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THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY TRAVELS: JOEL BIRCH

By Dan Slessor     16 Dec 2016

The Amity Affliction frontman shares 11 tracks that have marked his life’s milestones as a musician, family man and recovering alcoholic

The Amity Affliction have come a long way from their start as a relatively unknown Brisbane-based hardcore band practically living in their van as they slogged around Australia playing every show possible to arena-headlining behemoths. As frontman of the group, Joel Birch has seen a lot of the world in that time, and having struggled with mental-health issues and alcoholism much of his life, music has helped get him through. Now sober and father to a newborn son, he has never been in a better place—and he’s happy reflecting on the songs that shaped his touring life.

  • waterwings
    1. ‘Waterwings (And Other Poolside Fashion Faux Pas)’—Alexisonfire

    We heard this for the first time when we were driving to our first show outside of our hometown, which was back in 2004. We actually nearly crashed before we even made it out of the city, which wasn’t great, but we made it in the end! That said, it wasn’t a good show at all, so not one I really try to remember all that much. This band was one of the first to introduce me to this style of music, and it made me hungry to hear a lot more.

  • totalimmortal
    2. ‘Totalimmortal’—AFI

    This reminds me of the first big festival I attended as a fan, and I was a huge AFI fan back then so was listening to this constantly. The festival was actually the first time the Warped Tour came to Australia, and it was out on the Gold Coast. It was a pretty big deal at the time, though if I’m honest I’ve never enjoyed going to festivals much if I’m not playing. That said, this was the day that made me first realize how much I wanted to be in a band and play music.

  • perfectworld
    3. ‘Perfect World’—Guttermouth

    On the first tour we did in America pretty much all we listened to in the van was Southern Californian punk. Guttermouth were probably on more than anyone else, and really I could have picked any song off their Musical Monkey album. We were one of five bands on that tour—there was Of Mice & Men; I Set My Friends On Fire; Woe, Is Me; and… wow, I can’t remember, I’d probably have to look at my tour pass! It was a fun tour, but it didn’t really win us a lot of new fans or anything.

  • harmsway
    4. ‘Harm’s Way’—Rise and Fall

    On our first tour in Europe I was thrashing Rise and Fall pretty hard, which is really gnarly, aggressive hardcore that I still love. Hearing them always takes me back to that tour. We were out with Deez Nuts and they were already pretty successful in Europe, so the shows brought in about 500 people every night, which was very cool. However, I’ll always remember our first show in Italy where we had five people watching us and no one else even came inside the venue before Deez Nuts played!

  • higherground
    5. ‘Higher Ground’—Red Hot Chili Peppers

    We were supposed to play our first-ever European festival in Germany, which was Rock am Ring or Rock im Park, I can’t actually remember! But, only four bands got to play that day because there had been a lot of lightning strikes, and we were not one of them. I was feeling pretty sick, so I didn’t mind all that much. However, the Chilis did play, and pretty much everyone in our crew—except me, because I wasn’t drinking—was wasted and singing along, but they kept making up different words, which was hilarious.

  • fireorknife
    6. ‘Fire Or Knife’—The Amity Affliction

    We played a show in a venue that was a church in Philadelphia back in early 2013, and I went on an anti-religion rant before we played this song—which is also a pretty basic attack on religion, written when I was younger—and everyone went mental. That was the night I fell in love with Philly! It really was a great show from front to back; everyone there was into us and just went off, in fact that was a great tour all the way through.

  • homerun
    7. ‘Home, Run’—Flood of Red

    Most of the traveling I do is in a van or tour bus, but I actually got to take a short vacation with my wife between tours a little while back. After finishing the tour in the UK we went to Barcelona, and we were listening to this band a lot. It was so nice actually getting to stay in one place for more than a day, and get to really drink it in. We’d been touring a long time at that point and I was losing my mind somewhat, and this helped temporarily put it back together a bit.

  • thecloud
    8. ‘The Cloud’—Guy Blakeslee

    Any song I’m listening to that makes me think of my wife always makes me miss home, though I think about home pretty much 24-7 at the moment because I live in paradise and things are really good. This is the one that most makes me think of her at the moment. It’s a depressing song but really beautiful at the same time. Having a son back home and being sober makes me so much more connected to real life, which is great, but at the same time makes me miss home even more.

  • hardbarkfamilytree
    9. ‘Hard Bark on the Family Tree’—Have Heart

    I love this band, and this album will always remind me of being in a van and driving into Massachusetts for first time. I think that was on our third tour of the US, and it was with Pierce the Veil, letlive., and Miss May I, and it was such a great run to be a part of. I make a habit of listening to this song every time we’re heading back into Massachusetts; I really do love it there, added to which Have Heart are just a fantastic band and I love the association.

  • badhabit
    10. ‘Bad Habit’—Foals

    I’ve been to Indonesia to surf several times, and this band will always remind me of one such visit, because I was listening to them flat-out and honestly nothing else even got a look in. I’d been introduced to them a year earlier while we were recording our album Chasing Ghosts, and I just couldn’t get enough of them. The waves in Indonesia are great, and surfing in more places is something I definitely want to do—it’s close and cheap so I’ll always be happy to go back there.

  • placebeforetheend
    11. ‘A Place Before the End’—Flood of Red

    We got stuck in the UK during the blizzard that seemed to shut all of London down in late 2010—we wanted to get home, but we couldn’t! It’s safe to say it was pretty lousy; it was too cold to do anything, everything was shut, you couldn’t even get a pizza. Everyone was just miserable, but this record helped my mood. Sad music listened to by sad people makes sad people happier, but I was still very glad when the airports reopened.

This Could Be Heartbreak is out now on Roadrunner Records.


Leave a comment below and share your favorite travel soundtracks with us.

Dan Slessor
Dan Slessor

Dan Slessor is an international music journalist based in Brighton, UK who writes for Kerrang!, Alternative Press, Outburn and various US record labels.

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