The latest from Clowns, Nature/Nurture, is dropping today via Fat Wreck Chords, and New Noise is stoked to host a track-by-track breakdown of the new record.
Bland Is The New Black: We decided to open our record pedal-to-the-metal. A small intro bursts into a classic Clowns riff with a massive scream over the top because fuck it, we write punk music and want people to know that as soon as they start this record. If you can’t get through the first 30 seconds, then best turn back now. We’ve always been an unapologetic punk band in this way, which is why it makes sense to open the record like that, but it also aligns itself nicely with the message of the song.
“The state of contemporary culture is gonna give me a heart attack, remember when it was cool to be bad? Man, I wanna bring that back!” spews the first line. We love all different kinds of music (bar anything with banjos and saxophones) but this song, I guess, is our commentary on how your average Joe and Josephine seem to have a tendency towards music that we would consider to be quite bland and our views on how this social inclination towards softer music has affected us as a heavy band in Australia.
Maybe (definitely) we are bitter, old, elitist, jaded, dumbass punks but “gimme something dangerous, gimme something fun, I don’t wanna be homogenous”. Fun fact: lyrics in the first verse state, “I feel like it would have been more exciting to pursue a career in a bank.” The line was written in reference to the misconduct, irresponsible lending, and luxurious spending that banks in Australia have been found guilty of through the Royal Commission. After recording this song, to get some extra cash, I lied my way through the recruitment process of a major Australian bank and actually got the job; very lol indeed. I can confirm, however, it would not be more exciting to pursue my career there.
Soul For Sale: All throughout Nature/Nurture, our concept was to display opposing elements on both sides of the record, representing differing styles, themes, thoughts etc… But more on that later. We’ve all got our vices, and sometimes they get the better of us. This track is kinda about that, but it’s kinda a lot more about how fuckin’ fun we think it is to get wasted with someone that you love, ignore your life’s problems, and be “wandering the streets gettin’ of our face, flying off our tits into outer space and act like we don’t care.”
As a window into our creative process, when Clowns write songs, we assign them the track number they will be on the record well before we think about the recording process. As the process continues, we start writing more songs around the completed songs as a way to try and craft the record as an entire listening experience rather than a collection of songs. Three weeks out from recording Nature/Nurture, we had every track written, except track two… a very important track might I add.
For months prior, we had been rinsing our brains trying to think of the perfect second song for this record, but nothing was clicking… We almost moved the recording dates back because of our terminal case of writers’ block. Then, one day, after months of painful, creatively benign sessions, this song clicked and just kinda fell out of nowhere. It was a pretty magic moment; we threw all the ideas together, stumbled clumsily through the song once, got a crappy iPhone demo of it, and, upon listening back, we knew we had finished the record.
Freezing In The Sun: This track is essentially our manifesto on how fucked Australia is politically due to the single-celled organisms we call politicians who are currently still in power. It baffles us that The Coalition has won two federal elections, and we just can’t fathom how it’s happened. “Freezing In The Sun” is a metaphor for the state of confusion we continue to experience as we observe what the hell is going through peoples’ minds as we let this country be led by a bunch of cock sores.
Sometimes, I look out from the stage and think to myself, ‘yeesh some of you voted for the people currently in power, and it makes me sick.’ As the band has started to slowly but surely gain a following, we thought it would be good to use our platform to push an agenda that we believe in, but also could help some of our listeners think more critically about what’s really going in their backyard, and maybe in a small way push for positive change.
When this year’s federal election rolls around, I want everyone to remember the pain and suffering they put so many people through during the marriage equality debate; I want people to think about 1 million fish that died in the Murray Darling Basin, and how stronger leadership could have avoided that catastrophe. I want people to remember that their “taxes are paying for kids to be held in Nauru,” and I want people to know that the combination of numbers you choose to put on your slip when the election is called does, can, and will change the course of the history.
