‘Boogers That Band’ - Joel Birch Of The Amity Affliction
The Booger: Joel Birch (Vocalist)
The Band: Amity Affliction
To say that Joel Birch is multi-talented would be a gross understatement. He is a musician, painter, graphic designer, typographer, photographer and more importantly (to us anyway) a Bodyboarder. Joel is best known for being a member of Queensland Metal band The Amity Affliction. Since forming in 2003 the band has released six studio albums, four of which debuted at #1 on the ARIA charts (Not that Joel gives a shit about the ARIA’s – read on).
Currently amidst a tour, Joel somehow found the time to answer some burning questions we had for him to get an insight into his opinions on all thing’s music, art and bodyboarding. All the images below demonstrate Joel’s creative pursuits… Enjoy.
MM: Hey Joel, Thanks for the chat. To kick us off how long have you been riding a boog? And why did you start?
JB: I lived not close but not too far from the beach when I was young and went to a country state school, so my first real introduction was when my mum moved me to a school right near the beach. Everyone there surfed or bodyboarded, it was right at the peak of Stewart, Tamega and Eppo etc. but at first I tried surfing. My mum bought me the shittest surfboard, I was around 5” and this board was so hectic, I still kinda remember it. It was yellow and had the thickest coat of glass and was wide enough for a large man... anyway, I surfed for a bit and hated the board so much I jumped on a bodyboard that same year: a Hot Buttered 42’ bad boy big enough to float a Hawaiian, but it was fun. I pulled into my first closeout barrel when I was 11 and haven’t stopped loving it since.
Who’d you grow up surfing with and where?
I didn’t surf with anyone of note, I didn’t compete, so I never really met any of the people that were ripping. I was never amazing at bodyboarding, I started to get noticeably better around 17-18 then moved to Brisbane and only surfed once every two weeks. I did get to watch Nelson Ross, Jono Bruce, Joel Taylor and Rawlins though when I was younger. I have some firmly imprinted memories of all those guys, it’s pretty crazy. I remember seeing Joel with Dickies shorts, wallet chain and singlet and I think I was wearing the same shit within a week hahaha I discovered punk around that time, I had no idea it would change my life, pretty crazy. It’s also crazy for me now that I am friends with people like Joel and Keegan from those years, every now and again I still think about that and get stoked hahaha
You’re involved in quite a few creative pursuits! Music, Photography, Graffiti and Typography. Do you have a favourite?
They all balance each other out well, and it depends what mood I’m in really. Graffiti is much like discovering punk rock for me; everything creative in my life began with graffiti: from graffiti I moved logically to graphic design, which led me to digital illustration, which led to me mixing that with graffiti and discovering a love for typography, which then moved to larger and larger spaces until I was painting buildings and now here I am. Discovering punk got me to shows where I met other like minded people who then asked me to be in a band, and then another, and then Amity, and now here I am. Every little influence on me led me to where I am, even photography. I would never have picked up a camera if we didn’t take a guy named James Hartley on tour in 2008. It’s fuckin’ crazy.
Would you consider Bodyboarding a creative outlet or just a hobby?
Both, although a kinda stressful one because I don’t get to surf much because a) I’m on tour half the year and b) I live on the Sunshine Coast, or Sunshine Hoax, as we call it. I’d love to blame it for my lack of prowess but there’s a long line of very fucking good bodyboarders that call it home, from Keegan to Stoney to Cramsie and Drew Innocend when he was still there.
Do you have any favourite riders or movies when it comes to bodyboarding?
Ryan Hardy in The Hardlyfe I & II. The best movies ever made in my opinion hahaha Outside of those two, Tension was obviously massive when I was in high school because it was this brand new, psycho new format. Everyone loved it, we all tried to emulate it, and it was great. Surfytum was one I watched a shit load because I loved the Keegan section too.
What type of music to you like to hear in bodyboard clips/movies? Thoughts on your own being used?
Anything. I really don’t care. If the editing works then it’s all good. Not sure how I feel about 100000fps drops of water on the surface of a board though... Shit looks cool but I could live without it.
What’s your go to spot for bodyboarding?
Where I live, it’s so shit that a go to spot doesn’t exist. I surf out the front of my house in absolute garbage mostly. I have a family, if I didn’t I doubt I’d even bother having a house in Australia, I’d just surf in between tours.
Being in such a successful band (Amity Affliction) while also being a photographer and artist, is it difficult to find time for a surf?
So hard! Like I said, I have a family, so that adds to it tenfold. When I get home surfing is on the back burner, I need to see my wife, I need to hang with my toddler and I need to just do nothing for a little bit, and all of a sudden I’m on tour again. I do go to Indo once a year but it’s always planned around tours and so I’m yet to experience anywhere in Bali really pumping. I went to Sumatra years ago and it was sick, but again not amazing. They got an all time swell day after we left, that sums up my surf trip success thus far.
Does the extensive touring you do globally take you away from the boog or allow you to experience more waves?
No waves. Never. It’s fucked.
Was there a specific moment when you realised Amity Affliction would become as big as you guys are today?
Never. There was a moment where we realized we should take it more seriously though. We sold out the Manning Bar in Sydney, which holds about 800 people or something. That was the night we perhaps got the stars in our eyes for the first time. That was our 2008 album tour for Severed Ties, and I feel old hahaha
Any crazy groupie stories?
None at all I’m afraid. We’ve all had partners for almost the entire time we’ve been in a band, so we never really fucked with anyone that came to our shows.
What’s your favourite thing about being in a band?
Playing shows. After almost 20 years of singing in bands, I still love the shows. It’s the best release away from being in the ocean. I’m lucky that everything I love to do delivers me an escape route from the outside world, and the music is no different. It’s just one of many things I do to help me exist.
And what about bodyboarding?
I haven’t done anything too crazy. I fucked myself up in Java which sucked, but it wasn’t that crazy, just a scar on my head and a clear memory of what it sounds like when your head hits a head of coral.
Here’s a hypothetical question for you, you have the choice of surfing the most perfect waves – where ever you want to choose - of your life with 5 of your best mates for a day, or winning an Aria, which would you choose?
HAHAHAHA are you kidding? Fuck the Aria’s man.
Ahah fair call, I’m guessing you’re picking the waves then! Where’s the spot and who’s your mates?
You know that semi-secret or locally controlled right that’s in Tahiti but isn’t Teahupoo? There. Wellsy, Charles, Keegan, my kid Jairah, and Drew Innocend.
What would you consider your greatest artistic achievement?
Haven’t gotten there yet and I hope I never do. I want to make something new the second I finish something else, so I’m always moving towards the greatest thing I’ve ever done. If I reach a point where I think that I have done that, I will stop.
I know you’re amid a tour at the moment after the release of your Latest album ‘Misery’ last year, but can we expect anything else from the band or yourself in 2019?
So many secrets, so few answers hahaha
We will be keeping our ear to the ground! Thanks for the chat mate.