Courtesy of Hopeless Records

Trophy Eyes – Not Quite the End

Suicide and Sunshine is easily Trophy Eyes’ best material. It captures everything fans love about the band and so much more. Point blank.

In our line of work, hundreds of albums are sent to us on a weekly basis. It’s impossible to listen to every new release that comes out. Having said that, we missed the latest Trophy Eyes album when it originally dropped in June. It was such a busy month and I, personally, didn’t check it out until late July. That was by far my biggest mistake of 2023, as it sits comfortably in my top five records of the year. So, we didn’t want to interview Trophy Eyes about this album, what we may have missed, and more, we needed to.

For a band that has consecutively dropped music every two years, the five-year gap that came after their last album left fans wondering if they would ever return. After chatting with the band, though, we have learned that was potentially the case. Trophy Eyes were actually incredibly close to breaking up permanently. Upon hearing the new album, it’s hard to think that they had this music brewing inside them and never would’ve done anything with it. How fascinating that a band who didn’t even think they had another record in them could write something so cohesive and profound? There are moments on this release that touch the listener’s soul as well as moments that shoot them with adrenaline. It’s a hyped-up rock album and something that should be admired as such.

Tracks like “People Like You” remind us of the aggression of Chemical Miracle (2016). Songs like “Blue Eyed Boy” feel upbeat and energetic enough to be on The American Dream (2018). Then there are songs like “Life In Slow Motion” that are an entirely new sound for the band, and it’s something they have clearly been building toward the last decade of their career.  The final track on the album, “Epilogue,” is an open letter to the fans, thanking them for everything. It’s a great experience from start to finish. Again, point blank.

We had the chance to sit down and talk with Jeremy Winchester (Winnie), the band’s bass player, regarding the new record and everything leading up to it. Check out the conversation below.

First question, it’s been 6 months since Suicide and Sunshine. How are you feeling about the record’s release?

It’s been sweet! I couldn’t ask for a better response to be honest. For a moment there we weren’t really sure we were going to do another album. We were thinking towards breaking up; glad we didn’t now, to be honest [Laughs]. Yeah, it’s been great. [We] couldn’t ask for a better response!

You almost broke up? Is that why there was a five year gap from The American Dream to now? It’s a much longer gap than normal.

Mostly it was due to COVID. We all live in different states so getting together was difficult for us. I don’t know how America was with your lockdowns and everything, but we couldn’t leave our house, let alone go inter-state. Getting together for not even just writing, but getting together for content was not really a thing we could do. Since we couldn’t do things… I don’t want to say we lost interest, but the motivation wasn’t there. What could we do? By the time we could do things, it just felt like, “Oh… we already lost two years. Should we keep going? Have another crack? Or should we move on with our lives?” Thankfully we decided to have another crack at this and do one more album. This album was going to be the last one, but given the response I think we might stick around a bit longer. 

Wow! Suicide and Sunshine was you all getting together for one last hoorah! Who knew you would drop this incredible record? That’s why you are looking forward more!

Yeah, I think when we finally did get together the whole two years of not being together was gone, it was like, “Shit! We’re back together!” The creativity was flowing. It was the first time in a while we actually wrote songs in the same room together, as well. We tried doing things over Zoom and all that shit during COVID, but it’s not the same, you know? We did release a couple of singles over COVID, but we didn’t feel like it was what we wanted to release – it was what we could do at the time. I guess that’s also where the motivation dipped, as well. “Damn, we can’t even release what we want to release right now!”

I’ve talked to a few artists about this, but with what you released during that COVID time, you didn’t get to see the audience reaction to it. It’s just a flood of hearts or a few comments, so it doesn’t feel like it’s out there. 

Absolutely! Not even being able to play them was like, “Do people like this song or? We don’t know!” You just see online bullshit, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the shows what songs hit and which ones didn’t. 

In 2020, when COVID broke, were you guys writing a new record? Was that scrapped? Or was that gearing up for a new record cycle. 

Well, we had just released a stand alone single in January 2020. That was going to be something to keep us going until we started writing a new album in 2020. Come March, COVID hit. We were like, “Oh, cool we’ll take a couple extra weeks,” and then an extra couple months and the next thing you know a couple years. 

“Figure Eight,” your single from 2020, was not going to be on whatever record was planned for 2020, I guess, so it was its own thing? 

I don’t think so. I think it was going to be a stand alone thing. We did think about re-recording it with someone else, but we didn’t really get that far. By the time we did come around to Suicide and Sunshine, we were past “Figure Eight.” That’s not a portrayal of how we’re feeling now so there’s no point in putting it on the album.

