Rob Zombie, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj may not be too fond of them, but we sure love Clowns ever since we saw them tear it up at Groezrock in 2017. We caught up with drummer Jake Laderman and guitarist Jarrod Goon at last weekend’s Sjock Festival to talk about how they went from their busiest year ever in 2019 to more downtime than they had hoped for, writing new material and and whether or not you should read online comments among other things.
PRT: I saw a post on your Facebook page from December 31st, 2019 that ended with, "See you in 2020. I don't think we even know what's in store for us, but probably something." I'm guessing of all the somethings you thought of, a pandemic wasn't one of them.
Jake: That's so funny, I don't remember that at all.
Jarrod: We had the biggest year of touring we've ever done. We did Europe and Australia twice. Japan, America.
Jake: We were on tour for like, seven months of 2019. I think at that time, the band was sort of like, burned out. So that could have either meant that we were going to break up, or...
Jarrod: I think we'd finished this massive run and for once in the band's history, we actually didn't have anything locked in. We had a bit of time where we could just chill out, and then we ended up getting two and a half years.
Jarrod: I do remember getting off the plane after that last European tour in 2019, and I was like, "Man, I never want to get on a plane ever again." And then it was a while until we got on a plane again.
Jake: Be careful what you wish for.
PRT: I was just wondering, if you've been semi-dormant for two years, is it hard to get back into it?
Jake: I feel trying to get back into a rehearsal routine has been really hard for everybody. Everyone is just... I feel like we've aged 30 years in two years.
Jarrod: When all the lockdowns ended, life came back so fast and there was so much shit happening. It was hard to find time to rehearse as well. We just all had so much on our plates.
Jake: And because we toured so much in 2019, me and Hanny both developed injuries from playing. So the break was a really good thing for our injuries. But now we're back on tour again I'm like, "Oh yeah, everything hurts."
PRT: Being on tour now, have you already noticed a lot of differences with COVID still lurking around the corner? Or is it business as usual for you guys?
Jarrod: I was a bit concerned about coming back to Europe, because this is our first international tour since COVID. And I didn't know what it was going to be like. I was like, "Is it going to be like it used to be?" But we got over here and it's been basically the same, there hasn't been a lot of difference.
Jake: Most of us have had COVID recently, so it almost felt like we were given a free pass, like, "Go enjoy yourselves." When we first went into it, we were like, "Do we wear masks? Do we avoid crowds?" But you get here and you realize it's impossible, you can't do it.
Jarrod: We should all probably be wearing masks everywhere, but it’s difficult.
Jake: It doesn't help that we drink beer and spit it in each other's mouths.
PRT: From the times that I've seen you guys play live, you guys give it your all when you're on stage. I was just wondering, how hard is it to muster up that same kind of energy, night, after night, after night?
Jake: I don't know about you, but I sort of feel like maybe in the lead up to the show, I might be feeling a bit flat, a bit tired. But as soon as you bust into the first two songs, you just feed off the energy of the people. And it's like a... I don't know, maybe it's a credit to Stevie running out and being crazy, but it's easy to vibe off the crowd.
Jarrod: Yeah, yeah. It is nice having Stevie running around and getting everyone pumped up, because if everyone's just standing there, then we're probably not going to be as energetic. But it's everyone feeding off everyone. It kind of becomes second nature. Especially when we're doing like 30 dates, like this tour. Now, we're what, 12 shows in or something?
Jake: Almost halfway, yeah.
Jarrod: Yeah. And we're kind of really locking into our set. And as soon as that first chord rings out, we're like, "All right, we're back. Let's do it." It's kind of exciting, that doesn't really wear off. Especially at a festival like this, where there's lots of people there. It's exciting.
Jake: We've also done a lot of openings. I think maybe this is our fourth opening slot on a festival and I keep thinking to myself like, "Maybe there'll be no one there." But every single one has been really good. And it's just a real testament to Europe, and maybe everyone feeling very starved of music. It's fucking rad. We've had a really good time.
Jarrod: It's very different to Australia. If we were opening festivals in Australia, there would be not many people there. I feel like in Australia, everyone stands outside and smokes cigarettes until the main bands are... Whereas over here, it doesn't matter who the band is, first band, everyone's always there.
PRT: I think it helps that you made quite the impression when you played that show at Groezrock in 2017. I remember walking by and thinking, "What the fuck is going on here?". And then I was like, "Oh, Clowns is playing."
Jarrod: Oh, that was our first ever European festival.
Jake: We often consider that show to be the single greatest Clowns show of all time, because so many people who were at that show helped us get to the next thing. I think without that show, we wouldn't be here to date.
PRT: I was just mentioning that Facebook post, where you talk about 2019. I was wondering, what have the past two years for you been like as a band, and personally?
Jarrod: Personally, I was lucky back home. My dad runs a business, and I was able to work with him throughout the whole time. So life for me was pretty normal, apart from locking down.
Jarrod: I feel like everyone’s priorities became more focused because they were stuck at home. And you got to think about what you're doing with your life. I feel like it was okay for me. It was stressful, but it was okay.
