excited about?
Just like I said, just write as much music as possible, I don´t care about awards anymore. We got gold records and platinum records in Australia. I guess a gold record would be nice, maybe one day that will happen from streaming. I guess that´s just my only real goal, to make as much music as possible and leave our hearts out there as much as possible.
Sounds good! Thank you, Ahren.
Cover Image: Ahren Stringer in Hannover | (c) Sebastian Wittag
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