Time flies when you're having fun – which is why it probably didn't feel like all that long ago that Clowns, one of Australia's most fun-loving bands on the circuit, were last putting out a record. Bad Blood, the hardcore punks' second LP, arrived in February of 2015; and its follow-up, Lucid Again, arrived over two years later. In the interim, however, the band have barely been out of sight for a moment – they've toured the country countless times over, jetted over to festivals through Europe and made an even bigger name for themselves than previously on the back of these hundreds of shows.
That period has also seen the band move in and out of various line-ups – after a fair amount of shuffling around, Clowns finally settled as a quintet for the first time in their career. “I've had a lot of people asking what's going on and who's playing on what,” says Stevie Williams, the band's lead vocalist and a founding member.
“The song 'Destroy the Evidence' was recorded with our old line-up – we put it out on a 7-inch last year. Between then and now, of course, we've managed to fuck things up again and have some all-new people coming through. All the other songs on the record were recorded last December, and that was recorded with the line-up of the band that we have now. The recording process of this band hasn't always been very structural – even on our first record [2013's I'm Not Right] and on parts of Bad Blood, the guitar was played by me and whoever was playing guitar with us at the time. People have asked if the new album sounds different because of the line-up changes – and it's not really the case. I feel like Jake [Ladermann, drums] and I would have wanted to write this kind of album regardless of who was playing with us.”
On the subject of 'sounding different,' Lucid Again is both a considerable progression and a large sonic risk for the Melbourne band. Rather than make another grindcore-influenced punk rock record, the album leans towards a slower, heavier pace; recalling the likes of Fucked Up and Zoo-era Ceremony. It's still identifiably a Clowns record, but it's delivered in a fashion that will have you reconsidering what constitutes one to begin with. According to Williams, this is a reflection on how both he and the band have changed in the years following Bad Blood.
“We had been playing the same style of music for so long”, he says. “It just got straining on us as a band. We wanted to continue to engage our fans and listeners, so that they didn't get bored of us. Going into making this record, we knew it was pretty obvious it was going to get criticised either way. If we wrote Bad Blood 2, people would have said it wasn't as good as Bad Blood. If we made an entirely new record, however, people would say that it was too different. It came down to us really just doing what we wanted to do. By making the record that we wanted to make, we feel like we also made the record that we would have wanted to hear if we were a fan of the band.”
Along with the tonal shifts, the album also marks some key changes for Williams himself as a vocalist. Having promptly screamed his way through the Clowns discography thus far, Williams instead tries his hand at singing, and with impressive results – particularly on the eerie, slowburning title track that opens the LP.
“If we were going to make a different album, then it was obvious that this would be something that changed as well. Melody is such a powerful thing. When we were making the previous albums, I was screaming my guts out because that's where I felt the most power lay. When we were making this album, I was thinking about the power of melody – it was something that we hadn't really touched on in our previous songs. It was just something I was inclined towards, in the exact same way I was inclined towards screaming before. I feel like both come with their own power and their own intensity – and I think it works well for this record.”