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August 2020
Cover feature

Faim Academy

From the moment they broke through, there was no doubt that whatever year The Faim dropped their debut album in, would be theirs for the taking - but it hasn't all been smooth sailing...
Published: 9:00 am, December 06, 2019Words: Steven Loftin. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Faim Academy

When Josh Raven and Stephen Beerkens first started making music together, they never could have imagined how far it would take them.

Starting out life as Small Town Heroes back in 2014 before 'getting discovered' and evolving into The Faim, the Aussies were quickly bundled over to LA to write with pop-punk producing legend John Feldmann, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and a number of other top-notch songwriters. The results of those sessions, debut single proper 'Saints Of The Sinners', and later EP 'Summer Is A Curse', created a buzz of rare scale.

Their first major tour, which had them on the road throughout 2018, included several shows on UK shores supporting Lower Than Atlantis, playing scene staples Slam Dunk, Download and Reading & Leeds, and putting on hyped sets at new band stomping grounds The Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City.

Now with the band's debut album 'State Of Mind' having just landed, their future is wide open.

"In complete and utter honesty, the energy going into [the album] wasn't that motivated," Josh admits, reflecting back on the record's starting point. "That's not because we didn't want to write the album, it was more just because our touring schedule was mental."

Once the hype train leaves the station, it's often time to go hard or go home.

"It's definitely a case that we're adapting," Stephen adds. "Everything that we did for the entire first year was uncharted territory; it's a sink or swim situation."

Josh continues: "Time that we were meant to have off we'd end up recording, or touring, or doing things we needed to sort out and organise. We were burnt out, really quite tired."

"Our EP ['Summer Is A Curse'] has taken us all around the world," Stephen explains. "I think by the end of this year, we will have played two-hundred-and-thirty-seven shows in the last eighteen months, which is gnarly."

It's not just their time on the road that has provided "trials and tribulations," as Josh puts it, that have fed into the release. "There are things that have happened in our personal lives, and that reflects in the album as well.

"It's been a very, very difficult growing experience for everyone," Josh expands, "because when you're faced with these challenges, emotionally, physically, you tend to look at yourself in a third-person perspective. Especially when it comes to dedicating a lot of time to writing, and finding the truest part of ourselves to put out in the world."

Faim Academy
Faim Academy
Faim Academy
"Everything we did for the entire first year was uncharted territory"
Stephen Beerkens

The honesty that The Faim put into their music is part of the reason why they've lit a match that shows no signs of burning out.

"People are connecting on such a deeper level," Josh enthuses, "even before we released the album, people knew most of the new songs that we hadn't released yet.

"Now they're released, I think the level of intimacy people have with the songs is really humbling and something that you don't really expect to see happen in the flesh."

With that intimacy comes a less than envious flip-side; one that uproots the normalcy of your everyday life. It's something Waterparks have just tackled head-on with their album 'FANDOM', an astute look at the invasive and often scary obsessions that can develop around those in the public eye.

"Sometimes I'll take a second to tip my hat to and salute people like - not that I'm a huge fan - but people like Justin Bieber," Josh says, "who's so young, younger than me, who grew up in this crazy world of the spotlight. When you're in a band, you constantly feel the pressure. I've got better at handling it, but I put myself under a magnifying glass."

It's especially an issue when everything - and everyone - is so readily available online, he says.

"People inherently compare themselves, you know? This generation is kind of raised on it. Unfortunately, I'm from that bridging age-gap where I had a childhood of not having access to those things. Information is put into your head and put into your face at a thousand miles a minute."

This is part of the reason why Josh and Stephen have put so much focus into writing 'State Of Mind'; it's the echoes of their life, both before and after The Faim took off, but also an attempt to understand a world that feels increasingly volatile and intrusive.

"You can look at mass shootings in the US in a school, to the biggest celebrities messing up, or the next modelling shoot," Josh explains. "It's like an extreme world of information."

"I like to absorb everything and to learn, so I can grow from that," he says. "Our part of the journey has made me a little more aware; a little more honest. It's made me care a little bit less in the sense that I care less about what people think. I realised I need to be the person I have to be for myself. It's easy to get consumed with everything that's around you."

Being who they want to be is why The Faim have been on this relentless journey; the opportunity is there, and they're seizing it. Josh's inner punk comes out when he explains how he "[despises] being told what to do, and how to do things." Which, in a world of relentless comment boxes, thoughts and opinions, doesn't sit too well.

"Being in a band, you get given a lot of opinions and a lot of perspectives. You get given a lot of ways to do things; the handbook on how to do things - which I hate! It taints this progression when you're told as an individual to just follow the same regiment."

"The whole concept - the whole trajectory - of where this band is heading has completely changed since the start," says Stephen. "Especially with you know, half the lineup changing."

"Now the album's released, the level of intimacy people have with the songs is really humbling"
Josh Raven

In August of last year, Michael Bono (bass, keyboard) parted ways with the group following allegations made against him, then in November Sean Tighe (drums, percussion) announced his departure to pursue other projects. Guitarist Samuel Tye and drummer Linden Marrisen stepped in as replacements.

