Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes have slowly been making their presence known on the Australian punk and hardcore scene. After releasing their EP to a warm reception earlier this year, the five piece are quickly following up with the release of their debut album Mend, Move On. Happy spoke with frontman John Floreani about making the album, becoming better musicians and finding balance in life.
Today’s illustration is by Sydney based artist Daniel Gray, who used to study medical science but swapped his microscope for pencils because, as he says, illustration has a much lower patient mortality rate. Daniel’s phenomenal work has been featured in The New York Times and in opinion pieces for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
HAPPY: Your album Mend, Move On is set to drop at the end of October. How are you feeling about it?
JOHN: Oh, so excited mate. We worked pretty hard on the record. We’re just super stoked to have new music out and to be playing new songs.
HAPPY: Any nerves or anything like that?
JOHN: Of course. With our music there’s always thoughts of “Are they going to like it?“, but I’m relatively confident because it’s not too much different from the EP, it’s more intense. Everything that was on the EP, it had the pop-punk side and the hardcore side – it’s done more differently, more dramatically. I think people will like it, I’m stoked. Well, we all really love it!
HAPPY: You said Everything Goes Away EP told the story of a dark period in your life & coming to terms that nothing lasts forever. Where does Mend, Move On pick up from that story?
JOHN: I don’t know if it picks up from there, but it does tell more stories. When I write it’s kind of – because we play such high energy, intense sort of stuff you can’t just have lyrics that doesn’t really matter to you. So they’re all just stories based on how I grew up. It’s just going through those stories and how you paint them and move on from them, and use them to progress in life.
HAPPY: How do you pick out what stories you want to tell?
JOHN: Just interesting things that happened to me. Things that when you think back and remember the important stuff. I’m sure everybody goes through the same thing; everybody deals with loss and all kinds of things, that’s just life. But it’s kind of easy to pick out the stories; just things that have changed you or meant a big deal.
HAPPY: You guys have done pretty well this year, was there any pressure going into the studio to record the debut album?
JOHN: We had never written an album before, that was the scariest part, like “How do we work an album?” And, we’re not very good at anything we do, like we’re not good musicians so it’s pretty hard to write a certain amount of songs and have them stick together and have an overall sound, do you know what I mean? That was the hard part. We wrote a lot of things – there were riffs that we loved, there were a lot of riffs that were great but they just don’t suit the album so they get put in the back log. It was not stressing, but there definitely a bit of pressure. I think we used it, we work well under a bit of pressure. We got all the songs out in time and it was all cool. We got to the studio and just sat down and did some writing, just bits that weren’t finished yet or changed a couple of things. It was good man!
HAPPY: A lot of people would rather just put out another EP because it’s easier, so what made you guys want to put out an album now?
JOHN: A lot things. We were talking to Hopeless (Records) and we kind of felt it was a bit important to bring out a bigger work to show people we were serious and we wanted to do this for a while. It just felt old fashioned, no one does albums anymore, especially in the local scenes and stuff. I guess because it’s expensive and it’s time consuming, but we wanted to have a real crack at it, so we thought “Fuck it, we’ll just do an album!” (laughs)
HAPPY: Yeah man of course. So what about the writing process for Mend, Move On? Was it challenging, or did you guys do anything differently?
JOHN: We did certain things differently. With the EP a lot of those songs were written where I’d come home and write a few riffs and form the basic skeleton of the song, and at the same time I could write the lyrics for them as well. That was easier for me. You get to this point where you’re like “Well I want this to be the heavy part of the song so I’ll make it nice and punchy” or “I’ll add the half time part here and I can add the big, important part of the lyrics and yell them“, you know what I mean? You kind of get a better feel for the song and then take it back to Trophy Eyes and mash it up and do their thing and then it becomes a Trophy Eyes song.
But this time we did a little bit of that, and a little bit of sitting down and playing riffs. Pocket, one of our guitarists, he wrote a few of the songs. And Callum had a lot of initial input in starting the songs. All of us had an initial input. So this album is definitely written differently, but it’s definitely stronger because I can barely play guitar or anything, so it was awesome to have these guys and we all worked hard together.
HAPPY: Do you feel working this way brought out a different element of Trophy Eyes?
JOHN: Yeah in a few ways. I guess the singing is a bit higher and it’s definitely a more mature sound all together because it sounds like we’ve all learned out instruments, it sounds more technical than the EP. It’s a new side but not too different. It’s the same old thing but it’s better I think (laughs).
