Trophy Eyes on the Prize

Trophy Eyes on the Prize

Five years on from their last album, we catch up with Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani to chat about the creation of their new record Suicide and Sunshine, inspiration, outerspace, mosh pits and more

Image credit: Matthew Krueger

Celebrating a decade since their formation are beloved Aussie melodic hardcore punks Trophy Eyes, who make their return half a decade since the release of their last record with the epic, heavy, diverse and emotional sounds of Suicide and Sunshine.

It’s been a long journey to get to the band’s fourth full length album, having released three records in their first five years, before things hit the skids when COVID hit. Releasing a couple of non-album singles during this time, the news Trophy Eyes fans had been waiting for came a few months ago as they announced the new record.

Produced by Shane Edwards & Fletcher Matthews, the album is packed with atmosphere across 14 cuts that see the group of John Floreani (vocals), Blake Caruso (drums), Jeremy Winchester (bass) and former guitarist Andrew Hallet delivering stellar studio performances.

Speaking of performances, the band are known for their blistering, energetic and intense live shows, with an Australian tour in support of the new album kicking off June 22 in Fremantle, the day before the album drops. Their live show also landed them in a bit of internet drama recently, getting called out for being a bit too intense (which we didn’t know was possible for a hardcore band at a live show).

To celebrate the release of Suicide and Sunshine, we jumped on the line with Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani to find out all about the new record, inspiration and lack thereof, his solo music, outerspace, how the new record feels live, mosh pits and more!

So you’ve been back to back all day doing some of these chats?

Yeah. Actually, everyone’s been like “oh sorry, I don’t want to take up your time”, but it’s been like five years since I’ve had press, so I’m soaked *laughs*. I’m happy to do it, man.

Well you’ll have five years of stories no doubt! And yeah it has been basically five years since the last album The American Dream came out, which you’re going to follow up next week at the time we’re chatting with fourth album, Suicide & Sunshine. So I guess, and not to talk about COVID and stuff too much, but you guys did have some music in that five years, you put out a few non-album singles in 2021, 2022 - what led to the decision to do some non-album singles?

I didn’t want to throw a record into the void… you know what I mean? It’s not to say that everybody did - a lot of my friends put out albums in COVID but I was just like, the world didn’t want music at that time. George Floyd was killed, the world was split in two, it was an insane time. There was a global pandemic, Trump was fucking telling White Supremacists to stand by and stand down... The world went insane and I was like, “I'm going to shut up”. I'm not going to stand here and be like, “everyone! Listen to my songs!”. The world's on fire. It's a fucking ridiculous concept, man. So I was like, “I don't want to do that”, dude. I don't want to throw something that means something to me into this hole. And who the fuck am I to go like, “everyone, stop what you're doing and listen to this song!”. How could you promote it?

No shade on anybody that did, it's just that I couldn't bring myself to do that and feel important enough to be like, “everyone, this is my song. I wrote some fun shit to get through!”. We just released the songs and we didn't really promote them. We were just like, “here's the songs, here you go”. But they're not throwaway songs, it was just something to kind of tide us over, a little bit more exploration. We weren't even sure if we were going to put them out but we finished them so we might as well… So, yeah, that was kind of the process, behind that, they were never meant to be part of a full body of work, just kind of like a bit of fun.

I love that self awareness and like the presence of mind to step back and be like “should we be putting an album out now?” Let’s say that all of that shit had hit the fan but you guys had only put one album out or something, do you think you would have had the same thought process back then?

That's a good question because I was definitely a lot more hungry when I was younger. When we did the first EP, it was like, I'll do fucking anything, but I still think me as a person, I'm very like, “oh, I don't want to be in your way” likeI don't want to interrupt people. Yeah, I'm not sure. I think it always would have felt uncomfortable because that's the worst I've ever seen in the world. Yeah, I feel like I always would have been like, “maybe we should wait a little while until everything kind of cools down”.

So when was that moment of “now’s the time to start a record”, when did you start working on the new album?

I’ve been writing - not for this record, but I’ve been writing for a very long time, since the end of The American Dream. Lockdown was really hard, I couldn’t find inspiration anywhere, I couldn’t feel creative. It was like being in limbo, but just having your balls kicked constantly, but also in limbo. It was awful. Yeah. It wasn't until it eased up a little bit that I was able to kind of get out and find inspiration, and I did a lot of the time walking home with groceries in my hand, standing on the curb as a car, the traffic was going by really fast and I could feel the momentum kind of moving my clothes with the breeze and just right there. That's kind of what it’s like for me personally. I'm like, “oh, that's a moment”, and I can flesh that out and write about it and think, what was I thinking then at that time? So I did find some inspiration and then more once it eased up some more.

