Touché Amoré

Riding on the hype train, and deservedly so, having released a record that will probably top a lot of end-of-year lists in the form of Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull sat down on the cobbled streets of London with Touché Amoré frontman Jeremy Bolm. The pair talked about the aforementioned release, being labelled "the saviors of hardcore", major label interest, and coming out of 'mosh retirement'.

I caught you at Hevy Fest and the reaction you got was absolutely insane.
It was crazy. It was so crazy. Going into it and walking on the stage then seeing that we were on a big stage with a huge barrier, bouncers and a bunch of photographers, I thought it was going to be hard to try to make it at least kind of intimate, but we all ended up having a really good time. It was awesome.

The festival was at an animal park and Death Is Not Glamorous, who are supporting you on this tour, were very vocal about it and even pulled out because they didn’t agree with it; was it not awkward?
We get it and we understand where they came from, and respect the hell out of it and felt that their point was completely valid. There was definitely no awkwardness with us doing it, it was just one of those things where we felt responsible to do the festival because we have some ties with Rock Sound and we knew it was important to some people that we’d play, so we decided the make the most out of it. We ended up having a good time, but the Death Is Not Glamorous thing we 100% respect it and get why they did it. In some cases, I could have seen us doing the same thing.

I saw you moshing the fuck out to Strife, along with Tymm from Fireworks.
I haven’t moshed at a show properly in forever. I like to use the term ‘mosh retirement’, certain bands bring me out of mosh retirement, Converge brings me out of mosh retirement and Strife does. Strife’s from Los Angeles, they were one of the first hardcore bands I got into and I got to see them do a couple reunion shows over the past 5/6 years, but I was like, ‘Fuck it, I’m across the world right now and I fucking love this band, I’m going to lose my mind right now.’ And I’ve had so much pent up tension; I needed to have a release that wasn’t just yelling into a microphone. I love that band so much. I met Tymm from Fireworks as well for the first time, and it’s funny because we have the same booking agent in the States and same group of friends, but we just don’t know them, and he was filling in for Polar Bear Club, but we talked after the set and he was like, "I was watching and I was like, ‘Fuck, I want to mosh, then I saw you mosh and when for it’"

You’re over here with La Dispute, it must be cool coming over with your best friends.
It’s awesome. Touring with friends is always a way more comfortable situation, but it’s the second time being so far away from home, but doing it with a friend makes it a little easier. When we were last on tour here, we met up with a band from Germany who we didn’t know prior and that tour was awesome, because those guys were the best, but we got to come over in the summer when it was freezing cold and we got to do it with, literally, our best friends.

You’re always associated with each other. How did that friendship blossom?
Our first 7" came out on the same label that puts out their records, No Sleep, and they were coming out on their first west coast tour, so I booked them their LA shows. We played a house show and there wasn’t really anyone there, of course, but, yeah, I put them on a couple of shows and we just instantly clicked super hard. Jordan and I’s friendship is probably one of the fastest friendships I’ve probably ever had with anybody. We just instantly had so much affection towards each other. I love this kid so much. I really look up to him on a lot of things. It was one of the most instantaneous friendships we’ve ever had, if not the most. We actually did a count the other day, because I have a show-log of every show we’ve ever played, because we were discussing what band we’ve played with the most. I think we’ve played 385 shows and 52 of them have been with La Dispute, so it’s a good percentage.

I was reading on the Internet about ‘The Wave’, and some people felt there’s pretention around all these bands being labelled ‘the saviors of hardcore’, how do you feel about that?
I mean, no one should be given such an awkward position like that, to be called ‘the saviours of hardcore’, it’s just a hard thing to try to live up to, especially if people are expecting that. I don’t know, talk is talk and all us bands don’t pay attention to that, we’re all just doing what we do. You can’t really control what people say, but, yeah, it’s weird. When I think of pretentious, I think of bands that act way too cool to do something or like to hang out with, but I think every band that we’re friends with are the most talkative and social people. We’re never hiding in the backstage rooms, we’re always walking around talking to people and sell our own merch. It’s kind of interesting to be considered pretentious because of that, I don’t know. It’s weird. You can’t help what people say, I guess.