I don’t want to be seen as an advocate for any one political party, but at the very least, put The Libs and The Nationals at the fuckin’ bottom. At the very least, If this song helps some kids who are into our band engage a bit into politics, then that’s great, because when I was 18, I’m pretty sure I just drew a dick on my first ballot paper.
Nature: Lyrically, our album Nature/Nurture is an argument within itself. Our idea was to write songs that juxtapose each other thematically and represent ideas and themes that clash against one another, but when tied in as an entire record, blend into each other and create their own being to symbolize the process of nature and nurture.
We are so intrigued by the debate and power of nature vs. nurture and its inherent omnipresence in all of us. We are all bound by inherent nature to some degree; it’s not a deciding factor of our life or future, but the nature we inherit is too powerful to be undermined. I’m intrigued by the conversations about mental health and if it has the ability to be inherited. For example, in this song, I wonder if “a genetic predisposition could bring a madness to it’s fruition” or if it is something that is truly nurtured, “could the sick seed of this plantation grow among all of us?”
On Dec 1, 2018, we decided to play our whole album from start to finish for free at an afternoon show, before we had released the record. I didn’t realize how much this song stood out on the record until I looked out at the punters’ confused/shocked/thrilled/intrigued mugs as we burst into it. Hanny sings the first two verses of this song, and I sing the first chorus. Then Will and Goon bust into an Iron Maiden-esc dual guitar solo before Hanny and I alternate on the final verse and chorus. Then once you think it’s all done, we close the track on a psych-infused power pop punk space rock jam that harnesses the use of falsetto harmonies and a keyboard.
It sounds fucked, and it is… creatively, we always let our ideas flourish organically, and I really feel like this song fits perfectly into place on this record, and I saw a kind of metaphor in this song given the theme. We are all but an amalgamation of our nature and nurture, uniting and diversifying us in our own ways, and it’s all about finding a place where your uniqueness fits, thrives, and is exploited positively. That’s how I feel about this song and its place on this record. It’s obscure, but it fits here and would fit nowhere else on any other Clowns record. On a more shallow level, I just thought it was funny that none of us realized how obscure this track was until we saw the expressions on the people’s faces who were hearing it first.
I Wanna Feel Again: On the topic of mental health, here’s a song that I wrote when I was at my fucking lowest. About two years ago, I went to my local doctor to get a mental health plan. The old bat refused the service, practically told me he didn’t believe me, and pushed me out onto the street in a whirlwind of mental hurt. I spent two hours sitting on Smith St. in Collingwood, paralyzed with a concoction of depression and anxiety.
A week later, I gathered the courage to go somewhere else for the same service, and although this GP was more understanding, they were almost equally as unhelpful. We went through the whole process, and at the end, they gave me a big old prescription of Valium and said, “try to get some rest and take this medicine to make the feelings go.”
I found myself needing it nearly every night more and more, not realizing its pernicious effect in creating a sensation of numbness. I was living off of money that I had saved up from touring, not working, waking up late every day with no reason to get out of bed and numb. Looking back now on my living habits, it’s no wonder I was inevitably about to find myself in a chronic downward spiral. As time went on, I was taking so much Valium that I didn’t care if I was going to wake up the following day. The sensation of dullness was severe enough that I fell into a habit of self-harming just to see if I was still capable of feeling anything at all. One day, I even climbed up onto the roof of the building I live in “looking out over Brunswick St, and looking down, wondering.”
I must have visibly been a wreck, because my decline was apparent enough that a good friend was able to identify something wasn’t right and helped steer me into the right direction. This song is about perseverance. This song is about finding light at the end of a tunnel. This song means a lot to me, because it reminds me of a time when I was at my lowest and could’ve ended it all but, with the help of someone who cared about me, got through it.
I wasn’t sure how much I really wanted to include this song and this story into the record, because I thought it might come off as a bit passe, but I think it is important to keep the conversation up, and I hope that choosing to be so exposed on this issue and this story helps some of our listeners get through whatever issues they might be going through, or instigates them to reach out to a friend that they know isn’t too well. The lyrics to this song were actually recycled from a song that I wrote acoustically when the whole thing was going down a few years back, but the music behind this song was a collaborative effort by the whole band that we wrote over the course of 2018.