I was writing in Sydney with a dear friend, Fletcher Matthews, who's done everything, worked with everyone… We started to write together and the album started to find a new sound. We had so many different sounds and then the concepts kind of came along, so it was a strange writing process and it was different from every other time. A lot of the album was written in Thailand as well. We kind of went with, I think, close to 40 ideas, probably like 20 something songs or demos came out of those ideas. And then we had to sit down and listen to everything and kind of pick what was going to be on the record or what we wanted to devote our time to based on what it could be, its potential, so it wasn't even just listening to the song at face value. Yeah, it was a strange creative process. We worked with Shane as well, so for the first time, we did two producers. But, yeah, it was an experience. It was awesome.

And I did want to ask - cos there’s 14 tracks on the album, so to know you whittled that down from 40 ideas, fleshed out, sequenced for the record, interesting stuff… but before we dig deeper into the album, I wanted to go back to you saying about finally getting inspired again, you know the breeze from the car going past you and stuff, so what was it like during COVID having just zero inspiration and how did you kind of deal with that?

I didn’t deal very well to be honest with you, bro. It wasn’t an easy time because - it could be anything, I could be sitting outside in the garden having a cigarette and there’s an ant carrying a large piece of food and I’m like “wow, that ant is better than me” and then I can do a thing, it can kick something into gear, but instead I was inside playing COD for months at a time… and then you just get so depressed, nothing in your day changes, it’s just awful. So it was really hard and also having to deal with who you are outside of the creative process, who you are outside of music and your profession and your craft. There was a lot of like, “who am I” having to kind of relearn myself, and that was really confronting. So, yeah, the process was not easy and everything I wrote was shit. I'd read it back and I'd be like “that's awful”. Yeah, a lot of the stuff that I kept came from before lockdown and when I was allowed outside again. I think there was a bit over two years we spent indoors in Melbourne. So there were two years there where I really couldn't get anything,  and if I could get something, it was like a few lines and it would take me months to make it something usable and even then I'd hate it. I did a lot of fixing up in Thailand or when I could start moving around again, but, yeah, it was difficult, man. It was like a creative wasteland, a desert.

At least having gone through that, and I’m not going to say next time, but if something similar happens again you’ll have those experiences to draw on, less COD… also easier said than done at the time *laughs* So speaking of inspiration, I found it interesting reading in the album bio where you talk about The Eagles Return, the photo taken by Michael Collins of Earth from outer space. Super powerful image, when did you first discover it and it had such an impact on you?

I’ve always known about that photo because I'm a bit of a space nerd. I love anything to space and so I've always been aware of those photos. One day I just found myself on NASA's website, kind of like cycling through. I was looking for the observable universe photo from the James Webb telescope. I couldn't find the 10 gig photo - have you seen it?

Yeah and you can just keep zooming in and in?

Yeah, it’s insane man. I was looking for that photo just to pass some time, just look at it and kind of feel small for a second, and I came across that photo again and that was the first time I realised that he was the only person to ever live and die that wasn't in that photo. That was the first time I had that thought, and that's when things started to snowball, like ”what is life? Who am I? What is this experience? How unlikely it all is, how beautiful it is that it exists?”  And just a brand new level of loneliness that  no one has ever felt before. The one man outside, disconnected from everything that's ever been alive that we know of. That concept in itself is insane. So that's when the idea of the concept of the album came together.

Yeah it is wild to think about! So we’ve been talking about Suicide and Sunshine, but I did want to ask about your solo stuff too - you put out a single mid last year, are you working on more solo stuff? How does the approach differ between writing solo compared to Trophy Eyes?

So I put that song out just because that thing just happened and it was close to the event. It might have been the same day even, or the evening. I just kind of sat down, it’s one of those songs that just took 10 seconds - boom, and you’re like “oh shit, there it is”. So yeah, I just kind of put that out.

And we should probably say for people who don’t know what it’s about - it’s a pretty touching song, especially for anyone who’s ever owned a pet.

Yeah. So Bianca, my girlfriend, we lived together and her dog, she was trying to get home but lockdown wouldn’t let her get back to Texas and they were trying to keep the dog alive for as long as they could. His name was Theo - Theodore. It was one morning when we just woke up and they were in the vet on FaceTime. They had to put the dog down, we had to watch. It was really - it was soul crushing and it was so sad because Bianca was just having such a bad time and it's just so impossible to console somebody at that moment. So I wrote that song.

