The real story hides below the surface and beneath the veneer.
If you disregard the façade, peel back the layers, and take a closer look, you might get to the truth. The Amity Affliction cocoon raw honesty in haunting hooks, pummeling grooves, and rapturous riffs. The Australian heavy alternative quartet—Joel Birch [vocals], Ahren Stringer [vocals, bass], Dan Brown [lead guitar], and Jon Longobardi [drums]—unearth a powerful truth on their seventh full-length and debut for Pure Noise Records, Everyone Loves You Once You Leave Them.
“Social media is so fickle,” asserts Joel. “The internet horde’s response is often, ‘You’re a successful musician. There’s no way you can have depression. Fuck you!’ The other side isn’t always shown. This is a great job, and we’re blessed. Like anything though, it’s not all roses. After somebody dies, you hear the mob say, ‘Oh my God, that artist was such an inspiration.’ I’m sick of the ignorant animosity towards mental illness in music or any profession for that matter. We have a platform. We have the opportunity to say something, so that’s what we’re doing.”
“Saying something” remains a reason why they consistently connect. Since emerging in 2008 on the debut Severed Ties, the four-piece has preserved this bond. They served up two ARIA gold-certified albums, Youngbloods  and Chasing Ghosts , and earned a platinum certification from ARIA for the seminal Let The Ocean Take Me . This Could Be Heartbreak  marked the band’s second consecutive Top 30 debut on the Billboard Top 200, while Misery  elevated them to new critical heights with praise from Medium, Alternative Press, The Noise., and more. To date, the group’s total stream tally has surpassed 200 million and counting. Meanwhile, The Amity Affliction sold out countless headline shows and toured alongside many genre heavyweights. During 2019, the musicians returned to Beltsville, MD to record alongside Misery producer Matt Squire.
This time around, they incorporated more guitar and embraced heavier tendencies.
“We went back to our heavier side for the majority of the album,” says Ahren. “We were trying to master the craft and write what we want to hear. Even though we’re older, the maturity comes out a bit more with each record.”
“We just got back to a more of rock guitar sound,” agrees Joel. “We wrote naturally, and it felt great.”
The bludgeoning “All My Friends Are Dead” introduced the record, racking up 1.5 million Spotify streams within a month and receiving praise from the likes of Kerrang! On its heels, the single “Soak Me In Bleach” vaults from gnashing grung-y guitar to a sweeping and soaring clean chant.
“The imagery of ‘Soak Me In Bleach’ isn’t something we’d usually use,” Ahren goes on. “It’s super dark, but it’s got a boppy grunge vibe.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the vulnerable “Aloneliness” stretches from electronic-infused emissions into a disarmingly dynamic chorus, offsetting pop palatability with a heartbreaking confession.
“It’s straight-up about being bipolar,” reveals Joel. “It’s the constant struggle to figure out who I am now. It’s the morbid and negative part of my existence. Luckily for me, I’ve got music. I have that daily releasee on tour. I don’t know what I’d do without it. There are individuals who aren’t that fortunate and are struggling to have some form of escapism.”
Fueled by a blast beat and a deluge of screams, “Catatonia” cuts deep. “When we were recording Misery, my friend killed himself,” sighs Joel. “We were alone in Toronto. The weather was miserable. His death just hit me like a ton of bricks, and I spent several hours on the floor unable to move.”
Elsewhere, “Forever” sees Joel directly discuss his bipolar diagnosis and “the balancing act between happiness and despair” over an unpredictable sonic backdrop. “Coffin” closes tight on “leeches who want to suck the joy out of everything” with caustic ebbs and flows.
In the end, The Amity Affliction get real on Everyone Loves You Once You Leave Them.
“I want everyone to know there are others out there whose lives look amazing, but they’re still struggling,” Joel leaves off. “Mental illness is uncompromising and indiscriminate. You can’t help it. It’s not your fault. That’s it.”
“I’d love for people to go on this journey with us,” Ahren concludes. “Maybe it could make their day a little better. I live for music; it keeps me going. If we can do that for someone else, that would be amazing.”
It starts at ground zero. By wiping the slate clean and turning the page to the next chapter, Sleeping With Sirens re-center, recalibrate, and realign on their fifth full-length and first album for Sumerian Records, How It Feels to Be Lost. The gold-certified quintet—Kellin Quinn [vocals, keyboards], Jack Fowler [lead guitar], Nick Martin [rhythm guitar], Justin Hills [bass], and Gabe Barham [drums]—amplify the impact of their unpredictable fretwork, velvet vocal acrobatics, and hypnotically heavy alternative transmissions without compromise.
