Nature/Nurture is the first Clowns album to come out via their own label, Damaged Record Co. Clowns initially setup Damaged as a grassroots booking agency. Its expansion into a label is indicative of the Melbourne band’s DIY spirit.
“Starting our own label was something that we had discussed doing on previous records,” says drummer Jake Laderman. “I think it being our fourth record, it felt like we wanted a bit of change, just to shake things up a little bit and we figured now’s as good a time as any to start the label.”
The record’s overseas release is being handled by famed punk rock stable, Fat Wreck Chords. The significance of this development isn’t lost on Laderman.
“We’ve known about it for a few months and even keeping that to ourselves for so long was quite a task,” he says “We were in discussions with them about Lucid Again, but this time they were more interested. So it was very lucky.”
Founded by NOFX’s Fat Mike, Fat Wreck Chords is an iconic punk, pop punk and hardcore label and so perfectly suited to Clowns. The label only signs one-album deals, which sits well with Clowns’ cherished independence.
“It’s pretty mind blowing for us,” says Laderman. “I don’t think anyone had expected it, we just hoped. It’s just progression and something different for this next record. It’s really exciting for us.”
The Clowns chronology is a picture of continual growth. They’ve consecutively gained more fans with each of their first three albums – I’m Not Right (2013), Bad Blood (2015) and Lucid Again (2017) – and steadily built their overseas profile.
“Without the little milestones along the way who knows if the band would exist anymore,” Laderman says. “Every time we’ve always strived for little things. We might set our sights on a new country or a new area. The first time we went to Europe that opened us up to the rest of the world. That’s just one example of us realising there’s a lot more out there. It feels really good to have that progression.”
Clowns’ considerable local and international success has come while maintaining managerial independence. They’ve consciously preserved the freedom to seek out new opportunities and make their own choices.
“Being an independent band is the best thing ever,” Laderman says. “A lot of bands will jump at the opportunity to find success quickly and I can absolutely understand why. But we have had the power to do whatever we want and just having the full control and the choice to do whatever we want is just the greatest. I feel like you’d get the same answer out of every independent band. I’m sure Courtney Barnett would say the same thing.”
The title, Nature/Nurture, is reflected in the new album’s thematic focus. Vocalist Stevie Williams conducts an exploration of contradictions and conflicting perspectives that represent the multifaceted origins of individual identity.
“Steve wrote a song that just seemed related to that concept and we figured, well we’ll make one of the record Nature and one side of the record Nurture. Lyrically it explores those themes of nature versus nurture and what makes a person a person and what creates your behaviour,” Laderman says.
“Stylistically the songs on both sides of the record are quite opposing. They’re just a whole bunch of different ideas that we thought fit the theme.”
The songwriting encompasses a range of dynamics, placing fast, technical hardcore songs next to anthemic punk songs. There are also moments of restraint and closing track ‘Nurture’ provides an intimate close-up of Williams’ vocals.
“Every record we’ve ever done we’ve been aware of dynamics and making sure that every song has its place and doesn’t sound like the others. This record more so than the others, every song is unique in its own way. I feel like every song on it stands on its own feet and has its own features and parts that makes it unique.”
Nature/Nurture is out Friday April 12 via Damaged Record Co.