Trophy Eyes: “The idea of genre is totally dead”

Ahead of release of their second album Chemical Miracle, Trophy Eyes vocalist John Floreani caught up with SAMUEL BAUERMEISTER about self-reflection, Katy Perry and the pressures of being a primetime triple j act.

I remember the first time I saw Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes. It was a hot and muggy Saturday night in 2013 at Wasted Years in Sydney. They were supporting Neck Deep and had started making a lot of waves in the punk and hardcore scene with their debut EP Everything Goes Away. They were the band on everyone’s lips but nothing prepared me for what I saw. The room was crowded, people were jumping off speakers and into the hands of the crowd and they had the energy of a punk band that had been doing this for years. Their 30-minute set had finished and I remember thinking to myself that they would be the next big thing.

Fast forward to 2016 and they’ve toured the world, played Warped Tour in the US, supported punk icons Anti-Flag throughout Europe, and toured with Neck Deep and Knuckle Puck in the United Kingdom. They’ve also created one of the most unique and captivating records of the year, Chemical Miracle. Testament to how far they’ve come not only as a band but as individuals, the album features a collection of delicately crafted songs each telling their own story.

Speaking to FL in Florida while on their America tour with The Amity Affliction, frontman John Floreani describes how they’ve grown since first playing together in a small garage in Newcastle.

FL: This year has been fascinating for music. A lot of bands are seeming to avoid genre labeling and just create songs that they want to make, this record included. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on what the idea of genre is today, has it been a redundant concept?
I think genres don’t really apply anymore. There’s this endless amount of bands really mashing it up these days … People can appreciate bands like As It Is but also adore bands like Beartooth … I just don’t think anyone really cares anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still hardcore fans. There’s still riff band followers who are all like “Hardcore or die” and shit like that, which is unfortunate for them because there’s an entire world of music out there. But I don’t know. I think that the idea of genre is totally dead. The thing that I’m most keen to see are the types of mixed bills that will be around in the music scene because of all that.

Definitely, and this record feels much different to Mend, Move On and Everything Goes Away, from a writing perspective. What changed since those releases?
It’s been two years, man. A lot of stuff can change in two years. I feel like I did a little bit of growing up and so did the rest of the boys. We saw a lot more of the world than we had previously. So I think that really reflected in the way that we wrote the album. I think it’s much more mature and grown up and we also weren’t so worried about applying to a certain niche market or trying to fit in.

The goal was to write music instead of a bunch of songs. I don’t know if that sounds pretentious or not, but that was we wanted to achieve. That helped us create something that we were super proud of, instead of just another pop-punk album or another melodic hardcore album, or whatever label people were trying to umbrella us in. It was all about not being afraid to play something that we like with a combination of us growing up and being more comfortable.

You all seem to be really close with producer Shane Edwards. What drew you guys to work with him again and did anything change since you recorded Mend, Move On?
We’ve been working with him from the start and he’s really become a very dear friend of ours. He knows us really well. We didn’t want to start over again with someone that we don’t know and have him try to work out our personalities and then try to portray that on an album. Shane just knows us. He knows how to get what he wants out of us. Just like we have a vision of the end product, so does Shane. We just work so well together, we all have the same end goal, which is to make the best possible record that we can. It’s just been such a pleasure to work with Shane.

Last time when we were with him and recorded Mend, Move On, we were a little more hotheaded because we were a younger band and hadn’t been doing it for very long, and we were super passionate about our songs. We were used to anyone saying “Hey, why don’t we change this”, so we were butting heads a bit. But this time we went in and we realised that Shane is the man. This is the dude that started the Australian heavy scene. He knows what he’s doing and he’s worked with more bands than I’ve changed underpants. So we just sat down and let him do his thing and it just ended up being the possible outcome that we could’ve hoped for.

I can’t think of any kind of bands that sound like what you’ve achieved on Chemical Miracle. What kind of music and events is all of your lives influenced making the record?
I had a pretty huge moment one time when we were in the studio recording ‘Everything Goes Away’ and I got really high and had these noise cancelling headphones that I found in the drum room. So I turned off all the lights and it was totally silent and all I could hear was Touché Amoré’s new record at the time ‘Is Survived By’ and I totally fell in love with that band and [vocalist] Jeremy Bolm’s way of being able to publically tear shreds of himself and talk about how much he hates himself in a way [laughs]. So I wanted to take that on and try to work that kind of writing style into our stuff.

