BLUNT checks in with the little Novocastrians that could.
In the weeks leading up to Unfun, Trophy Eyes had been on the road with Welsh pop- punkers Neck Deep; it was the biggest tour they had embarked on at that stage, barely a year old as a band.
“I don’t think we were ready at all man,” admits John Floreani. “We just lucked out and toured with Neck Deep when they were coming over and, I dunno, it was so lucky for us. We did the tour with them and I’m sure they went back and talked about us, that’s the only thing I can think, you know? Maybe they put in a good word?
“We were playing at Unfun, the first one, and Eddie [ Deal], our manager, took us into the kitchen at the Annandale Hotel and told us, ‘ Hopeless wants to sign you guys’ and we all just screamed like schoolgirls and went nuts. I bit my hand, just like, ‘ Oh shit!’ I’d nearly lost my voice, the night before we’d missed our show because the van broke down so I’d just gone out and gotten wasted instead and then totally lost my voice and heard the good news and just went berserk. I think it was our best live show ever – there was that much energy.”
After the tour with Neck Deep, joining them on the Hopeless Records roster was the next stage of their steady rise. The band formed in late 2012: guitarists Andrew “Pokket” Hallett and Kevin Cross, bassist Jeremy Winchester and drummer Callum Cramp – all friends from school and surrounds in Newcastle – were already jamming before Floreani arrived.
“At the time I think Cal, the drummer, was going to be singing and they were looking for another drummer, but Cal could drum,” Floreani understatedly explains. “I’d moved from Sydney and was looking for a band and found them. We practised a little bit and did some New Found Glory covers and they asked me to come back. We started writing and we tried to get real tight before we played our first few shows.”
First dipping into the local music scene when he was living in Sydney’s Hills District, Floreani moved home briefly to a small town in the central west before setting his sights on Newcastle.
“I moved there because I knew a lot of people talk about Newcastle having a music scene and a lot of art stuff, so I made the move and when I got there it was actually, it was quite dead. There wasn’t a lot of bands about, and it was just not what I expected really. But since being here I’ve seen the scene pick up and kids come out and there’s new bands starting every couple of days, it’s just awesome to see so much creative activity. In the end I suppose it’s been a lucky move.”
Given the trajectory of the band since their first show in Floreani’s first Novocastrian lounge room, lucky could be an understatement. By April
2013 they’d released their debut EP, Everything Goes Away, recorded at Electric Sun Studios with Shane Edwards, who has worked with the likes of Northlane, House VS Hurricane and Heroes For Hire. Fronted by Floreani’s gravelly pop- punk vocals and halcyon- era Taking Back Sunday- esque mini autobiographies, the music sits somewhere between the aforementioned bands – hyperactive energy, wideeyed pop, and the aggression of a hardcore band.
When the time came to record their debut album, Mend, Move On, the move to Hopeless opened a whole slew of opportunities for the band, not least of which was to record with Edwards again, but this time at his new base: Karma Studios in Thailand.
“Back when we started the whole goal was, ‘ Let’s play a show and meet people, let’s drive around’ and that was awesome, that’s still the dream, the direction, but I think with Hopeless that just takes it to a whole new level, and the possibilities have changed; there’s more opportunity now and that’s really exciting. It doesn’t seem so out of reach or like such a fairy tale now, it just seems like maybe, by chance if we do a few things right… I dunno, it doesn’t seem so far- fetched now which is awesome, it’s cool to have that opportunity.”
The first taste of Mend, Move On came in the form of “In Return”, an anthemic apology from Floreani to his mother, a public reassessment of the certainty of youth and how it can affect those around you. Much of what Floreani writes on Mend, Move On covers similar territory as he puts past experiences under ruthless investigation.
“A lot of the time when I’m writing it’s hard because I don’t want to upset the people it’s about and I don’t want to…” Floreani pauses, picking his words. “A lot of the songs are about how I’ve been a burden on them and I feel sometimes that it could be some kind of publicity that they don’t want, and it then becomes a question of whether I’m doing them another hardship, am I airing their closet out too? But in the end it’s important to be true to the story because then it feels like I’ve, not honoured it, but done it justice in a way.
“I showed my mum ‘ In Return’ and she loves it man, it’s a good way to show her it’s a big deal for me. Mum’s a sweetheart, if I ever do something cool she cries, whenever something goes well she gets really emotional, and I’d be fucking nowhere if it wasn’t for mum so it’s good to give mum something. I can’t pay her back for the billions of dollars she would have spent on me and the kids and all that but it’s just nice to give her something.”