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July 2022
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Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"

Roaring back with their best album to date, Stand Atlantic have a clear message - Fuck Everything And Run.
Published: 12:01 pm, June 09, 2022Words: Jack Press. Photos: Tom Berridge.
Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"

We’re living in weird times. The cost of living is rising, wars are being waged, and the pandemic is still cancelling concerts. In a decade of disarray, at least our artists have got something to sing about. It’s time to climb up on the soapbox, raise a fist to the sky, and talk about the state of, uh, crumpets?

“Dude, I was thinking the other day about how the English muffin got so big in America, but crumpets didn’t – they’re so much better than a McMuffin. They’ve got the holes to hold the butter better!” exclaims Stand Atlantic bassist Miki Rich from his home in Sydney, while vocalist Bonnie Fraser yams down the delicious treats over in Manchester.

“It’s all about the moisture. Americans are whack,” she laughs between bites. “I’m really sorry. I haven’t eaten all day – I fucking love crumpets!”

On a rainy night Down Under and a sunny day in the UK, Stand Atlantic are serving up hot takes on their new album ‘F.E.A.R.’ (That’s ‘Fuck Everything And Run’, FYI). Once the crumpet crusade is over, it’s clear they’ve got plenty more to sing about. From Christianity and homophobia, to long-distance love and imposter syndrome, to the kind of garlic bread they serve at MENSA - nothing is off-limits.

But before they could bring themselves to raise a middle finger to the world, Stand Atlantic had to reassess everything. 2020 should’ve been a victory lap for second album ‘Pink Elephant’, but Covid-19 closed the borders, scattered the band across continents, and had them second-guessing everything.

“There was a point where we didn’t know if we’d ever release another album. We had no idea what the world was going to do, let alone us,” Bonnie admits. With ample time off to write an album, were the creative juices flowing through their veins?

“It was shit. I definitely struggled creatively,” Bonnie recalls. “I’m always stressing about what the next one will be about, but this one was so much harder because I felt like I hadn’t lived my life. I don’t have any new experiences besides the whole pandemic, and there’s no fucking way I’m singing about that because it’s cringy as hell – don’t put Covid in a song, don’t put pandemic in a song, don’t put virus in a song.”

“Yet we’ve got a song on the new album called ‘Bloodclot’,” Miki interjects, with Bonnie retorting, “Hey, that’s nothing to do with Astra Zeneca, bro, leave it out!”

"There was a point where we didn't know if we'd ever release another album" 
Bonnie Fraser

While the hazy dream-pop of ‘Bloodclot’ battles with Bonnie’s very real, very personal long-distance relationship difficulties rather than Covid, everything comes back around to the growing pains the pandemic inflicted on her. When you’re so done with the world, what do you write about?

“I felt frustrated because I couldn’t write anything. So then I was like, well, I’ll just write about the fact that I’m frustrated as fuck. The whole album is just me spewing out all my feelings. It’s a blessing and a curse.”

Caught in creative limbo, with nearly two years to write rather than two weeks, Stand Atlantic stared the death of their band in the face. Forever rebellious, they found themselves throwing their frustration into everything, coming out with the longest album they’ve ever made. And, it turns out, their most diverse.

For 14 tracks and 36 minutes, ‘F.E.A.R.’ doesn’t stay in one lane long enough to be labelled. Once a straight-up pop-punk act, Stand Atlantic are genre-bending rebels ripping up the rulebook.

Opener ‘Doomsday’ shakes up a cocktail of sweet synth-pop and bitter alt-rock, whilst ‘Deathwish’ deals in the kind of pop-rap that Machine Gun Kelly wouldn’t bat an eyelash at. Elsewhere, there’s the punchy hardcore punk of ‘Molotov [OK]’, the gritty grunge vs glitch-pop hit of ‘Cabin Fever’, and the sing-alongs of ‘Pity Party’. But with the ghost of writer’s block haunting them, how did so many genres come crawling out?

