By now you’d be aware that The Amity Affliction have recently released their seventh studio album – Everyone Loves You… Once You Leave Them – with 11 new tracks now added to their growing catalogue. Aside from pioneering their own unmistakable sound, the band have also closely honed other creative elements over the course of their career so far, with album cover art - and increasingly video - essential artistic mediums communicating their overall message. Frontman Joel Birch shared with us some of his thoughts and reflections on the story unfolding over the still and moving images that have seen the band create short films, serial narratives and expanded art that go beyond the scope of audio.
The cover art is as much an artistic expression as the audio for some artists - would you say that's the same for you?
JB: Definitely, especially this time being the first time since Severed Ties where I've been in control of the cover art, although I'd be remiss to add that Ahren [Stringer] and I work closely together on the concept, it's just that in this case [with Everyone Loves You...Once You Leave Them] I got to carry it out instead of handing it off to someone else. We figured the ghost in the sheet was a nice juxtaposition between dark and light, yet still conveying the overall message.
Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist and other mediums you work in (other than music)?
JB: I started with graffiti when I was 17/18 years old, that was the beginning for sure. I did that for a number of years before almost going to jail for a period, and at that point I started to try my hand at graphic design. I've been self-taught with everything my entire life, and from graphic design I moved into type illustrations which were woven in, the moved fully over to type-based design and murals when Amity started being an actual job.
How do you go about creating cover art that reflects and represents the audio element of your work?
JB: It's usually a conversation with Ahren and I about what we think is going to fit with the imagery in the album the best, and that's about it; at this point we've been doing it so long it's usually a pretty quick discussion.
Video is also a medium you've used to expand on the themes covered in your work - are there any that stand out above the others for any reason?
JB: 'Pittsburgh' stands out, 'This Could Be Heartbreak' stands out, for me at least, I finished filming at 5am covered in dirt, dirt in my mouth, tired as hell, and they didn't even use the best shots hahaha. 'Pittsburgh' we started filming at 9pm and finished at 5am, freezing cold, miserable, knowing we had to check out at 10am and drive home. They've all been memorable in their own way, although for me, helping Ryan Mackfall with directing on the 'Misery' clips and writing them all myself was probably the pinnacle. It was an experiment I'd always wanted to do, but now that it's done I feel like we won't be doing it again. Sometimes you just have to give people what they want, and what they want is not that.
Have there been any that have caused a surprising reaction or that people have said they've really connected with?
JB: 'Pittsburgh' people connected with, other than that I don't really know? Maybe 'All Fucked Up'? I wrote and helped direct that one as well, and I think Ahren and I really brought it together in the end because it wasn't all that far removed from actual lived experience. Looking at it now I'd say that's perhaps the main that connected with people, but it's also hard for me to look at it from the outside because I was so deeply involved with it.
There could almost be a central character whose story unfolds over the course of the covers. Is that plausible or just a coincidence?
JB: Well the overarching themes from all of our records post Youngbloods are directly drawn from my personal experiences and emotions, so while it's not something that we set out to do it's always going to be tied to our lyrics somehow. So, that doesn't surprise me, it's just a cool coincidence I hadn't noticed until you asked me hahaha.
Have you heard the theory that Star Wars films can be played in a different running order (it's called machete order apparently!)? Would you be open to fans doing their own interpretation of a character arc being told through the covers in non-chronological/alternative order?
JB: Absolutely, have at it!
You heard him - here are all of The Amity Affliction's studio album covers in chronological order - tell us what are some of your character theories might be across the album's artworks!
Listen to The Amity Affliction now.