Another thing that always seems to kick up a fuss is people referring to you as a screamo band.
I’m such a huge fan and have such an obnoxious screamo collection, I love that stuff, but if you want to see kids having the biggest pissy argument, just go onto any message board about screamo. Kids can just not, not fight each other, it’s so ridiculous. Playing the genre game is the worst thing in the entire world. It hurts my head. People should like music for the music not for the label, but, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. I just say we’re a screamo-influenced hardcore band, that’s the best way to explain it, I think. We love that shit, but we wouldn’t call ourselves a screamo band, we’re just influenced by it.

Obviously, there’s a lot of hype around both you and La Dispute and when the tour was announced, people were questioning the high guarantee since it’s only your second time over.
I mean, we have no say in any of that stuff, and kids don’t take into account that it’s not money going into our pocket, it’s money going to rental, equipment, drivers, ferries, all these things that kids don’t realise exist in this world. Both of our bands get a very small portion of what’s made at the end of the night, because it goes towards all of those other expenses. At the end of this tour, both bands will have just made enough to make back our plane tickets. Merch is obviously something else, you have to pay merch bills and everything, but we make our money from merch while we’re over here. The guarantees are definitely not where we’re making money. Also, gas is so expensive.

I can definitely see you guys blowing up, are you concerned about how that might affect you in a live environment?
When the band started to get more attention, one of the most important things is to not shove our foot in our mouths, I don’t want to say what we’re going to do, but we know what we want to do as a band and what feels comfortable, and for us as a band, no barriers and small shows is where our heart’s at. We’ll do other things and we’ll play bigger shows, but where our happiness lies is smaller shows in live environments. Even if we got to the point where we could play bigger venues, we’d still go out of our way to play smaller shows to keep us happy. If we had the opportunity to play a house show after or something like that, we’ll always try to do something like that because that’s where we feel most at home.

On Twitter, you recently posted against people buying your records solely to make a profit on eBay.
Yeah, we did a boxset of all our 7-inches and we tried to make it so we only sold a couple a night, and kids were always really upset if they didn’t make it in time to get one and then you check the Internet two days later, and you see the person who bought one instantly put it on eBay. Like the kid who really wanted it can’t have it now, because you’re just trying to make a profit. What are you doing in this world? Get out, go antiquing. You’re going to make more money doing that than dumb hardcore records, sorry. It’s so dumb. And the deluxe edition of our LP, there’s only a limited amount of those and there was stress when the site crashed and a bunch of people who really wanted it, didn’t end up getting it and we felt terrible because kids at shows we saying they were online for hours because the site was down and ended up not getting one. Now the records have all been sent out, we looked at eBay the other day and there’s a bunch of Buy It Nows for $200, like fuck that! That’s so shitty. And I feel bad if someone pays that much money for something like that too.

Is it not flattering?
It’s not something I’m flattered by. I’m flattered by someone who drives extra 10-minutes to come see us, but people paying that kind of money for something like that just disappoints me.

When I interviewed Derek from Defeater he told me that a lot of big labels approached Touché Amoré, but you signed with Deathwish, Inc. in the end - why was that?
We will only work with people that we feel genuinely like our band for the right reasons and we can tell that everyone in that situation is involved with it for us, and not for any other reason. If we work with someone and you’re going to give me a call, I want to hear what you did that night or how your dog is doing before you talk about our band, I want to friends. Tre from Deathwish has stayed with such good friends with us for the longest time. I lived in Boston for a month on our booking agent’s couch who shared the same office as Deathwish, so I was at their office every day and getting to know them so well, it just made sense. We told them what we wanted to accomplish as a band and who we wanted to work with and our artwork, and they were really up to make everything work, so we thought why not? We love them all as people and we know they’re all genuine fans of the band. We also don’t have a record contract with them, they didn’t make us sign anything, whereas, some labels wanted a three album deal. We’re a fucking hardcore band, how many hardcore bands put out three albums? It’s pretty rare. We weren’t going to sign our lives away to something we weren’t comfortable with.