I want to get into your headspace what it was like the first time you got back in the room with the band. You’ve been apart for two years, and, as you’ve said, the interest was waning because you couldn’t do anything with Trophy Eyes. What was that spark like when you picked up your instrument and jammed. 

It was… I don’t even know how to describe it! It was something I’ve never experienced before. We were finally back together in Thailand doing all the writing and recording. The first couple of days it wasn’t even about the music! It was like, “Damn, I’m here with my friends again! We’re back in a room hanging out drinking beers by the pool!” Then, finally, when it got into music and it wasn’t [a] Zoom back and forth: “I’ve got this idea, what can you do?” It was just sitting in the room, live instruments bouncing back and forth, getting the creativity flowing. It felt like the old days back in 2015 when we used to sit in a room and write. It was really cool. 

Suicide and Sunshine, from the listener standpoint, feels like a culmination of all the Trophy Eyes albums to now. You have the softer rock of American Dream. You have the grittiness of Mend. You have a mixture of both with Chemical Miracle. I feel like this record feels like all of your influences put together. Was that a conscious choice?

Yeah! We stopped thinking about what should it sound like. “Should it sound like this or should it sound like that?” We started thinking more towards, “What would a Trophy Eyes song sound like? What makes a Trophy Eyes song?” That’s how we went back to our roots a bit. Being our “last album,” we wanted to make sure we touched every genre we’ve ever touched in this, any musical influences that spanned over the 10-year career. It was the last album, so it needed to be in our minds: the perfect Trophy Eyes album. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the perfect Trophy Eyes album. That’s what we were aiming for there. 

That makes perfect sense! This is, in my opinion, the best Trophy Eyes album. When you’re writing, there are moments that are rock and then it leans more aggressive. But it’s never a punk track or a metal track it’s in-between like on the song “People Like You.” How do you go about that balance? 

Trophy Eyes has never been a rock band or a metal band or a hardcore band or a punk band; it’s been a bit of everything. There were no wrong answers. Everything was welcome. I know there was a much heavier song that was in the pile that almost made it – it would have been more towards a metalcore song. We just touched on every genre we’ve ever touched on and went from there. [We] tried to make sure we didn’t leave any stones unturned!

Makes sense! I do want to ask about the record cover. Who is on the album cover?

Good question! I actually don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know his name, but I know John had the idea. He wanted a photo that portrayed hectic-ness. I don’t know what the word is – just fast paced in the moment kind of thing! I don’t know his name, but I think he’s a rapper or something like that. He’s from Australia. I think that’s who the photo is of. When John first gave us the idea, he’s like, “I want this,” and he showed us a photo. It might have just been a selfie where he moved really quickly. We were like, “What are you talking about?” [Laughs] Then he’s like, “Trust me! Trust me!” Once we finally took the photo it made more sense. Once you get the music with it you’re like, “Ok, I get it now.”

We’re talking about the band. There was a moment you thought that this was the final Trophy Eyes record. At what point did you agree and say, “Ok, let’s move forward.” What about the reception to this album caused that?

I don’t know! I think when we were writing it, we were like, “We don’t want to stop this anymore! We want to keep doing this!” Although, it comes down to if we released the album and people weren’t too interested, we weren’t going to bust our ass trying to tour it again. The whole two years of COVID set us back from where we were in 2019 with the new album. It really came down to reception, but, yeah, all our team and the industry started saying, “Yeah, this is the one guys! You’ve done well!” Once the first single came out, everyone was saying the same thing. Usually, and especially on YouTube comments where you release a video and there are heinous comments, people are really ruthless! “You guys are shit! You were better in 2013”! Ok? Cool. We noticed there weren’t any of those [in 2023], so we’re like “Oh, damn! This might be a thing here!” Then as the singles kept coming out, the same thing. I guess we have to keep going for sure!

I hear that. Man, that keyboard courage is a real thing. I agree with what you’re saying. On every single, like on “Kill” or “Life In Slow Motion, all of the Instagram and X  [Twitter] comments were just, “Oh my God, they’re back!”

It was really cool to see! So stoked!

Now that you’ve had the chance to play some of these songs live, what was it like? Did you enjoy getting to touch on these new songs?

We did a Metro City headliner [in Australia] and I think the album wasn’t even out when we played the first show on that tour, but it was coming out the week of or something like that and the singles were out. The crowd was very loud for those new songs… like louder than the old songs! “Damn, people are really into this,” we thought. “Life In Slow Motion” seems to be the fan favorite right now. In that bit where it’s really quiet and down we don’t even sing that bit, we say, “You guys sing, let’s go!” And, damn, they’re getting loud!

