With the release of their new record, Misery, Joel Birch takes the time to talk to us about the new direction of the band, his mental health and everything in between.

We begin by reflecting on the three-part Misery music video series that Joel has written, finally being able to truly combine his love of film and music ‘’I enjoy writing, but I let Ryan Mackfall do his thing with directing. He did a great job. Although the lyrics are thematically separate, the film itself is a commentary on the conversation about sexual assault and victimisation. There are metaphors in there about how victims are often get shut down when they speak out. There’s an underlying social narrative to it. In terms of the aesthetics though, I wanted to make sure the film was Australian. We have pandered to America in the past but we wanted to get our heritage out there in this one!’’

“We have pandered to America in the past but we wanted to get our heritage out there in this one”

Joel has remained sober throughout the recording of this album, which is a huge step from where he was during the recording of their previous release This Could Be Heartbreak. That said, his head wasn’t necessarily where he would have liked it to be ‘’I had a meltdown while I was doing vocals, partly because of a deep sense of isolation, and partly because I was battling my own mind. I was just operating under a different cloud.’’

Throughout Misery we are treated to Joel’s newly trained clean vocals, which add a whole new dimension to Amity’s sound ‘’I’ve been terrified of this for a while – why would I sing when we have Ahren in the band? Will I be able to deliver the words properly if they’re not screamed? Am I good enough? All these questions plagued me leading into it, and still plague me now. The tonal screaming was always planned, but the clean singing was not, that just happened in the studio.’’

“I’ve been terrified of this for a while…”

We’ve heard the record, and you won’t be disappointed. The electronic and more pop driven elements are sure going to rustle some feathers though, and Joel is at peace with this ‘’It doesn’t bother me at all. I honestly think a lot of the people who feel so entitled that they comment on our various social media outlets telling us we’ve sold out, we’re shit now, the music sucks etc are likely the same people who were bitching about us never changing our sound beforehand. I don’t give it much thought, or weight. We’re going to keep progressing now, we’ve found a new direction that we all love, and we are going to pursue it with everything we have.’’ Amity have always showcased pop structures to their songs, and it is clear that this is being honed in on this time around.

Lyrically, Joel still exorcises his mental demons on the record. Outside of music, Joel is very much outspoken about politics and social issues, but this is not something that will ever be incorporated into the songs ‘’It’s not the right music for that kind of discussion, and being the only one in the band who feels so passionately about politics I feel like I would be putting words in the mouths of people who really aren’t out to make any sort of political statement.’’ Amity fans who have found comfort in the sincere lyrics of records gone by will be able to continue that journey on Misery.

“I would be putting words in the mouths of people who really aren’t out to make any sort of political statement.”

For Joel, whilst the conversation of mental health is always present in his music, he understands that there is still much more work to be done in society, particularly in Australia ‘’I think too much time is spent letting the people suffering with mental health disorders know that they are suffering from mental health disorders, and not enough time spent trying to articulate what it means to be a sufferer to those people out there who aren’t affected by mental illness. If we can raise the empathy levels in non-sufferers then we can really start to move the needle.’’

Joel has suffered depression and anxiety for many years now, and he reflects on what he would say to his younger self ‘’Seek help the second you think you may be having thoughts that are abnormal. It’s not normal to fixate on dying and to isolate yourself from others entirely, it’s not normal to think all your friends are out to get you. If you notice anything like this you can seek professional help and see if there are some solutions out there for you.’’

MISERY IS OUT NOW VIA ROADRUNNER RECORDS. THE BAND ALSO HIT THE ROAD NEXT MONTH, TOUR DATES ARE AS FOLLOWED: 

September

28 München Tonhalle
29 Oberhausen Turbinenhalle
30 Eindhoven Effenaar

October

2 Birmingham O2 Academy2
3 Leeds Church
4 London Electric Ballroom
5 Glasgow Queen Margaret Union
6 Hull Welly:One
7 Manchester Academy 2
8 Bristol SWX
9 Paris Trabendo
11 Madrid Sala But
12 Barcelona Razzmatazz
13 Lyon CCO
14 Zürich X-tra
15 Bologna Zona Roveri
16 Wien Arena
17 Warsaw Proxima
19 Leipzig Täubchenthal
20 Prague Rock Cafe
21 Berlin Astra
22 Copenhagen Pumpehuset
23 Oslo John Dee
24 Gothenburg Sticky Fingers
25 Hamburg Markhalle
26 Hannover Faust
27 Wiesbaden Schlachthof
28 Antwerp Zappa

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