Jarrod: In terms of the band, I feel like we just tried to stay in touch all the time. We'd record riffs at home and send them to each other. I guess every band was doing that. And I think we came out the other side more eager to play more shows.
Jake: It's kind of funny, because as we said before, our 2019 was so busy. I think that we were burning the candle at both ends so much, to the point where a band member left, because they were like, "I can't do this anymore." And we respected that, of course. I think if the world didn't throw us a break, we wouldn't have done it. We would've just kept going, and going, and going. And I think for all of our personal lives, it was really good to just take a minute.
Jarrod: We needed it.
Jake: And we all got home recording equipment, and started sending files to each other. And now we're all really into that. It was a really good thing to learn. And we released two songs where we tried to do something way differently. We co-wrote songs over Zoom with some really big shot songwriters. And ironically, maybe wrote songs that we don't even like very much.
PRT: Really? I liked those songs.
Jake: Yeah, we didn't play either of those songs today. We tried to do maybe more pop-sounding songs and recorded with a different producer. And I'm really glad we did it. But it also made us realize how comfortable we are in our situation, with the person that we normally record with. And we realized that high energy punk rock is what we do best.
Jarrod: And we still try to break out of the mold and never make any albums sound the same. But we don't need to go through all these extra steps to do it, we just got to write music that we want to write. And we can still do that and make it interesting, I guess.
PRT: I remember hearing ‘Sarah’ and ‘Does It Matter’ and thinking "Oh, are they heading in a different direction?" But no.
Jake: I think that the next record that we're writing is one of our best records. And I know it's really easy for anyone to say that as a band, but the songs are coming together really well. Maybe with the aid of knowing how to use the home recording equipment, we're actually getting to hear what it's going to sound like a bit more. And yeah, it's a punk record.
Jarrod: It's going to be high energy.
Jake: There is maybe one pop song that I can think of. Hanny sings a song on this next record, and it's kind of pop sounding, but still high energy.
PRT: So is the new album a priority, or will there be loads more touring first?
Jake: I guess when we get home, we'll finish it.
Jarrod: Yeah. It's a pretty high priority for us. Obviously, we really had to come back to Europe, we didn't want to miss another summer here. So, that was quite important. But we've also been working as hard as we can to get the songs ready for the new record. We already demoed a couple of songs and we've got another bunch in the works. Hopefully towards the end of the year, we'll be able to hit the studio and get it down.
Jake: I think we'll release our record next year. It's like, three quarters done. We just got to get home and try and...
Jarrod: Sleep for a while.
PRT: You also run your own label now? Damaged Records?
Jake: So it's Stevie, Jarrod and myself. We run Damaged together. That was a really good side hustle during COVID times, because we couldn't play. We started the label before the pandemic, so it already existed. And then being stuck at home and stuff, it actually allowed us to work on other releases, for other bands. And it turns out it's a pretty addictive habit. It's fun.
Jarrod: Just because we needed more shit on our plate.
Jake: We were privileged to work with really good bands. It's easy. We love it.
PRT: Was it the idea to sign other bands right off the bat, or was it more to like take control of Clowns?
Jarrod: A bit of both, really.
Jake: Yeah, a bit of both. When you're in a touring band, and you have five people, and you have to fly everyone around, you obviously start to think about ways you can save money in any way, because there's so many expenses. And we did the math and were like, "You know, if we can sell X amount of records ourselves, why don't we just do it ourselves?" Obviously that came with a lot of challenges, because running a label is not as easy as it sounds, as anyone who has ever run a label would tell you. There's so many moving parts.
Jarrod: And it definitely makes you appreciate the labels that we've worked with, because we've worked with some really great labels over the years, and we still do. But learning how to do it from scratch is interesting. I've learned so much throughout the process.
PRT: For the rest of the world, you guys signed to Fat Wreck and are only the second Australian band ever to do so. Did you notice a difference when you went back to the States?
Jake: Yeah. Fat Wreck Chords have been so good to us. They are genuinely a very punk label. Not by genre, by the fact that they are so giving, they helped us out a lot. We never thought we'd go to America ever again. They helped us with visas, which cost a lot of money, and they put us on a tour with some of their bands on their roster like Teenage Bottlerocket and Mean Jeans. And it was probably the best thing for us at the time, really. We would only go back to America for stuff like that now.
Jarrod: Yeah. It's a difficult country to tour, compared to coming over to Europe. It's more similar to touring Australia. You have to get in your van, get there, and play your show. Get your two beer tokens between five people, and then find a place to stay. And yeah, so we did six weeks there on that last tour, and it really tested us out. But having Fat help us out, that was really good for us. And I feel like it was noticeable in a lot of cities, that people had heard our record, because Fat put it out there.
Jake: They definitely have a lot of '90s, NOFX-worshipping people who really pay attention.
Jake: But then at the same time, it's a niche market.
Jarrod: And we sound nothing like NOFX. I remember when we put out a video and Fat would put it on their YouTube channel. Don't ever read the comments about your own music or whatever. It was actually hilarious just reading some of the die hard Fat fans being like, "What is this shit?"
Jake: What were they saying that about you again? Like, "Oh, that's Fat slash."
Jarrod: Yeah. They called me like, Fat Slash, or something. Guess I need a top hat.
