Trophy Eyes frontman John Floreani talks us through the band’s latest album ‘Suicide and Sunshine’, from writing lyrics to developing the sound, choosing the artwork and the title.
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When you boil it down, everything in life exists along a series of spectrums.
Whether it be between darkness and light or beauty and tragedy, each moment we experience sits on a scale between two extremes. Each heartbreak, celebration, and epiphany forms a tiny dot on your timeline, and when all of those ashes of light combine – they make up a lifetime.
It’s a huge concept to delve into, but when Trophy Eyes set to work exploring these ideas on their fourth album ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ – they were preparing for a poignant final bow. Faced with a confronting period of inward reflection as the world spiralled into lockdown in 2020, frontman John Floreani and his bandmates believed it was all over.
Channelling everything into one last record, along the way Trophy Eyes rediscovered the heart of their band. A series of snapshots that capture the whole spectrum of Floreani’s life in stark detail, ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ is a reminder of the fleetingness of our time on earth, and the wonder that we even get to be here in the first place.
As he lets the wider world into the most personal record of his career, Floreani guides us through the process of making the album that Trophy Eyes believed would be their last, and how its creation breathed new life into his band.
A band who have repeatedly challenged themselves to push the boundaries of hardcore on each new release, album four is no exception to the Trophy Eyes rule. With three albums spent pushing genre classifications to one side in pursuit of something truly authentic, ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ may just be their most vital to date.
“Every time you go in, if you’re not trying to write your best record, there’s really no point being in there. Like fighters, or swimmers, or athletes, if you don’t think you can win, what are you doing? It’s not a winning situation for me, but I was there to write my best music. The idea was to get the total Trophy Eyes sound into a palpable thing.”
Listening to everything from the swirling synths on ‘Sydney’ to the pop flourishes on ‘My Inheritance’ and the dark, anthemic choruses of ‘Kill’, within ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ you can hear every step of Trophy Eyes’ journey so far. A brilliant amalgamation of sounds, scenes, and inspirations flecked with unconventional moments, it’s a distinct marker of the band’s personality of which Floreani was recently served a stark reminder.
“I did some writing in LA after ‘The American Dream’, and it did damage. It’s teams of people meeting and pumping out shit. It’s just bullshit. No offence to the guys that are doing it, but it’s not us. I was working with some serious people, and they were like, ‘Ain’t no shame in keeping it the same’. I became obsessed with writing the perfect song, and it started getting in the way of me writing. I was using that as a launchpad to make music, and it lost its character and meaning. Everything that I did became tired.”
“Writing with that weirdness in mind, that’s fun. I enjoy the hell out of that, and that’s character. A lot of what we were doing [on this album] is just expressing ourselves freely. There’s something liberating about that. I wish everyone could have a chance to express themselves so honestly.”
Disconnected from one another due to the isolation of the pandemic, after deciding over a Zoom call that they were embarking on their final album, the four members of Trophy Eyes flew to Krabi, Thailand to begin the process.
“There was this looming air of finality. We were standing around, and no one was talking about it, but we all knew the reason we were together. It’s like when someone dies. We were all being happy and friendly, but it was for each other. We were putting on a brave face.”
“We got to Thailand, and I feel like that feeling went away. We got to work. We were very focused on doing what we do. I went with 40 songs, and in the first few days we went through all the demos and picked what the album was going to be.”
After completing pre-production, the four-piece agreed that if this was to be their last record, they wanted long-time producer Shane Edwards onboard. Heading to Bangkok to work with him and co-producer Fletcher Matthews – with no other outside input – they banded together to create the most important Trophy Eyes album in history.
“Shane understands the band, and he’s always done these crazy things to make the band do what he can hear in his head. A lot of producers, writers, and engineers are so timid because their name is on it. They don’t want to do anything scary. People go, ‘That’s not what a conventional song would do, so we probably shouldn’t do that’. Fuck that, that’s not what we want to do, and Shane is never going to do that.”
“It started with a photo from the first moon landing. It shows the shuttle leaving the moon and making its way back to Earth. It’s got the surface of the moon, the people in the shuttle, and then planet Earth. Everything in that photo is everything that we know, and every life that we know happened inside that photo – except the photographer.”
“He’s the only person to ever live and die not in that photograph. That’s a new version of loneliness. I kept coming back to that, and it was my wallpaper on my MacBook for a long time. We’re on this little rock in the middle of nowhere, and it’s made up of all of these deep, romantic, tragic, and meaningful little blips of life. Ultimately, us being here in the universe doesn’t mean anything, but it means so much to us. In a way, that’s beautiful.”
