Trophy Eyes have binned off some of their baggage of old for a much-needed fresh start. Their third album 'The American Dream' sees a line-up change after the departure of drummer Callum Cramp, vocalist John Floreani upping sticks from Australia to find himself in (you guessed it) the US, and a whole new sound influenced by some arena rock legends. “Where other people may have felt it too hard to continue, we persisted,” John explains.
It sounds like you guys have been through a lot since the last record - what prompted your move to Texas? That’s a crazy long way from Australia.
Like every good story, I met a girl. Australia held some pretty dark memories and ties to my past that I no longer wanted to bare. I decided to go to Texas and start new. I think we’ve all craved that at some point in our lives – a fresh start where no one knows who you are with a chance to live a normal life; settle down and enjoy the quiet.
Is it a very different place to live? What have been the biggest hurdles to overcome?
I didn’t really experience any hurdles I don’t think. It was an easy transition into a friend circle that quickly turned into family. I guess the hardest part was accepting everyone’s kindness and hospitality after living on my own and depending on myself exclusively since I was about 17. Letting people love you when you don’t feel worthy is hard to get accustomed to, but I learnt that love always wins.
What impact has the move had on you, do you feel like you’re still the same person as before?
I did a lot of growing up in Texas. Learning the values of family and community and letting people in definitely changed me. I’m grateful to have experienced normal life for a little while. If you spend enough years being an asshole, you’ll eventually convince yourself that that way of life is all you deserve. Overcoming that kind of self-image was hard, but eventually, I grew to understand that I didn’t have to live like that. Everyone is capable of change, and everyone deserves at least a taste of who they aspire to be.
You’ve had a line-up change too, did Callum have much of a hand in ‘The American Dream’? Has his departure changed the vibe of the band at all?
We signed on our brother and dearest friend Blake Caruso to play drums for Trophy Eyes and cemented him as a member a few months ago. The vibe inside the band has changed for the better, and it’s obvious on everyone’s faces that the change has been a good one. Vibes are high, and it’s an absolute pleasure to come to work again.
Callum didn’t have anything to do with 'The American Dream' throughout this writing and recording process. Despite the obvious emotional gymnastics of a member change, we managed to create our best work yet. I think that anyone who can’t see the positive difference in Trophy Eyes’ energy intertwined with this body of work is delusional.
Was the future of Trophy Eyes ever in doubt?
There will always be times where you question what it is that you do. I think everyone in Trophy Eyes is guilty of that. The closest we ever got to calling it quits was because of the unhealthy creative environment we’d found ourselves in and being subject to extremely antisocial behaviours. We worked together to find the problem and fix it. Now the bond between everyone in Trophy Eyes is stronger than I can ever remember, and our dream as a group of starry-eyed musicians has been realised again. I think that’s what defines the difference between here and now bands, and those that we’ll still be listening to in ten years – their ability to overcome and persist. Where other people may have felt it too hard to continue, we persisted and can now wholeheartedly deny that the future of Trophy Eyes was ever in question, or ever will be.
You've cited U2, The Killers and Coldplay as an influence, and it feels like that comes through in the album - what about those acts resonates with you?
Well, they’re my favourite bands, so I’ve always listened to them – since I was a child, even. What appeals to me about those groups is the ability to write a rock song (generally an abrasive and aggressive form of music with distorted instruments, high energy and fast tempos) appeal to so millions of people. Also, the older I get, the more I appreciate their ability to convey emotion and genuine feeling without screaming or banging on their instruments like Neanderthals. I listened to Blink-182 when I was younger because I was full of angst and had so many questions that their sound seemed to answer. Now I’m a little older I tend to enjoy being transported to memories of mine and feelings I’ve had by well-written and tenderly considered pieces of art instead of guys whining about their town and boners and whatever.
Has this slight change in style allowed you to achieve anything on record that previously alluded you?
It may seem like a change, but to us, it’s just better-written versions of what we’ve always been doing. I think that because we’ve never boxed ourselves into one sound or genre confinement, we’ve given ourselves the opportunity to make honest and real music, instead of writing what we think people would like to hear. A band's personality is the most important thing in the music they make, and when it’s translated honestly, you can hear a little bit of everyone come through in the song. That’s what makes a band unique, and I think that’s what everyone should be listening for – that’s the best part!
Like anything, practice makes perfect. Over the last five years, Trophy Eyes have been writing song after song after song, so we’d like to think we’ve achieved things that have previously eluded us. I sing a lot more now, and that has been really fun, and such an important tool in the way we purvey the meaning and emotion in our music. Other things I think we’ve improved on are our songwriting structures and the use of electronic tools to create soundscapes and deliver a more immersive experience for the listener. Things like strings, the use of choirs and musical attributes borrowed from other genres than punk rock have all played a huge part in the making of 'The American Dream'.
’You Can Count On Me' is quite an angry track - was there a specific event that sparked it? Do you feel to have been misjudged in the past?
I don’t think it’s as much angry as it is a rebuttal or even a push back. Artists are treated like garbage these days and I find it funny that a child that still lives with their parents and knows nothing of adversity, hard work, or what that artist is experiencing in their lives at that time, feels as if they have the right to tell them “I hope you roll your van and die” because they didn’t like their song. The fact is that our music belongs to us and we write it with our souls and our hearts. If the listener doesn’t like it, that’s just fine; they don’t have to. That’s the beauty of music – you can listen to whatever the fuck you like. Where 'YCCOM' comes in to play is when children start thinking it’s okay to wish death on someone, pick on their physical appearance or slander an artist on a public platform about something they know nothing about. 'YCCOM' is just a little wake-up call to tell them that the entire music industry is laughing at them and that we don’t owe them anything. Again, we have no problem with people who express their negative opinions about what we do; hell, we do it too. We just don’t like bullies.
How do you think fans will react to your new sound, are you expecting a backlash?
I think the music will speak for itself. I don’t think anyone actually thought we could write music like this, so I’m very excited to show it to the world and positively surprise our listeners.
What would you like listeners to take away from the album?
Whatever they like. I wrote these songs about how I feel, and I tried my hardest to make them sound like that feeling. That’s really my only job as a songwriter at the end of the day. But if you take anything from this record, I hope it’s a genuine feeling that you cannot deny. The smell of your grandmother’s garden in the spring, the taste of dirt in your mouth the first time you lost a fight in the playground, the sound of the glass breaking in the bag you dropped full of alcohol you stole from your dad’s cabinet when you were 17. That’s all I could ever ask – just a real-life feeling.
How do you see Trophy Eyes evolving over the next few years? To what extent will the reaction to ‘The American Dream’ inform what you do next?
It won’t. It never has. We write the music we love and will continue to do that for the rest of our careers. I think you’re wasting your time if you don’t intend to go into the studio and write your favourite ever record every time. The one thing that I’d love to happen for Trophy Eyes is to be the first band to play in space. That would be cool.
Taken from the August issue of Upset, out now. Trophy Eyes' album 'The American Dream' is out 3rd August.
Featuring Death Cab For Cutie, Bury Tomorrow, As It Is and more!