On their latest album 'Endless' (out now on Fat Wreck Chords), Melbourne punks CLOWNS do it all. The 12 songs that make up the album swerve right and left abruptly, veering from frenetic punk to slower more psychedelic-tinged rock. But how does it hold up to their older work? We asked the band to rank all of their full-lengths and vocalist Stevie Williams was kind enough to rise to the challenge.
5. I'm Not Right (Poison City Records, 2013)
The album's name is a bit of a call to how I feel about it now, haha. I think if I could go back and change it, I would, but it was also my first-ever record I played on and a bridging point to where I am now. So, for better or worse, it's now imprinted in our back catalog.
Many of these songs were written when I was a teenager in my bedroom, and I listen back to the lyrics and marvel at a time when my life stresses and inspirations that seemed so overwhelming were actually, in hindsight, very small. A lot of hardcore Clowns fans will call this one their favorite album, claiming they love the raw energy of it. But I suspect they actually love the self-satisfaction of letting people know they have paid attention to us from the start.
Listening back to this record for me is like flicking through old photos from high school. I actually think it was a really good shot at making a record considering we were a bunch of clueless kids without a manager and not a hint of how to play the music game correctly. The fact that we even got 12 songs together, saved our pennies, recorded them semi-professionally, pieced together a 30-date Australian tour to support it without a booking agent, and released the record on a 12-inch (with the help of the local indie label Poison City) makes me reminisce and think, not bad, kids.
Of course, there was a lot more we could've done better, and I cringe sometimes at the sense of myself from back in those days. But I think if my 19-year-old self could see me now through some kind of time machine lens, they would also cringe, so, touche, shithead teenage Stevie, touche.
4. Nature/Nurture (Fat Wreck Chords, 2019)
This album feels like the band's second album, despite being our fourth. It was post-Lucid Again/post-band reinvention and our first dance with Fat Wreck Chords. I think by this stage, we had settled into our new status as not-a-local band-not-super-famous-band, somewhere kinda frustratingly in the middle. We started playing far more overseas than in Australia, and it was our first record to actually make it into the Australian music charts.
I reckon the record is pretty good, but I wouldn't give it to a first-time listener of the band because, in my opinion, we have more impressive work. It did achieve us a lot, but some cunt enjoying a dinner of bat in a cave near Wuhan, China, had different plans for us the year after its release. We kinda needed a break anyway, so whatever.
3. Lucid Again (Poison City Records / This Charming Man Records, 2017)
Probably our most obscure record. Following the release of Bad Blood, our band was going through rapid changes. The stress of growing touring and growing pains from the band forced toxicity to flourish in our band dynamic. We actually thought the band might break up, but in a last-ditch effort, myself and drummer Jake decided to kick out the members who were proving to be unmanageable and unworkable, and who, looking back, were also not coping with the project's growth very well (we really tried to make it work, but sometimes it just won't, sorry dudes!). We reinvented the band, making a record that fully satisfied our creative desires and steered pretty far away from our previously released and mentioned record, despite its successes.
We turned the project into a 5-piece and added our second singer, Hanny J. When the band was achieving its highest level of success but was at its most toxic, we basically threw the entire project up in the air to see if it would land on its feet and recorded a psychedelia-meets-punk 40-minute, 9-track record. I think it confused our burgeoning audience. Everyone was expecting a third hardcore punk record, but instead, they got something completely different.
I do think that if we had released a third album that called to the same sound as our first two, we probably would have painted ourselves into a hardcore punk box that would be very hard to break free from. So, this album really served as a chance to broaden the sound of our band and turn the project into something that we can now very freely explore a huge span of creative boundaries in. The album didn't really make the band much more popular, but it did sustain our popularity and bridge us into a new era of the band that didn't make me want to quit it every time I got into the tour van or a rehearsal space. I think it's an interesting listen, and when I go back to it, I do think it's a unique record that doesn't resemble much else out there. If you don't like it, I guess your ears are simply not as creatively mature as mine.
2. Bad Blood (Poison City Records, 2015)
Generally regarded as the best Clowns album by listeners of our band. We wrote this album again with no other intention than to try to make the best Clowns album with the flavors we had already been playing with for a few years. Our band has never experienced a sharp and intense rise in popularity like you see some bands get; it's been a slow burn constantly building. Bad Blood, however, did probably feel like the strongest burn to date. It achieved us our first-ever international record deals, landed us on festival stages, and had us performing for crowd sizes that blew our little minds.
1. ENDLESS (Fat Wreck Chords, 2023)
Dudes in bands are so typical. We are pained artists who self-chose a life of artistic fulfillment at the cost of maintaining a stable and normal lifestyle. We act like we've been forced into a crappy life circumstance, complaining about missing our friends and family as we jet around the world, living a lifestyle many struggle to achieve. When we return home, we gripe to our friends and family about missing being on tour and suffering from the dreaded post-tour depression. We're an impossible breed, with a satisfaction level set painfully too high for even ourselves to reach. We think our most recent work is the best we've ever created, and, being a massive stereotype, I'm no different.
Our new album ENDLESS possesses pretty much all the qualities of our band that people have come to like. This time, we decided to leave out all the stuff that our YouTube comments section has criticised us for over our career. We had no further intention with this record other than wanting to make the best Clowns record. We haven't toured it yet, but it's received our first-ever 5/5 reviews in magazines and doubled our monthly listeners on Spotify.