As someone whose inspiration comes from meeting people and hearing their stories whilst on the road, with the global lockdown came a new source of inspiration for Floreani. Spending quality time alone for the first time since he his childhood, when it came to putting down lyrics for ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ he had to learn a lot about himself.
Documenting his perception of how humans move through life, as told through the lens of his own experiences, each song on the album captures a different aspect of the frontman’s journey. From ‘Blue Eyed Boy’ – a painful account of a friend struggling with drug addiction – to ‘Runaway Come Home’, a track that explores Floreani’s at-times distant relationship with his mother, each song brings with it a vibrant personal story. Why then – in a world where people often fight to keep their private lives away from the masses – was Floreani so keen to share such intimate details?
“It’s not so other people will find catharsis, to be honest. It’s also not for me. This sounds kind of wanky, but it’s my job to document those moments and those things that happen. I have to get it down how it happened otherwise those moments are missing for eternity. It’s a self- appointed job.”
Tasking himself with capturing the most honest interpretation of each event he wrote about, ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ is a deeply affecting listen right through to its emotional closer, ‘Epilogue’, written as a final thank you to Trophy Eyes’ fans after a collective decision to end their band.
“It starts from the first days practising in our first drummers’ room, as early back as 2012. I never used to wear earplugs, and we played so loud my ears still ring as a souvenir from the best years of my life. [The song] is the band’s journey, and we wanted to write that as a big thank you because some people have been there since our first two demos.”
“The song was literally a goodbye, and it is fucking crushing. It’s sad, but it was necessary. If you’re going to tell the story, then it needs to be in there. You can’t really avoid it, and I feel like everybody deserves it. You can’t just turn it o because there are people who find what we’re doing important, and they deserve some respect.”
An album that delves into how each person holds countless memories, thoughts, and perspectives that mean everything to them and nothing within the grand scheme of the universe, it makes sense that the album’s artwork features just one face – a rapper and artist from Western Sydney named Harry (aka BAYANG (tha Bushranger)).
“I saw a photo on Pinterest, and I was trying to find the image so I could buy it. It had this hold on me. The way that the head turns, and it’s blurry, it looks like an unimportant moment in someone’s life. That’s what the whole album is about. It’s about insignificant flashes of light that are deep and important memories for somebody else, and how tragic, beautiful, and romantic that is.”
“I wanted to recreate that photo, so I talked to my dear friend from Western Sydney, Tahmid Nurullah, and was like, ‘This is what I want’. I sent him the write up, the music, and the reference picture. We got together and shot the album cover ourselves.”
The phrase ‘Suicide and Sunshine’ comes from one of the album’s most morbidly honest songs, ‘Sean’. A raw, confessional account of the day Floreani’s friend ended his life, he writes that it was sunny when he heard of Sean’s passing, a simple contradiction which captures a message that has long sat at the heart of Trophy Eyes.
“It’s the whole happy / sad thing that goes all the way back to the early days, with major key, fast, happy music that is ultimately singing about wanting to die. It’s Trophy Eyes’ thing, that’s what we’ve done.”
“It’s about happiness and peril. Our logo is a palm tree with a noose. When you see the palm tree you think vacation, holiday, coconuts, pina coladas, sandy beach, but then the imagery of the noose brings a sense of dread. It’s the polar opposites and everything in between, and that’s the theme. I feel like no matter what I did, I would always write about them. The spectrum of experience and how we experience things, I think that’s just fascinating.”
Closing on a heartfelt farewell to everyone that has been a part of this for the last decade, if you would have asked Floreani what the future held for Trophy Eyes at the start of ‘Suicide and Sunshine’s creation, the answer would have been extremely bleak. But now?
“There is a different energy, and we do feel happy again.”
“We’re not doing this to be the biggest band in the world or anything like that. We just want to be together. We just want to write music. It’s a little love story. This isn’t attempted stardom, if this thing can just run itself and pay for itself… that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s why I’m here on this planet. That’s the headspace now, and it’s very different from when we were kids.”
“This could pop off , but if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m there with my family and we’re writing music, talking, laughing, and having a good time. I live to make these guys laugh and smile. Coming downstairs when you’re staying in the studio, and the boys are there, they’ve got a coffee, and they’ve just had a shower… Where the fuck else would I be? What else would I do? As long as this thing covers itself and this machine keeps moving, I’ll be there to write the music.”