"Those guys coming in has completely reshaped where this band is heading, in the best possible way," Stephen says. "They really like drawing the best out of myself and Josh, and we're doing the same back to them. There's a whole new side of musicality that's coming into everything. We're very excited about what's coming in the future."

The Faim are resilient, that's for sure.

"All the life lessons you learn is crazy," Stephen reflects. "Every day you spend on tour is like ten-twenty days you spend at home; if you've been away for like a year, you come back, and you've got so much experience under your belt. You're so self-sufficient that you then take that back into your everyday life."

"It definitely helps the maturity of the band develop, the more you learn about yourself," he continues. "Not only as a musician but as people, from touring and working with other musicians. You're able to be more engaged in what you want from the band; you feel more comfortable in your own shoes.

"The more you write, the more you work with people, it just opens your mind up to so many different things. Searching for those things that are different intrigues you to create in a different way. It affects your life too, and that's the really cool thing about what we do. It's like one big circle."

"The journey of discovering a unique sound is, in a strange way, a never-ending one," Josh admits. "Which is a good thing. If it were easily attainable, then everyone would be in a band."

Thanks to the accessibility of at-home tools and streaming platforms, these days even your nan could bash out a tune in her bedroom and pop it online for millions to hear, likely more quickly than it takes for her sponge cake to finish cooling. Bands need to push themselves to stand out, and they need to do it fast.

"There's the fine line which sets you apart from other people," Josh agrees, "because the art really doesn't do that. You make a sacrifice for the art by stepping out of your comfort zone, and you never, ever, ever, ever do something within your ability.

"If you do it will never be as great as you want to be - it's a never-ending learning process. Every single day on Spotify, there are thirty-forty thousand [tracks] a day released, so what do you do to be bigger or stand out amongst that? And that's just Spotify! That's just sonic saturation of sound, and it's just trying to really find your unique part in it."

Stephen continues: "It's one of those ever-evolving things, we're always looking for that next thing. I remember my music teacher when I was younger saying real musicians are never satisfied; you're always looking to learn songs, or something else.

"We're super stoked with what we've done and everything, but it's like an itch - you're always looking into the future. You're always excited about the possibilities that are out there that you can keep exploring.

"It's one of those ever-growing things: how can we surprise people even more with what we're gonna do? That surprise is one of the biggest elements of being in the band that you can use in your favour."

Faim Academy
Faim Academy
Faim Academy
Faim Academy
Faim Academy
"You're four bothers that go through it together. Everyone's always there to pick you up"
Stephen Beerkens

Their embracing of change, surprise and far-flung travels has given the band a new appreciation for more homegrown comforts.

"Oh, absolutely, it's [given us] a completely different perspective, Stephen chuckles. "When you get back here [to Australia], you appreciate all the little things like homemade dinners. Ooft, I never thought I would appreciate a homemade dinner as much as I do now!

"Just having time off to yourself, and to reconnect, and have that time with your family. Budgeting that is such a big thing now, it's easy to take that for granted."

For Josh, being the man in the middle, the voice for The Faim, his world is constructed a bit tighter.

"I wouldn't call myself wise," he jokes. "Anyone can be wise. Anyone can be honest with themselves. I think it just takes some level of criticism or understanding; to put a mirror up to yourself and pick out the things that bother you. Mentally and physically, be honest with yourself about how you want to grow. That's being wise."

Is there a part of their journey that made them both feel stronger as people?

"Not stronger, but maybe smarter," Josh muses. "And much more aware of me. I'm twenty-two years old, but I feel much older; I've had to grow up quickly. Moving forward, I'm excited and passionate because I feel like I have a lot to express and a lot to say, but in the most honest and real way possible."

"Sometimes [being in a band] can be a lot," Stephen considers, "but it's essentially like being a unit; you're four brothers that go through it together. Everyone's always there to help you out and pick you up.

"It's not just the band either; it's your family, friends and loved ones along the way. It's them that keep you going, and it's definitely not an easy journey. If it was too easy, everyone would be doing it," Stephen says, mirroring Josh's earlier sentiments.

'State of Mind' has opened up a whole new level of opportunity; personally, musically, and professionally. That inevitably means more miles to travel, by air or tarmac, but "the great thing is when you're on the road with the four of us guys in the band and the two guys in our team, it's a very tight squad."

Stephen's voice swells. "And you know, you've just got to be there for each other. We've been side by side now for almost two straight months, and before that, we only had two weeks off. Then before that, was another couple of months. We spend every day with each other. If you're not with people that can help you out - and at any moment - then, you know, it doesn't work."

So what's next?

"It's an infinity of milestones man," Josh laughs. "As soon as you stop looking for a goal, as soon as you stop looking for a perspective or a vision, then you've lost what you started with. You're back to square one. If you don't have goals, and you don't have milestones, it just won't work." 

Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Upset. The Faim's album 'State Of Mind' is out now. They tour the UK from 7th December.

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