“I tried to stick to the mindset of thinking ‘what if this is our last album,’” Bonnie explains. “Would I regret not doing things we’ve always wanted to do and just push the boundaries? If we write a fucking trap song and we like it, we’ll put it on.”

By bringing themselves to the brink of no longer being a band, they found themselves feeling freer than ever. Pop-punk’s elitism had held them in a chokehold for far too long, something they felt ‘Pink Elephant’ suffered from.

“We just didn’t want to hold back, and I think with ‘Pink Elephant’, we did because we were worried about whether we’d please the fans, but we didn’t want to be put into a box,” Bonnie reflects. “We dipped our toes in a little, but this time we just fucking cannonballed into the pool like ‘here we are, bitch!’ – I love making sure people don’t know what to fucking expect.”

Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"
Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"
Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"

If you’re beginning to worry that ‘F.E.A.R.’ is too far-fetched for you, don’t. It’s still the same Stand Atlantic we know and love. They’ve put more quality control into this album than a pizza delivery company.

“Yes, we’re experimenting with all these different things, but at the end of the day, we always want to make sure it sounds like something we would do. It’s still in the lane of Stand Atlantic, whatever the fuck that is. It’s about a seven-lane highway at this point, but there’s still that personality that makes it come across as one of ours.”

It’s a thought Miki shares fondly with Bonnie. “You and [producer] Stevie [Knight] were writing songs that were leftfield and almost not us. Like, let’s write a completely 2010 Kesha song; obviously, it’s not going to make the album but write it anyway. And then we’d be like, ‘well, this is not Stand Atlantic’, but it’s a really good song, so let’s do a cover of it and make it a Stand Atlantic song. It’s how ‘Dumb’ became one of my favourite songs.”

“Oh yeah, it sounds like a fucking Marshmello remix or something,” Bonnie quips, with the pair erupting in laughter.

Little moments like this encapsulate what recording ‘F.E.A.R.’ was like. Considering they were split across continents whilst writing it, kept in quarantine to record it, and stuck in writer’s block for most of it, they could still kick back and appreciate the finer things.

These moments found their way into the record, too. Like little earworms hiding in the cracks for keen listeners to seek out. Whether it’s cut-and-pasted samples or off-record conversations, it’s courtesy of long-term producer Stevie Knight’s mischievousness.

“There are lots of times that Stevie just left the mic on,” Miki adds. “There’s stuff the label tried making us cut out. There’s this bit that’s like, ‘this isn’t a beach, it’s a bathtub...’”

“We literally ripped it from a porno. I want to get sued by Pornhub. How funny would that be?” Bonnie howls before bringing it back down to earth. “But the label were like ‘no, it’s not worth the risk’, and we’re like ‘you’re just way too fucking scared.”

While some are sillier than others, there are moments snuck into songs that let the band address serious concerns with tongue-in-cheek wit. Take ‘Hair Out’, for example, where Bonnie jokes about fans hating the track.

“We were reading YouTube comments on our videos, and I was like, ‘look at all these fucking haters just hating us just for the sake of it’. I think we wanted to have those little jokey, stupid moments because that’s who the fuck we are.

“I thought it was important to keep that lightheartedness in the album because I am just so angry throughout the entire thing. It’s cool to show that, even when you’re feeling fucking terrible, having your mates around you is super important. We all realised that during those two years, what would you be without your friends?”

"It was shit. I definitely struggled creatively" 
Bonnie Fraser

If ‘F.E.A.R.’ peels back the Stand Atlantic curtain and teaches us anything about Bonnie, Miki, guitarist David Potter, and drummer Jonno Panichi, it’s that alone they’re strong, but together they’re unbreakable. When they’re firing on all cylinders as friends, they can push through their problems and find out plenty about themselves along the way.

Take ‘Bloodclot’, for example - a song that soundtracks the highs and lows of Bonnie’s long-term, long-distance relationship with Hot Milk’s Hannah Mee, which was put through its paces during Covid-19.

“It’s definitely the most personal song on the record. Throughout the whole Covid experience, I spent six months in Australia and six months in the UK, where my partner is and where we live, so it was a very difficult time.

