Melbourne hardcore punk rock n roll band, Clowns, have had a stellar year! They kicked it off releasing sophomore LP, Bad Blood, on Poison City Records and followed it up with touring, touring and more touring—including kicking ass in the US and being the first Australian act ever to be included on the Riot Fest lineup. I recently caught up with frontman, Stevie, to chat all about it as well as a hint at how their third album is taking shape, of the most wasted his been, and of working towards goals plus more. Bad Blood would definitely be one of my favourite Australian releases this year!
STEVIE WILLIAMS: I’ve loved music since I was a kid. I remember getting up early in the morning as a 7-year-old kid to go watch Rage; it was probably my first introduction to music. The first gig I ever went to, my dad took me to see, The Offspring. I always cite that as a pinnacle point, when I realised that punk music is what I wanted to do.
BIANCA: Rad. What was it that resonated with you so strongly?
SW: Just the music. Don’t you like music?
B: Yes, of course.
SW: What is it about music that you like?
B: That it moves me intensely.
SW: Yes, that’s it. Boom! There’s my answer. Music is the best thing in the world, I just had to be a part of it.
B: Same here.
SW: Do you have a band?
B: I’ve been working on putting together a little something. I was in bands when I was younger and have done guest vocals on stuff for friends’ bands—punk, hardcore and hip hop jams. I like all kinds of music. From listening to Clowns it seems like you guys have a broad taste in music. It’s easy for someone to say you sound like The Bronx or a band like that but I think there’s a bunch of other stuff you can hear in the mix.
SW: Thanks. Our creative process is all such a big mixing pot of styles. We love 1980s hip hop to grindcore.
B: Since you’re a big music nerd; what are some albums that have been significant to you?
SW: That’s a tough question because there is so many. Bringing it back to The Offspring, I’d say their album, Smash, was a big one for me—growing up I fucking loved that album! The albums that I love are always changing. I went through a really big Radiohead phase, Ok Computer was a big album for me, same with Tool. To think we’re into Tool is a bit of a curveball, listening to Clowns you could say like you mentioned before that we sound like The Bronx or Black Flag but, not really. I’d be lying though to say that Black Flag wasn’t an influence when we started the band.
B: It’s getting towards the end of the year; What are some of the best Oz releases this year? Other than your own album of course!
SW: [Laughs] I would never say that! I would definitely not say, Bad Blood was. My favourite release of this year was the new Royal Headache album [High] that just came out. I love that album so much! I’ve listened to it every day since it came out. I was listening to the new Meanies’ album [It’s Not You, It’s Me] the other day, it’s really fucking good!
B: Clowns have spent a good chunk of the year touring, by mid-year you’d played 40+ shows; what’s one of the most amazing things you saw or experienced this year?
SW: The cherry-on-top was Riot Fest that we just went over and did in the States. When we started this band fresh outta high school, Riot Fest was really the kind of gig we wanted to do. I’ve always been to stuff like the Big Day Out, I first went when I was 14. Playing Riot Fest was like finally getting to have that experience I’ve been working towards for the past five years. The line-up was awesome, just going to it to watch other bands was really fun too. It was definitely a good time.
B: Can you give us an insight?
SW: We had a really good time. We partied at Riot Fest the whole time, played some shows in New York and then did a West Coast run of shows with a band called, Get Dead. We hooked up with them via the internet. We did ten shows in ten days from Seattle to Sa Diego.
B: I’ve heard you guys learnt a lot about each other while touring; what’s some of the things you learned?
SW: [Laughs] Basically just learning how to not piss each other off. Stuff like, maybe don’t tell certain jokes in the tour van that might push someone’s buttons or don’t sneak seafood into out drummers food or he’ll throw up for three days [laughs].
B: That’s messed up!
SW: [Laughs] The rest of us may find it funny but he won’t.
B: What’s something that annoyed you while on tour?
SW: One thing that annoys me is, if I don’t get enough sleep. I try to sleep a lot, if I don’t my voice just dies. The other band members like to keep me up and get me really wasted and see me have a good time and they want to have a good time with me… in a way it pisses me off because I’m really bad with peer pressure, like I want to go out and have a good time but I tell the multiple times I wanna go home and go to bed because if I don’t, I won’t have a voice, let me go to bed. Or I might be at the hotel room and someone rocks up with a bunch of strangers and start having a mad party at 5AM.
B: Can you recall a time you’ve been really wasted?
SW: [Laughs] No…
B: [Laughs] Good answer…
SW: [Laughs] I think the most wasted I’ve ever been was before a show in 2011, we played a show that I don’t even remember playing. It was a Pony 2AM show!