I don't know. The process is definitely different I think, because I go out of my way to write my solo stuff. The other stuff, everything that comes naturally and happens, I kind of reserve that for Trophy Eyes because it's my first love. But, yeah, I'm aiming to do another album, maybe should be out next year, I think. And I want it to be kind of like Orville Peck. Like Elvis, Bruce Springsteeny - that’s kind of my all time favourite genre, like Americana, big arena stuff. Also with a tinge of like The Replacements, like with some balls still, some gravel. So yeah, I think that’s what the next album is going to be and it’ll still just be me with an accompanying band.

Awesome dude, that’s exciting, keen to hear how that turns out. So we’re chatting a week before the album comes out, and you guys are kicking off your huge Australian tour the day before the record drops, in Freo - how are the songs from the new record feeling live?

Really good. We’ve been playing them in the States and a bit of Europe & the UK. They feel great man, it feels good to play new music finally, like something fresh. I was actually surprised, I think Blue Eyed Boy, the first single, wasn't out for very long before we got to the States, and it seemed to be one of the best received songs in our live set. So yeah, very happily surprised because you go into this going like - I mean, I try not to think about it. I don't want to go into a show being like, “fuck, I hope everybody knows the new song”. I just go like “I'm going to go out there”. I don't even think about it. I'm going to go out there and do my best. I just kind of wait until I go out and then play it, and if it's a good response and that's a bonus, you know what I mean? I try to stay like that because you're just setting yourself up for a let down if not. But yeah, long story short, the singles are going really well. It seems like people like them, and it’s really refreshing man, it’s really nice to experience that again.

Yeah sick! So finally John, and I wasn’t sure if we’d touch on this but I’ve got to ask about mosh pits… anything to say about mosh pits at upcoming live shows?

Oh man… that popped. I didn’t expect that to do the rounds like that. But for the upcoming shows? Yeah man, go ham, like it’s a Trophy Eyes show. If you’re gonna go to a show and you don’t know the bands and people are being aggressive and it’s scary, then don’t stand there. Don’t stand there and suck it all in, like move to the side, enjoy yourself. You’re walking into a community that has lore - there’s history, there’s a way to behave and just like anything else, you can’t walk in there and start telling everybody how to behave just because you don’t like it. That’s ridiculous. I do feel sorry for that girl. It was just a ten second through like bang - “fuck you”. Like the whole comment thing, we thought it was really funny…

…So did I *laughs*

Yeah, cos it was funny, like a 30 year old man being like “fuck you” to this kid, it was hilarious, like it’s just so petty and stupid… and then everybody took it so seriously. Everyone was just like “fuck moshing at your shows” or “you should mosh at your shows”. A lot of people dragged that girl, she replied to everybody on that post. too. I feel bad for her. She should have just let it go, but you know, I don't like it, it sucks that she was bullied too - I don't know if she was bullied, but people weren't necessarily very nice to her. So that sucked. We don't want that either. But yeah man, it's a place for you to go and exert energy and experience catharsis and let it all out. That's why we go to high energy shows. It's for the energy. So if you feel like moshing, mosh. If you feel like crowd surfing, do it. The only thing that I would say is if someone jumps off a stage, catch them because falling on the ground hurts.

Speaking from experience?

Dude, I always find the hole, just dive straight into it. I've done it so many times at friend's shows and it sucks.

Obviously it’s par for the course in 2023, internet drama and whatever, but yeah dude, it’s like you say - there’s a community, there’s lore, like people who are 30 might have been going to all ages hardcore shows since they were like 15 or whatever. It also reminds me of the whole thing of someone moving in next door to an established live venue… and then starts complaining about the noise.

Yeah, this thing existed in its entirety before you came here and complained. I think that’s the answer in itself, that thing was happening peacefully long before you were born, long before you existed, that thing was going and it was happy and it was good and everybody enjoyed it… and now you're going to walk in and be like “everybody stop!”. You’re like, main character syndrome bro. You're dreaming.

Couldn’t agree more dude! So finally, with the record out, you’re about to head off on tour - what’s one the cards for after that, do you get some chill time?

I think we’re looking for summer festivals. There’ll be more tour announcements to come, we’ll be busy. We’ll be very busy… hopefully. I’d like to travel at the end of the year, I’d like to go to Peru. My friend’s going there and he’s doing a trek and then I think he’s going to do a motorbike - bike through the Himalayas as well… man, I’d love to do that, but time and money - you got to be rich, which I’m not. There’s going to be a lot more Trophy Eyes stuff to come, too.

Amazing, can’t wait to hear it all! Wicked, John, that was really dope dude, really enjoyed that chat.

Appreciate it man. Yeah it was good chatting.

Trophy Eyes' new album Suicide and Sunshine is out June 23 via Hopeless Records

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Trophy Eyes Aus Tour 2023

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