I Shaved My Legs For You: In 2016, I got some terribly paid and extremely inconsistent work as a freelance writer for a prominent Melbourne music and culture magazine. Despite the job’s short-fallings, I enjoyed the fact that I got to go to gigs and events for free and review albums for some of my favorite bands before the records had been released. One of the few escapes the publication sent me on was to visit a local bondage club in Brunswick East, to meet the owners and have one of my colleagues try and persuade them into buying some advertising.
My 24-year-old mind had never been exposed so close to this world before, and the conversations and interactions I had there left an impression on me so stark that I wanted to write a song about it. I stared on as people tied each other to wooden structures and had their partner whip them red-raw. I watched people pretend to be animals as somebody groomed them. I stood idly by as someone got beaten with a wooden paddle that had metal spikes coming out of it, causing blood to ooze out of their butt and all over the ground as a crowd of people gazed at them, thrilled by the equal amounts of pain and pleasure.
The experience sparked a revelation in me that ended up being the theme for this song; these people, although they are committing such heinous acts toward each other, are actually expressing love to one another, and I saw beauty in that. One couple who spoke to me told me their story about how they live a double life. Successful careers, happily married with children, and this behavior is what keeps the spark in their relationship and keeps them sane, well-adjusted members of society. They need this commune, because otherwise, they fear they might lose their minds. They also told me they needed to go to this particular club to express their love with one another because here there was “no risk of desensitization” from their children’s “adolescent surveillance.”
They shared their stories with me about their struggle in the face of the stigma and societal standards against what they do to express love to one another, and the only thing I could do would sympathize. Some people think that S&M is heinous and should be illegal. They think it is immoral, egregious, and horrible, but from what I saw “behind a factory door in Brunswick East is the horrible truth, that mummy and daddy are happy.” Fun fact: the choruses of the song in the lines singing “Timmy’s old man likes” etc are supposed to emulate the melody of how kids teasing each other in a playground would sound.
1:19: It’s an unspoken rule in our band that on every album, we try to add some new instrumentation to freshen up the songwriting and pay homage to a band that we love; on this song we did both of those things. The first noticeable difference is it’s heavy use of a keyboard, and the inspirado came from The Spits; what a fucking great band!
However, after listening to the recording, we realized it possesses a more manic and psychotic quality than The Spits, which ties nicely into its theme. In “I Wanna Feel Again,” I address the struggles I’ve experienced through mental health. While playing to the tune of our nature/nurture juxtapositions, In “1:19,” we’ve tried to flip the coin and represent the almost fun side of what having an unstable psyche can offer.
“Experiencing mania, don’t you wanna drink my blood? It’s Coca-Cola,” screams the chorus. I often feel like my mind swings like a pendulum; if I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, as soon as I get through it, I know my brain is going to counteract itself with a hit of mania and the occasional illusion of grandeur, which can actually be quite an enjoyable experience when it’s under control, and this song is about that.
Anyone who knows me well enough will be able to tell you that I feel like I’m being watched by the number 119. I’m not an overly superstitious person, but the number has been so tenacious over my life that to deny its meaning or relevance to something seems weird and strange to me. When I first starting noticing it, I felt like I was going crazy, but then I realized that the more I noticed and acknowledged it, it was actually helping me through everyday life. Next time you see me at a bar, buy us a beer and I’ll tell you about the absurd places I’ve noticed the number and the time I’m convinced that it saved me in a near death experience.
Prick: We’ve all been there. You love a band for years and years, and then you finally get the chance to meet them, and you realize they are people too. People who’s personalities just don’t quite mix in with yours. In blunter terms, they suck and they are pricks. People continue to ask me who this song is about, the answer is no one. The song is about that seemingly ubiquitous experience had by fans and bands alike, and instead of turning it into a shit fight of our own anecdotal experiences, we thought we’d try and highlight the humor of the situation by poking fun at it.
