Interview with vocalist Stevie Williams | By Hutch
Clowns continue to unleash damage on their fourth LP, Nature / Nurture, released via Fat Wreck Chords on April 12.
The band’s prior three LPs—2013’s I’m Not Right, 2015’s Bad Blood, and 2017’s Lucid Again—four splits with the likes of Them Orphans, Cleavers, Michael Crafter, and The Lost Cause, and two EPs, 2016’s Destroy the Evidence and 2018’s Freezing in the Sun, feature a more straightforward hardcore punk sound, which they honed in their home of Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is a city with an esteemed history of rebellious rock ’n’ roll and punk. Clowns have stretched their sound on prior albums—never shying away from playing five-, seven-, nine-, and even 11-minute songs—but Nature / Nurture is their most bold foray into utilizing garage, psych, and ’60s power pop in their arsenal, producing a sound in the vein of PEARS, Western Addiction, Night Birds, The Bronx, or OFF!.
The danger is palpable as Clowns blaze through 11 frenzied tracks. “Nature” is a furious blur but punches through nearly four minutes of confrontation. The first single, “Prick,” is on the B-side and opens with blistering lead, meandering down the frets. The pounding, lingering darkness is well captured, reflecting the acrid venom of the lyrics. The subject matter covers obnoxious factions and individuals in society, channeling the paranoia and jaundiced tenor of Black Flag, Adolescents, Zero Boys, T.S.O.L., Descendents, and Agent Orange.
“I Shaved My Legs for You” is a stand-out track. Vocalist Stevie Williams divulges the inspiration for the song, which is as heavy, thick, and echoing as any of the aforementioned ’80s hardcore bands. “I wrote that song about a time a turn of events randomly thrusted me into an S&M club and how moved I was by watching people express love to one another by spanking each other until their butts bled,” Williams recites. “It was quite eye-opening and beautiful, really.”
Williams’ story lends itself to bandying societal paradigms, seeing taboos lose widespread public condemnation. The tale makes the listener want to examine if people are able to live more freely as themselves nowadays. “That’s not really what we were attempting to do,” Williams evades the intention, but he indulges the insight regardless. “Well, in the 27 years that I’ve had the privilege of (dis)gracing this world, I feel like I’ve definitely noticed social climates gradually sway toward the more conservative side. The world could be rid of that negativity as long as the social climate permits it. I guess more representation and [dialogue] is the first step toward that.”
Undeniably, Clowns ingest many influences and branch out with new elements on Nature / Nurture, but it all sounds as if it is in their comfort zone. It works well. “It’s an unspoken rule in this band that we never want to create the same song twice,” Williams notes. “We love the challenge of incorporating all different kinds of obscure genres into punk, whether it be psych, world, or whatever.”
“That being said, we are four albums deep, and we are running out of genres pretty fast,” he laughs. “I do feel like Nature / Nurture is our best work to date, though, so I’m just enjoying this release period.”