On a sunny Thursday afternoon, I was outside watching birds and enjoying the sunshine, though, a conversation would’ve been welcome. Luckily, drummer Anthony Caruso of Sydney band Hellions was more than happy to oblige! “We’re absolutely itching to play the launch shows, showcase the new record and play some of the old favourites!” he says in a chirpy and upbeat tone.
Not being a fan of the usual launch show fare of supports, headline, done, Caruso informs me “They’ll be like parties rather than the traditional show format and have some good friends from other bands deejaying and stuff.” I pause with intrigue, a launch show party with DJs? “We plan to hang out with people for the night and play a set at the end of it.” Oh I see I see, that’s a great way to do it! Though, they aren’t inexperienced with this approach: “With our last headline tour it wasn’t your traditional meet and greet, it was more like hanging out with a bunch of people before the shows and that was really fun for us. We feel way more comfortable doing that than the lining up, shaking hands and taking photos, that just doesn’t sit well with us. We like to get to know people who like our music and thought ‘why not just hang out with everyone for the night and then play a show at the end?’ People get to know more about us and we get to know more about them, that’d be awesome! We’re really big on building a community vibe surrounding the band and it’s been like that from day dot.” Plus points for fan interaction!
“Rue is the logical next step for us,” Caruso says about their latest release on Unified. “We’ve always been a fan of theatrics I think that’s kind of obvious. I mean from from the start we’ve always worked from that angle. With the last record we felt like we had achieved that theatrical sound and this record had us thinking ‘okay, well how do we develop this more?’ Everything felt natural in the writing processes, we didn’t really set out to do anything too specific but stay true to ourselves. We feel like we’re progressing as musicians, as writers, as friends and as a band.”
Those wondering how it would sound might enjoy that “It’s a bit more upbeat than the last record. There’s a lot of juxtaposition with the lyrics as opposed to how the songs sound. There’s two overarching themes; philosophical pessimism and humanitarianism, themes that are at odds with each other. That’s something we discussed and we’re all in agreement; Those two overarching traits is what makes us human. So the record as a whole is a reflection of the multifaceted nature of the human condition and the journey that we go through to gain some sort of lasting purpose and how those states of mind come into play when just navigating through life.” That, kids, is how you do some deep diving! “So many of the ideas behind the themes of the songs come from these flood sheets that our guitarist and vocalist Matt (Gravolin) writes. He literally writes all of his thoughts down and reads so many books, he’ll bring much of what’s going on in his mind to the rest of band and we’ll all dissect it and form a general theme specific to a song or a bunch of different themes. Dre (Faivre) our main vocalist, is so good with vocal phrasing, he has a natural ability to just work his way through a section of the song. Josh (Campiano) our other Guitarist, has a big say in lyric writing as well. He loves to go through them with a fine tooth comb and challenge both myself and Matt. Then the music as a whole comes together. Everyone gets a say, everyone has their place and in the end to come together to present what Hellions is.”
We discussed songwriting for a little while, he explains “The writing process for the record started just after “Opera Oblivia” came out in 2016. Recording started August of last year and then finished in August of this year, so the process was long.” And dammit if I don’t feel that, but that amount of fastidiousness will yield the best results. But sometimes, even then, you might not feel done and Hellions felt that itch. “At the end of last year we felt that the record was finished. Over the next couple of months afterwards, we reassessed and questioned ourselves, is this all of it or can we do more? We decided we weren’t quite done yet and managed to con another trip to Thailand to finish recording it.” I pouted at the lack of my Thailand trip…
Caruso tells me the modus operandi of the band is “To make people think, whether that be within the songs or the lyrical content. A friend of mine said the other day ‘You guys really like to confuse people’. It’s not so much about confusing people as it’s more so trying to make people think and much of our music is about self reflection. So it makes sense to somewhat have contrasts portrayed in what we do to encourage others to think and reflect. Whether that be about themselves, the state of the world or whatever that may be.”
In closing, Caruso expresses with warmth in his voice “I’m the most proud that we’ve managed to stick to our guns and avoid outside influence. Obviously the end goal is to like the music but are really proud of the band for being able to stay true to what we want. The great thing is that seems to be understood by people, all of our fans are so supportive of not only us as a band but one another too. My experience at our shows is everyone just seems to be so friendly and the vibe is always great!”