Another thing that influenced it was just seeing a lot of the world and just realising how huge this world is. I remember when we were on tour in Europe and seeing the Swiss Alps and seeing the perfect reflection of the mountains in the water and the sky was all pink because the sun was going down and everything was totally silent and quiet. That just made me realise, “Fuck there’s so many more things in this world more important than me.” It’s just that combination of growing up and travelling the world man, that really shaped this record.

From a lyrical perspective, this record kind of acts as a reflection on yourself in this really brutally honest way. Do you think that sort of self-reflection is something that we all lack these days?
I think that while you’re traveling and doing this kind of stuff, you come across people that have this complex or an ego and I think kind of stepping back and taking a look at yourself as honestly as possible isn’t something we do anymore. I think that just ends up making you less humble and not very real.

I try to do that all the time, you know? As much as I possible can and keep myself in check to make sure I’m not being an arsehole. It all comes down to knowing who you are and being reflective and honest with yourself is definitely what helps with that.

You’ve been getting a whole heap of prime time triple j play recently. Has that put on any pressure towards you guys as a band?
I feel like there may be some pressure but it’s still too early to tell. Triple J’s crowd has changed since I was first listening to it as a kid. It used to be all the cool songs and all the cool bands, but now it’s kind of changed into this mainstream radio station, but in a way where they still get to show all this brand new stuff. It’s awesome though, our songs are being played to so many more people than they would’ve been played to back in the day.

There’s definitely a bit of pressure. So many people are listening to it and it’s kind of scary but at the same time, we’re eternally grateful for that opportunity and we’re so stoked that Triple J like it. We’re just so happy that Triple J can give opportunities to bands like us like they have.

Dude, it’s absolutely crazy. I’ll have triple j on in the background and then ‘Chlorine’ gets played every couple hours. It seems like everyone is really into it.
I just hope people don’t start hating it [laughs]. I remember that Katy Perry song…what’s it called? ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ or something?

‘Roar’, which is the single greatest Katy Perry song.
Yeah! I used to hear that at least four times a day on public radio when I was working in Charlestown Mall in Newcastle and that was the closest I’ve been to necking myself with a tie. It became the worst thing to listen to every ten minutes, so I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen to ‘Chlorine’ [laughs].

You guys are currently killing it overseas with The Amity Affliction, Being As An Ocean and Hundredth. How have the crowds responded to the new music?
Really well, I think more so than our older songs. I think that’s because of the maturity of the new songs, it’s just better music than what we’ve written in the past. I just think that’s made super evident through the crowds and the way that they’re all responding to it. It’s been awesome and we couldn’t be happier. Especially tonight in Florida, we played the best show so far on this tour, it just totally blew me away. You could hear everyone singing ‘Chlorine’ and ‘Heaven Sent’ which haven’t been out for too long, I didn’t even know the track made it out this far, it’s been really surprising.

What can we expect when we see you all play ‘Chemical Miracle’ live in Australia?
Expect to see us struggle [laughs]. This stuff is much harder to play than our older stuff but this is something that we’ve wanted to release for such a long time now. I feel like it was always there, we were always trying to write this and we just finally got it down. So I guess you’ll be watching a happy and comfortable band that are stoked on what they’re playing and having an honestly exceptional time being together as a band.

“I feel like when we play its just a big, fun night full of awesome shit, and I think Trophy Eyes is still exactly that.”

The record has a lot more emphasis on your clean vocals compared to your releases in the past. How have you adjusted to getting that all down live?
Right now, it’s kind of easy. Because of all the cleans on the album, they’re have a heap of reverb on them, so to portray that live, I’ve got a second microphone on stage, so I do my cleans into that and then I do my normal, louder vocals into the microphone that I just hold on stage. As of now, it’s fine but down to the track I’m probably going to slow down smoking and drinking and probably take some lessons to sing that record like it’s recorded night-after-night. Eventually I think screaming is going to destroy my clean voice. I definitely need to look into that stuff and take a heap of precautions.

Has the definition of Trophy Eyes and what you’ve all stood for as a band changed over the last four years?
I don’t think it has at all. Writing and live performances are always different processes, but they I feel like they kind of come together when you talk about what Trophy Eyes is in a nutshell. It’s all about having a great time and expelling all that energy and passion. Lyrically, our songs are a first hand account of things I feel super strongly about and things that have changed my life in the process. But when I get on stage, it’s all about jumping off shit and running around and letting loose, being yourself and having fun. I feel like when we play its just a big, fun night full of awesome shit, and I think Trophy Eyes is still exactly that. We’ve never had a goal or a message. Trophy Eyes is still just about hanging out and having fun and I can’t see that changing.

Chemical Miracle is out October 14th via Hopeless Records/UNFD.