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“Some friends of ours were on a trip and it was actually written on a wall,” explained John McAleer, vocalist for Sydney melodic hardcore band Vices on the title for their recently released album, Now That I Have Seen I am Responsible. “They took a photo of it and when I saw it I really connected with it because a lot of what I was writing at the time… the whole thing was I feel like if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem and that’s something that gets said a lot. But with most of the things I was singing about and a lot of the things that were brought up there was a lot of people that were against and there was a lot of people for but the majority of people were just sitting there. When it means that someone like Donald Trump gets in because no-one voted because no-one thought it would happen; or when people don’t want to look into animal rights because it’s too hard; or people don’t want to start looking after their friends or learn about mental health because it’s too tricky or whatever it is, that’s when you notice. Sexuality, health, all these things that people think is too hard and don’t wanna think about but I think change has to come. Once you have seen, once you fucking know that something’s real from there it is now on you. You don’t just get to be ignorant any more. Now you’re actually… you are either for or against the solution. We see that and I thought that title summed the record up perfectly.”
Released in early March, McAleer says Now That I Have Seen I am Responsible has had a great reaction from their fans, justifying their decision to take on more of a political undertone with the lyrics.
“It’s been pretty much all positive,” he said. “I haven’t heard anything negative. All the blogs from our people have suggested they are enjoying it. It’s not too far away from what we’ve done before but there is some new stuff on there. We’ve changed the themes a little bit and the music but that hasn’t caused too much drama.”
Although musically the band had a clear vision in mind for the record, McAleer says from a vocal perspective he had a few different goals in mind.
“For me as a vocalist I want to get what’s in my head to the people that enjoy our music,” he offered. “If you ask the guys in the band they wanted something a little heavier, a bit faster and to try and push musically in that direction but for me it was just I had a lot of stuff going on. There was a lot of things happened in my life and a lot of things that I was looking at in the world and maybe having trouble with that I wanted to connect with people over and so far it doesn’t seem like I’ve been misunderstood or have people take it out of context. There is some stuff that’s pretty direct and to the point and I guess with me I’m more of a communicator than a musician. My whole goal is just to communicate well and so far anyway that seems like how it’s gone.”
This album has been gestating with Vices for over twelve months, and while McAleer acknowledges it could have been out earlier he says that extenuating circumstances and decisions made to benefit the overall album won out over simply rushing another album out to the public.
“We had it written and we recorded it with a friend of ours and then the opportunity to work with Jay Maas (Defeater, Bone, Verse) came up,” he explained. “We had the opportunity to work with him but the only booking time he had free was six months away from when we finished recording so we made the call – actually we asked Graham from Resist Records because we trust what he says – and he thought it was worth putting things on pause. He felt Maas was the person who was going to get the best out of the band so we had to basically sit on everything we’d written for another six months so that equated to a year for the whole process. For the five of us we had most of the album written and down long before it came out.”
One often overlooked aspect of having a time lag between writing and releasing an album is the content, while relevant and pertinent at the time of writing, may be out of date by the time it reaches the ears of the fans, and McAleer says that was the case with some of the material on this record.
“There’s a few things that are tricky,” he agreed. “A few things are a little different now, especially the personal stuff. When I was writing ‘Eye of the Storm’ I was going through a divorce and a bunch of things that surround that with you and someone else and you have things like a house and you are splitting up… it was hard to get that out without any mess flying around the place. When I was writing it I was going through all of that then coming out the other side makes you feel differently about things. I know things have happened and things were said and done and where I was more devastated about it then it kind of turned a bit more into anger so if I had written the record now it probably would have been more aggressive than it was. I was just down and down on myself and taking it really hard. It took a while to get past it and rebuild my life. It still means a lot to me now but. When I recorded it I kind of put it behind me and blocked it out. Now it’s recorded it helps me close the book on it a little bit so for my own mental health I find that dealing with it through music helps. All the political stuff is still exactly how I feel now but some of that emotional stuff – as emotions do – they kind of change over time.”
Reigniting those emotions on stage when singing the songs can also be difficult, but McAleer stresses that the therapeutic side of it overshadows the pain.
“Some of it is difficult,” he conceded, “but as soon as the song starts and you remember where you were when you wrote it and what was going on – because that whole process drops you back into that place – that allows you to be real when you present and communicate that song. At the same time when you’re a dude in your twenties that has gone through that it is a rare experience so you start to meet people and they reach out. They tell you they’ve been through similar things and all of a sudden you find there are people like you and when you play a song those are the people you connect with and that keeps it real. That’s probably the thing about it that I enjoy the most, allowing them to express and feel and put into words things they weren’t able to say before.”
Written by Kris Peters