In essence, the band strips itself to the core and uncovers what it sought all along…
“We needed to get back into a room and not care about the outcome,” exclaims Kellin. “We needed to sit down and write something from our hearts we really love and believe in without regard for opinion. That’s what we did. We didn’t care about the result. We wrote one song, liked it, and moved on. Everything finally fell into place.”
The time turned out to be right for them to do so.
Since emerging in 2010, Sleeping With Sirens have tested the boundaries of rock by walking a tightrope between pop, punk, metal, hardcore, electronic, acoustic, and even a little R&B. This high-wire balancing act attracted a faithful fan base known as “Strays,” generated global album sales in excess of 1.5 million, ignited over half-a-billion streams, and achieved a trio of gold-selling singles: “If I’m James Dean, You’re Audrey Hepburn,” “If You Can’t Hang,” and “Scene Two-Roger Rabbit.” They launched two albums—Feel and Madness—into the Top 15 of the Billboard Top 200. Additionally, they collaborated with MGK on “Alone” and Pierce the Veil on the gold-certified “King For A Day.” Beyond selling out shows worldwide and receiving acclaim from The New York Times, Alternative Press crowned them “Artist of the Year” at the Alternative Press Music Awards, proclaimed “Kick Me” the 2015 “Song of the Year”, and featured them as cover stars a whopping seven times.
However, everything came to a head during 2017. In the midst of the tour cycle for Gossip, Kellin found himself at rock bottom under a haze of depression and alcoholism.
Reaching a fork in the road, the future of the band hung in the balance.
“I let everything go,” he admits. “I wasn’t being the leader I had always been. For the last few years, I was struggling with alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. I didn’t know how to turn it around or what to do. Being on the road and touring as much as we did for Gossip was really hard on me. I didn’t know if I even had it in me to write another record or get on stage and perform. Something just happened one day. I woke up, called Jack, and said, ‘Hey, I want to stop drinking. I want to go into a room and write the best record we’ve ever written’. Both of those things happened within a week.”
With Kellin free from alcohol as of December 2018, he and Jack holed up at MDDN studio in Los Angeles and got to work. This time around, they welcomed longtime friends Zakk Cervini [blink-182] and Matt Good [Asking Alexandria] behind the board as producers. Jack cooked up “dark music” that immediately resonated with the frontman.
The whole process “felt organic,” as he recalls. “The music reflected exactly where I was at.”
As a result, the first single and opener “Leave It All Behind” exudes an undeniable sense of urgency. A buoyant riff seesaws between electronic echoes before converging on a vocal crescendo topped off by a hard-hitting scream and distorted crash.
“Sometimes, you get those thoughts,” he sighs. “You wonder, ‘What would happen if I wasn’t here?’ I put it into perspective. There are people who listen to my band. There’s my family who rely on, love, and me. I realize it’s important to stick around, because we can figure it out together. This is also a reminder for the youth to keep fighting.”
The follow-up “Agree to Disagree” tempers a snaky bass line and a rush of vocals with a bold falsetto-punctuated declaration, “I like the nighttime, better.”
“We can sit around and argue all day long, but it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong,” he continues. “We need to realize if we can’t agree, let’s find a way to coexist. We have to be open to understanding others, even if we’re aren’t one-hundred percent on the same page.”
Elsewhere, the equally anthemic and addictive “Medicine” confronts Kellin’s demons head on as it details “being up late at night drinking.” The finale “Dying To Believe” extracts comfort from darkness beneath cover of strings and guitars with a “thank you” for the fans and reminder “to see the best in yourselves.”
In many ways, the title, How It Feels To Be Lost, hints at actualization as much as it does potential.
“It felt like we finally found what we were looking for with this record,” Kellin smiles. “The lyrics, the emotion, the musicianship, and the production are all there. It’s the best we could do. It’s going to be exciting to get on stage and perform these songs. We finally found ourselves.”
In finding themselves, Sleeping With Sirens emerge with their most dynamic and definitive body of work to date.
“Certain records have saved our lives,” Kellin leaves off. “They became staples that I put on. They got me through hard times in my life if I needed to scream or sing my heart out or just feel thrashing guitars and loud music. This album brings all of those sides together. I want this to be our anthem for new fans. To the diehards, we want this to do justice for you. It’s what you’ve been waiting for.”
