Fresh off releasing one of 2018’s best albums in Rue, Sydney four-piece Hellions haven’t missed a beat in keeping their legions of fans across Australia satisfied. As the band plan to embark on their largest headlining tour ever, we had a chat with their drummer Anthony Caruso to talk all things Hellions.
Andrew Cauchi: First of all, congrats on the huge UNIFY performance!
Anthony Caruso: Thank you very much dude. It was really fun, we had a really good time. It was a nice surprise to be added to the line-up and it was good to be a part of that show, it felt really cool.
Andrew: It really looked like across the whole weekend, you pulled one of the biggest crowds of the festival which was sick to see.
Anthony: Yeah, yeah! That’s what I’m hearing. It’s a little bit hard to tell from where we are, you kinda can only see the first few rows, so I was like “at least there are a few people.” But yeah, so I’ve heard that we had a really good crowd which is exciting.
Andrew: Well since you guys released Rue, you’ve achieved bigger and better things than before but do you ever take the step back and to revel in your achievements or do you constantly challenge yourself to keep improving and get better?
Anthony: Um, we’re constantly challenging ourselves. I know, speaking for myself in particular and then in turn I guess for the band, it’s always about what’s next. I’m really not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Because yeah, it would be nice to take a step back to at least acknowledge the achievements that we’ve made together but I guess when one thing is ticked off it’s always straight onto the next. It’s a little bit of a good and a bad thing and I guess that’s one thing that can stop an artist or a band from feeling like they’re moving forward. There’s always what you haven’t achieved at the forefront of your mind and speaking for us, rarely we get to sit back and think “oh yeah that’s pretty cool!”
Andrew: Yeah that’s totally fair. If you take the time to slow down to take it in do you lose your momentum? Or by challenging yourself are you just risking a burn out, but giving yourself reason to continue to do more?
Anthony: It kinda can get like that; we had a few months off last year which by the end of it had started to drive us absolutely insane. It does kind of feel like that sometimes you know, you take a step back, not even on purpose, that’s just the way things wind up. We had a few months of what felt like, not that we weren’t doing anything, but it just felt like we were doing nothing because we weren’t playing shows as much as we would’ve liked to. At some point I guess the negative impact of that begins to outweigh the positive, where you do have the opportunity to sit back and take it all in but at the same time you’re spewing because it can almost feel like you’re taking steps backward. You just sit there and think “well why aren’t we playing shows now?” It’s just hard because you can see it from both angles.
Andrew: Yeah 100% percent man! So Rueis album number four but sonically I think you can still draw plenty of comparisons between Rueand all your other albums back to Die Young. Despite the consistencies that sit between the albums, you’ve obviously changed a lot since then. What’s changed for you, and in extension the band, since Hellions began and came into fruition?
Anthony: I think just a better understanding of who we are as people and who we want to be as a band. From the beginning we’ve always had an idea of what we wanted to do, but it’s taken us until now to get there. I guess Opera Obliviawas the first time that we were well on our way to doing what we wanted and then Ruecemented that for us artistically. I guess it also comes down to the message we want to get across, it’s a more refined look at ourselves as people and as a unit, as well as a more refined look of what we want the band to be and the effect we want to have on people.
Andrew: To follow on from that, when you’re writing albums like Rue and Opera Oblivia and even the two that came before it, do you ever get to a point where you think that maybe you’re trying to do too much? Does the thought ever cross your mind to just play it safe to write a stock standard album?
Anthony: In some ways, yeah, but honestly the conversation never goes further than I guess a bit of a joke between us. It’s like yeah, we could write another record of just heavy mosh songs if we want but we’re always thinking “Oh yeah haha, cool joke, anyway, let’s keep doing this!” I think yeah, it’s never really on the table officially for us to feel like we just want to play it safe. I think that would be against what Hellions is as a whole and I don’t think any of us would feel comfortable just popping out a song or a record that we felt like we had to write.
Andrew: Yeah for sure! You talk about those heavy mosh songs and to speak briefly again on DieYoung, I remember at your UNIFY panel you spoke about how Die Youngwas initially written to be an album for The Bride. Do you still have any sense of attachment to the songs on that album? Or do you feel detached from them because of what Hellions has become in the time since the band began.
Anthony: I think with Die Youngit’s not a complete detachment on our end, there’s still definitely some songs on the record that I still personally love like “Penultimate Year” and “Consigliere”- that’s even one of my favourite Hellions songs. So yeah, I don’t think there’s a complete detachment, I think we’re all still really proud of what we did at the time for the most part. There’s a couple songs we aren’t too stoked on and don’t talk about anymore. We don’t really revisit those ideas when we’re writing for new material or we don’t really reference it too much, it’s just a thing that we did. But you know, it’s a thing that we’re glad that we did because we wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t. But no, we don’t purposely try to incorporate those ideas and those sounds in any sort of new writing that we do.
