In our first of two interviews with L.A.-based hardcore outfit Touché Amoré, we chatted about the conception and creating of album artwork with guitarist Nick Steinhardt. This time around, we sat down on a rugged city sidewalk in from of the Magic Stick in Detroit to talk about the writing and recording of the band's newest full-length Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me with TA vocalist Jeremy Bolm.
Jason@RRR: For the record, could you introduce yourself and say what you do in Touche Amore?
Jeremy Bolm: My name is Jeremy and I sing.
Jason@RRR: How has your current tour been going so far? You guys are on the road with Title Fight, The Menzingers and Dead End Path.
JB: Yeah, it’s been really awesome. It’s a very youthful tour, which is awesome. All the bands are real young. It’s kind of a good summer vacation feel tour. It’s almost over though, I think there’s about a week left.
Jason@RRR: How would you compare this to some of the other touring this band has done in the past couple years in terms of atmosphere and all the bands meshing?
JB: Well, like I said, definitely the youthfulness is different. We’re usually the youngest band on the tour. Like, we toured with Converge, obviously they’ve been around for forever. Envy also, same thing, they’ve been around for like 15 years. Bane. So we’re always usually the youthful band. But its kind of interesting doing a tour where everyone is pretty much peers. I think I’m actually the oldest person on this tour [laughs]. So that is different. We’re playing to a little bit of a younger crowd too. It’s different, but in a fun way.
Jason@RRR: You guys recently released your debut full-length for Deathwish entitled Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, can you talk about the initial plan you guys had as a band when you sat down to write and record this album?
JB: Everything we’ve ever recorded has always been with friends or that kind of a situation. So, we knew that we wanted to try to challenge ourselves and do something kind of different. We wanted to work with someone who we really respected and were excited about, so we got in touch with Ed Rose. And he was the first person on the list who we wanted to record with. He accepted it, so we were really thrilled to be able to do that. We just wanted to have a very loud and very strong sounding record, like just something that will blare through your speakers. I think Ed did an amazing job with that. I think we pretty much accomplished everything we set out to do.
Jason@RRR: How long did the initial writing process take for this album?
JB: We wrote four, four and a half songs before leaving on the Envy tour, and then we got back from that and between December and January we wrote the rest of the record. It happened pretty quickly. We usually only practice once or twice a week, but we started practicing like four times a week, and it just came pretty naturally. We were never really stressing out too hard. The big chunk of the record was done in about a month and a half.
Jason@RRR: There’s a noticeable shift in the sound of this record compared to the last full-length the band did. Where would you say that change primarily came from?
JB: Well, to be straightforward, we have two new people playing on the record. Actually, in a way, two and a half. Our bass player now took over guitar duties, because our guitar player from the last record left. Our drummer from the last record left. So we have a new drummer, new guitarist and a brand new bass player. So, that being said, that’s a very direct thing to have change, which made it kind of nervous at first. You know, we were like, ‘Can we still do this?’, you know what I’m saying? I think it was the best thing that could have happened to us, ‘cause we’re way more stronger as a unit, everybody’s learning their instruments a lot better. The melodies are a lot stronger, I feel, than they’ve ever been, and I became a lot more comfortable with myself with writing. I just think it’s a much smarter record on our part, and a well put-together record compared to the first one. The first one, we never really thought about writing a full record, we were just a band from L.A., a local band. So, all those songs were just written over time and then we had enough to do a full-length. This was actually us putting together a full record.
Jason@RRR: Would you say the change came naturally or was there a conscious effort on your part to do something different?
JB: It was definitely natural. We weren’t like, ‘Man, this song needs to be heavier’ or whatever. There would be disagreements, but for the most part we were on the same page about everything. It’s still kind of the same formula, we have real short songs, and that’s not forced – we have real short attention spans. We aren’t like, ‘This song is too long,’ you know?
Jason@RRR: Either lyrically for yourself or musically as a whole, was there a primary influence that you would say encompasses this record?