Stray From The Path are not ones to mince words. The lyrics “Thinking like everyone else is not really thinking” open the hardcore boundary-defiers’ new album, Internal Atomics, and it’s an immediate declaration of intent: the world as we know it isn’t working, and it’s time for something new. In every way, the album is Stray From The Path unleashed; it’s punishingly heavy yet loaded with memorable hooks, universal and accessible yet caustic and outspoken, socially conscious and political yet deeply personal, furious yet constructive—an audacious testament to the power of aggressive music and refusing to fall in line.
Over a decade into their career, Stray From The Path have achieved a kind of longevity rarely seen in hardcore. With each successive release and relentless touring, longtime members Tom Williams (guitar) and Drew Dijorio (vocals) have taken the band from scrappy Long Island locals to powerhouse globetrotters. Anthony “Dragon Neck” Altamura (bass) joined in 2011 and Craig Reynolds (drums) in 2016, solidifying the lineup and helping the band evolve into their current incarnation: a behemoth of groove-laden, metallic hardcore riffing and hip hop-influenced vocal cadences. For Internal Atomics, the band teamed with producer/engineer Will Putney (Every Time I Die, Body Count, Vein) for a fifth time, recording at New Jersey’s Graphic Nature Audio and building on the trust and collaborative spirit that informs Stray From The Path’s writing process. The album pushes the band further into pummelling sonic territory than ever before, but it’s their attention to rhythm and catchiness that truly makes the heaviness impactful. Songs would often start with a drum part from Reynolds providing the perfect inspiration for Williams’ trademark Tom Morello-meets-Kurt Ballou riffs. But the instrumentals aren’t the only part of songwriting that Stray From The Path approach as a unit. The band also writes lyrics together, often spending hours in the control room endlessly looping parts and throwing out ideas. Dijorio explains, “We’ve really learned to take constructive criticism from each other, you just have to understand that everyone is trying to make the song the best it can be.”
This concerted effort might not be the norm for most bands, but for Stray From The Path it’s a natural extension of their worldview. “We want to collectively have stances, we don’t write about driving in the car with the top down,” Williams says. “We just try to shine a light on things that maybe aren’t always covered in the mainstream.” The band sees their position as an opportunity to plant seeds for change in an increasingly dark socio-political climate, and playing to ever-growing crowds of young music fans is a responsibility they don’t take lightly. “When you’re a kid, you can only go off of what you’re exposed to and we’re a good gateway to a lot of things like hardcore, metal, hip hop, and on top of that we try to use the band as a platform to highlight things we think are important,” Dijorio says. “I remember being that young kid and finding out that this whole other world existed, and it’s really cool to be able to offer that.”
Stray From The Path broadened their lyrical scope on Internal Atomics and aimed for a more universal tone without losing an ounce of their vitriol towards injustice. “The album title is about the idea of using energy to create power from within, that everyone has this energy they could use to help others,” says Williams, continuing, “We don’t have some perfect outlook on life but we try to speak from our experiences. We have a front row seat to America and we’ve been to something like 40 countries, you just see so much that makes it clear that we need to treat each other better on a societal level. You see places where people are being taken care of and then you see places where basic human rights are labeled as outsider ideas.”
One of the most pivotal experiences that informs Internal Atomics is the band’s 2018 trip to Kenya. Teaming with Hardcore Help Foundation and Actions Not Words, the band raised enough money to provide water filters for one hundred families and deliver them to villages outside of Nairobi. The band even capped off the visit with a show. “We started this band in an arcade hall in Long Island and it brought us all the way to Africa,” Dijorio says, “That was just us doing our small part, but HHF and ANW have dedicated their entire lives to helping people. It really changes your perspective.”
That strong sense of empathy runs throughout Internal Atomics. “Ring Leader” is the album’s explosive opening salvo, with Reynolds’ intricate drums building to a gigantic chorus that’s sure to incite shout-alongs and headbanging alike. The song wastes no time indicting the rampant complacency and selfishness that permeates modern America. “There are things that shouldn’t be a struggle to determine if they’re right or wrong,” Williams says, referencing everything from police brutality and flagrant corporate greed, to healthcare reform and environmental protections. “But a lot of people don’t care unless something directly affects them. They aren’t willing to sacrifice any small part of their own comfort for the greater good.” Tracks like “The First Will Be The Last” and “Fortune Teller” lash out at that myopic outlook and the priorities of past generations that fostered it, while “Something In The Water” asks what has made people so numb to the suffering of others that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to everything from mass shootings to immigrants in need.
