The name Short Stack is one that will probably open up some core memories for any angsty Australian teenager from the years 2008-2012. Whether that is screaming along to their lyrics in a sweaty mosh pit at one of their headline shows, being the underground emo kids who saw them open for The Veronicas, Simple Plan, or Good Charlotte, lining up to see them at an instore to get your CD signed, or covering your wall in posters of them from your monthly TV Hits magazine subscription. Whatever it may be, you probably still have a soft spot in your heart for them as they were always the fun pop-punk trio that never took things too seriously and always rioted with a ridiculous amount of energy. That, and you’ve also been through 2 band break-ups with them, so by this stage you’re very emotionally invested.
In 2020 the Budgewoi boys returned with the announcement they were re-forming for a huge reunion tour. The shows instantly sold out, extra dates were added, and the anticipation was high. But it wasn’t meant to be with the impending pandemic having different ideas. Following some rescheduling, they will finally hit the road this June and July for that tour, but in a week’s time they are hitting the road for a little intimate run of shows to celebrate the release of their fourth studio album (out now, via UNFD).
This body of work was one they did not plan to make when they initially re-formed in 2020. They signed on to do a reunion tour, and planned to call it quits straight after. But with the time given to them because of the pandemic, their creative brains started to work in a way that excitingly welcomed new music into the world. ‘Maybe There’s No Heaven’ is a punchy 11 track collection that is the embodiment of the pop-punk record they always dreamt of making. Heavily inspired by Blink 182, they didn’t hold back from pushing themselves in directions they hadn’t been able to in the past.
I recently caught up with Shaun Diviney from Short Stack about creating the record they always dreamed of making, explored the creative process behind songs like ‘Dancing With The Devil’, ‘Armageddon’, and ‘Shinigami’, and celebrated the resurgence of pop-punk. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: The opening and title track of ‘Maybe There’s No Heaven’ is a very intimate introduction to the record, and weaves in the chorus of ‘Burn You Down’. What was it about ‘Burn You Down’ that felt like a core centre-piece to this new journey for Short Stack that made you want to highlight it in the opening track in this way?
SHAUN DIVINEY: I would say ‘Burn You Down’ is one of the best songs we’ve ever written. There are a lot of parts that mesh together, and it’s something that is very different to anything we’ve done before. It’s such a fun song to play live too. We’ve never felt like we’ve had a good opening song for our set, but this definitely feels like a good opening song.
But yeah, we wanted the start of the album to flow into that track. It was the last day in the studio and I made everyone stay until 3am to get it done. I felt really passionate about having this intro, and some of the guys thought it was dumb, but once we got it everyone finally saw my vision *laughs*. I love when albums have a little intro that flows into the first real song, like on ‘Sam’s Town’ by The Killers with ‘Enterlude’ going into ‘When We Were Young’.
TB: “Welcome to the club. I’m fine, but my demons cut into my skin, like a scar” are the first lyrics that listeners will hear on this album, and they are beautiful, honest, and vivid. Can you explain this lyric to you and this record?
SD: The front part of it is very personal. We wrote it obviously in the pandemic when we couldn’t tour. It was such a frustrating time in our lives, which I think everyone can relate to that frustration of everything happening in the world, and how our generation seems a little fucked over by the one before us entirely. There is a sense of hopelessness in those lyrics mixed with frustration.
We never wanted or intended to do a “final album”, but it was something we just fell into. We really wanted to give it our all, and make it something that one day our kids will listen to and be super proud of, which is something we haven’t had before.
TB: ‘Dancing With The Devil’ is an anthemic track that genuinely feels like a pivoted version of a classic Short Stack track.
SD: It definitely is the most “Short Stack” song on the album, isn’t it? *laughs*. When we recorded it in the studio we were like “oh, this really sounds like a Short Stack song”, but we were kinda cool with that as there are so many songs like ‘Burn You Down’ and ‘Love You Like I Used To’ that don’t sound like us. So it was good to have one that brought it back to where it all began.
Can you explain the creative process behind this particular track?
SD: I came up with the idea, and then we went over to Bradie’s house to lay a bit of it down. When we first decided we were going to do this album, we wanted to write a Blink 182 inspired record, something that was really reminiscent of the bands we used to listen to, especially like Starting Line. So I came up with the idea, and then Bradie came up with the drum groove for the verse, and it kind of ended up sounding like a pop-punk version of The 1975 in the verse where it sits on the groove and then opens up in the chorus.
TB: ‘Armageddon’ feels very modern with similarities to recent material by artists like Machine Gun Kelly, Simple Plan, and Avril Lavigne. What were your actual sonical references for this track?
