The Amity Affliction: Track by Track Breakdown
Australian rockers the Amity Affliction have broken onto the scene with their album ‘Youngbloods,’ which was released digitally in the States on Oct. 25 via Roadrunner Records. The band will head back into the studio to record the follow-up to ‘Youngbloods’ in 2012. In the meantime, the Amity Affliction are wrapping up a U.S. tour that runs through Dec. 16 in Portland, Ore. Below is a track by track overview of ‘Youngbloods’ by singer Joel Birch, along with streams of each song.
Joel Birch: I’ve never written any liner notes like this before; for the most part I’ve always shied away from digressing any further than the face value of my lyrics, but I thought I would break that cycle and actually open them up a little more so that people can perhaps connect with them on a deeper level. I’ve always written really personal messages for the most part, excluding a few songs, most of which I’m not happy about lyrically as I find them to be pretty weak, but that’s another story in itself. I write quite selfishly I guess you could say, I write lyrics as a catharsis and use Amity as a vessel to expunge all the negativity in my life – it’s a total release for me, and as such I’ve always been extremely reluctant to let others delve into the songs, as I’ve always felt really exposed just by having them written out on paper, let alone having them explained. Anyway, hopefully this has the desired effect and you can get more of an insight into the songs, and hopefully take something positive away from them. I’m not going to answer any questions about them, hopefully my explanations will suffice and you won’t need to ask any more about them…
1. ‘I Hate Hartley’
The first song on the record, and probably the heaviest for me to deal with; I feel really uncomfortable writing about it actually, as it was such a heavy, and really negative experience that I wrote this song about. Just over a year ago I was admitted to hospital after an attempted suicide, I’d been going through some really heavy emotional times, I wasn’t handling my life very well, I was drinking just about every day to the point where I couldn’t remember not being hungover, and along with that the nagging depression that I’ve had for as long as I can remember seemed to be getting increasingly unbearable. I put my friends through some really traumatic times, I overloaded them emotionally and felt like I was losing my grip on everything around me, including my relationship with my now ex-wife and my friendships with just about everyone. It’s really hard to explain how overwhelming seemingly insignificant occurrences became. I thought all my friends hated me, I was getting really behind in my work and letting a lot of people down on a regular basis both work-wise and, as I stated before, relationship wise. I drank myself into an emotional coma, and one night it all came to a head and I ended up in hospital, sedated and really, really alone. So I wrote this not long before we finished doing our demos as a release of sorts I suppose. It’s a really f—ed thing to put your friends through, doing something like that… It’s really, really f—ed, and extremely selfish; on the flip side though when you’re going through it, it feels like it’s the best option. For me it took something that bad for me to turn my way of thinking around and seek help, and to really step back and take a look at everything that was going on and try to turn it into something positive.
I wrote this not long before moving back to the Sunshine Coast to get back to the ocean and a slower way of life, Brisbane was really taking it out of me emotionally and it was time to get back to a place I found to be more ‘home’ than Brisbane ever had. It’s pretty straight forward I think; basically I was feeling like I had so much emotional baggage weighing me down that I couldn’t move forward in life. That’s why I used anchors as a metaphor, I felt so incredibly tired of life, and was slowly going back to a really dark place where I just wanted to end it, again. It’s a really confusing situation when you’re well aware of the impact it would have if you were to follow through with it and yet at the same time feeling like it is the only way out of all the issues you’re faced with. What I’ve found is that you really have to take a step back and weigh up the consequences, and I mean REALLY think about what you’re going through. It’s always different from person to person so it’s hard for outsiders, even your closest friends, to understand the inner workings of it, but I don’t think that it’s ever worth it to do what I did and not seek help and just let yourself spiral down into the depths of sadness.