HAPPY: I noticed that your vocals had gone higher listening to In Return. Did you consciously do that or did it just happen?
JOHN: Not consciously, no. I kind of noticed half way through writing “Holy shit, that seems pretty high” on every song, so the whole album is on a pretty high register. It’s been more aggressive in the end. I like it more, it’s quite distinct.
HAPPY: So it was kind of a happy accident?
JOHN: Yes! Definitely! (laughs)
HAPPY: One of the things I like most about Trophy Eyes is the way you guys get to the meat of the issue instead of beating around the bush. But after telling all these personal stories does it ever get hard to find new ways of expressing yourself this way?
JOHN: I don’t think so. I hear a lot that people like my approach to writing, but I listen to other bands and I wish I could do that! One of my favourite bands ever is Vices, and I listen to John McAleer; the way he writes is amazing, it’s even more straight forward than me. The way he’s just telling actual first hand accounts and it’s amazing listening to him. He actually gave me a compliment the other day and said “I like you’re writing” and I was like “Oh shit man, I wish I could write like you!” But I don’t know, I think I just do it by accident and people like it. It’s kinda easy for me because it’s the only thing I can do (laughs). It’s the only way I can write.
HAPPY: How did it feel when John complimented you like that?
JOHN: Crazy! It was awesome! Like when I started playing music these guys, they were just – I don’t know. I’d never been in a real band or knew anything about anything, so jumping straight into the music scene like that and having people say that, people you’ve watched play live, and it’s like “Wow. Just, wow“.
HAPPY: You say that you just jumped into music, have you ever been musically inclined before Trophy Eyes?
JOHN: Yeah I’ve written some acoustic stuff before, I’ve tried out for bands and shit like that and I’ve always listened to music since I was tiny. I’d be walking around the house and mum would always be playing Queen and dad would be playing Simon and Garfunkel, and shit like that. My brother showed me Metallica, and I’ve always listened to that kind of stuff, but when I found my own kind of music like Blink-182 I just knew I had to be in a band. So I’ve always been pretty musically inclined I think. If I wasn’t doing this I’d like to be a journalist, that’d be cool.
HAPPY: Then you’d be doing my job!
JOHN: Yeah! (laughs)
HAPPY: I read that you’d take an hour long trip to get to band practice, and another hour trip back at midnight. That’s a pretty tough run man, most people would just quit and say “Fuck that, I’ll do something easier“. So what drove you to keep keeping on like that?
JOHN: That’s a good question. I don’t know, it was something so new and exciting that I didn’t want to give up on it and I was still addicted to it, like excited by it. It was all happening and there was no way I was gonna quit, I was like “Holy shit, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done“. I didn’t know anybody and these guys were the only guys I knew in Newcastle as well so if I quit it’d be back to the start again. Yeah, it was rough but it was definitely worth it and I didn’t think about ever quitting.
HAPPY: You were just saying how you’d written some acoustic stuff, so I was very surprised to come across a project called Little Brother, could you tell me about that?
JOHN: With Trophy Eyes, it’s not like a selfish thing of mine, but you write and it gets changed, you have to write to a sound as well. Like I can’t just go out and write a pop song for Trophy Eyes because we’d get slaughtered. With Little Brother I guess it’s just this little thing on the side, this creative outlet where I don’t have to answer to anybody. So I get to do that for fun. It’s a really casual thing, Trophy Eyes is my main goal, so whenever I’m not writing, or practicing or gigging for Trophy Eyes and I’ve got some free time it’s nice to just sit down and just bash out a song or play a little song at a venue somewhere. It’s a casual outlet and it’s kinda fun.
HAPPY: Do you ever think about compiling a bunch of songs for an EP or something like that?
JOHN: Well I just recorded an EP with a friend of mine in Sydney and that’s coming out soon. It’s just got all the songs that are floating around at the moment. And we’ve recorded a music video, we recorded it at my manager’s house. We kinda just had a party and got wasted. We had this friend form city and he has this party shop so we just had these massive balloons full of helium and glitter and stuff and we popped that and it went everywhere. We had fireworks and flares and lots of street alcohol, so it’s going to be a pretty funny music video.
HAPPY: Looks like you’ve got a lot of stuff coming up on the horizon. Does that ever overwhelm you?
JOHN: It does, but things come and go. Our tour’s booking up and the release is coming and just recently because I’ve been given less shifts at work, so it always balances out. It gets a little overwhelming but it’s more exciting!
Mend, Move On is out October 30, and you can check out Trophy Eyes’ Facebook page for touring details!
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