Every year, the Vans Warped Tour introduces listeners in the U.S. to some exciting bands from overseas. This summer, one such band is Trophy Eyes, a group of punk rockers from Australia. The band combines raw, personal lyrics with powerful vocals and guitars to create music that’s both great to blast in the car and intriguing to ponder.
When Warped Tour rolled into Columbia, Maryland a few days ago, we caught up with John Floreani, lead singer of Trophy Eyes, to ask him about his music and adventures on the road. Read on to learn about the true stories behind some of his songs, his favorite tattoo, and the cartoons he preferred as a kid.
TYF: First of all, what have been some of your favorite memories from Warped Tour this year? Has anything especially interesting or funny happened?
John Floreani: Yeah. Every time, I get asked, “What are your favorite memories from the tour?” There’s just so many, though, and it’s hard to think of one off the top of my head. There was one day when we had a day off at Myrtle Beach. It was for the Fourth of July. And we were right by the pier, the sun was setting, there were fireworks going off and shit… And I was in the water with Boston Manor’s merch guy and TM, Griff, and I was like, “Look at where we are.” ‘Cause he’s from Canada and I’m from Australia, so it was like, “How did we get here?” We had a really cool moment. I think so far that’s been my favorite. And the other night, I was walking back to the bandwagon, and there was glowworms. It was at nighttime, and it was really quiet. All the music had stopped, and there was no breakdowns happening, not any band playing. It was just chill, it was just quiet, and there was glowworms, and it was a nice night.
TYF: That’s awesome. And you guys also went on Warped Tour in 2015, right?
TYF: How has this tour been different or similar so far?
Floreani: I mean, it’s similar in the way that it’s Warped Tour. It’s very much the same. But I have to say it’s easier now to do. We have a bandwagon, and last time we had a sprinter, which is a fancy name for a van with bunks in it and a fridge. It was pretty dreadful doing a summer in that. But this time we have beds and air conditioning and a TV and a Playstation. It’s like glamping, really. It’s cool. And there seems to be a lot more friends out. It’s been good. Warped Tour’s like a giant party for bands. There is a lot of hard work, but every night there’s people to see and things to do. It’s awesome. Yeah, it’s the same old thing—you show up, play shows, and go to bed, and go to the next one. And the crowd’s been better, too.
TYF: That’s good. Did you guys ever go to anything like Warped Tour as audience members?
Floreani: Yeah. There used to be a festival in Australia called Soundwave when I was a kid. I used to go every year. And I saw… Who did I see there? I saw Blink[-182] there, I saw Billy Talent there, I saw Limp Bizkit there, I saw Slipknot there, I Am the Avalanche, Your Demise, Letlive… All the best acts would come and play. That was chill. It was always cool.
TYF: That’s awesome. Now I have some questions about your album, Chemical Miracle. First of all, one of the tracks that stands out to me is “Chlorine,” which has really interesting lyrics. Are those inspired by a true story?
Floreani: Yeah. When I was a kid—I think I was 8, or maybe 9, I’m not sure, actually—I jumped into the wrong end of the pool. I couldn’t really swim at the time. I jumped into the deep end of the pool—I don’t know why, it was a mistake—and I swallowed water, and I was drowning. And some kid—his name is Jimmy Dean—who I never really spoke to after that, I wouldn’t say I was friends with him or anything… he saved me. He pulled me out. And after some time—I think, like, three years ago—he killed himself in his wardrobe, hanged himself in his wardrobe. The song’s not really about, like, “I miss you, Jimmy,” because I never really knew him, and I didn’t want to disrespect him or his family. I didn’t want to put across that we were friends or anything like that in respect for him. It was more so just like, “What a crazy thing for someone to save somebody and, like… I got to live, and he decided not to.” It was a complex thought I had, and I thought that I’d write it down. It seemed important to me at the time.
TYF: Also, I’ve noticed that the songs “Suicide Pact” from Chemical Miracle and “Best Man” from the earlier album have a similar theme of a near-death incident happening in a car. Were you thinking about that [connection] when you wrote “Suicide Pact”?
Floreani: No. “Suicide Pact” is about another friend of mine. When I was a kid, we got in a lot of trouble all the time, doing stupid shit. So I found myself in that scenario more than a normal person would. (Laughs) There was a few incidences where we were in dangerous situations involving cars. “Suicide Pact” is about… I actually wasn’t in that car. A friend of mine stole a car, and then he burnt it out on a road somewhere, and he left town. And I didn’t see him for years after that, because the police caught him, pretty much. They were looking for him in particular. There was a warrant out for his arrest, so he fled. I still don’t think they’ve caught up with him. I hear back from him every now and then, but I haven’t really seen him in years.
TYF: Wow. So was “Best Man” inspired by a real incident as well?
Floreani: Yep. In the midst of all that partying and whatever we were doing, I kind of found myself in this mental state where I was like, “I don’t really wanna be here anymore. I’m just tired of waking up.” Just a bad mental space to be in. Depressed. So I was sitting in the car with my friend one day, and I was telling him, and he wasn’t a psychiatrist or anything, so he wasn’t trained, but he just thought, “Maybe if I speed at the fence at the top of this hill in the car, that’ll scare it out of him.” And it kind of did. He sped at the fence, I was like, “Ah, fuck!”, and he slammed on the brakes, and he was like, “Don’t say that if you don’t actually mean it.” I was like, “Well, I guess that’s true.” I didn’t know I felt that way.
TYF: Do you remember the first song that you ever wrote?