3. ‘H.M.A.S. Lookback’
This song, believe it or not, is just about the place where I moved back to on the Sunshine Coast. I now live by the river, and for the first time in about four or five years I felt really at home somewhere. Brisbane had been my home for just over ten years, but getting back to the ocean and the water and the slowness of life on on the Coast was like a breath of fresh air for me. I instantly felt calmer, I felt grounded, and like I said earlier, I feel like I’m finally back at home. Everything seems so peaceful when I’m by the ocean, I know that makes me sound like a bit of a hippy, but when I’m near it I honestly feel like there’s nothing in the world that could really be that bad, because of the serenity of the surrounds; sitting out there, feeling the sun on me, listening to the water move back and forth – it all connects with me on a really weird, but deep level… I’ll never be leaving it again, I don’t think city is for me, but like everything else I ever do it takes a whole lot of failure before I finally admit it.
4. ‘Fire or Knife’
I was brought up in a Christian household, and when I turned 13 I was moved into an extremely religious school as my schooling wasn’t really heading in the right direction where I was. This coupled together created some very deep seeded beliefs which, as I got older, became harder and harder to justify. The whole concept of the bible really confounds me these days, it is extremely inaccurate, there are missing gospels, the gospels themselves were written hundreds of years after the fact, (a fact by the way that we are assuming is real based on the gospels telling us it happened – weird?) and the age old non-Christian argument of “but what about all the rape, incest, murder, violence… etc” is actually a really valid point if you ask me. I was already well on my way to becoming an atheist when we went on the second Drunk and Disorderly tour and our manager left behind his copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins; about two pages in I had firmly decided that I was now an atheist. The more I read, the more I became enraged about my upbringing, not from my Mother, but more so from the school environment and church that I was in for all those years. It’s to the point where I can’t really have a discussion about it yet because I haven’t simmered down enough to do so. I hold a lot of anger towards the church, and Christianity as a whole. It’s a disgusting body of lies that traps youth at their most vulnerable and instills beliefs that just aren’t backed up, anywhere. Relying on ‘faith’ to sometimes loosely, sometimes firmly control the goings on of other people’s lives. I could write quite a bit more about this, but I think I’ve explained the song enough.
I wrote this for everyone else that has gone through what I have mentally, whether it be yourself having gone through it, or someone you know. I didn’t really write this for myself at all, it is really just a letter to everyone that has felt really, inexplicably depressed, just trying to put my point across (running theme, right?) that it’s not worth it… It’s better to try and push through it, even if it seems absolutely impossible, and believe me, I have been there, and thought that. This is actually missing the chorus lyrics, which Ahren wrote half of. I didn’t write the part “we won’t give up those memories, we won’t go near those cemeteries…” but it was a fitting addition.
6. ‘Dr. Thunder’
I wrote this for my ex-wife, and still best friend… I was really closed and shut off from her for the better part of a year leading to our split, and I needed to try and explain that to her, but without really wanting to try and articulate it to her in person; it’s still something I find hard to talk to her about, I can’t explain what happened, but I pretty much got totally caught up with life and everything I was going through, and instead of turning to someone who understands me more than almost anyone I know, I internalized it, which obviously led to a negative outcome. I felt so detached from everything I knew, and felt like I was slowly turning colder emotionally as well, which was having a really heavy impact on her, and is still something that’s a sore point… It’s hard to keep a relationship together when you’re too self involved to notice what you’re doing to the other person… Alcohol doesn’t play a winning role in the formula either, being constantly drunk and irresponsible because of that, always teetering on the edge of my depression taking hold of me; always subjecting her to some really heavy phone calls due to the distance between us, and then never wanting to discuss it whilst sober. If I can get people to walk away from this record with anything, it would be to try your hardest, no matter how uncomfortable it feels, to open up to those closest to you. It can only help, even it comes at the price of some initial anger, it can only lead to forging stronger bonds with the people who care about you.
