Mitchel Cave tells me that the journey of Chase Atlantic is like that of any good novel or film — it’s all about character development. You start off young and naive, at least as far as the viewer can tell, and then you get hit with opportunities to become a more well rounded part of the cast. A midseason finale finds them teetering between drug use for fun and for escape. Season two is their big arc where they begin looking inwards and exploring the origins of why they are the way they are. On this season — their third album, Beauty In Death, released today via Fearless Records — the band officially becomes the fan favourite. The cocky Chuck Bass sidekick who you can’t help but care about once you understand his back story. The one you root for, where you curse the writers for ever putting them through hell. Beauty In Death leaves me wanting equally to dance until I get dizzy in a dark room, and make a quick call to my therapist to check in. Equal parts escapism and instrospection.
Don’t get me wrong, the braggadocio of past releases is still there on lines like “we fuck bitches, pop on pillies, that is it” — a line I sing with far too much conviction for someone who dates men and took the D.A.R.E. program too seriously in middle school. But with the context of previous releases, you start to see these moments less as bravado and more as a mask for what hides underneath. Confronting topics like mental health, drug use, loneliness, and depression… it’s easy to pass off their music as “just for fun” if you focus on the infectious production, but there’s more to it if you give it an honest chance.
I had the opportunity to chat with Mitchel Cave and Christian Anthony about the new album, the silver linings of 2020, and maybe casually considering starting some kind of cult during their eventual psychedelic era. You can read all of that and more below, but make sure you throw the album on in the background while you read.
First off, congratulations! The new album, BEAUTY IN DEATH, is amazing. I’ve been listening to it all week, absolutely loving it. You guys have been through it all at this point. You’ve self released, you were with a major label and now you’re with Fearless Records. How is it working with Fearless so far?
Mitchel: It’s been great. What we usually try and do is have full creative control with any situation that we’re in. So when Fearless approached us and said they wanted to do a deal with us, we had a chat and they were on the same page as us creatively. It makes the whole thing a lot easier.
Christian: And they seem hungry to try something different. They just seemed like the ones that were the most, like, “this is different for us, it’s new territory for us too.” So we’re figuring this out together.
Mitchel: No complacency.
Christian: Yeah, like “let’s really go for this, try something new,” which we thought was pretty cool. Pretty brave… pretty *fearless*.
Damn, that’s good branding. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic and everybody being a little more open to taking chances, but I feel like a lot of labels have started branching out lately.
Mitchel: It’s definitely a smart idea. If I ran a label, I definitely wouldn’t be a genre based label. It’d be a bit silly, I think.
Christian: You’ve got to put your hands in everything, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
It almost ends up with all of your artists competing with each other for opportunities, they’re each the direct competition for the other.
Christian: Yeah, that’s true. Sometimes it’s friendly competition when it’s in a label. You might see another band and you’re all friends and stuff, but you all know like… “I know how many monthly listeners you’ve got.” It’s friendly competition.
I guess it’s been a funny time to join a new team too. With touring off the table, a lot of ways that you’d get to know other artists are gone right now. Have you gotten a chance to get to know other bands from the label?
Mitchel: I mean, we’re pretty reclusive in general. I think even if we were touring, we still wouldn’t meet that many new people. Spending this whole year in LA producing the record, we’ve just been homebodies. I mean, quarantine also helped with that, but in a more like… what’s the word? We chose to be reclusive and just work on the album.
Christian: It was a conscious decision.
Well, y’all have also toured like… a lot. Like, I read interviews where you said you didn’t realize you were signing up to do that many shows in a row and then suddenly you toured for an entire year.
Mitchel: We tricked ourselves.
Christian: Yeah. If someone told us at the start of 2018 that we’d be playing 153 shows, we would have said no —
Mitchel: No, we’re not! So we don’t have to tour ever again, really.
But I mean, now you can’t. It’s gotta be a huge shift, but it’s also gotta be nice to get some of your time back.
Mitchel: It definitely is nice. It sucks that we can’t go out there and see the fans and give people a live performance they can cherish and remember. But at the same time, I think it’s important to give yourself a break. Otherwise, I think if we toured again this year, we might have gone a little crazy.
Christian: We may have burned ourselves out.
The other thing is that usually when you put out an album, you tour it, and that’s the point where you get to bring new people into the mix and show them what you’re all about. What are you doing this time around to keep the experience feeling exciting, and balance that out for you mentally?
Mitchel: I think we’re pretty fortunate because we did start out online just posting our own music. Our fan base is pretty loyal when it comes to online stuff, like livestreams.
Christian: They do a lot of the “street team” kind of stuff for us, you know? It’s great.
Mitchel: Touring in general definitely helps, but I think we’re fortunate enough to have that support system regardless if we tour or if we don’t do it. I think it’s a slow spreading fire that just keeps catching on with new people.
Christian: And we still do the livestreams, so that’s always fun as well. I feel like we did it quite early on, we tried it and we got a great response for it. We wanted to spend time finishing the album and we thought this would be a really cool thing before the album comes out to do a throwback to the first album, because we did Phases last time.
The other thing I’ve been hearing a lot from artists is that with this time at home, they’ve been reassessing their values or their work-life balance and the way that they approach things in their day-to-day. Have you found that this time has been beneficial for you?