B: Ahhhh nothing more needs to be said then…
SW: [Laughs] It was a bit much. I went to a friend’s party before. My band didn’t know where I was, my phone was off… it got to like 1:55AM and the rest of the band was hoping I would show up. They found me passed out on the stairs of Pony trying to walk up to the stage. They woke me up and apparently from what I was told, I played a show. I have no memory of that.
B: You wrote a Dos & Don’ts list for Clowns shows. You wrote that Clowns have zero tolerance for violence at your shows; what’s one of the most violent things you’ve ever witnessed at a show?
SW: Obviously in a mosh pit or at a punk show it can get pretty heated, people like to push each other around and jump on each other, which is all well and good but it pisses me off when people get to violent or aggressive and jump around and hurt other people. Or when people don’t understand, that when they’re in a mosh pit, that’s acceptable behaviour and they try and punch people up the other people at the shows. For me, that really fucking pisses me off. Although from the outside one of our shows may look like it’s getting violent it’s actually really caring. When someone tries to start shit it really fucking grinds my gears. I call them out. I might say at the end of a song that: it’s good to have fun just don’t fucking punch each other or if you do punch someone in the face make sure it’s your best mate and you can say sorry afterwards [laughs].
B: Around a week ago, two years ago, Clowns released their debut album, I’m Not Right. Looking back at it now, how do you feel about it?
SW: That LP was kinda funny, we threw it together out of nowhere. The album title is almost a metaphor for the album itself. We had just been doing out self-released 7 inch splits with other bands – Clowns//Them Orphans – Repeat After Me; Clowns/Cleavers – Eat A Gun; Clowns/Michael Crafter – Powders – then somewhere along the way we caught the eyes of Poison City Records and they were happy to release an album for us. We got a bunch of songs that we had previously recorded, out ‘em on the album and wrote three more songs for recording in two weeks’ time so that we could put something out. We knew it was a big opportunity for us. I look back and I think for at the time it was the best we could have done, we were only 19 at the time we wrote it. I was really happy but I feel it still left a lot of room for us to grow… to move away from being that two-dimensional punk hardcore band and move into different territory.
B: I’m looking forward to seeing where you’ll go with your third album.
SW: the progression has really left the door open for us to do whatever we want. We’ve never subscribe to a style, we’ve always put in different things. I think our fans can expect us to push the boundaries further but without shocking them too much and make them turn away for us.
B: Have you started writing for a new album?
SW: Yeah we have. I really want to release an album next year. It’s early days though. There’s one song we have that we’re all really keen on that’s a mix between Millencolin and Sonic Youth that goes for 8-minutes and has this big instrumental bit. For my own personal role in the band, I feel like I really want to go in a more melodic direction, I definitely want to harness the power of melody rather than the power of screaming your guts out.
B: I figured you guys would probably want an album to come out. Since you guys started you’ve had a pretty awesome momentum going. I think I even read you talk about the importance of deciding what you want, making a plan and then going after that.
SW: That always has been the general mentality of the band. We’ve always had a goal and worked towards it and to not let anything step in its way. We definitely have had a lot of curveballs thrown at us in the past. We’ve never let anything stop us. You have to work hard, work through things and push though as best we can.
B: Clowns will be supporting Rise Against playing stadium shows Australia-wide…
SW: Yeah… it’s gonna be pretty dumb!
SW: [Laughs] Playing in a stadium, that’s pretty fucked up!
B: Yeah but good fucked up not bad. You told me that the first big show you went and saw that made you want to start a band was a stadium kinda show…
SW: Yeah that was at the Horden Pavilion where we’re actually playing a show with Rise Against.
B: Well there you go! In my eyes, that’ll be a pretty full circle moment for you. I hope you take a second when you’re standing on that stage to give a thought to the journey from watching a band you love on it to the fact you’re now standing on it making noise yourself. Congrats that’s fucking awesome! Let’s hope there’s some kid in the audience watching you play and then he or she will go start a band.
SW: I really hope that!
B: What else are you passionate about other than music?
SW: Growing up the two things I loved most were skateboarding and music. I used to listen to music and skate all the time. I used to be sponsored by a shop when I was much younger and they’d put me in competitions. It got to a point though where it was either one or the other, especially when I left school. I couldn’t really pursue the skateboarding thing further so I went with the music thing. Plus, I was a lot better at the music thing than skateboarding, though I was equally passionate about both.
Catch Clowns (dates below) with Rise Against & Outright (read my chat with Jelena from Outright here).
Wednesday 2 December – Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne (All Ages)
Friday 4 December – Riverstage, Brisbane (All Ages)
Saturday 5 December – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (All Ages)
Tuesday 8 December – Auckland Town Hall, Auckland (All Ages
PMA all day!