That part is big especially because it builds into that outro. I imagine when you’re performing that it is almost emotional at that point.

Absolutely! I remember we sold out The Northcote Theater in Melbourne and I think it’s like 1,500 people or something. I remember that finally selling out and doing the set was very emotional. “We made it, boys. We’re back.” Really cool.

I know we’re still only half a year in, but have you guys gotten together to jam at all? Any ideas of songwriting or is it too early to tell?

We’ve definitely been floating some ideas. We haven’t really been able to get together. We just finished a regional Australian tour. During that tour we were doing a thing called Triple J’s Like A Version, which is grabbing someone else’s song and reworking it as your own kind of thing. We did that, and then once we come back, we’re about to start writing ,but John’s gone overseas until next year. [He’s] just doing some of his own stuff. Come January when we’re back in the same country again we might try and get back together and bang something out. 

I also know that you guys did a US tour in the spring. It was before the record dropped. Now that the record’s out, do you have any plans to tour the new songs in the states? Aquarian being New Jersey based, I have to ask!

Absolutely! We have been working on a new tour which we’re hoping to announce maybe [in] early January. We’re working on it, the puzzle pieces are almost together, but it’s not quite ready yet. A little bit longer!

Home stretch! I do want to ask you about the Australian music scene. Can you talk about the scene you grew up in?

Yeah! I’m from a small country town. I’m not from any city or anything like that – actually, most of Trophy Eyes and the old past members, were from the same town.

When we first started playing shows in 2013, going to Sydney and seeing the punk scene/hardcore scene and everything like that was crazy. As a small town kid, I hadn’t seen anything like it – crowdsurfing, moshing. I was like, “What the fuck are these kids doing”? It was really cool to see! Obviously the more shows I played, the more I was around it, I was getting the community and everything behind it. So many different genres were coming together! Sydney was something else/ I guess that’s why a lot of the good Australian bands come from Sydney!

On”Lavender Bay” off of The American Dream, the lyrics go, “I won’t stop until Sydney knows my name!” It’s perfect! Now, I remember seeing you guys live on 2017 Warped Tour and at that point it was still the Chemical Miracle record cycle. Then when I saw you the next year on that Neck Deep tour during The American Dream, it felt like you found your sound again. When you drop a new record, how does the live show change?

We have to figure out how to fit old and new songs in the same kind of set, especially when the sounds are so different. I know that during the writing process of The American Dream, John was living in Texas. It was very Texan inspired. As a person who doesn’t live there or grew up there, everything he was seeing was so interesting to him. He was jotting everything down and that’s where he got some of the lyrics. Like on “Cotton Candy Sky,” that’s just the Texas afternoon on a summer day and he’s like, “Wow, I’ve never seen shit like this before.” It was kind of hard for all of us to be trying to mix those songs into the same set. We started with brackets. “The ending songs are these ones. The opening songs have got to be these ones. This can be a bracket for the older songs. This can be a bracket for the quiet new ones. This can be a bracket just for fun.” That’s pretty much how we try to do it. 

We don’t really play any songs from Mend, Move On [2014] anymore. We put those songs to rest. We’re not that fast punk band we thought we were. Trying to play “Figure Eight” next to “Convalescence” doesn’t go together. We always get fans asking, “Why don’t you play those?” Look, we told you, we don’t really play them anymore. We might play them one day, but it would be an anniversary tour or some shit like that; the album front to back.

I say this with a grain of salt and this is clearly not the case for all bands, but when a band automatically puts too much of their early work into their set, it’s not a good sign because you want your new material to be your best material. 

Exactly! Always! I think with that headliner we did which on the Suicide and Sunshine Tour, I think we only played four from Chemical Miracle and three from The American Dream and then 10 or something from the new album. We don’t really do encores or anything like that. We don’t really fuck around with walking off stage and coming back. It’s kind of wanky, you know? We said, “We’re going to play one more song now. This is it,” and we played “Bandaid.” It’s really old, like EP old and 2013 old. That was one of the first things we ever did. “Here’s your little sprinkle of old!” 

I respect bands that don’t do the encore! PUP is another band that doesn’t do the encore thing. I get that it’s peekaboo for adults, but let’s just say it’s a weekday and I have work at nine in the morning the next day. Do I really want to be waiting for 10 minutes like, “C’mon, guys… just play the songs.”

Yeah! [Laughs] We feel that rather than play 14 songs and come out to do two more, we’re just going to play 16 songs. You’re going to get the same amount of songs and we’re not cutting any. It’s just that we’re not going to walk offstage and then come back.