The Amity Affliction marry trauma and tribute on their emotive EP, Somewhere Beyond the Blue

The Amity Affliction marry trauma and tribute on their emotive EP, Somewhere Beyond the Blue

- By Ramon Gonzales

The three-track effort takes its name from a final message that Ahren Stringer received shortly before his friend Sean Kennedy departed, "I'll be in space."

The fallout from the trauma of the last two years is likely to be a slow burn. The collateral damage of lockdowns and being sequestered removed the essential social component that we all realized once it was gone - was the fabric that bonded us - universally.

However, there is a sense of resilience that seemed to underscore the events of the pandemic era. Particularly with music, the absence of touring prompted the cultivation and refinement of the livestream. Bands became proficient in working remotely, leveraging technology to exchange ideas and connect, even though the communal studio session seemed like a thing of the past.

While the world continues to grapple with the reality of normalcy with an asterisk, the old adage of the darkest times inspiring the best art seems to be coming to fruition. For Aussie aggressors The Amity Affliction, not only was the art a means of being productive during the pandemic, but it provided the therapy necessary to navigate the unprecedented stretch of time.

Just one month prior to the world going into hibernation, the band debuted their seventh and arguably their most complete collection of tracks to date in Everyone Loves You... Once Your Leave Them. Lauded as a return to form, a showing reminiscent of the band's early heft, the formative release marked their Pure Records Records debut and ushered in the arrival of Joe Longobardi as an official member of the crew.

The album was more than well-received and hailed as a triumph - a showing that presented the familiar pangs of signature Amity pummel with an assertion of their evolution as songwriters. However, the reality began to cement that the band, now armed with an arsenal of finely-crafted new music, would have no audience to share it with for the foreseeable future.

Reality would get even heavier in 2021.

Nearly a year to the date of the release of ELYOYLT, Amity Affliction was dealt another tragic blow. Sean Kennedy, longtime friend and contemporary of the band who performed with Deez Nutz and I Killed the Prom Queen, would lose his life at all of 35. While the cause of death remained a private matter, the severity of the loss hit the band hard.

Reaffirming the notion of resilience, The Amity Affliction resorted to what they know - music. Adjusting to a new way of working, the band entered the studio with real intention, focus, and conviction - and this time, no producer. Going it all on their own, the band emerged with a fitting tribute to their departed friend with the single, "Like, Love".

Complete with a visual directed by Joel Birch, the track offered empathy in song with stanzas like, “Another star fell out of the sky, the night you took your own life,” punctuated by lines like, “I know the hell you were living in.”

A couple of months later, Amity resurfaced yet again with another emotionally-charged banger in the follow-up, "Give Up the Ghost". A track that came together quickly, speaking to creative stride the band seemed to find - one of those one-take tracks that result when everyone is in marching in lock-step. Furthermore, the song served well in capturing the collective sentiment of the era.

What began as a means of staying in track and ensuring the band didn't lose momentum, has become an EP in Somewhere Beyond the Blue - a three track supplement that further elaborates on the evolution presented on ELYOYLT.

Completed by the wholly relevant "Death Is All Around Us," the EP's punctuation underscores the emotional toll everyone has shared from the past two years. Speaking to the bleak forecast of a world still staring down looming lockdowns and a pandemic that is far from over, the EP's finale is guttural, grim, and yet, strangely galvanizing in it;'s misery loves company quality.

Titling the effort Somewhere Beyond the Blue, the 7-inch set to ship some time next summer, drew ominous inspiration from a final message that Ahren Stringer received from his friend Sean Kennedy before that fateful final decision...“I’ll be in space.” One last ode to their friend and colleague that will live on forever.

Stinger further elaborated on how the EP provided the creative respite the band needed during the darkest times of the last two years. He shared how working on their own proved liberating and how despite the trauma of the last few years, the future for Amity Affliction is rooted in a focus that ensures the band is as driven as ever.

How removed are the tracks on Somewhere Beyond the Blue EP from the Everyone Loves You…Once Your Leave Them sessions? Were these tracks around from then in some form or was this the result of being productive over the pandemic?

