Q&A: Clowns Bassist Hanny J Talks Tour Vans, Burning Bras + Securing The Future of Local Music

Words/Interview by Natalie Blacklock

No one can question the work ethic of Melbourne 5-piece, Clowns, who have been peddling their unique genre-bending brand of punk rock the world over, since their inception in 2009. Through multiple line-up changes and a string of successful albums including; ‘I’m Not Right’ (2013), ‘Bad Blood’ (2015), ‘Lucid Again’ (2017), and their fourth album, ‘Nature / Nurture’, which saw the band nominated for the 2019 ARIA Award for Best Hard Rock / Heavy Metal Album, Clowns have become synonymous for their wild live shows, stage-climbing antics and overly-energetic audiences, proving that they are one of the most exciting bands Australia has to offer and a band that you NEED to see live.

For many of us, 2020 was a year like no other – live music (and almost every other aspect of our lives) came to a complete standstill and is only just now slowly making its comeback. Clowns, however, cleverly made the most of their forced down-time from touring, plotting their next exciting steps. Now, the band have just dropped their new blistering punk rock single Does It Matter?, and are making an appearance at Mansfield Rocks in Brisbane this weekend!

As you might have guessed, the crew at Good Call Live are absolutely stoked that Clowns are back on the road with brand new music in tow, so I *digitally* caught up with Bassist, Hanny J, to have a chat about this and a whole lot more.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of Clowns before, can you give us a quick 25-word-or-less blurb ‘summary’ of the band?

Well, it’s kind of like a sitcom – we have the wildcard, the rat bag, the “goofball”, the critical thinker and the “nice guy”. It’s basically the 90’s hit TV show Friends, except Central Perk is an eleven-seater tour van with no air con chugging through Eastern Europe and we can’t afford apartments in the city.

We’re keen to know a little bit more about the band. How would you describe each of you in three words?

We got Cam (Rust – Guitar) in the place who likes it in your face
You got Jarrod (Goon – Guitar) and JD (Laderman – Drums) who likes it on a…
Easy Stevie (Williams – Vocals) doesn’t come for free, she’s a real lady
…As for me (Hanny J – Bass / Vocals), well, ha you’ll see…

Who are some of your biggest influences as a band – sonically, stylistically and thematically?

Our musical influences vary, and we all have different tastes to a certain degree and what manifests from that can really depend on what we’re going for – but I couldn’t finish this paragraph without tipping our collective Clowns hat to the eclectic stylings of Incubus.

What’s the writing process like for Clowns? Is it a collaborative ‘in the moment’ effort or each of you tend to work solo and bring your ideas to the band later on?

A bit of both, really. We all write individually, and bring ideas to the room and we all contribute. It’s been really valuable for me playing in this band to push myself to write in a group. I think you can end up with some really cool ideas when you write on the spot, you push yourself to collaborate and you have to be flexible and open to constructive criticism.    

Tell us a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to your music. Does the band have a go-to spot for recording? Who do you work with on mixing and mastering?

There are definitely places and people who are dear to our hearts who have been invaluable to the records we’ve made. Hot House Studio in St. Kilda has been like a second home to us. It’s so important to be comfortable in the space you’re writing and creating ideas in, and the people you choose to work with directly affect that.  We’ve been so lucky to work with engineers like Jez Giddings who ends up being like a sixth member of the band, and totally get what we are trying to do.

The band’s new single Does It Matter? has just been released and it is an absolute belter! Tell us a bit about the track and how it came together.

Thank you so much! We really pushed ourselves with this one and we wanted to think outside anything normal we would usually go for. Jake initially brought the song in and I loved it straight away. We worked on it all through isolation last year and it’s morphed into what it is now. It feels like it’s been in the works for years! But that’s because 2020 was so whack.

Your live shows are definitely an experience. I recall two shows in particular – the Bodyjar 20th Anniversary show at Brisbane’s Hi-Fi Bar (RIP) in 2014, where you opened alongside Samiam and Blueline Medic, as well as your 4ZZZ Carpark show in 2016 – both of which were not only super tight shows but also wild with Frontman Stevie Williams’ penchant for climbing the nearest thing in sight and jumping off it! With an ever-growing back catalogue of tracks behind you, which track/s do you most enjoy playing live and why?

It’s just the best when we’re allowed to be LOUD. I seriously love playing all our songs, but if I have to choose, I’d say the heavy ones are the best time. Swallow Your Dreams and Prey for Us are definitely in the top five. 

Life on tour can be pretty crazy for many artists and bands. What does touring look like for you these days? Can you recall any memorable / infamous tour stories?

Burning this shitty bra I hated with a bunch of sick punk queenz after our last show in Prague in 2019 kind of stands out.

Clowns are more than just a band though right? You’ve set up Damaged – a record label and booking agency – run and owned by you guys! How did this come about? Does seeing both sides of the music ‘biz’ provide a different perspective on making and creating art?

Damaged is product of all the experience Jake and Stevie have had playing in a working band, touring, releasing records and navigating the industry. I think we have all learned a lot from our time playing in bands since we were teenagers, and for musicians like us to be able to share experience to help other bands and invest it back into the community that helped them is invaluable to the future of the local music community.  

In the last year, border restrictions and COVID lockdowns have become the new normal. In the current climate of ‘staying at home’, what are your Top 5 “go-to” records that you’ve been spinning a lot lately?

DUDE!  Fountains of Wayne were my main iso band.  I fell in LOVE. So:
1. Fountains of Wayne – ‘Self-Titled’ (1996)
2. Fountains of Wayne – ‘Utopia Parkway’ (1999)
3. Fountains of Wayne – ‘Welcome Interstate Managers’ (2003)
4. Fountains of Wayne – ‘Traffic and Weather’ (2007)
5. Fountains of Wayne – ‘Sky Full of Holes’ (2011)

Clowns’ new single Does It Matter? is out NOW.

The band are headed to Brisbane this weekend to play Mansfield Rocks, alongside Total Pace, LOSER, Something Something Explosion and more. Tickets are available via www.oztix.com.au

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With thanks to Beehive PR

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