Interview – The Clinch

The Clinch are an Oi/Streetpunk band from Melbourne, Australia who released their excellent debut album last year and are currently in the process of recording their second album. I caught up with vocalist to discuss the origins of the band, their love of boxing and the Australian Oi! Scene amongst other things.

SOTS – Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. Could you please introduce the band and explain how you guys got together?

Steve Bunce – The Clinch are a five piece Oi! / Street Punk band from the rock’n’roll capital of Australia – Melbourne. Gentrified industrial grime and urban sprawl in the North and West, and beaches and leafy suburbs on the Yarra River in the East and South, it’s a town built by successive waves of immigration founded by a guy called Batman. Without the warmer weather of the northern cities, aside from AFL (Aussie football aka ‘footy’), it’s an indoor town which means pints, rock’n’roll and cheap biker speed.

Luke was playing in a legendary local punk band called The Worst, who were playing less and less. Allegedly, in the end they split up after an argument about whether a band of guys in their 30s should be writing songs about kebabs. Luke was born an old man, so I’m not sure why he only just realised this. Luke and I have very similar music taste and we wanted to start an Oi! band with an anthemic catchy sound.

We jammed a few times and then Sammy came along (finally making the honourable switch from playing metal to Oi!). Steg, the polymath drummer from Luke’s old band filled in for a few sessions on bass until Brendan joined, putting down his guitar in exchange for an old thunderbird bass, at which he has excelled like a true renaissance man.

SOTS – Where did the name come from?

SB – Our love of boxing, the Sweet Science!

Sometimes The Clinch is the only thing that keeps you in the fight – but you just gotta keep fighting – just ask Mayweather after round two against Shane Mosley.

I was born in Portland which is a smallish industrial town on the border between states. I used to go to the factory where my dad worked and his apprentice had set up a few boxing bags and would train after work. That left a big impression on me and I always told my parents I wanted to be a professional boxer when I grew up – but that never happened! My parents put me in judo and karate as a youth, then I moved on to jiujitsu and kickboxing as I got older and competed a bit at lower levels… I still train casually in boxing and I love it, along with the other guys in the band, but it’s more about the guts than the glory.

As a band, we manage to get together to train from time to time, and many of our band practices degenerate into friendly sparring. I think it’s important that people integrate their capacity for violence so they don’t fear it – we are animals after all.

SOTS – I would say that your sound is influenced by 80’s Oi!, Punk and Australian Rock. What are the bands influences? 

SB – Right on. We are all obviously keen on 80s Oi! but growing up in Australia at the right age where the older kids we looked up to were listening to Cold Chisel, The Angels, Rose Tattoo etc meant they had a lasting impact.

We are now well into writing the second album – the sound coming out has a bit more of the Aussie rock influence in it, and Andy joining the band has meant a bit more guitar detail but we love tough, chunky riffs too much to divert very far.

I just wrote a song for the new album called The Chariot. It’s about a guy called Danny Spooner, who worked on the last British whaling ships, and played a 48 button English concertina. He played at my wedding and I learnt a lot of folk and union songs from him, so that’s another influence – although not sure the lads would like it if I pulled out a button box on stage.

SOTS – Last year you released your debut ‘Our Path Is One’, can you tells the themes/influences of the album? Who is the main songwriters or is it a collective effort?

SB – It was definitely a team effort. Brendan and I wrote most of the lyrics, and Luke and I wrote most of the music – and Sammy looks after his own business on the cans.

It’s actually a fairly eclectic album in terms of themes – at the time I had a bit of a fixation on how short life is, so that comes through a bit. Lyrically speaking, I am probably a bit more abstract and Brendan is a bit more of a story teller. My lyrics can sometimes come off as sounding very mundane, but to me there is a lot of desperation and existential distress in those ordinary things. One song which was special to me is A New Land which reflects on watching my grandfather slowly die tortured by what he went through in WW2.

For the music on the new album, Luke has just kept churning out bangers, and Brendan as well, so my job has been easy.

SOTS – Earlier this years you released the Vinyl version in Europe through the excellent Sunny Bastard Records. How has the record been received in Europe?

SB – It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Sunny Bastards. These guys are legit – focused on the music and scene. They have built a really solid line-up of bands, and also we are very appreciative of how supportive they have been.

Photo by Michael Reynolds

The vinyl looks great, Sunny Bastards have produced a high quality product in all aspects and we have been getting good feedback, so we are looking forward to recording the second album as we are really happy with how it is coming together.

SOTS – Australia has produced some great bands over the years. What is the scene like over there? Who would you recommend that we check out?

SB – The scene is great, good people. In fact, it’s a real joy to play with lots of familiar faces and people getting behind the current bands. There is a compilation album coming out very soon by Stun Grenade and Contra Records called I come from a band down under which showcases some of the best bands going around at the moment, so keep an eye out for it.

Photo by Michael Reynolds

The Oi! scene often mixes in with other punk and hardcore bands so we get a diverse crowd, and then from time to time we have a big all-day Oi! gig. There’s a lot of good bands going around at the moment and there is a healthy mix of inter-city competition and comradery – I’m a big fan of Stoush, who are tough as guts but unfortunately from Queensland, and Bloody Minded who are just putting out a release which is definitely worth checking out and should be huge.

Also, locally, Violent Demise, The Opposition, Rogues, Bastard North. Interstate Yob Mob, Black Rats, The Knockbacks, Plan of Attack. Shit, I’ve probably missed key bands, but there is so much good Aussie stuff so that’s a good start.

If you are lucky you can still catch a gig by local legends Bastard Squad, Vicious Circle, Bulldog Spirit, Rust etc. No Class haven’t played for a while but expecting something soon.

Photo by Michael Reynolds

But, there is always the normal Aussie problems with the scene – rogue kangaroos and snakes, drunk skinheads thinking they’re in Mad Max etc… once a large huntsman, a kind of spider, dropped on me while on stage and gave me an almighty fright (I wrote a song called Redback, which didn’t make the album but I still think it’s a cracker of a track so we might put it out later).

SOTS – Since you guys formed, you have played a number of shows in Australia with the likes of Rust, No Class, Those Rat Bastards and Bulldog Spirit. Any plans to come and play in the UK or Europe?

SB – For sure. We are hoping to get there by the end of 2019. There is a few things we need to sort out first, so it might be pushed back to early 2020 but that’s the goal.

Australia is 75% the size of Europe and less than 4% the population, so you run out of cities pretty quickly. The scene is a lot bigger in UK and Europe so we are really looking forward to getting there.

SOTS – Have you guys got any plans on releasing your second album? If so when can we expect this?

SB – It’s mostly written and we are really happy with how it’s shaping up – two guitars, bigger anthem choruses, some ball-kicking rock’n’roll… we’ve started playing 3 or 4 of the new songs live and we’ve definitely hit another level. We play what we love, so it’s great fun getting new ones out. You can expect the release during 2019.

SOTS – Thanks again for taking the time to speak to me and I wish you all the best. 

SB – Thanks you bloody legend.