“Not only being distant from them for that long, but we’re both dealing with our mental health, and we’re just fucking fighting each other, like ‘you did this, and you did that’, and it’s really hard when you’re away from them. I hate to say it, but ‘Bloodclot’ doesn’t have a specific point. I just felt so defeated, like I was a burden on this person’s life because I’m here, and they’re there.”

However, ‘Bloodclot’ goes beyond being just another love song. It’s a song that helped Bonnie open up about her feelings away from the page for the first time in her life. Ultimately, it’s what she hopes we all take away from ‘F.E.A.R.’.

“I hope people realise that it’s alright to talk about how you feel, and if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s alright, that’s chill, but maybe you can find something in other people’s music that can make you feel like you belong somewhere, or validated in your feelings.”

It’s a comic book cliché, but all that great power does come with great responsibility. While Bonnie believes it’s important to open up space for others to talk about their feelings, she admits it’s not been an easy road for her. In fact, it’s ‘F.E.A.R.’ that’s helped her open up.

“I do think that it’s important, but I also feel like a complete hypocrite because I don’t really talk about my feelings in my daily life. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true. When I was growing up, and even now, writing is the only way that I feel like I’ve gotten over an emotion.

“That was the only way when I was a kid that felt like I could make sense of them, which is strange because, at the time when I’m writing, I don’t have any sense in my head about what I’m feeling until it’s written. But of course, I want to make sure people know that even if you don’t talk about your feelings very often, there are other ways you can express yourself. You don’t have to just be an open book to every single person you come across.”

Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"
Stand Atlantic: "I love making sure people don't know what to fucking expect"

In some ways, for both Bonnie and the band, expressing their feelings came through the music as much as the lyrics. ‘Molotov [OK]’ is a fiery furnace of pop-sensitive hardcore punk that punches its subject matter in the face with the kind of infectiousness that tops charts.

Without tapping into their creative frustrations, Bonnie would’ve never found the courage to confront memories from her past that have plagued her in coming to terms with her sexuality. On ‘Molotov’, she returns to the Christian school she grew up in, where homophobia was taught as regularly as English and Maths.

“Because it’s such a punky song, I felt like I needed to make a statement with it lyrically more than other things I write,” she admits. “I was thinking back to my life, and I remember how hard coming to terms with my sexuality was when I was in school. There was this priest condemning homosexuals to hell in the school assembly, making them feel like this is wrong. I just remember thinking, ‘well, I’m never coming out’.

“How the fuck can this person do this to young kids and have such a strong stance on something so fucking horrible? Everyone’s entitled to believe what they want, but when it comes to dictating who someone loves, I think that is absolutely disgusting, especially when it’s consensual. So, on ‘Molotov’, I took a stance of letting people love who they love. Fuck you if you’re trying to corrupt people to join your religion just for the sake of it, to make them scared of doing anything wrong in your eyes.”

Protest songs are important in pop culture, though the risk can outweigh the reward. But is that something Stand Atlantic really care about?

“At the end of the day, I know I’m not a fucking political figure,” Bonnie explains. “I can’t really go out there and be like ‘Boris Johnson sucks, and so does Donald Trump’ – I’m not going to do that; I will leave it to people who are way more educated on that subject.

“But ‘Molotov’ is a more personal thing I felt I could take a stance on from experience. At the same time, when I’m writing this shit, I don’t want it to be explicit that that’s what I’m saying – I want people to still be able to relate it to something else. If they feel trapped and someone is telling them what to do, they should be able to listen to that song and feel it.”

Songs like ‘Bloodclot’ and ‘Molotov’ may have been born with ease, but pulling ‘F.E.A.R.’ together wasn’t a walk in the park. Looking back, writing sessions blur into one, and certain songs almost hit the cutting room floor.

“I feel like the whole time I was at Stevie’s house, writing was a fucking mess,” Bonnie recalls. “You’d start one song and finish it the following week, and in the meantime, you’ve written three others. You’d lose track of what came first. I have no fucking clue when we thought the album was actually coming together.”

