Chasing the Chemical Miracle with Trophy Eyes
A chat with the Newcastle punks following the release of their spectacular sophomore record.
It didn't take long for Trophy Eyes to catapult themselves to the forefront of the Australian punk scene following their formation in 2013, dropping their debut EP, Everything Goes Away, the same year. A dedicated fan base materialised almost immediately for the five-piece, people on board with the raw and real sound that they were delivering - something that Australian bands had struggled to make their own in the past. Trophy Eyes' intense live shows in living rooms and small venues only heightened the hype around the newcomers and what they were bringing to the scene, and word spread throughout Aus about the Newcastle boys mashing pop-punk and hardcore to perfection.
The 2013 EP was followed up with the band's hugely impressive debut full-length, Mend, Move On, in 2014, and Trophy Eyes gathered further steam; earning support slots for some of the world's biggest punk bands, as well as a spot on the 2015 Warped Tour. As successful as the start to Trophy Eyes career has been, their recently released sophomore record, Chemical Miracle, undoubtedly feels like a game changer for the band; with its lead single, Chlorine, featuring heavily in triple j's rotation for the past couple of months and the album itself debuting at number eight in the ARIA charts.
It feels strange to use the word mature to describe a record from a band that have barely been around for four years, but Chemical Miracle is exactly that: a mature and captivating release that sounds like a band seven or eight albums deep in their career. Trophy Eyes have crafted a collection of songs brimming with heartfelt storytelling and bright melodies, while maintaining the coarse edge that's made the band so appealing to heavy music fans across pop-punk, hardcore and even metal genres since their arrival. There is progression here, that much is obvious, but Chemical Miracle is the sound of a band who have uncovered their true sound; the one that will define their career.
I jumped on the phone with Trophy Eyes' vocalist John Floreani minutes after he'd come off stage, supporting The Amity Affliction in Denver, Colorado. It was a few days out from the release of Chemical Miracle, but there were no signs of pre-release nerves or jitters when Floreani spoke: "I just finished my set, I'm sitting back in the van, having a cigarette and yeah, life's good". I'd already given Chemical Miracle a couple of spins leading up to our chat, so it was no surprise to me that the frontman was as chilled as he was - him and his four band mates were on the eve of releasing one of the punk albums of the year.
Hear what Floreani had to say about the new album, what he thinks of abusive comments on Trophy Eyes videos and why he hopes to always be able to swing from ceiling fans at house shows.
On how it felt to release the band's second full-length, Chemical Miracle:
It's incredible. We've been sitting on it for a while now. We snuck back to Thailand to record it and we had it under our belt for a few months, so I kinda lost all the nerves and I'm not even so worried about what everyone's gonna think about it, I'm more just excited to show people and share it with everyone. It's something I've spent a lot of time and effort on, and there was so much hard work that went into this thing, I'm just stoked to finally have people hear it.
On recurring lyrical themes in all of Trophy Eyes' music:
I think there is a loose recurring theme ever since I first started writing songs. I really wanted to focus on writing something that I'm passionate about, especially if I'm going to be up on stage screaming and conveying that much emotion. Over the span of all of our records, all of our releases and every song I've written, I guess it's like a philosophical recap of everything that's gotten me to where I am now, and just kinda stories and tales of your average mid-20s man and his pursuit of happiness.
On Chemical Miracle being more mellow than debut album, Mend, Move On:
You know, I don't think that was intentional. It's definitely there, but over the span of everything we've written, we've never once sat down and said - "Let's write a pop-punk record" or "Let's write a melodic hardcore record", we've always just got together and mashed up our influences, so I guess this record really portrays us the very best, and I feel like we've really done what we set out to do with this record. It wasn't like we got together and went - "Let's write a fuckin' pop record", we just started playing songs and we were like- "This is different but this is good, we're doin' it right".
On how fans might react to the new sound:
I don't know if we've ever really thought about that, I don't know if that's selfish? I'm not sure how every other band does it but I don't think we've ever really written music for other people, we kinda just got together and wrote what we wanted to hear. So, I don't think we intended to gain more fans and we weren't expecting to lose any fans until it kinda came out and we didn't have to use our imaginations anymore…we heard the final product and we were kinda like - "Oh, some people aren't gonna like this". There have been some pretty nasty comments on YouTube. Everyone tells me not to read them but I always do, I can't help myself. One guy commented: "This is boring, Citizen-grunge shit. So glad I didn't buy a ticket to see them", and I was like 'Ow man, that hurts'. I know it's rough, but I didn't ever once write a song for him or for anybody else, I wrote them for me - because I enjoy playing them and I enjoy writing music, and it's just kind of awesome that anybody else likes it as well.
On writing Chemical Miracle and changes the band made to their process:
I think mostly it was our attitude and the way that we kinda accepted all content. For Mend, Move On there were a lot of things that we looked at like - 'Ah, you know what? That's not really Trophy Eyes', so we got rid of a lot of content and we just crossed a lot of shit off that we weren't feeling, but this time we used everything that we had. We weren't afraid to put these things in that we thought sounded good, regardless of what kind of genre they fell under. So that was kinda different, and also it was our second record. The first time we got together to write a record, for Mend, Move On, we had no fucking idea what we were doing. We'd written one EP and I think we were like a year, maybe a year and a half old…and we found ourselves halfway through the process thinking - 'What the fuck are we doing? How do we write a record?'. So after taking that and working with Shane and kinda realising that writing an entire record and recording it and getting everything ready is a giant process, this time we knew what we were doing, and I think it sounds like that as well.
On the video for Breathe You In and how difficult it was to keep a straight face while it was being filmed:
Ohh it was so brutal. Everything in me wanted to scream and smile, and there were a few takes where I did. I couldn't just stone-face it the whole time - it was hard, man. The other boys got to swap out every now and then and take a break but I had to be in every single shot, so by the end of the day I was just a wreck. I felt sick and I was tired and I had this weird feeling of like, pent up excitement or adrenaline or rage or something, because I had to keep this straight face on while flying upside down super, super fast, and all I wanted to do was scream but I couldn't do anything, so afterwards I was walking around with this intense energy. I just wanted to scream and break something, it was nuts.
On loving and always wanting to be able to play house shows:
That whole vibe is a large part of Trophy Eyes, we don't wanna lose that idea that you can swing off the chandeliers in the lounge room while we're playing in the house, because that's just so fun. I feel like a lot of people who might not have seen us live might one day come out to a house show, and if they haven't been to one before it's a shocking thing - you cram as many people as you can into a tiny house and just go wild with loud music, it's total euphoria, it's nuts and people just lose themselves. Playing house shows, I've jumped off kitchen counters and hung off ceiling fans and stuff like that before. I hope we never lose that because it might be half the reason I do this; that type of fun and that energy, the connection with the people inside that room…so I hope we can play house shows forever.