2016 saw Melbourne hard-core punks Clowns having the last laugh. They have spent the better part of the last two years touring the world on the back of their highly celebrated second LP Bad Blood, playing some of Europe’s biggest festivals and amassing a loyal fan base.
Late last year, back on their home turf, they headed once again to St Kilda’s iconic Hothouse Studios where they began work on their third album and added two new faces to their line-up, all while managing to incorporate xylophone and acoustic guitars into their sound and finding time to share a few tins and spin a couple of yarns with Aussie rock royalty Tim Rogers. But that’s just some of the highpoints. We caught up with their fun-loving front man Stevie Williams to hear a few more.
“I was pretty humbled when Bad Blood was voted No.1 on triple j’s Short Fast Loud album poll,” he admits. “In previous years, the title has been given to Parkway Drive or The Amity Affliction, and although we’re not a band like that, it’s kind of cool that listeners of the show and the presenter [Lochlan Watt] put us in the same category.
“That recognition has been pretty mind-blowing really,” Williams adds. “Before Bad Blood we were really only filling support slots. We were the band that supported the bigger bands, and now we’ve become the band that plays the big shows – it’s been a huge step up for us.”
Williams knows that another leap in the right direction would be to have their latest single ‘Destroy the Evidence’ featured in the world’s largest musical democracy, 2016’s triple j Hottest 100. However he remains philosophical about the prospect. “There’s nothing we can do to control it,” he says. “If it gets in, I’ll be stoked and probably a little bit surprised. And if it doesn’t, then I won’t be surprised and I’ll just be like ‘Well we’ve got a big year ahead of us anyway’. It’s not a make or break.”
Not much rattles the friendly four-piece, even though they are about to shake up their original line-up for the first time ever live. “These upcoming Vic shows will be the first that we ever play as a five-piece,” Williams says. “Our new bass player goes by the alias of Hanny J. She’s a notable Brisbane personality and has been doing solo shows. I think Hanny J kind of jumped at the idea of joining a band. She came in to the Hothouse and sang some backing vocals and played some bass.
“Our other new guitarist, Will Robinson, came in and shredded some shreds too, and we had a couple of friends come in to record for us as well,” he continues. “Our friend Amanda came in and played xylophone on one of the tracks. I think these songs are better written than before – we’ve expanded on the Bad Blood sound and we’ve used a lot of weird instruments. One of the tracks has an organ in it and there’s an acoustic guitar on there as well.”
Pictures of You Am I’s front man Tim Rogers jamming at the Hothouse Studios created a circus on social media recently, but Williams insists it was more of a gag than a serious collaboration. “That was a bit more of a stunt than it was anything!” he laughs. “Tim’s actually a big Clowns fan and we’ve become friends with him over the years – and it’s always awesome hanging around with him. He shares stories of what it was like back in the days when we were kids and he was touring around, and being the big man that he still is now. It was just really fun and relaxing – it’s not like he was shredding or producing, or sharing song-writing techniques. He just came in, did a pick slide and drank a bunch of tins.”
As for the finished product, it’s all but on the shelves. “We were in the studio pretty much all of December and it’s completely done. We’re getting the first bit mastered next week. It will be released probably around March or April, and that’s all I’m going to let you know for now.”
Until then, Clowns are heading out on their Dead In The Summer Tour, bringing along good mates and fellow punk rockers Kill Dirty Youth – and no doubt there will be a few tins drunk to keep cool.
“They’re [Kill Dirty Youth] old friends of ours,” Williams says. “They’re originally from Forster in New South Wales, and they’re such a fucking good band as well. They’re an awesome mix of almost hard-core, but then they’re a throwback to the nineties sort of sound as well. We became friends with them when they all moved from Forster to Melbourne. I really admired their effort when they first moved down, because they had a modest following in Forster and they’d never really done too much touring. They had that old-school mentality of ‘Let’s move to the fucking big smoke! And try to do our band seriously’.
“So they all jumped into a car, although each one of them only had a couple of hundred dollars to their name. They ended up living in a one-person apartment for like six months or something. They were literally living on top of each other, sleeping on couches in the middle of St Kilda… I really admired that work ethic. As hard as we’ve worked in our career, we’ve never had to do something as drastic as that – and the fact that they did it. I was just like ‘Fuck, I want to put you guys on a tour or something. I want to help you guys out’.”
When & Where: The Loft, Warrnambool – January 12, Karova Lounge, Ballarat – January 25, Barwon Club, Geelong – January 26 & The Music Man, Bendigo – January 27.
Written by Natalie Rogers
Image by Jordan Tan