Mitchel: It’s definitely been a very reflective period. I think you can hear that in the album as well.
Christian: I think it was definitely a benefit for us. I remember looking at when we came into 2021 feeling like we’ve learned more things, we’ve got an album together, like we felt really accomplished for 2020. Almost like we came out better. Many people came out a little bit rougher, which makes a lot of sense. And we still, you know, get the general anxieties and anxiousness about the uncertainty of what’s going on with COVID. We play it day by day, but I think we definitely came out better people.
Mitchel: We’re very fortunate. Last year was tough, I think, for everyone. A big learning curve for everyone mentally, physically… but here we are now. 2021, new beginnings.
Christian: Fingers crossed.
Fingers crossed for sure. Being from Australia, have you had the urge to just go home so you can get back to normalcy?
Mitchel: Yes! Uh huh!
Christian: It’s hard. It’s really tough. We’re signed up to this thing from the government and they send you an email once a month telling you “here’s the flights you can get next month,” but those are gone in hours. There’s a lot of people trying to get back home. And then it’s the two weeks in quarantine in a hotel. We’re maybe just waiting for this to pass because that would be rough.
As artists that produce your own music, you have your hand in every part of the process. Where do you find inspiration for new sounds or new elements you want to bring into your music?
Mitchel: Just from within, yeah.
Christian: Definitely listening to some other albums and subconsciously picking up on things, but yeah, it’s never like we’re searching for the new sound.
Mitchel: It’s not like a trial basis of songs. We kind of just make the music that we think is relevant and up-to-date, and a little bit ahead of the curve. Like I was saying earlier, that’s where the album came from, Beauty In Death. Last year was very challenging for us. All of us as individuals with all our own personal problems, having to deal with mental health issues, just being away from family for such an extended amount of time, health issues, all that kind of stuff. That’s what gives us the inspiration to use music as the outlet. You know what I mean? It’s like therapy for us and the more honesty, the better the music is, I think.
Absolutely. I was looking at past interviews to remind myself of the journey up til now. Back when I first interviewed you guys, I thought the balance between lyrics that were like “drugs and partying and such a fun lifestyle” versus “drugs and anxiety, trying to suppress your feelings and ignore with your problems by masking them” was interesting. And I saw past interviews where you’re like, “well, these lyrics about cocaine stains on my Nike’s mean,” — and I quote — “fuck all.”
Mitchel: Fuck all! Yeah, we’re past that now. It’s like any novel, any movie series — you gotta grow, you gotta progress. There has to be character development. You have to start young and naive, and then you have to learn. You grow and then you go out the same way.
Christian: We’ve still got to reach our arc where we become like… psychedelic-y. We still haven’t got to that part where we all get white gowns and one of us becomes a guru or something.
Oh, you mean the Jared Leto experience, you go to Mars Island and join the cult?
Mitchel: I feel like we got ripped off a little bit.
Christian: Yeah. We got ripped off.
I mean, after this, when we’re all allowed to be in the same place again, I’m sure people would be much more open to joining a cult just to be around other people.
Christian: Wasn’t he like… he was away? And he’s like, “I was on a retreat. I didn’t even know COVID was happening.”
Mitchel: What were you doing, buddy?
Not speaking or being spoken to.
Mitchel: He’s just been meditating. He’s been on a higher plane.
Christian: Jared Leto is literally on Mars.
Mitchel: In thirty seconds.
One day we’ll be seeing the show in person again, which is so much fun. I especially like the added element of a saxophone. I think it adds something really classy to the whole experience.
Mitchel: I mean, like, we need to add a little bit of class because of the lyrical content, I think.
Christian: It’s also a little bit of homage to INXS and stuff, the old Australian roots.
Mitchel: And if you can play the saxophone, may as well play it. Why wouldn’t you play it, honestly? You can’t have a bad experience with the saxophone. You can’t. It can’t be like, “oh, that was a terrible saxophone experience. I hated that sax solo.”
No, it’s always good. But after this is over, we go back to shows, we go back to our lives… what’s something that you still want to accomplish that you haven’t had a chance to do yet, or is next on your bucket list?
Mitchel: Mm. Good question.
Christian: I would really want to play Lollapalooza in Argentina. That’s still top of my list. I mean, we’ve got the Brazil shows potentially coming up, going to South America and playing down there. Those crowds always look insane in the videos.
Mitchel: Something I would like to accomplish is… something we haven’t done?
Christian: Inner peace.
Mitchel: Um, yeah. I mean everyone wants to accomplish that. Boy, would I.
Christian: I don’t know. We don’t really set ourselves goals. We just take it day by day, try and be the best we can be every day.
Mitchel: Every day we’ve achieved our goals just by waking up and being here, making vegan sausage rolls. That’s it? That’s it, exclusively.
I like that. I think that’s a good mindset to have. Especially after all this, like… I don’t know, goals feel sort of far away.
Mitchel: Expectation versus reality. It’s good to have high expectations, but when you know realistically you can’t have that high of expectations in these times, you gotta take the little wins. You know what I mean?
Christian: And remember that everyone is in this together and everybody’s going through this at the moment. It’s really tough, but I just keep remembering that the world’s just taken a pause.
Mitchel: Take the little wins and scrape them together, and then they’ll turn into big wins and you cash them all in at the end of the day.