When Violent Soho announced the release of their fifth album, ‘Everything Is A-OK’, they had no idea its title – or its rollout, which included intimate gigs and fans queuing up at record stores for tickets – would become so bittersweet in a matter of months.
“Funnily enough, this record is more relevant than ever because it was recorded at a time when Australia was peaceful and all good, and now, among everything that’s happening, lyrically it seems eerily relevant,” laughs Luke Boerdam, vocalist and guitarist of the Mansfield post-grunge punk band.
“It’s weird. When you write an album and put it out, you wonder if people will get this ironic layer that the world is really fucked right now and we’ve got all these problems that we’re not dealing with. Then you put the album out and suddenly all those problems you wrote about come to a head and we’re all literally listening to this album in complete isolation, not allowed to leave the house.”
“It’s completely unprecedented times, so to have an album name highlighting that kind of irony… we really didn’t see that coming.”
Violent Soho have trudged a long and enlightening road to make it to album number five. They’ve wrestled with 15 years’ worth of demons across four albums to land at ‘Everything Is A-OK’. It’s the culmination of everything Violent Soho have endured, asserting their reputation as one of the most sought-after acts in the country and perhaps the most influential Australian rock band of the last decade.
And with all due respect to ‘Hungry Ghost’ – the record on which Violent Soho “came into its own”, Boerdam says – and the ARIA Award-winning ‘WACO’, fans coming to ‘Everything Is A-OK’ expecting a sequel to either album should look elsewhere.
“There’s a different vibe in the band now where we are more comfortable with the process and result. All the other albums are so aggressive,” Boerdam says. “There was so much frustration and angst in it, it was like punching a hole in the wall… With this album, it’s more like, ‘let’s just have a conversation’, y’know?”
But conversations aren’t always easy to have. “When we started writing, the band was kinda down. We didn’t know how to make this record, and we just weren’t inspired,” says Boerdam.
“We wanted to keep it real and let it slowly come together, and then decide we’ll only make this record if we have the tracks we want to put out and we feel like there’s been a shift in direction and there’s a reason to put this record out.”
Violent Soho couldn’t properly retread ‘WACO’ and ‘Hungry Ghost’ territory, anyway, even if they wanted to – the Brisbane studio where both those records were crafted, The Shed, is no more. Instead, on ‘Everything Is A-OK’, the band worked with Aussie producer Greg Wales for four weeks at The Grove Studios in New South Wales.
“We wanted to take our time and make sure it was representing our band the right way, and not fall into an attitude where we want to do a massive budget record that’s overseas and push the sound up to a new level with 20 layers of guitars,” Boerdam says.
“We just stripped everything back and didn’t make the album about this heavy thing we had to do with all this weight and pressure, and just made it more as if we were making a record like we were 18 years old, when we first started our band. That took away any anxiety or preconceptions about what we need to do, then it became enjoyable again.”
The record was originally inspired by Boerdam’s own painful personal experiences: after ‘WACO’, a relationship he had been in for nine years dissolved, and he ended up back at his parents’ house with his bags and guitars.
But ‘Everything Is A-OK’ has morphed into a record that looks outwards. The album points out society’s failures and the individual catastrophes that cascade from them. It reflects on the world’s obsession with social media and egoism, rendering any kind of contemporary connection surface and ephemeral.
And that message resonates even more now that we’re cloistered in our own homes, yearning for any semblance of meaningful connection. “It’s scary,” Boerdam says of the ironic relevance of releasing an album titled ‘Everything is A-OK’ during a global crisis.
“There’s a line on the record, ‘People dance a bunker waltz’, and songs that are about growing up in bunkers, and now we’re all literally stuck inside one,” he says, laughing.
Right now there’s not much more for the band to do other than pour themselves a cold one and join their fans in an online listening party scheduled, funnily enough, for 4:20pm. It will be a while before Violent Soho bring the record to their audience the way they know best – in a sweaty, raucous live show, whether at Splendour In The Grass or an in-store performance. But the band are still counting their blessings.
“We were lucky we got a little tour under our belt and very lucky to have our singles out. A lot of other bands are having to cancel everything,” Boerdam says. “We’re just gonna let this record drop, then chill. I don’t think the world needs more angst right now.”
As the coronavirus pandemic rages, the future of the music industry looks at best uncertain, and at worst bleak. But Boerdam reckons there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s going to be really dark for the next six months, but if there’s a resilient industry then it’s the arts and music,” he argues. “They’re industries are used to being battered around in every society because they don’t have a utilitarian or practical value you can point to – even though I genuinely believe it’s awesome for mental health and genuinely believe it saves lives and makes life worth living.”
“People will do anything for music – it’s the one great thing about it.”
Violent Soho’s album ‘Everything Is A-OK’ is out now.