Better yet, there were times Stand Atlantic couldn’t agree on single sections of songs. Like policies in parliament, they spent days, weeks, even months deliberating over them. It was as if they were in a tug of war, having to learn to work together before songs got lifted from the rubbish pile to the recycling.

“We had all these songs like ‘Hair Out’ and ‘Dumb’, which everyone really liked in the sense of melody and stuff, but everyone was like ‘we like this, but we hate this’,” explains Miki. “Like the original ‘Dumb’, it was the best and the worst ever, but once we had those songs, we had to add more Stand Atlantic stuff to them.”

While ‘Hair Out’ and ‘Dumb’ needed some Stand Atlantic love, others were crash test dummies that took trial and error to get right. Take the edgy electro-rock meets pop-punk pomp of ‘Switchblade’, a song that nearly sent them spiralling into insanity.

“’Switchblade’ was a piece of shit. I hated it,” Bonnie exclaims, laughing in exhaustion, “We had this chorus where all of us were like ‘eh’. You’d listen to it enough and finally be used to it, but I don’t want to listen to it like 20 times to be okay with it, so we had to go back and back and back until we found a chorus that worked – even now it triggers me.”

“I feel like we’ve gotten to ‘Switchblade’ chorus eight. I don’t even know which ones are which anymore, to be honest,” Miki chimes in, clear that as much as they’re happy with ‘F.E.A.R.’, they’ve truly been pushed to their limits by it. “Not that everyone hated the song, but everyone was just over it. Everyone gave up, and I was like ‘no, we have to put this on’ – I fought for that.”

"I want to get sued by Pornhub. How funny would that be?" 
Bonnie Fraser

In many ways, the difficulties they dealt with were channelled into the album title and its accompanying artwork. When your world is covered in flames and burning down all around you, why not let everyone feel that?

“I wanted to create an image of hell, but then I was like ‘well, that’ll be a bit too serious’, so I thought, ‘let’s put the devil in his pyjamas’,” laughs Bonnie, who ended up taking to social media to bring her vision of madness to life.

“I found this dude on Instagram whose stuff is sick. I didn’t want to do anything that everyone else has done. I don’t know if we’re at the point where we want to put ourselves on the cover, so I thought we could put the devil on in his pyjamas and jog the fuck on - oh and put some fire on so you’re good to go.”

That same attitude transcended over to the title. It was a phrase Bonnie had been toying with for some time. Only, she wasn’t sure whether it was a song or something more.

“It’s weird, because every album we’ve done, I’ve had the title before the songs are written, which is either stupid or genius. But on this one, I didn’t think of it for the album. I just kept trying to put it in songs. I tried eight different songs, and I was like, ‘this sucks’ every time, so I forgot about it.

“I was really struggling to name the album because there’s no concept to it; it’s just me being moody. I went through my notes to check if there’s anything fucking genius that I wrote down, and then I saw ‘Fuck Everything And Run’. And it spells ‘F.E.A.R.’. I was like, ‘that’s actually sick’. It encapsulates everything this album is about. It’s a snapshot of how I was feeling and where the fuck I was the entire time.”

On reflection, ‘F.E.A.R.’ is the album that cost Stand Atlantic so much on every level. It exhausted them mentally, physically, and spiritually. But it’s also the album that’ll catapult them further towards the forefront of alternative music’s future. And it’s one they can look back on with immense pride at having made it past the perils it put them through.

“Once an album is done, I’m like ‘how the fuck did we pull that off?’, Bonnie questions. “I’ll go back and write out all the lyrics for the album sleeve, and I’m like, ‘oh, I didn’t know I could write that. That’s pretty good.’

“I feel like I second guess and doubt myself all the time until I actually do something and look back on it and go, ‘okay, Bon, you did alright.’ Realising you’ve got all these songs that you’ve worked so hard on through the most tumultuous time is pretty nice. I’m pretty proud of myself.”

Taken from the June issue of Upset. Stand Atlantic’s album ‘F.E.A.R.’ is out now.

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