January 7, 2020 Interview – Ahren Stringer of The Amity Affliction
The term Metalcore often becomes synonymous with a large group of bands that, for the most part, sound very similar. A stylistic approach to heavy music that was born as early as the ’90s, but rose to prominence in the 2000s, there are a few bands in the modern era that have stood out from the pack and one of them is The Amity Affliction.
With a history that dates back 15 years, Australia’s The Amity Affliction has always been a band with unforgettable clean vocals, a flawless balance of aggression and melody, as well as gut-wrenching, personal lyrics. Debuting at number 1 on the ARIA Charts with each of their last 4 albums and cracking the USA’s Billboard 200 with each of their last 3 albums, The Amity Affliction is living proof that presence and dedication can take you quite far.
Most recently changing it up for their 2018 Misery album, they continue to look to find new ways to challenge themselves as they prepare to unleash a new album sooner than later. Exhausted from relentless touring yet inspired to keep plugging ahead, Bassist/Co-Lead Vocalist Ahren Stringer resent sat down to chat about the long, interesting history of the band, life away from home, plans for new music, plus much more.
Cryptic Rock – It has been a little over 15 years since The Amity Affliction has been established. In that time you have released six studio albums, toured the world over and over again, and built a very strong following. How would you describe the journey the band has been on thus far?
Ahren Stringer – A lot of hard work, a lot of touring, very draining – mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s a wild ride and almost a blur thinking about it at times. At the end of the day we’re living our dreams, doing what we love to do, and making a living out of it. It’s been surreal up until this point still. It’s really fun, hard, but it’s always what we wanted to do. We’re all very happy with how our career is going and continuing to grow.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, you have done a lot through the years. When you think about it, The Amity Affliction began while you were all still very young. What has it been like growing up in the band?
Ahren Stringer – I can’t really compare it to what most people would call a normal life, but it’s been great. Like I said, it’s a lot of sacrificing because we don’t live so much of a normal life. You get home and people say “You remember when this happened?,” and you say, “No, I wasn’t here.”
You miss out on normal life at home, that’s really the hardest part. Growing up and doing crazy shit – we’ve seen so much of the world, we really can’t complain. Most people will never see the world and we do it for a living. It’s been crazy and very surreal. There are places I would have never really been, or want to go to, if it weren’t for the band. It’s really eye-opening and it’s very cool to say, “I’ve actually been there. Holy shit!” Half the time you only see the inside of the green room, but it’s still cool to have been so many crazy places that I would never thought of going to.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it is a very fun and educational experience. As mentioned, The Amity Affliction has released six studio albums, including 2018’s Misery. This was a very different album for the band – it has the signature sound of The Amity Affliction, but it has experimental elements. What was the inspiration for the change in direction?
Ahren Stringer – I think as we’re getting older we want to push ourselves and try different things. Me and Dan listen to a lot of ’80s inspired stuff – we wanted to try and not just pigeonhole ourselves and try something new. You want to try and see what else you can do and are capable of, so we really pushed the boundaries on that record. We tried all the things we wanted to do, and made music that we listen to, without compromising our fanbase; keeping everyone happy, including ourselves.
I think we tried as best as we could to maintain the signature sound like you said, but tried a few things to keep ourselves and our fanbase interested. If you keep writing the same record it gets a bit old for the fans, as well. We just tried to do as much different stuff as we could and keep everyone happy.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. You want to keep challenging yourself and the listeners. What would be the point of making the same album over and over again, right?
Ahren Stringer – Exactly. Who knows, we might put out a really heavy album, then a half/half album, just to keep everyone guessing. Also to keep ourselves motivated and hungry to try new stuff.
Cryptic Rock – It is good to keep things fresh. Speaking of new music, you released the new song “All My Friends Are Dead” back in September. A very heavy song, is this a prelude of what is to come with new music?
Ahren Stringer – We’re definitely toying with doing some more heavier stuff. I think that is probably the heaviest song we have ever written to be honest – we’ve never done a blast beat in a song before, so we said fuck it, let’s try it out. It’s really fun to play live. We might do a bit more of that stuff, and also we will do some other songs that are even softer and more Pop than other stuff we’ve done. Again, we are just trying to push the boundaries of heavy and soft at the same time. We’re excited to start writing and recording the next album with all of that in mind.
Cryptic Rock – That is something to look forward to. The band uses dueling leading vocalists with yourself and Joel. With many bands doing this, The Amity Affliction really seem to excel well above the standard with this. What is it like combining your voices and deciding what is sung by who and when?
