Nathan Gray (BoySetsFire)
Contributed by GreggHarrington, Posted by Bridge Nine Interviews

Emotive hardcore band BoySetsFire made a name for itself during its 13-year tenure, blending melodic punk with scathing hardcore. The band threw in the towel in 2007, making way for other projects from the members of the band. We saw the return of BoySetsFire in 2010, and the band finally made a return to the studio to track the Bled Dry 7-inch and a new full-length record. Punknews staff interviewer Gregg Harrington spoke with BoySetsFire frontman Nathan Gray about the band's reunion and subsequent plans.

BoySetsFire wasn’t really on the shelf that long, playing its final show in June 2007 and announcing the reunion in October 2010. In that three year span, you guys worked on other projects such as The Casting Out and Young Lady. Was there a musical void left by BoySetsFire that any other band couldn’t necessarily fill, or were there other circumstances leading to the reunion of the band?

I think when we broke up, it was very necessary at the time. I think there were a lot of things that needed to be worked out, there just needed to be some breathing done. Not only that, people wanted to do different stuff, things like that. I think once we got to about five years, something like that, I guess it was Matt [Krupanski - drums] that talked us back into it. I think Josh [Latshaw - guitar] and Matt were the most into it; Chad [Istvan - guitar] and I were probably the most resistant to it. I personally felt like it was too soon. But then after we got back together and played around with some songs, we had a good time. Basically what we did is get back together but it’s not really like it was, you know? We’ll get back together, we’ll write songs, we’ll play stuff but we’re not going to be as… it’s kind of hard to explain. As I’m trying to explain it, I’m realizing how weird it is (laughs). We got back together but it’s more of a thing where we’re not going to get back into the whole ordeal of being a band, which can be very tedious and very difficult and very rough on everyone’s psyches. You’re constantly trying to play as much as possible, you’re constantly trying to tour, and you’re constantly trying to better yourself. Now, we’re just having fun and we don’t care. It sort of gives us a freedom to be able to do that. I think it was probably a poor choice in the beginning to say it was a break up. We should have just said we’re going to go on hiatus for a little bit; we’ll be back at some point. Looking back on that, if we ever do it again, we’ll probably just say that: "alright, see you in a couple years."

You guys just released the Bled Dry 7-inch in time for Record Store Day through Magic Bullet. Upon first listen, the title track sounds like one of the heavier outputs by the band while "Bring Back the Fight" sounds like it could have mixed well as a track on earlier releases. Did you guys go into the studio aiming for a specific sound?

No, it’s actually funny. When we got together we immediately wrote six songs and they all just came out like that. They just came out as what we do. If you go back to The Day The Sun Went Out or even After The Eulogy you’ll get some songs like "Bled Dry." I think it was just a natural thing for us. You’re going to have the real super heavy songs, you’re going to have the more melodic songs, and you’re going to even have songs that are real ballad-y and wimpy. That’s just sort of how we write. Nothing was tried for, we just wrote.

BoySetsFire also has a new full-length coming out through Bridge 9 Records. How did that relationship come about?

It wasn’t really that exciting. It was just cool for us to get together with a label that gives a shit and wants to put out music and is very passionate about music and has good ethics for their business. So it’s cool to be a part of something that doesn’t suck these days. A lot of times with labels and all that bullshit, it gets so distracting from just playing music and having fun that you get burnt out on it, so it was cool to be with a label that just wants to do their thing, wants us to do our thing and wants to have fun with it. When we were talking to different labels, Bridge 9 just happened to have the right attitude for us.

How will the LP material compare to the songs on the new 7-inch?

I think it’ll be a lot like, in my head, it’s a very good combination of our older stuff like The Day the Sun Went Out, After the Eulogy and Misery Index - the last album. I think you’re going to have a lot of that BoySetsFire stuff. And we can all be honest with the fact that I don’t think we’re not well-known for our heavy songs. It’s more melodic and driving songs that we’re known for, the BoySetsFire-sort-of sound. I feel like every album we put out, we sort of redefine our heavy side, which has been a lot of fun. I think with the more melodic rock meets hardcore type of stuff, it’s sort of second nature for us, it’s what we do. I think that with Misery Index and Tomorrow Comes Today, we’ve always experimented more with our heavy songs, and it’s always come out really fun. It’ll be what we are. I mean, this is me talking. I could have no basis in reality for what I’m saying but I don’t think there’s any big surprises with what we do, but that might be because when we play these songs they feel natural. Maybe somebody else will be like, "holy shit, this is a crazy departure for them!" but to me it doesn’t feel that way. Then again, you’re talking about a band that puts out albums that are probably the most schizophrenic shit out there. You’ve got songs like "(10) and Counting" and then songs like "Bled Dry," or… I can’t think of any of our songs right now, that’s awesome (laughs). I think we’ve always done a good job at mixing it up.

