20 Years Into Their Career, The Amity Affliction Write ‘Lyrics For People Who Don't Know How To Express How They're Feeling’

1 June 2023 | 11:35 am | Mary Varvaris

The Amity Affliction have managed to stay true to themselves by “always writing the songs that we would want to listen to and not doing something just for the sake of staying relevant."

Photo of The Amity Affliction

Photo of The Amity Affliction (Credit: Tom Barnes)

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If I had your god in my hands, I'd be dead tonight/I had glorious plans/If I had your god in my hands, I'd be dead tonight... Show me your God,” group vocals chant on Show Me Your God, one of the most emotionally devastating and musically heavy songs The Amity Affliction have ever released. It’s also the first track on their eighth album, Not Without My Ghosts.

The Amity Affliction have made a name for themselves within the Australian metalcore scene by writing songs about depression, suicidal ideation, loss and grief, and addiction. The band’s core sound is contrasted by Joel Birch’s anguished screams and growls with bassist and vocalist Ahren Stringer providing numerous singalong choruses.

Since forming in 2003, the Gympie, Queensland quartet of Stringer, Birch, Dan Brown (guitar) and Joe Longobardi (drums) have scored four ARIA #1 albums: Chasing Ghosts in 2012, Let The Ocean Take Me in 2014, This Could Be Heartbreak in 2016 and Misery in 2018. They have also received five ARIA Award nominations between 2010 and 2020.

This month, they released their new album, which landed at #2 on the ARIA Albums Chart and #1 on the Australian Albums and Vinyl Charts. 2023 marks the 20th year The Amity Affliction have been a band and with Not Without My Ghosts, they’ve just scored their seventh Top 10 album on the official ARIA Albums Chart.

Not Without My Ghosts is The Amity Affliction’s “heaviest” album to date, per Stringer. Ahead of the album’s release, he told us the album was “a fresh exploration of heavy music”.

“It's kind of like a collection of everything we can do,” Stringer said. “You know, it's got a super soft song, super heavy song and everything in between; it's just a solid Amity album and a bit more back to our roots - a bit heavier.

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“We made the album that we would want to listen to. I think that's what we always try to do. So, we'd never put up a song that we wouldn't ourselves, listen to on an album. I think that definitely encapsulates it all. It's got a bit of everything and probably some of our best work.”

Not Without My Ghosts sounds like an album created by heavy music veterans – it’s sure of its themes and musical paths, cohesive, and even hires some longtime mates for guest features.

On their eighth record, Stringer and Birch share vocal responsibilities with Comeback Kid’s Andrew Neufeld (Death And The Setting Sun), the late New Zealand rapper Louie Knuxx (I See Dead People), The Plot In You’s Landon Tewers (When It Rains It Pours), and the LA-based alt-pop artist Phem (Not Without My Ghosts). It’s The Amity Affliction at their heaviest, most melodic, darkest, and perhaps features the most blast beats from the Aussie outfit.

“We finished recording it about a year ago,” Stringer admits over the phone a few days before the album’s release.

“We've been sitting on it for so long, so it's good to almost be at the release date and have a few songs out, and it seems to be going really well. Everyone's liking the songs so far. So yeah, we couldn't be happier.”

In December, The Amity Affliction premiered Show Me Your God to three enormous Good Things Festival audiences in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. “That whole festival was so much fun to play, especially to debut that song in front of so many people. It's been great,” Stringer says, “It was unreal. I think I had butterflies and was a bit nervous because of crowds were so big.

“But it was just unreal. We had such a great response. And the final show in Brisbane was probably the biggest – I think we were looking at a sea of 30,000 people, so it seemed like the whole festival was there watching us. It was a really fun show and a really fun day, and a great tour all round.”

As 2023 marks the 20th year of The Amity Affliction, Stringer remarks that he’s just happy the band is still here, and they “can say it's been our job for so long”. “We’re very proud of how far we've come and still managed to stay together as a band,” he adds, “So yeah, I guess that's a triumph in itself, just being able to be together for almost 20 years.”