JB: I would say theme-wise, being gone. A lot of references to just being on tour and being away from home and finding comfort in that. Musically, we all have different influences on the record. Lyrically, anything from like Leonard Cohen to The National was a big influence to me. But overall, I would say, kind of finding comfort from being away from home and relationships and things like that.
Jason@RRR: How much would you say that the bands you’ve toured with in the past couple years have influenced the music you’ve written at this point?
JB: Pretty well. I would say the biggest influence we’ve had would have been touring with Envy. They’ve always been one of our favorite bands. They’ve been a big influence since this band started, and to tour with them was the coolest thing in the world for us. Watching them every night was a huge influence. There’s definitely parts on the record where people have been like, ‘Oh, you can tell these guys listen to Envy’. “Amends” is a big example of that I would say. But not even just musically, getting to tour with Converge, people have helped us grow and learn what to do, what not to do.
Jason@RRR: If there is one track that you feel is a beacon for Touche Amore’s growth as a band, what would you say that track would be?
JB: I think the song “The Great Repetition” is a great example, it encompasses all the things we sort of go for. It’s fast, it’s slow, it’s clean, it’s loud, it’s kind of all over the place. I think song is a good one. “Amends” is a song we’re really proud of. I’d probably say those two, but “Tilde” is one of favorite songs we’ve ever written. There’s not really a song on the record that I’m iffy on, there’s a few that going in I was like, I don’t know how this is gonna be, but once it was done, we were all very proud of it.
Jason@RRR: How do you feel about a track like “Condolences”, which was a favorite of mine from this record?
JB: That song was throwing caution to the wind, on that one. I had an idea that I really wanted to do a dark song, and Elliot [Babin] our drummer plays piano. While we were writing the record, I told Elliot if he had time at home, just try to come up with something real moody. And that was the one thing he came up with, he didn’t write anything else. One night I went over his house and we just kind of arranged it and recorded it on his iPhone and he sent me the mp3 of it. It took me forever to write to it, ‘cause I just really didn’t know what I actually wanted to do. It was while we were still in the studio that I wrote the lyrics, and the last day of tracking music we just gave it a shot and did it pretty comfortably. Ed Rose had like three or four different pianos set up in his room, and he picked the one that was most out of tune to go with. I felt like it was kind of a risk, and we didn’t know if we were gonna use it or not because it really wasn’t thought out. Elliot and I are both super proud of how it came out.
Jason@RRR: It’s a good track because it has so much emotional impact, but also because it is quite different for you guys.
JB: I’m happy we did it, it was a good break in the record I think.
Jason@RRR: On working with Ed Rose, what was your reasoning on wanting to record with him in the first place?
JB: We’re all fans of a lot of the records he has done. Primarily The Casket Lottery, they have an album called Survival is for Cowards. He’s done every Casket Lottery album and they all sound great, but that record in particular is perfect. The drums are loud, the bass is so cut in the mix and the guitars are clean as hell. It’s so ferocious. And the vocals are so up front. It’s exactly what we wanted to do. So I just sent him an email that said, ‘Hey, we just want a record that sounds like this,’ and he was like ‘I got all that same stuff, so we can make it happen.’ Actually, side thing, Nathan from The Casket Lottery was supposed to sing on our record, but the week we were there, he got the flu super bad. And we tried to work it out, stretching things out so he could do it. But he didn’t feel comfortable in himself to sing. Maybe next time.
Jason@RRR: How has the reaction to this record, both from the fans and critics, hit this band?