Speaking further about the band’s sound, you’ve always seemed to tour with a decent amount of bands that don’t really sound the same. Your upcoming dates have you sharing the stage in America with some up and coming pop-punk bands like Light Years and Maker, but also have you touring with hardcore mainstays Bane in Europe. Have you ever noticed a change in reception from an audience between a hardcore show and a punk show?

I have not but I don’t really pay attention to that. If we like a band we’ll have them play with us. Conversely, if we don’t like a band we probably won’t play with them. We just did a tour in Europe with Off With Their Heads too. I think I’m going to say one aspect is that it’s just the band we are. I think that we can fit in with a lot of different bands because of our weird, schizophrenic sound where we do more melodic songs and more heavy songs. Also, it also comes from being older 90s hardcore kids, you know? Back in the early 90s, you could have a band like Split Lip, Damnation A.D. and whatever other fucking band play the same goddamn show and it wouldn’t be weird. You can have a country band, a pop band, and a metal band play together and it’s all under the umbrella of hardcore, you know? So coming from that scene where nothing was really heavily regulated like it is now, I think that gave us a lot more of an open mind for who we play with.

BoySetsFire has always been a politically-charged band, and with how the political landscape in America looks in 2013, it seems the band will have plenty to write about. Are there specific topics you’ll be touching on with the full-length coming out?

I don’t think so, and the only reason I say that is because a while back we sort of steered away from being too direct on the topics and I’ll tell you why. It was because what we noticed from being a band that speaks emotionally and politically, we noticed a lot of people had formed their own opinions on songs. I think it really hit me when some guy asked me what one of the songs was about, and I told him what it was about. And he was sort of disappointed because he had created this thing that had really gotten him through some shit. I sort of backed off a little bit on that. I guess being older and hopefully wiser, I’ve found that it’s sometimes better to write a song and allow people to make them their own. If you don’t, and you’re constantly forcing what you want them to think or feel down their throats, I don’t think they get that connection with the band or the lyrics that you want them to. I want people to be able to come to a BoySetsFire show and really be able to connect with the energy, be able to connect with the feeling of the moment and be able to take that home with them and have it inspire them in whatever way they need it to inspire them. I do have some ideas behind what I wrote stuff about, but I try to keep it a little vague just because I want people to be able to own the songs themselves.

I read an older interview you did with us from 2006. I was really intrigued with your response to a question about the pressures of recording a new album after releasing something that has been so revered, as After the Eulogy has. Have you found that since reforming, that pressure is gone or is it even more prevalent now?

Oh, it’s totally gone because we could give a shit, you know? Honestly. We’re all in our late 30s or early 40s. We just want to play music and have fun. If people like it, that’s awesome. If people hate it, that’s awesome. I do get a little upset with mediocre reviews, like "eh, it was okay." That still sort of gets me a little. But I love hate mail and I love people loving it, obviously. All in all, whatever comes with it comes with it. I guess we don’t really have a lot relying on it. It’s not like if the record doesn’t do well, it breaks the band. It is what it is. We made something that we love and it’s sort of freeing in that we get to be just goofy old men that like to play music and don’t really need to give a shit what the kids think. It’s a lot of fun.

The LP comes out this June. Do you have any plans after the LP release and people really get time to check out the record and get acquainted with it?

Funny enough, no. This also comes along with the free-form, fly by the seat of our pants aspect of it. We don’t really have a lot of plans. We’re just sort of going as we go. I’ve got a lot of other stuff I’m doing with my other band I Am Heresy. And the other guys have work and family and stuff like that. We don’t really plan that much ahead. We just do what we do, have a lot of fun, and if opportunities arise, we’ll talk about them and see what we’ll do with them.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk, I appreciate it!

Absolutely, anytime. Thank you!

Photo by Bobby Bates