While much of Internal Atomics explores 2019’s harsh political and societal realities, it also finds the band getting closer to home. “Kickback” features guest vocals from Counterparts’ Brendan Murphy, and uses a mind-bogglingly heavy chorus to rail against the kind of personality that only see others as stepping stones. “Holding Cells For The Living Hell” finds Dijorio at his most vulnerable, opening up about a family member’s struggles with mental health and coming to terms with not always being able to help the ones we love. “The hardest part is accepting that you can offer as much support as you can, but you can’t fix it.” he says.
Compassion blends with frustration throughout Internal Atomics, as the band veers from unrepentantly provocative (“Double Down”) to encouraging of deeper understanding (“Beneath The Surface”). The album ends with “Actions Not Words,” a hardcore epic inspired by HHF and ANW activists, and the many people the band met throughout their trip to Africa. “It was such a sharp contrast to people living in suburbia, who have so much but refuse to give anything,” Williams says. “It’s not about wanting more, it’s about wanting people to have enough.” The times we live in don’t have easy answers, but if Internal Atomics is about refocusing energy towards a better world, Stray From The Path has that energy in spades and aims to use it. “It’s a snowball effect,” Dijorio says. “We talk about it on stage, maybe a kid talks to their friends, their parents, they start to find the things they believe in, and then they make a difference in their own lives and communities. That’s what all this is about.”
The cover of UNITYTX’s new EP, MADBOY, features a cartoon depiction of frontman Jay Webster shouldering a massive boulder, though from the illustration it’s hard to tell whether this represents the final step of a Herculean triumph or another entry in a Sisyphean sentence.
As it turns out, the Dallas-based hardcore/hip-hop band’s career has been both. Formed in 2014, the group has battled untold numbers of ups and downs, from numerous member changes to even more naysayers kicking back at their refusal to bow to genre norms — not to mention deep turmoil for Webster himself, including near homelessness and serious doubts about the viability of his musical dreams. Just when it seemed they were gaining traction, misfortune was always just around the corner looking to cut them down.
But now, with MADBOY set for release September 25 via Pure Noise Records, UNITYTX is living proof of the power of personal resilience and sheer will.
“Nothing ever made sense to me like music did,” Webster says. “The only shot I really had was to go for this. Coming from the mud, from nothing — the hard times motivate you to keep grinding.”
Mixing punishing hardcore breakdowns and razor-sharp riffs with the murky soul of grunge and hip-hop energy, UNITYTX — Webster, guitarists Alberto Vazquez and Ricky Cova, and drummer Jonathan Flores — bridge musical boundaries, spanning the gap between rap/rock’s forefathers and the new underground with a captivatingly rhythmic take on the heavy music genre. From the middle-finger salvo “Cross Me” (a shot at those who’ve doubted the band’s drive) to the resilient “Piece Of Mind,” the eight-song MADBOY is a battle-tested, unrelenting spin on a genre that’s stayed stagnant for far too long.
“A lot of people don’t understand you can listen to more than one genre,” the frontman says. “We sound like a thrash band? Cool. I’m still going to rap over it. I want fans to understand that there’s more out there than heavy breakdowns and screaming. This band does everything.”
As they break down barriers with not only their music but also their head-turning live show in massive settings like the So What?! Music Festival, Webster hopes he and his bandmates can someday become a guiding light for listeners with stories like his — just as artists like From First To Last’s Sonny Moore and countless others inspired him to chase his own dreams.
It’s certainly easier now, as modern-day playlist culture has broken down barriers that once seemed immovable — setting the stage for a new crop of artists who could care less about how things are supposed to be done. Because, at the end of the day, music isn’t about a specific sound; it’s not about where you came from or what you look like. It’s about the euphoria, the rage, the catharsis you feel when a song speaks to your soul like never before and opens your eyes to entirely new ways of thinking.
As far as UNITYTX have come over the past five years, both personally and as a band, they know there are still plenty of mountains ahead of them. With MADBOY and all it represents in tow, they’re finally ready to make the climb to continue transcending not just musical lines, but cultural, ethnic, and generational ones as well.
“I hope to create a culture for kids of all ethnicities,” Webster says. “I want kids in the black community who grew up like me — who want to get into punk or heavy music but don’t feel comfortable because they’re not being represented — to know it’s possible. I want every single person who comes to our shows to feel free. If we can do that, everything else will work itself out.”