We wrote these songs well after the ELYOYLT sessions. We just originally went to record a single, like we had with Shine On a few years back… But once we got going, we ended up with a few that we thought were great so did a little EP. It was really fun producing it ourselves and very natural.

The band made mention of recording alone for the first time and that resulting in “Give Up the Ghost”. How liberating has it been to be entirely self-contained for this EP?

We have made a lot of records now and one kind of in between a transition from a major label to Pure Noise. Although we never really felt pressure to use a producer on the major, it was just how we thought it was done. We owe a lot to all the producers we have worked with and each of them taught us valuable lessons that we have used on these songs. I guess all those experiences just gave us the confidence to go out alone. It was really freeing! We went to a great studio on the central east coast of Australia called The Grove, the engineer Jack was amazing to work with and then having Henrik mix it. We feel we have an awesome finished product and can’t wait to do it like this again.

The band offered an especially poignant tribute to Sean Kennedy with “Like Love”. Did his passing prompt the song or was track something that band had in the works that seemed to speak better to address his passing?

The music was around but the lyrics came after he passed. Joel kind of wrote them with me in mind as I was so close to SK. It was a really shitty time, but I feel like there’s a little bit of SK in that song and might be why it has gone so well.

Was there any concern about the release of new music overshadowing Everyone Loves You…Once Your Leave Them. Your seventh album has been out for nearly two years and you haven’t been able to share it live yet.

I don’t think we can think of it like that. That album did really well for us and I think returning to our heavier side was welcome by the majority of our fans. I think these songs are a natural progression from that record. Of course we can’t wait to play songs like Soak and AMFAD live, but we aren’t alone here. The last two years have been fucked for every artist, big or small. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, it’s not just us. Finally things are looking up so it’s time to go and get it!

There was a lot of chatter about how “Give Up the Ghost” felt like classic Amity - going back to Chasing Ghosts and Youngbloods. Do you feel like those kinds of comparisons restrict the band’s ability to evolve? Is it tough to balance what the fans pine over with your need to develop your sound and not repeat yourself?

When you’re up to 7 or 8 albums and luckily for us still have a bit of a fan base, there’s always going to be people saying ‘ The Old Stuff Is Better ‘ or ‘ I actually like the new stuff ‘. We can’t listen to it too much. We have to write what is working for us at the time and what is the most fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Given the kind of pride you guys expressed with Everyone Loves You…Once Your Leave Them, do you feel like this EP compliments what was done on the album?

Yeah totally, I think I expanded on that a little above. We feel like we know what we are as a band and what works and feels natural for us. It’s also just fucking fun to play this stuff.

Amity is set to hit the stage early 2022. Have you envisioned what stepping onto that stage for the first time to share ELYOYLT will be like?

Not only that record, but all of them! They all feel new at this point. Our biggest issue is we have A LOT of songs now and want to give everyone what they want which isn’t possible… The set list writing is going to be a fun argument.

Do you feel like the extra time fans have had with the album will add to the excitement of the shows? Usually new music on tour has a learning curve with the audience, but by now, some of these songs have been marinating with fans for two years now.

For sure and we also have the streaming data these days to really narrow in on what people want to hear.

The three tracks on Somewhere Beyond the Blue addresses some heady themes. Love, loss, mental illness, isolation - How personal is this EP and was there any therapy in getting these songs done to share with the world?

I think all the themes lyrically have flowed through each of our albums, Joel obviously battles with mental illness and that’s well documented. Yes SK’s suicide has brought it all very close to home. It might be more personal than we know when we play it live, but time will tell. All I kn ow is we are very proud of it and glad it’s out there.

Considering the challenges of the last couple of years, does the release of this EP take on any additional importance for you?

I guess it’s something we will look back on to identify this part of our lives and the bands timeline. But we have always been a touring band and connect with our audience that way. It’s been crazy we haven’t been able to. We have a lot of plans about to be announced for next year and I think it may all hit us once we get back to doing what we love to do.

Somewhere Beyond the Blue begins shipping summer of 2022. The limited-edition 7-inch is available for pre-order now via Pure Noise Records.

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