Touche Amore interview (Jeremy Bolm)

"I think that is a think in hardcore in general. We are talking about fair-weather fans"

03/02/2014 @ 12:34
During (one of) their UK tours, we had the opportunity to chat with Touché Amoré's Jeremy Bolm. In the basement of a dusty venue in one of Glasgow's alley-ways we talked with Touché Amoré's frontman about their latest album, the main vices of hardcore fans and his band's writing process. Enjoy!

Touché AmoréHey Jeremy!

So, in general, whenever I talk to bands, they tend to mention that third albums are one of the trickiest milestones to reach in a band’s career. You already have a pretty devoted fanbase but you might also be tired of doing the same thing... How did you approach this album keeping all these things in mind?
Well, we knew going into it that we didn’t want to write the same record again. You have to show growth but you can’t get too weird, cause then you will scare people off. You try the best to maintain what you know but also, you know, show that you have learned something over the past couple of years. Whether it be songwriting or even just by playing your instruments better or even by writing better words. We knew that there was that pressure there, but we did our best to not really focus on it. We just wrote what felt right. That’s pretty much what we did. We wrote the record in about two and a half months and we used a producer who was local, just a few miles from our house, which made the things a bit easier.

The way I see this album is that it takes a more melodic approach in comparison to your previous releases...
True. You know, we have always been a melodic band but we can write songs that enable the melodies to grow as opposed to just have the song start and stop.

Touché Amoré - Is Survived ByLyrically, the album revolves around themes of 'legacy' and 'mortality'. How did that come to be?
During the process of writing the record I turned 30, so I think played a big part for me. I’m starting to thinking as life as a bigger picture as opposed to... You know, when you’re in your twenties you still feel like a teenager. I also make the joke that if you are involved in punk or hardcore, it basically stunts your growth. You think you are sixteen forever. So yeah, a lot of this was going around in my head. I started thinking about what sort of life I was leading and that’s where those themes came from.

The first new sample of music I heard from you guys in 2013 was from the split record with Pianos Become The Teeth, where you had a 4 minute long track, which is something you don’t really do. Thus, I was expecting the new LP to follow in those sort of footsteps. So what was so different about "Gravity, Metaphorically"?
Honestly, with our band, we never started up and said 'Okay, let's write short songs'. It all just happened on its own. We just have short attention spans, so we will write a part and say 'niaaah, this goes on for too long', make it 2 bars instead of 4 or 4 instead of 8. So when it came to writing that song, or even writing, the next record... Cause a lot of songs on "Is Survived By" are relatively longer. 12 songs, 30 minutes, whereas our previous one was 19 minutes. You know, it all happens on its own. It wasn’t anything we tried to do, it all just happened organically. It comes with the growth of the band. It is not anything we particularly focused on, we just write the song until it feels right and turns out okay.

Touché AmoréSplit records obviously play a big role in your band’s identity. How does that work? Do you say 'Okay, we released a full length, now let’s do some splits' or does it just happen?
It just kindah works out that way! You know, it seem like we put LPs out the odd years and splits out the even years. We have already started talking about splits for the next year. We haven’t written anything obviously yet, we have been on tour, but we will go home in a couple of days and then back on the road in February with mewithoutYou, Seahaven and Drug Church which I am really excited about. The fact that those guys agreed to go out with us is really exciting. Us and mewithoutYou have recorded with the same producer, and we were big fans of what he did with them. So yeah, at our time at home we will probably be able to write a couple of songs...

Yeah, that would have been a follow up question. Where do you find the time to record all these splits, as you seem to always be on the road?
Right, yeah. We don’t like sitting still. As soon as we get home, we start trying to write songs and then we leave again.  Like last year, we recorded all the songs for the Casket Lottery split, the Pianos Become The Teeth split and the Title Fight split all at the same time. They all came out like a year later. That’s the hard thing about splits, you have to wait for the other band to records their side...

So how does it work? Do you approach a band ands say 'Hey, lets make a split'?
Yeah, and then you just kindah have to wait for them to do it and for us to finish. Nick (Steinhardt, guitar) handles the artwork, which sometimes is too a collaborative effort. Splits are a lot of fun, especially when you get to work with bands of which you are a fan of and friends with, but the waiting thing is a bit of a problem. By the time it is released you might even be over that song cause you recorded it a year ago!

Touché AmoréI mentioned touring before... So you guys recently went to Japan, which I am assuming was a pretty big deal...
Yeah, that was the last thing our band expected to do! You know, that was our top goal. 'Man, if we ever got to go to Japan, we’ve done everything!'. So, now we got to go there and it was the best ever! We went out with Loma Prieta and it was incredible...

You also just came off a tour with AFI back in the States, who have kindah moved to a different type of scene...
I know that they are a lot bigger in the US then they are overseas. They are a cult band in the States. Most of their shows sold out in seconds, which was hard for us cause no one who liked our band managed to get tickets. We were playing STRICTLY to AFI fans, which is fine, cause that is the reason why you do those sort of tours, but it gets a bit hard sometimes. We are playing songs off of "Is Survided By" on the tour and every song is a new song to them. It was a little hard.

Also, due to the duration of your songs, even in a support slot, you get to play tons of material. So if something doesn’t go as planned, you still have stick it out and stay there...
Yeah, we got to play 45 minutes, which is 22 songs. Its funny, cause we end up playing twice as many songs as the headliner!