In their time, the band has “Learned a lot of tricks and stuff on the way – I think the first time we worked with a producer was in 2010.” The group learned the most from producer Machine on 2010’s Youngbloods and Matt Squire on Misery and Everyone Loves You… Until You Leave Them. Stringer adds, “Obviously, our songwriting is just getting better and better. And on this new record, we still produce – we didn't have anyone to answer to or bounce ideas off. It was [achieved] on all of our own merits.

“I think this one's definitely one we're all very, very proud of. And looking back at our humble beginnings, some of those songs I can't even listen to anymore. So I’m very much pleased that I can listen to my own music now.”

The Amity Affliction have managed to stay true to themselves over two decades by “always writing the songs that we would want to listen to and not doing something just for the sake of staying relevant,” Stringer notes.

When the band first began, they were surrounded by “the height of screamo popularity and stuff. Things always come full circle and that's [heavy music] very popular again. So, I think by doing that, staying true to yourself is easy if you just keep doing what you want to do and not listening to anyone else.”

Of Not Without My Ghosts’ ten tracks, Stringer’s favourite song is probably Fade Away, with It’s Hell Down Here his close second. “I really like Fade Away,” he shares. “I think that one should be a fan favourite. But yeah, the chorus of It’s Hell Down Here was probably one of the lightbulb moments that really had me talking about it like, ‘This is going to be a great song’. But yeah, I think all the singles are definitely my favourite songs.”

It's Hell Down Here was described by Joel Birch as a letter from himself to friends who had passed away, which Stringer says provided a “good outlet” for the band members and fans dealing with loss. He explains, “Sometimes Joel writes the lyrics and I'll just read them and go, ‘You know, that's exactly how I feel’. He writes lyrics for people who don't know how to express the way that they're feeling, and everyone can take something away from it.

“Especially when we get to play the songs live, it's kind of letting out some anger or sadness, and it makes you feel a bit better,” Stringer continues. “It's a nice way to connect with fans as well, I think. He puts it all out there and anyone can take whatever they want from it. It’s always hopefully a good thing in that regard.”

For an entire generation of listeners, The Amity Affliction’s music hasn’t just offered comfort or a lifeline, but it’s been a constant for many years. Anyone who used Tumblr in 2014 and beforehand can attest to seeing images related to the band’s albums Chasing Ghosts, Let The Ocean Take Me, and Youngbloods on the regular, with their lyrics plastered over gothic images and providing teenagers with the exact outlet they were looking for.

“We've been doing it [discussing mental health through their music] for so long that it's kind of second nature,” Stringer says. If the band suddenly changed their tune in regard to song topics, the bassist believes “people would be like, ‘What the hell are they talking about?’ It's not singing rainbows and puppy dogs. It’s what works for us and it helps with our demons to put it out on paper. Hopefully, it can help other people too.”

This October, The Amity Affliction will celebrate Not Without My Ghosts with a momentous Australian tour. Set to begin the tour in the band's hometown of Brisbane at Fortitude Music Hall, the boys will then move on to Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, Adelaide’s Hindley Street Music Hall, and Melbourne’s Forum, finally wrapping up at Perth’s Metro City. They’ll be joined by Silverstein, Earth Caller and Winnerz Circle, promising a major metal affair.

Before that tour begins, though, the band will join Parkway Drive alongside Northlane and Make Them Suffer on an epic Monsters Of Oz tour in the US this September. “You know, whenever we do Meet & Greets in the States, Americans always ask, ‘What's in the water down there?’ Australia just… we're just good at it, like, I don't have an answer for you.

“It's great to see and we really helped make our mark by flying the Australian flag overseas. People are really noticing. New Upcoming bands in Australia, like Polaris, and Alpha Wolf and smaller bands like Winnerz Circle… We're trying to give him a leg up because we first started, we were like all of these bands.”

Not Without My Ghosts is out now. You can catch buy tickets to catch The Amity Affliction in Australia through Live Nation.



With special guests Silverstein, Earth Caller & Winnerz Circle