Ahren Stringer – There are kind of three jobs in our band: Dan writes all the music now; Joel writes the lyrics, as he always has; and I’m kind of the composer. I will pick the songs Dan writes and say, “I like this one.” I will pick the lyrics Joel has written and say, “This song fits to this one.” I will then say, “This part is heavy, Joel can do that. This part, I’ve got a hook for this. I’ll sing this part here.” Once it’s all mapped out, that’s how it is. We’ll try different parts – if it’s a really singy song, or melodic, you can’t really scream, so we will say Joel you sing this part. Whatever fits kind of works. We will try different stuff in the studio – if it sticks it sticks, if it doesn’t we will switch it around.
Cryptic Rock – It all works well in the end. The songs really tap into a raw emotion. Part of that is the singing, part is the music, and part are the lyrics which are all very personal. Everyone can relate to these songs in one way or another.
Ahren Stringer – For sure. I think that is a great part of our success as a band is being relatable. If you see a funny meme it’s funny because it’s relatable. I think people really resonate with that. If they hear lyrics that relate to their lives or something they’ve experienced, it makes the song that much more special to them.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed. Another thing the band has excelled at is some really powerful music videos. Do you all have equal input in the direction and design of the music videos?
Ahren Stringer – Usually Joel has the ideas for the video and we just go along with it. He’s been taking charge of the music videos since Chasing Ghosts. We just go, “Alright, that sounds cool. Let’s do it!” (Laughs) Sometimes it works out – music videos are very hard. Sometimes you have these grand ideas and sometimes they don’t work out, it’s very painful. (Laughs) It’s hit or miss, especially when you’re working with people you don’t know. The days leading up to it turn to minutes, and at the end of the day sometimes it doesn’t come out how you planned it. It never comes out exactly how you planned it, but it is what it is, especially with budgets.
The last three were my favorites, but I think the length of them didn’t end up working because people didn’t watch them that many times. I think people these days have nanosecond attention spans; that is why rappers are only making minute and a half songs, so they can get their numbers up. Music is changing drastically and so are music videos.
Cryptic Rock – It’s true. Let’s hope people can start to have an attention span for more than a minute and a half song. (Laughs)
Ahren Stringer – Right! (Laughs) Our next album is 30 second bangers – Punk Rock’s not dead!
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) So the band finished up some North American touring this year, you went to Europe, and now you are going back to Australia for shows in early 2020. How has touring been in 2019 for the band?
Ahren Stringer – It’s been great. We’ve been on tour for a long time, so we are kind of at wit’s end at this moment. The Australian tour this year was unreal, as usual – we haven’t done a stadium tour in Australia since the one with Day to Remember. Then we went to Japan for the first time and it was awesome! The Japanese crowd is amazing: they are so respectful, nice, and appreciative of everything. We then finished up the North American tour with Sum 41 in America and it was great. Now we are home after a solid four months of touring. I’m excited to have a couple of months off, detox, relax, and enjoy some time at home with the family.
Cryptic Rock – The break is much deserved. You are based out of Australia where you are from, but you are always wearing Baltimore Orioles’ or Ravens’ gear on stage. Tell us about the connection between The Amity Affliction and Baltimore.
Ahren Stringer – I’ve just always been a huge baseball fan. When we first went to America to record Youngbloods in 2010 we went to Citi Field to see the Mets and Florida Marlins, as they were back then. I just fell in love with baseball all over again and I decided to pick a team. I was really into HBO’s The Wire at the time and there was a character called Stringer Bell, and everyone started calling me String.
I said well, “Baltimore’s my team.” They were the worst in the league: Australians love a good underdog, so I picked them. Even now they are still the worst team in the league. (Laughs) I’m stuck with them for life, I’ve got multiple O’s tattoos. I just decided all my teams are going to be in the DMV – the Ravens, Capitals, and O’s. I don’t really care about basketball, so I’m not a Wizards fan. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – That is really cool, and it is something sports fan might have been very curious about. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
Ahren Stringer – I hate Science Fiction: I am not a fan of Star Wars or any of that. I’m not a huge Horror guy, but I love dark shit. I’m more of a real life murder mystery kind of guy. I like Fantasy: I like The Lord of the Rings, but I don’t like space stuff. (Laughs) I don’t know why, it just really grinds my gears.
Cryptic Rock – Well Sci-Fi is not for everyone. Have you caught the Netflix series Mindhunter yet?
Ahren Stringer – I haven’t actually, but it has been recommended by a few friends. There is just so much Comedy I’d rather watch. I just got into Leather Kenny, it’s a Canadian version of Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That’s more my speed.