Jake: You know how they always say like, "Don't read the comments." We can't help ourselves, because it's just so fucking funny.
Jarrod: We send screenshots of the most abusive comments and we all laugh about it. If someone calls you Fat Slash you can be like, "Oh." But I'm like, whoever that motherfucker is sitting behind a keyboard, they cared enough to comment. They heard our new song and watched the video. Sweet.
PRT: Do you read album reviews as well?
Jake: Well, you can't help it, you know? You want to know what people think. I think when we did Lucid Again, the reviews were really good. And I was like, "I'm going to read reviews from now on." But then we released Nature Nurture and the reviews were not as good.
Jarrod: I think it was just the reach was further, so people were listening to it who had never heard of our band before.
Jake: It just made me be like, "Oh, you gave it a three?"
Jarrod: It's like, "I worked so fucking hard on that album."
Jake: Yeah. And it honestly makes me hate music critics, but at the same time they need to exist, right?
PRT: Do they though? I've been writing reviews for 20 years and recently I was like, "Does anybody still care?” It’s so easy to listen to everything now and then just make up your own mind. It’s not like you still need to go out and buy the album first.
Jarrod: I like reading reviews of all different records. Not just the ones that we've done, but I feel like it's nice sometimes. If you're not somewhere where you can listen to the record and you go, "Oh, I wonder how this band's new record is?" And if you see a review pop up, you can just go, "Oh yeah, cool. I'm going to listen to that now."
PRT: In the last couple of years there seems to be an explosion of Australian bands. Is there really an explosion, or is it just the world finally taking notice?
Jake: I had this exact conversation today with someone else. My personal opinion is that the world is now paying attention more. I think that there's always been great Australian music. Amyl and The Sniffers and The Chats are fucking rad bands. But they have only scratched the surface. There are so many great bands.
Jarrod: I mean, Stiff Richards are playing here tomorrow. They're another great Australian band.
Jake: I don't want to say that Australia has better music than anywhere else, but there is a lot of great music that comes out of Australia. And I think that it's only a matter of time... Stiff Richards, as Jarrod just said. I think that they've just started going overseas just like a few other bands that we are friends with. People are paying attention to Australian music, and it's just a cool thing.
Jarrod: And it's quite comforting going to a venue somewhere in Europe, and going there, you walk in, and you can hear the music playing and it's one of our friends' bands. It makes us feel at home.
PRT: Does being from Australia put you at a disadvantage at first, purely in terms of logistics?
Jake: I think if you're from Australia, you're so far away from everybody that people are willing to pay the money to travel. Because you have to. If you want to travel, you have to fork it out. So even though we are a million miles away, it doesn't really feel like it.
Jarrod: And also it's kind of nice, because wherever we play, apart from Australia, we are always the weird foreign band from so far away. So, it's cool talking about it with people.
PRT: I wanted to try something new with you guys that I haven't done before. I was looking at the most asked questions on Google and was wondering if maybe we could help people out with some of the things they're obviously struggling with?
Jarrod: Let's do it.
PRT: The first one I found was... 'What does it mean to be an Australian?'
Jarrod: Spicy question. It's hard to be proud to be from a country that is built off stealing from the oldest culture in the world. So, I don't think it means a lot to be Australian until things are made right, or attempts are at least made to make things better in Australia. Then it might mean it a bit more. But for now, it doesn't mean a lot to me.
Jake: I feel like that question has changed landscapes over the course of our adolescent life. I think that we've all grown up to learn what is considered to be Australian in a traditional, or stereotypical way. It's just really, pretty uncool, you know? Australia's a very racist country. We have a really fucked government. And I think the most Australian thing that we all try and strive to do is just to be better. And in like a political sense, we've now at least got the worser of two evils out of office, but there's a long way to go.
Jake: I think it's endearing that when we come overseas, people think that Australian culture is funny and stuff like that. We laugh about it. But also, if you think about it in a literal sense, it's not a proud place to be from most of the time.
PRT: Is the Aboriginal situation still very much a hot topic in Australia? Because that's something we never ever hear anything about.
Jake: It's a big thing in Australia, because despite years of slavery, and years of oppression, we still have these people in the office that just don't care for indigenous rights.
Jarrod: And they make it known that they don't give a fuck as well. They publicly are just really racist, there's no other word for it.
Jake: And it's just a waiting game for these people to fucking die and get some younger people through. At least I hope that's a solution. I think everybody, especially our generation, are all hoping for change soon. Probably like everywhere else, you know?
Jarrod: Every country's got its problems, but Australia's got a lot of them
PRT: Last one... "Can we go to heaven with tattoos?"
Jake: I don't think so. I think we're fucked.
Jarrod: I think hell will be a pretty fun place regardless. There's going to be some pretty cool people down there.
Jake: Yeah. David Bowie.
Jarrod: Did Bowie have tattoos?
Jake: He was into rock and roll, he's going to hell.
Jarrod: Yeah, yeah. Of course. Devil's music. So the answer is, "No."
PRT: Okay. Definite no.
Jake: I'm pretty sure Dio is the devil himself. So, that's where we want to be.