The lyrics are meant to be laughed at. I wouldn’t stop, or encourage people to stop, listening to a band because their singer “saw some guy drop $50, but instead of giving it back to him, just walked on by and picked it up….” but I guess I would think that person is a fucking dick. During the creative process, the idea of this song was ignited as an opposition to the themes represented in “Bland Is The New Black.”
“Bland” is about not wanting to be boring, and being unapologetically irreverent and crude, and fuck it, because who doesn’t like a bit of chaos? Well, actually, not everyone. I guess the cryptic nature/nurture dichotomy here is that the kinds of people who adhere to the ideologies we’re advocating in “Bland Is The New Black” are the kinds of people we are singing about in the song “Prick.”
Interestingly enough, listening back and taking in the lyrics in hindsight, I actually don’t disagree with either of the songs’ notions. In “Prick,” I’m condemning a band that I like because they “ordered shark fin soup,” but in “Bland,” I’m reminiscing in awe of “when Ozzy bit the head off a bat.” There are opposing elements at work here. I think what I’ve taken away from writing this album is that everyone has different boundaries and different ways in which they justify contradictions of those boundaries. Just for the record, if you order shark fin soup, I’m not mad; I just feel a bit disappointed and sorry for the sharks.
Prey For Us: In “Soul For Sale,” we discuss the use of substances to help you get through tough times and how it can be a vice. In “Prey For Us,” the song is basically a bunch of metaphors on how the use of a particular substance can enhance your life experience, or at least how it does for millions of people over the world. I tried to write the lyrics in a way where they are inconspicuous “without the trained eye,” but will be incredibly obvious to the people who understand “in every corner of this earth.”
Metaphors, phrases, and facts are woven into one another that provide more than enough information to gauge what the song is about, but again, it could easily fly right over the head of someone who has no idea what I’m talking about. I like the idea of people who have opposing views on drug laws singing along to the words, not knowing what they are about… then again, knowing the kinds of people who listen to our band, I find that unlikely. This song was the first song we wrote during the creative process of Nature/Nurture and subsequently is also the first song the current lineup of this band wrote together. There’s probably something special about that, but I’m a nihilist, so whatever.
May I Be Exhumed?: I don’t really know what to say about this disgusting mess of distortion and noise other than I hope that it doesn’t randomly come onto someone’s Spotify playlist as they are genitals deep into a bad acid trip. I also hope it’s not possible for an accidental subliminal satanic message to be subject to copyright.
Nurture: And we’re finally here. If you’ve made it this far, thank you, and sorry that you don’t have anything better to do. “Nurture” is the equal opposition to “Nature” on this record. A song about how although our nature sets our life’s perimeters, nurture always will be a more powerful force in the course of your existence and can be used for good or evil equally and without your control.
When we wrote this song, we unanimously agreed that we should have a sitar player come in and accentuate the harmonic minor scales apparent within. In typical clowns style, two days before we needed to have a sitarist come in and finish the song off, I googled ‘Melbourne city sitar player’ and got in touch a very talented stranger by the name David Balaban who luckily took time out of his schedule to learn the song and lay down the parts.
We write all of our songs in drop C#, partly because when Jake and I started this band, I was 18 and I thought (still do) System of a Down were awesome, and that’s the tuning they play in. When David rocked up to Hot House in St Kilda later in 2018 to help us on this track, he commended us on writing the song in one of the only two tunings that it is possible to play a sitar in. The sitar in this song really makes it special, and I can’t help but feel like that was some twist of fate, because, before that moment, our naive rock muso brains just assumed we were going to be able to tune the sitar to whatever tuning we want. I’d like to take this as an opportunity to thank Serj Tankian. Also, when my dad heard this song, he texted me to tell me it was (and I quote) “FUCKING AMAZING,” which I thought was pretty funny, too.