JB: It’s hard not to get swallowed up in it, because it’s been very positive and that’s more than we could have ever imagined. It’s kind of like a gigantic sigh of relief too. Going in to record this record, speaking for myself, I was kind of a basket-case about it. Writing your followup record to a record that kind of hit close to home for a lot of kids is really hard, because you feel like there is a lot of anticipation and pressure put on you to put out a good record. And the punk and hardcore community is a very unforgiving community, which is fine. No one is to blame for that. A band could put out an amazing 7-inch or an incredible EP or whatever, and everyone gets stoked for the full-length. And then the full-length comes out and it’s not what people wanted to hear, and then just no one cares about that band anymore, it’s kind of done. That put a lot of pressure on me lyrically. Knowing that it has been well received is a big sigh of relief, and I feel pretty good about it.
Jason@RRR: Did you feel that there was any added pressure from the fact that it was your first record for a new label?
JB: Yeah, I mean all those things kind of altogether. We wanted to make Deathwish proud, we wanted to make our booking agent proud, we wanted to make everybody proud, you know? There were times when we were writing that I said, ‘I really hope this is not too weird, not too different’, and then Ed forced us to play a lot faster than we normally did. It was all recorded live too, and there’s times where he was like, ‘Play faster, play faster,’ and I’m so happy we did. I feel like it adds an extra sense of urgency to the record. It’s a nice feeling.
Jason@RRR: Speaking of being on a new label, what has it been like being a part of Deathwish and what made you decide to sign with them in the first place?
JB: We have had a relationship with them for about a year and a half, before we ever did anything. We knew that they generally cared. They’ve let us do pretty much whatever we’ve wanted to do, which is the coolest thing. We had the idea of doing the deluxe edition, and they went out of their way to make sure it was done and done the most cost-efficient way where they can charge the littlest amount. The fact that it weighs four pounds, as a 28-page book, and it’s twenty dollars. Most labels these days would sell that for thirty or thirty five. So knowing that they’re not greedy and they are happy to be putting out cool music is... they’re in it for the right reasons. And they truly care about us as people. They’ll ask us how we’re doing before they ask us how tour is going, which is all we could ever ask for.
Jason@RRR: After this tour wraps up, you guys have some dates with Balance and Composure. How are you expecting that tour to go compared to this one?
JB: We played a few times with them at SXSW. I feel like there is this really exciting world that has been going on for a little over a year now, where all these bands have the same group of following kids. Whether we are playing with Title Fight or Tiger’s Jaw or Balance or Make Do and Mend or La Dispute, all these same kids like all these same bands. I don’t it’s gonna be too different. The only difference is we’re gonna be headlining those dates, but that doesn’t make a difference, because I feel like the same amount of kids are gonna come out. But it should be fun. We all love that band a lot, and we only recently became friends with them, actually at SXSW. They are one of the two bands, them and Tiger’s Jaw that are in the group of friends that we hadn’t met yet. Funny trivia side thing, when we were doing the artwork for the record, when we submitted who we wanted to have on the thank you list, I put Balance and Composure on there before we met them. I was like, ‘You know what, we’re meeting them in two weeks, and I know we’re gonna be friends with those guys,’ and they are such nice kids. From there, we then go to Canada and do some crazy Canada dates. I know that part of Canada doesn’t really get toured too much, so we’re excited to take a chance and try it out.
Jason@RRR: After you do that, you guys have Europe, some of which is with La Dispute, and then meet back up with Title Fight in Australia.
JB: We just got announced on FYF Fest in L.A., Descendants, Weakerthans, Explosions in the Sky, Kid Dynamite. It’s gonna be a good time. Gonna be a good day. Thirty dollar ticket for all that.
Jason@RRR: Have you started thinking about a U.S. tour after all of that?
JB: That may of all changed today. We were thinking about doing a headliner towards the end of the year, but that might of just changed. But we’ll be trying our luck at a headliner either late this year or early next year.
Jason@RRR: That’s pretty much all I have, is there anything else you’d like to add?
JB: Listen to Joyce Manor. I say that at the end of every interview, because they are the best band.
Be sure to check out the band on their string of dates with Balance and Composure and White Wives before they go international for the next few months with the likes of La Dispute and Title Fight. You can read our review of Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me here.