7. ‘Olde English 800′
I’m actually not the biggest fan of this song lyrically. I guess I was trying to stress the violence of being really down, and trying to emote that using hell for imagery (whether you’re religious or not) is the clearest example of struggle; I know there’s not a hell, or a heaven, but when you’re stuck in your head it feels like you’re going through hell no matter who you are. I don’t think this is something that is intrinsic only to those with depression at all; I think it’s an all encompassing feeling, the feeling of being stuck in a living hell. It differs in experience based on the individual, but I think everyone goes through it. It can be post-relationship, mid-relationship, school induced, home life, friends impacting you with their actions, death – it can range, but I know just about everyone goes through it. I think it’s for that reason I tried to use such vivid imagery, and hopefully that helps people get through something, that’s really all I ever want from these songs…
8. ‘No Sleep ‘Til Brisbane’
This was written a while before ‘Youngbloods,’ it was actually the first song I penned and the first demo we recorded. The original demo sounded so horrible that it was scrapped almost immediately, but our manager insisted we just give it a chance and record it anyway, which turned out well. I really wanted people to connect to the music as much as possible on this record; the last record was almost entirely written for myself, with no wish whatsoever to let other people in on what I was talking about. It was a cathartic record for me, and one that really helped me move on from a personal emotional tie that I wanted to be rid of; it did the job, which freed me up to write more open songs for other people. More so to let other people in so that they could know that we’re never really alone. I felt really alone for a bunch of years, and I was surrounded by amazing friends, had an amazing partner, and yet it still didn’t help what was going on inside my head. I guess I just really want to get it out there and make people think (and know) that no matter what, you’re not alone. There’s always someone going through something similar, if not the same, and you just need to find them to help yourself get past whatever it is that is eating away at you inside. Recently one of my best friends who lives over in L.A. has been going through some almost identical s— as me, and it’s made me realize that having an open sound board there for you is really important. I’ve been able to really empathize with him and understand what is going on; it made me realize if you have someone, or several people there who really, really understand what’s going on, you can make it through so much easier. Don’t depend on yourself, even people who think they have absolutely no friends can reach out to someone, just make the effort.
9. ‘R.I.P. Foghorn’
Another ‘you’re not alone’ track… If I could have put the album in an order that made sense based on lyrics this one probably would have come right after the opening track, I Hate Hartley. In a lot of ways this was written for myself, but more as though it had been written by a third party, for me… I think it’s a little hard for me to articulate exactly what I mean there, but at the time I wrote it I really needed some positive affirmation in my life. I was struggling mentally, feeling like all my friends hated me (for absolutely no reason) and feeling like I should just leave the band, leave my circle of friends and retreat to the hills, as it were. I wrote it to get through that, and actually took a fair bit of care with this song… It’s still good to have it to listen to and realize what I have is something not many others have, and I am really lucky for that.
10. ‘F— the Yankees’
So, I wrote this song for my Ma, and we called it F— The Yankees – only in Amity could that happen. I’m ten years older than my younger brother, and as such have had time to live away from home, and mature enough to know just how good I had it with my Ma growing up; this is a letter to her telling her that even though she’s going through similar struggles now as she did with me, (however on a far lesser scale, there are no drugs involved anymore,) that everything is going to be OK. It’s really hard for a single mother with three kids to keep it together, it takes a strong individual. I gave my mother hell throughout high school, I did nothing but take take take emotionally, and left behind me some pretty f—ed up memories before growing up and looking back, ashamed, and trying to mend our relationship. What has emerged from this is more of a friendship than a mother/son relationship. My Ma is now easily one of my best friends, I can tell her anything, and I mean that, anything. I just wish I could go back now with the perspectives I have gained through maturing and live my teenage years again. There were a lot of contributing factors due to my home life, but nothing enough to direct all my anger about it at my Ma alone. Take a look at what you have at home, and don’t abuse it, when you’re older, if you have, you will look back and feel nothing but horrendous guilt, and a sadness I find hard to explain. Your parents aren’t perfect, and I doubt that anyone’s parents aspire to give you that impression; they’re merely passing on the experiences they faced in life and trying to steer you in the right direction. Forgive their flaws early, and you will soon find that you’ll grow closer naturally.