Andrew: Yeah that makes a lot of sense! You haven’t dismissed that record but it’s not actively influential going forward. But I guess in looking to the future, you’ve recently announced the Rue tour! You’re headlining your biggest shows ever and it’s looking like sold out shows in Sydney and Melbourne might be on the cards. That must feel really cool for a group of hardcore kids from Western Sydney, The Metro Theatre is a lot bigger than Blacktown Masonic Hall.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s pretty insane! It’s exciting to be playing those kinds of venues and The Metro in particular, you know I grew up in Sydney and went to shows there growing up and even recently I’ve seen friends and other artists that we’ve come up with play these venues and we’ve been there to see them. It’s always been a bucket list venue for our band, that’s a step that we’ve always wanted to take and one that we considered taking a lot earlier too but for other reasons I guess we just decided to keep pushing it back. But yeah, it’s pretty insane, it’s hard you know. I don’t think it’s actually really going to hit until we’re there loading in for the show and obviously it’s still quite a while away. We’re still 80 or something days away from the show, but it’s tracking really well at the moment so if that keeps up that’ll be awesome because we’ll all be in for a real treat. I’m trying not to think about it too much because I don’t want to make myself a nervous wreck but it’s really exciting. It’s absolutely something we will not take for granted and the show we’re planning on doing should hopefully do those venues justice. It almost feels like we’ll be able to do what we’ve been trying to do for the past three years.
Andrew: Well I know you guys are going to probably keep some things under wraps, but should we expect a big theatrical Hellions extravaganza? It really feels like it’s what the album deserves.
Anthony: Yeah! Well, I mean, we will do the best with what we have available to us. It would be amazing to do a show at some point with like an orchestra or even some string instruments thrown in the mix. I don’t think that will be the case this time, purely because I don’t think we’ll have the space (laughs). As far as production goes, we’re sort of taking what we developed for UNIFY this year and elaborating on that in a much bigger way, so there will definitely be some theatrics. We’ll try to pull some tricks to make the show a little special, but I think with these shows what I’m most excited about is the set list.
Andrew: Oh yeah really? Well you guys had said when you announced the tour, and I have the word for word quote here, “some old favourites and some songs we haven’t played for a very long time.” How far back are we talking, or do you want to tease us a little bit more with that?
Anthony: No no! We’re going to go all the way back, I can tell you that. The majority of the set will be focussed around Rueand Opera Obliviasongs but we’re absolutely going to chuck one or two in from Die Youngand then a couple from Indian Summertoo.
Andrew: Oh man that is some of the most exciting news I’ve heard recently!
Anthony: Yeah there’s a few songs that literally so many people, and essentially the same people, are asking us to play them on every single post that we make ever.
Andrew: Oh yeah, I don’t think I remember a Hellions show where someone wasn’t yelling at you to play “Infamita”.
Anthony: Yeah and it’s like our friend Jack always asking us to play “Ghoul”. So we’re taking all of that into consideration and I can’t confirm or deny if we’ll be playing that one or not. I’m just excited, it’s the longest set we’ve ever done so we’ll take the opportunity to play as many songs as we can possibly fit in.
Andrew: Hell yeah! Honestly my immediate reaction to the tour announcement besides obviously ridiculous excitement was towards the bills that you’ve put together for all the shows. It’s cool that you’ve given opportunities to some of the country’s most exciting young bands and I think it shows that you haven’t forgotten where you came from either.
Anthony: Yeah absolutely, and you know the planning for this tour has been an extremely long process. We’ve had artists locked in and then they’ve had to pull out of the shows because the timing didn’t work at, and then we’ve had to move the tour around as well. We just got left in this position where the original plan for the tour just never came to fruition, but I guess it was a blessing in disguise because we got the chance to step back and think about what we actually wanted to do. We just came up with the concept of some mixed bills that just included bands that we liked, artists that a lot of Hellions listen to and then other bands that people are always just asking us to tour with. It took an all-encompassing consideration of bands we liked, bands that we think deserve these opportunities and then what Hellions listeners wanted to see too.
Andrew: That’s really sick to see how much thought was put into it! But I guess to finish up, you guys established the Hellions hotline before and after Rue’s release to connect with fans a little bit. What I want to know is, did you guys ever cop anything that was just a little bit cooked?
Anthony: There were a lot of things that were a little bit too cooked. On the phone in particular we turned off a bunch of stuff, like no photos in particular and no phone calls to protect other people and protect ourselves from getting any nasty surprises. But most of the stuff was really sweet and really cool to see, people were pouring their hearts out to us which I guess was the whole point of it. It popped off way more than we were expecting, but there were a few questionable things mixed in there. I have a feeling that was coming from our mates anyway honestly, so nothing too bad.
Andrew: It’s always the way isn’t it! But thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to chat!
Anthony: Thank you so much, I’ll see you very soon I’m sure!
Catch Hellions on their national Australian tour in May.