Remedial Chaos Theory

2 May 2012 | 9:14 pm | Matt O'Neill

The Butterfly Effect have been rocked by the departure of vocalist Clint Boge. Matt O’Neill catches up with drummer Ben Hall to discuss the band’s storied history – and uncertain future.

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Until recently, Brisbane's The Butterfly Effect had largely faded into local legend. The four-piece were, for the majority of the past decade, their hometown's most successful hard rock export. Their relentless touring saw them signed to Sony within years of their 1999 formation and, beginning with their debut self-titled EP in 2002 (which sold over ten thousand copies), each release seemed to bring the band new levels of success. Yet, 2008's Final Conversation Of Kings heralded a strange hiatus for the outfit.

“Maybe even before the last record, there were signs that we weren't working together as a band,” drummer Ben Hall reflects of the band's most recent album. “I haven't listened to that record in a very long time but I still feel it wasn't really us working at our best, so to speak. We'd just lost our management and we knew we needed a record to take the next step in our career as a band – but I think we forgot that if you don't have ten great songs, you're actually in trouble.”

Aside from the occasional tour, The Butterfly Effect have barely existed since that album. The intervening years have ostensibly been spent writing their follow-up record but, between their atypical absence from the live arena and an increasing array of member side-projects (from vocalist Clint Boge's Thousand Needles In Red to bassist Glenn Esmond's A Family Of Strangers), it was hard not to think of The Butterfly Effect as a defunct (or soon to be defunct) entity.

“We'd been trying to write this fourth record for three years now – and we haven't been getting anywhere at all,” Hall says of the band's apparent absence. “We'd had lots of kind of group sit downs, discussions and little therapy sessions to try and figure out why it just wasn't happening but we never really cracked it. It really just felt like Clint was moving in one direction and the rest of us were moving in another. I can't really blame him for having different tastes.”

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Announced in February, Clint Boge's departure has once again placed The Butterfly Effect's work within the spotlight. Originally said to be leaving to pursue other musical projects, Boge has since explained that his departure was more related to issues of interpersonal conflict. Regardless, the band's uncertain future has brought inadvertent but deserved emphasis to the accomplishments of their past.

“It's definitely not how I ever thought it'd pan out. I thought we'd be together for twenty years,” Hall muses. “I knew eventually it would end – either because we got older and had kids or whatever or some other reason – but I never thought one of us would just go and leave the band. Still, the support we've received since making the announcement has been monumental. People have been so supportive of our work. It's been very inspiring.

“To be honest, I wasn't really prepared for the response that we got when we made the announcement. The way the band had spent the last couple of years – we've basically locked ourselves away in a rehearsal room for three years – I kind of expected everyone to have moved onto some other band. You really do forget that people actually do care about your work. It was really amazing.”

Make no mistake; The Butterfly Effect were and remain an important band in Australian music. They arguably laid the foundation for many of their more successful peers and followers. They were the first band of their kind to break through to mainstream audiences in Australia. Their success predates that of Cog, Karnivool and Birds Of Tokyo – Dead Letter Circus' first official gig was actually a support slot for The Butterfly Effect at the QUT Guild Bar in 2006.

“It's actually been really good to look over everything we've done,” Hall says. “I just recently got the masters back for our new compilation Effected and listened through it all in sequence to make sure it all worked out. It's chronological – from beginning to end – and it's been really cool. You know, that's covering nearly ten years of releases. Our entire career, pretty much. In a strange way, it says more to me about who we were as people than anything else.

“Like, I look back at our first EP and our first album [2003's Begins Here], and I can kind of see us beginning to take it much more seriously than we'd ever had to before as a band. We started to get a bit of success and it became our job – whereas before we just wrote music because the formula was right. We met Clint and then did a gig six weeks later. Then, I can look at the tracks from Final Conversation... and I can see where it stopped working. It's been good to look at it all in context.

“You know, looking back on the past ten years, what will always stick with me is the work ethic. That's not just for us; bands like Cog and Karnivool as well. We all toured our arses off. We had no support when it started – no-one buying big ads in street press or pushing our records. It was just based on a shitload of hard work. So, really, regardless of what's happened to us, it's been hugely gratifying to see it take off over the past couple of years.”

Still, it leaves the band in a precarious position. Boge's departure appears to have reinvigorated both the band's public profile and its individual members – but even Hall is unsure as to what the future will bring for The Butterfly Effect. They're the midst of a farewell tour and have just released the Effected compilation. Following those plans, they have to find themselves a singer and record a fourth album. Hall sounds both excited and wary.

“Initially, I thought we'd break up. I didn't think we'd keep going without Clint,” he admits frankly. “But then, I looked at what we were doing and how we'd always done things and kind of figured that nothing really has to change. We would always write the songs and Clint would come in and kind of put the icing on the cake. The three of us are still enjoying what we're doing and, to my mind, writing the best material of our careers.

“It's just a case of finding someone else who can kind of put the icing on the cake. We're keeping it low-key. We're not going to be INXS about it, if you know what I mean. We're just putting our feelers out and hoping that some friend of a friend of ours is the guy for the job. If we can't find someone, it will pretty much be the end of the band.”

“I'm staying optimistic, though,” Hall enthuses. “Clint's leaving has opened up a lot of the possibilities for us. We can kind of change-up whatever we want for the band – and I'm excited by that.”