We checked in with Clowns’ Stevie Williams and Good Riddance’s Russ Rankin on how they spent 2020, what they learned, and their thoughts and hopes for what 2021 will hold, as part of our New Year’s Evolutions Series!
Stevie Williams – Clowns
Australia has been lauded as a country that’s handled COVID way better than the rest of the world. Viral images of people shopping and enjoying life mask- free have made everyone jealous of the situation in their home countries. Stevie Williams of Clowns shares his ‘glass half full’ story of how they got there and what life has been like down under.
I know the common belief is that Australia is kicking COVID’s butt (and we are now), but unfortunately, I found myself in the dead centre of Australia’s biggest outbreak. I spent most of my last year in Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown, which included an 8:30pm curfew, a 5km radius clause to your home, no gatherings in households, no visitors, one hour of outside exercise time allowed, and only one trip to the grocery allowed legally per day.
What happens if you break the law you ask?
You get a $10,000 fine, and your criminal record has a black mark next to it saying you endangered public health.
It. Was. Fucked.
So I started brewing beer, smoking cigars, long distance running, and skateboarding. I tried to write as much music as possible in an incredibly uninspiring time and achieved Platinum status on my Uber Eats loyalty program by ordering over $4000 worth of food.
In a music sense, I started smashing our Instagram with our archive of footage and memories. It was really great to relive and reminisce about all of the stupid stuff that has happened over our career. And with the majority of our followers at home with nothing to do but look on their phones, it was really fun reconnecting with old friends who were there at those times or even connecting with new fans who never knew that we had, for example, won $26k on a television game show which we used to make our album, Bad Blood, which was our first internationally recognised album.
Outside of music – when I was younger I used to brew beer at home, but due to the constant attention it needs, I stopped when I started touring. It was really fun to take up again and I made a sickkkk Guinness.
I quit smoking when I was 20 because I realised that it fucked with my vocal cords, but over lockdown I decided to explore cigar smoking. I had heard it’s better for vocalists, seeing as you don’t properly inhale. If it’s good enough for Luciano Pavarotti, then it must be good enough for Stevie from that Clown band. I know promoting tobacco products is a bit of risqué territory, but fuck me, smoking cigars is like copping a delicious nicotine- soaked punch in the face by Joe Camel. The bags I now buy my Romeo y Julietta Short Churchills in suggests that it is NOT a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, and to that I say ‘meh.’ Pretty sure I need to get my teeth whitened though after the last year.
Over my prolonged lockdown and subsequent show cancellations, I found myself sitting on a reserve of residual energy that I would usually blast out during sweaty punk shows or late- night band practices.
It took me a little while to figure out why I was feeling so hyper and maybe even a bit manic, then I realised I had too much energy sitting static inside me. To curb this, I started running every day. When I started, I would do 5kms, but before I realised it, 5kms wasn’t enough and had to do 6, then 7… now I’m running 21ks on the regular. I had actually found that going for a super long run was one of the things I could do to get an extended moment of calm and silence in a time in my life where everything was crumbling around me. Once you push past the first stage of tire and breathlessness, it’s like getting a moment of satori. Just you, a bangin’ Spotify playlist and the footpath. It’s my new happy place. I also now have abs for the first time in my adult life which is pretty mad, too.
We’ve been running our own record label in Australia called Damaged for a little bit as a subsidiary to Clowns, but I feel super blessed to have had this side hustle during lockdown because it saved my arse big time. Our pals Private Function had a record they wanted to release and all the COVID madness wasn’t going to stop them, so we drained our bank accounts on their album and hoped for the best. The record is a fuckin’ corker and future Aussie punk classic. We sold so many of the suckers that it ended up in the Australian Top 10 charts next to Billie Eillish and Ed Sheeran.
With the label developing at a rapid rate, we had an extra budget to build our own online store and once lockdown was done, we moved into our first office space.
2020 fucked me up big time at the start, but I gotta admit, I’m really grateful for the fruits that it bared on the second half.
I learned that if you press bags of drugs into vinyl records, you can sell as many records as Billie Eilish in any given week. I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s been doing this all along.
ps, plz check out @damaged.music on Instagram to see this beautiful creation.
I stopped yearning for a return to normalcy around June last year when it dawned on me that COVID was about to change the world forever. I’m lucky to be in Australia now where our harsh as fuck lockdowns fully suppressed and eliminated the virus and now we are in a position where we have gigs and festivals, with COVID – safe plans in place of course. I’m a glass half full kinda guy, and I’m aware that my glass is a bit more than half full now given where I live and some of the cool stuff we were able to do in 2020 with Damaged, but I’m fully prepared to leave my old lifestyle behind and look forward toward a future where my old normal is gone.
If we are being real, 2020 in no way signified the end of the full-blown global crisis going on for many reasons.
If the world is gonna continue going mad, then I at least hope a few more and crazier curveballs come. With that in mind, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for an alien invasion.
Image courtesy of Stevie Williams.
Russ Rankin – Good Riddance
Russ Rankin of Good Riddance bided time in 2020 weathering loss and boredom but also learned a few new tricks.
I watched way too much TV. Worked on improving my Spanish. Dealt with the deaths of both parents. Learned more than I ever wanted to know about Zoom and WebEx.
I played a few “festivals” from my living room couch, which was new and began working on a couple of screenplay ideas. I learned that I can take a ton of mental and emotional attrition, and keep waking up every day with a (generally) positive outlook.
I’m cautiously optimistic that the pandemic will pass, and hopefully we can go back to playing/attending shows again. I can’t imagine 2021 not being a marked improvement over 2020, both for the world and for me personally.
Image credit: Mark Beemer.