The new album, Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, seems to be blowing everyone’s minds. I haven’t seen a bad review, how do you feel about that?
It’s crazy. I mean, in this world, it’s a lot different in other genres of music. Take your typical top 40 R’n’B artist, remember Brandy? If Brandy, tomorrow, came out with a new single that was super-hot, she’d be back on top, but she hasn’t put out shit in a couple of years. However, in punk and hardcore, if you’re a ‘hyped’ band, if your demo or first album was sick, but then your newest album wasn’t what people wanted or expected, you’re forgotten about. People won’t come out to see you. You’re done. So, going into this record was nerve-wrecking and the fact it’s gone over well is the biggest sigh of relief, we can keep touring and having a good time. We don’t have to get jobs yet. We’ve been on tour since it came out and it’s been out for two months, so we get to see the reaction as opposed to read about it. It’s been an overwhelming, exciting experience.

It seems like you’ve really found your sound with this.
When we started writing the split songs, we started to realise what we wanted to do as a band and then when we went to write this record, it was a lot more natural and easy. We definitely feel that we found our niche, but we’ll see how we are when we write the next one.

The only slightly negative thing I’ve heard people say is that it’s too short, did you do that intentionally?
If you want to be straight-forward, we have really short attention spans, we’re not going to drag a part on that doesn’t need to be dragged on. We write songs really fast and we’ll be like, ‘That’s awesome, it makes sense.’ Then we’ll listen to it back and it’ll be 1:05, oh well. It’s not an intentional thing. I read kids saying, "This record is good, but it’s so short." Everything we’ve put out is short, it’s the same length as our first record and our 7-inches are like two-minutes long, chill.

You’re 28? Most guys around that age seem to calm down on touring, but you’re touring more and more.
I’m the older guy in the band, everyone else is very young, between 21-24, so I’m the dad. This is the other guys’ first touring band, but I’ve toured in other bands before, so I’m the boring guy on tour. I’m just trying to relax and sleep after shows, but they’re going to parties and stuff like that, but you’ll find me falling asleep. I’m also the only straight edge guy in the band, so it’s not really my forte. I’m the calm guy, everyone else likes to have fun, but not me. [laughs]

How is it being the sole straight edge guy in a band?
It’s fine. Luckily, I don’t sleep too much, so I’ll always do the night drives, because I’m awake, so if they drink at the show, it’s not something I’m usually mad at, because it’s something that I do anyway. They’ll fall asleep, so I can listen to music in peace, so it’s fine. It’s never really an issue, there are issues here and there, but there’s none that are really pressing.

When did you claim?
When I was 14-years-old. I’ve never drank or done anything neither. I had a compilation that had Earth Crisis on, then I found out what they were all about and that was me. I didn’t really meet another straight edge person until I was like 17, so when I met another kid, I was like, ‘Holy shit! They exist?!’ It’s been a while, but it’s not something you ever think about when you’ve been straight edge for so long. It’s for me, not anybody else. It’s just life. At one point in my life, I had about 45 straight edge friends, but I can count on two hands my close friends who are still straight edge and between 25-30, and those are the people you can tell are in it for the right reasons. It’s kind of funny that all the younger people throw in the towel pretty quickly. Breaking edge doesn’t matter to me at all, it’s the least of my concern, I don’t give a shit what anyone else does. The same way I hope no one cares what I do. Like I said, I’m straight edge for me and not for anybody else, and everyone else should feel the exact same way.

So, what’s next for Touché Amoré?
We go to Australia for the first time and then hopefully another US tour in support of the record towards the end of the year. We’re playing Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin as well, and we’ll be playing Fest, which is a blast. It’s a really cool environment and one of the most fun weekends of the year. It’ll be our third time playing, second time official, because the first time we played we didn’t actually get on, but we showed up and played house shows, like we played with Comadre on the first night and a warehouse with Shook Ones and Make Do and Mend on the second night, so it was awesome, we had a great time.