Touché AmoréIn the hardcore/post-hardcore scene, there seems to be a lot of inspiring comradery between bands, which you don’t really get with other scenes. On the other hand, it is kindah ironic that the fanbase... Umm, if they love a band, they’ll show it, but the moment something happens or changes, they will immediately turn their back and send you to hell...
Right. I think that is a think in hardcore in general. We are talking about fair-weather fans. That’s why writing a third record is also very hard for a hardcore band cause, A, how many hardcore bands make it to that stage, and B, once they do, how many people will stick around after? Is it their last record? This genre is basically the most unforgiving genre there is. I am guilty of it too! If I like a band and they put out a bad record, I’m probably not going to be as excited to listen to the record that follows. There have been tons of examples of that happening you know. Modern Life Is War, one of my favorite bands in the world, when they put out "Midnight In America", everyone was let down by it and they broke up shortly after. Now they’re back and their album is fucking incredible, but they will be the first to tell you that they suffered from that situation.

I’m guessing it was a contributing factor to their breakup...
Well it was multiple things, but that certainly didn’t help. So, I use this as an example whenever I talk about this and want to highlight a fact about genres. Look at general mainstream music like pop, rap, RnB, whatever. Those artists can put out one song, have it be the biggest song and then put out 5 consecutive bad albums, bad singles, and then, six years later, if they put out a decent song, a hot track, people will just immediately fall back into them. Usher is someone that can just come and go like nothing. It’s crazy.

How is being part of the legendary 'Deathwish' family? It is a label with a lot of history...
For me... I can’t think of a cooler place to be. Converge is my all time favorite band, Jacob Bannon has always been a person I admired. I used to do freelance writing and journalism and I got to interview him in 2004, and it’s crazy cause now, not only are we friends but we are also business partners. They allowed me to have a record label through Deathwish called Secret Voice. So basically, we work together with my band, with my label and its really exciting to know that I am in the same label that put out some of my all time favorite records. It’s super cool. I couldn’t think of a better place to be!

Touché AmoréDo you want to talk me through the creative process of a Touché Amoré album?
Umm, we try to get together about three times a week and someone will bring a riff and we will then collectively work on it together. Everybody can play guitar, everybody can more or less play bass, some of us can play drums, so everybody can pitch in. Everyone has equal say, everyone works together. Once the song is written, I’ll record it on my phone or whatever and listen to that over and over and write lyrics. That’s about it.

Where there times that you were the one 'holding the band back' in a way?
You mean not getting songs finished? Yeah. This time going into the studio I still had to write half the records worth of lyrics! It was pretty bad, I have never been so slow before. But then again, we are currently on tour with Self-Defense Family (formerly known as End Of A Year), and I know, their singer, Patrick (Kindlon) writes lyrics just before walking in to the recording booth. That guy prides himself for that, so I’m not that bad (laughs).

Do you think that that last-minute attitude has a significant impact on the final outcome of a song?
Yeah, we talked about it and we have completely different views. Patrick likes it because he says your brain is basically a stream of consciousness and basically you are writing shit right off the top of your head and you don’t have the chance to do the same thing again. He referenced it like a football player going home and watching a game he just played. Why do that? For me it’s totally different, a lot of people would re-watch the game, make sure everything went perfect. I write and re-write songs many times. There are a lot of versions of different songs that I have thrown away. I tend to be very meticulous and hard on myself, to the point of going crazy. I can be a very uncomfortable person to be around with when I’m in that phase.

Touché AmoréFrom the new album, my two favorite tracks are probably "Non-Fiction" and "To Write Content". On the latter, you mention a conversation you have with "Andy"...
It’s actually about Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra. I’m a huge Manchester Orchestra fan and we were on tour at the time with Circa Survive, Balance And Composure and O’ Brother. Andy produced one of O’ Brother’s albums at the time, they all knew that I was a big Manchester Orchestra fan and that he was coming to our show that night in New York City, so Johnny (Dang, guitarist of O’Brother), he introduced me to him. We ended up talking for quite a while and he was just talking to me about how Manchester Orchestra was about to start writing their new record, as were we, and we just got into the subject of... like 'I am married to my best friend, I have a band that I’m proud of, as we have done way beyond anything I thought we would do, I am so happy' and I was thinking the same thing.  Hanging out in New York City with bands which I love, what d we have to complain about? And that’s what he said, 'It’s hard to write content'. I was like... it stuck with me. I remember sending him the lyrics to that song and he said 'wow, you make me sound so cool'!

Well, most of your songs have a 'darker' feeling to them and they all seem to come from a very personal place. If you don’t feel like that, would there ever be a Touché Amoré song that doesn’t gather its essence from you as a person?
I can sort of find other things to sing about, that’s why this album revolves around the theme of mortality. It doesn’t always have to be 'self-deprecating'. This was one of the challenges of this album, to find something else to sing about. I am not a narrator type of guy like Jordan (Dreyer) from La Dispute, that can write stories and stuff like that of which he has a gift for, same for mewithoutYou. I have never tried. There are a few songs in our catalogue where I have gone outside the box like "Great Repetition" from our last record where I am sort of taking the character of this magician but it happened to reflect what I was feeling at the time, so it felt more comfortable, but I cannot say that I have tried to go into something that doesn’t really feel like me...

Touché AmoréHaving toured around the world so much, what would you say is the biggest difference between US and overseas crowds?
Well, overseas crowds seem to show you a bit more appreciation and excitement. As much as in the States it’s easy and fun and you kind of know what's going to happen - this is coming from someone who is the same - we are spoiled. Everyone tours the US and most bands are from there anyway. So, when you come over here, you can feel that the crowd is really excited that you are there, they give it their all!

So, as we wrap this up, any message for your Greek fans? It’s kind of an overlooked scene at the moment, but you never know...
I’d love to come and play there! We have never played Spain, never played Greece, don’t know why...Hopefully this next year we’ll get to play a lot of new places.

Thanks, a lot.
No worries man, thank you.