SD: That was one of the first songs we wrote for this album, and it was really inspired by the idea that we wanted to make a very pop-punk album. It has that call and response in the chorus that is so Blink 182, and it has the “na, na na’s” which is so Blink as well. I always wanted to write a Blink 182 song, so that is basically what this track became *laughs*.
TB: The strings behind ‘Shinigami’ actually reminded me of Gang Of Youths, and felt like a mature exploration of where Short Stack could go sonically. Was there an intention to dive deeper in slightly more left-field directions for this record?
SD: Honestly the Gang Of Youths album ‘Go Farther In Lightness’ was one the reasons I wanted to start the band again. When I heard that record I was like, ‘fuck”. Which is funny because I don’t listen to a lot of music personally, but I just love that album so much.
It’s funny because that song sounded so much like Gang Of Youths, to the point where we were told to strip it back as it sounded like a rip off *laughs*. So it’s a lot lighter than it was. I love them so much, so I definitely wanted to play with that style a bit. But it’s also the only song on the album like that. It’s a fun one, and it breaks everything up as the rest of the album is fast and punchy.
TB: I also feel like ‘Valkyrie’ is a bit like that as well.
SD: Yeah that one is funny as that’s the only song that made it on the album that was leftover from the past. That song is one of the demo’s we came to the label with. It was originally a very pop-punk sounding song, but we decided to strip it back. We actually did that at Bradie’s studio, and just chilled out with a bottle of wine.
TB: What song went through the most versions to get it to where it is now on the record?
SD: ‘Love You Like I Used To’. I wrote that with Jayden Seeley before the band got together. Me and him did a writing session, more-so to hang out with each other than anything else. I don’t really love co-writing with other people, so that song took 2-3 days to get it to where it needed to be. Whereas with all of the other songs, I came in knowing exactly where I wanted it to go.
TB: You’ve said that this is the dream album you always wished to make. When you were looking back at ‘Stack Is The New Black’, ‘This Is Bat Country’, ‘Homecoming’, and even ‘Art Vandelay’, what songs would you say were some key distinctive arrow points or where we should have gone further?
SD: I think ‘Art Vandelay’ was way too far being a pop band. We had a lot of pressure from our label at the time to be a pop band, but our band works better playing songs like ‘Princess’, ‘Sway Sway Baby’, and ‘Planets’, rather than other styles of pop. But there was a song on that album called ‘Soul’ which came out just before we broke up the first time, and I think it was a good direction. There were similar elements to ‘Burn You Down’, so I wish we had the confidence to go further on it at that time. But, ‘Burn You Down’ was truly a turning point for us.
TB: On the back end of that question, is there a song from your past that you wish you went down a heavier or different approach?
SD: Our label made us do this song for Australia’s Next Top Model called ‘Bang Bang Sexy’ and it was the shittest song. Everything about that song sucked. I just wish we could erase that from our past. It’s so bad. It’s funny because we’ve never played it live, and no one has ever asked us too *laughs*.
TB: Pop punk is coming back in a huge way right now. Who are some new pop-punk acts that you think people should discover? Or some old one who are returning?
SD: Between You And Me are supporting us on our big tour which is so exciting. Stand Atlantic are obviously killing it. Deadlock is really cool too. Yours Truly are great. And there’s a band called Paperweight who are opening for us on our intimate tour in April who are really cool. I also think our buddies Heroes For Hire are making a comeback, who we used to do everything with back in the day. There’s so much great pop-punk at the moment.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album. Are you ready?
SD: Yeah, let’s do it!
TB: The emoji that best describes our new album ‘Maybe There’s No Heaven’ is…
SD: The fire emoji! It’s pretty good *laughs*.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
TB: The song I’m most looking forward to performing live would be…
SD: Probably ‘Sunshine’ as it’s so fast. 2 minutes and it’s over *laughs*.
TB: Another name for the album we played with was…
SD: That was the hardest decision we made. We nearly made it a self-titled album. We pushed the deadline back for an album title for like 6 months. We really had no idea.
TB: The first song I’d want you to play your friends from the album if they haven’t heard of us or our new music yet would be…
SD: ‘Burn You Down’. That is my favourite song on there. I almost think it’s too much of a good song for us to have *laughs*.
‘Maybe There’s No Heaven’ is out now!
Maybe There’s No Heaven Album Release Tour
Friday 22 April – Howler, Melbourne
Saturday 23 April – Wooly Mammoth, Brisbane
Sunday 24 April – Crowbar, Sydney
For all ticketing and touring info visit shortstackband.com