Floreani: Yeah. There was no words to it. The first song with words to it that I wrote was an acoustic song. It was called “Silver Lining.” I’m trying to remember it now… It was a song about my girlfriend, and it was actually a happy song. It was a cute song.
TYF: That’s nice.
Floreani: Yeah, it was sweet. It was about how much I liked this girl, and then she eventually became my girlfriend. That was my first song, but nothing came of it.
TYF: You guys had a pretty cool video for your song “Breathe You In.” What was the filming experience for that like?
Floreani: It was fun. (Laughs) We decided that it was going to be a joke video. We want to take a much less serious route for the music videos, because we’re not very serious people. It was good to just kind of fuck around and have fun with it. We decided that we were just gonna do a bunch of rides, and I was gonna pretend to not have a fun time, which was actually really hard. It’s really hard not to scream on a roller coaster. I was sitting there with a straight face, spinning upside down and shit… It was hard.
TYF: Sounds pretty tricky.
Floreani: Yeah. It was fun. I got pretty sick because on every ride, we were changing out the person next to me every time, so they got breaks, but I had to do every ride, one after another. Bam bam bam. We only had, like, six hours, so we just kept going. Bam bam bam. I was really sick with motion sickness. It was terrible. But it was fun. (Laughs)
TYF: Fun, but also terrible.
Floreani: Yeah, yeah. (Laughs)
TYF: Which ride was your favorite?
Floreani: I don’t know much about rides. I only went on my first roller coaster in, like, 2015. Out of that video, it was probably [the one where you] sit in a little airplane and then it spins upside down. It was on Coney Island, so it was pretty scary. But it was fun. It was my favorite.
TYF: As you guys mentioned, you’re from Australia, but you’ve played in the U.S. a lot. Is there a difference between the crowds in Australia and the crowds over here?
Floreani: Yeah. Our popularity is kind of growing at home, which is great. It’s fun. We have bigger shows at home and bigger tours, so the crowd’s definitely more involved. We have a bigger production at home, too. Like, last time, we had confetti and lights. It’s always harder coming back and starting from square one in a different country. You have some success at home, and then you go to the U.K., and it’s kind of like your first show again. No one really cares, and they’re just looking at you. That’s what it’s all about, I guess. And it’s the same in the States. There’s some kind of market here for us, but it’s growing, and we’ve gotta keep a network and keep coming back and playing shows. But hopefully, eventually, the album will catch on and people will enjoy it, and more people will come out.
TYF: Also, you have a lot of tattoos. Do you want to pick one out and talk about the meaning behind it?
Floreani: (Points to tattoo that says “Sweetheart”) This one is my favorite. It says “Sweetheart,” and it was done by a friend of mine in a band called Earl Grey, and they’re from Cologne, Germany. It was actually a really big night, apparently. I didn’t go out with them, but they went out. I think they didn’t sleep, actually. And our friends stayed with them, the Trophy Eyes guys stayed with them. And I [met up with them] in the morning, and we decided that we were going to do a tattoo. It was going to be “Sweetheart” with a little umbrella, but he was so shaky that he couldn’t do my tattoo. (Gestures to tattoo) Only that much stayed in. Bits of it have fallen out. We never got to the umbrella bit because he was just too fucked. But that was my favorite, and we were just laughing and chatting the whole time. It’s cool being tatted by friends ‘cause it’s not so intimate. Tattooing is kind of like, you sit there and hang out with a dude you don’t know. It’s kind of weird. It’s like, “Fuck, this is kind of weird.” (Laughs) But having your friends tattoo you is fun, and I think that’s why I like this one so much. My friend does all my tattoos now. I’m friends with my tattooist. His name’s Dane Tony, just for reference.
TYF: If you were to get another tattoo today, then what would you get?
Floreani: I’d get my merch guy’s face. We were talking about that the other day. I’m gonna get a little portrait of his head. He said he’s gonna pay for it, so I’m gonna get it. His name’s Chad Schreck, and he’s awesome. He’s a cool guy. We were talking about that the other day, and he said, “If I pay for it, will you get it?” and I said, “Yup.”
TYF: We’re going to finish up with a lighthearted question: What were some of your favorite movies or TV shows as a kid?
Floreani: Oooh. As a little kid, I loved cartoons. It’s the same now. I love cartoons. I guess my favorite was maybe Rocko’s Modern Life. What else? Dexter’s Laboratory. Ed, Edd, n Eddy… I don’t really fuck with Rugrats and SpongeBob. I mean, I love SpongeBob, but…
TYF: It’s not your favorite.
Floreani: Yeah. Cartoon Network was my favorite. I’d just sit there and watch Cartoon Network forever. Movies… When I was, like, 14, my dad showed me Predator. That’s been my favorite movie ever since. I love Predator. I love it so much. Forrest Gump is always good. I used to watch that and cry all the time as a kid. That was pretty funny. Forrest Gump is cool. Yeah, those are my favorites. And The Simpsons, obviously.
TYF: What do you like to watch now?
Floreani: The same shit, really. (Laughs) The same stuff. I loved Adventure Time. Archer was really good. I didn’t like it to start with, but it was really cool. BoJack Horseman. That was an awesome cartoon. Rick and Morty. The Regular Show. Mostly cartoons.
TYF: So you’re definitely a cartoon guy?
Floreani: Yeah. (Laughs)
TYF: Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers and fans?
Floreani: Thanks for listening. Thanks for buying our records and coming to our shows. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you soon.