Interview: Touché Amoré Frontman Jeremy Bolm Talks New Album, Is Survived By, and Touring with AFI
"I apologize that I sound a little rough. I haven’t had much sleep the past two or three nights," says Touché Amoré's Jeremy Bolm (pictured above, center). "It’s been overnight drives and I’m the night driver." When Revolver catches up with the vocalist, he's in Detroit on day two of the band's tour opening for AFI, a seemingly unlikely slot for his group.
"Opening for this tour is a different ballgame," Bolm admits. "We normally aren’t dealing with this much so fast. I think the Riot Fest thing, having to play around it, and starting a tour in the Midwest--all those things added together were giving us this real-shit scenario."
Revolver talks to Bolm about "shit scenarios," opening for a "life-changing" band, starting a zine, and Touché Amoré's third album, Is Survived By.
REVOLVER Between the album title and some of the lyrics, the new record seems to have a theme of how people are remembered. Is that accurate?
JEREMY BOLM That’s exactly what it is. It’s funny because I realized "Is Survived By" almost strictly an American phase and I hadn’t thought about if they use the same phase in obituaries in other countries. I’ve had a couple interviews where I’ve had to explain it. It’s an ongoing theme throughout the record of the idea of mortality, how you will be remembered, and how you think you may be living your life one way but people might be seeing you another way. They don’t have control over it, so it’s doing your best to leave a positive mark on this world.
So what brought on that theme?
I turned 30 this year and while we were writing the record I felt like turning 30 was that looking at life as a bigger picture moment, whereas when you’re in your 20s you still think you’re a teenager. Also punk rock stunts your growth. [Laughs] I was trying to look at life with a clear picture. My mom’s health isn’t doing so hot at the moment so I’m just trying to take a step back and look at things like that.
People say your music has helped them through their dark times. How does that affect you?
I mean, that’s the best thing about music, in general, is that you might be writing a song that is emotional and about hard times and things like that but it can help the next person that listens to it because it makes them feel like they’re not alone. So I just love that I’ve had an effect on anyone like that--that our band can have that same feeling that I had for tons of other bands.
Your lyrics are incredibly honest and personal, whether it’s what you say or your pronoun usage of “I.” Do you ever wish you didn’t say something you did?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I made a promise to myself, and I talk about it on the second song of the record, that if people are willing to listen to me then I’m going to lay it all out on the table and not hold anything back because I don’t want to feel like I’m robbing anyone. It has affected relationships before--not too drastically but there have been things that I’ve said that I didn’t have the courage to say to that person directly and then they obviously realized it’s about them. There hasn’t been a moment yet where I wanted to take something back, but there are definitely songs that I’ve written that in the heat of the moment and now those relationships have mended. Now when I sing those songs live, I just think about them in another way so it’s not like I’m singing about something I have no actual feelings for anymore.
That second song is “To Write Content.” In the lyrics you describe a conversation and you say, "It’s hard to write content/And it still is." Who are you talking to?
It’s actually about Andy Hull in Manchester Orchestra. We were on tour with Circa Survive last year and one of the openers on the tour was O’Brother and they recorded their record with Andy Hull. And Johnny [Dang, O'Brother guitarist] introduced me to Andy. So we’re playing in New York City, we meet and hit it off. We both were like finishing each others sentences where it’s like, "I am a much happier person today than I was writing the last bunch of records. I’m in a band that I’m so proud of that has taken me way beyond any of my expectations, getting to see places I never thought I’d go, meeting kids every day that have kind words to say. What do I have to complain about?" He and I are going back and forward and he’s saying the same thing, “I married my best friend. What do I have to complain about?” That’s why he said, "Yup. It’s hard to write content." It just hit me like a ton of bricks. In a few simple words, you laid it out completely. It’s 100 percent where I was at. So when it came to start writing the record, it just hit me like I'm gonna write a record about how hard it is to write a record [laughs] and I reference that conversation.
To shift to touring, you're out with AFI. How did that come about?
We were struggling with the original idea of doing a headlining tour, but everyone we wanted to tour with wasn’t available or was already waiting on something else. Then AFI had recently signed with the management company we’re represented by and they were looking to tour in the fall. Some of the guys in the band, like, grew up on AFI, like, since childhood—a favorite band of all time. So obviously when the offer came up, we obviously jumped at it. We were like, "Holy shit, of course. If we’re gonna do a support tour, that’s the one to do.” They haven’t toured in years and they’re a life-changing band. Obviously we’re flattered to be a part of it.
It's not two bands I imagine in the same room together. Is that hard?
It’s a little bit nerve-wracking for me because they’re such a cult band where they kind of have that Slayer aspect to their fan base where you get the vibe the crowd is there to see that specific thing and they don’t really care about the other things. I was warned about that. We started and it was just a sea of blank faces, but by the end of the set, we had people clapping along. I enjoy working over a crowd because it can remind you that not everything is going to be easy. So I like the challenge, the challenge is fun. We actually opened the set with the song we usually close with. We were like, "Yeah, we’ll start right out the gate with, like, with most known song in hopes that everyone goes nuts." [Laughs] But it was just dead. [Laughs]
I think nevertheless it has to be good exposure.
Yeah, I hope so. You get in your head about it because you’re playing and not seeing people lose their mind, but when you’re walking around after the show, they have the nicest fans in the world. Everyone kept coming up to our merch table shaking hands and telling us how much they liked it. That’s all you can ever really hope for with a support tour, that you win a couple of people over and come back the next time.
You guys have a bond with your fans. I remember seeing Touché Amoré live in New York years ago and there was an issue with security, and you guys jumped right off the stage and into the crowd.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that should be anyone's responsibility if they care about their fans. I know there’s a time and place to act out and a lot of bigger bands have tour mangers to watch for things like that. That was a situation where it was a small girl who got face-palmed by a guy three times her size and it was like, Come on. It was a bad situation.
So how does opening affect the new set list?
On this tour, we get 45 minutes. That’s a really long set for our band. [Laughs]
That’s like two of your albums.
Yeah, we’re playing 21 songs. When we were out with Circa Survive, we were playing 21 or 22 songs and their set list is, like, 13 or 14. [Laughs] So we’re just powering through. We get to play a lot of new songs, too, which is nice because we’ve playing the same songs for X amount of time and we’re playing them for people who’ve never heard our band anyway.
Since you brought up length, this is the first record to almost reach the half-hour mark. Did you try to lengthen songs?
I think it’s exactly 30 minutes. It’s something that happened completely naturally in the same regard that we write such short songs. We never set out to be like we’re going to be the band that writes minute-long songs. We just have short attention spans. We don’t want to drag a part on for too long because there’s no need for it. We’ve always had a get-in and get-out attitude about writing songs.
You released a zine, Down Time, which has some thoughts, advice, and stories. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We were done writing the record and I was like, OK, it’s May. What the fuck am I going to do for the rest of the time? With my label [Secret Voice], I didn’t want to just put out 7”s, I wanted to do zines and all sorts of different things. So this was just a test to see how it would go—a quick run of 500. The fact that I sold them in 12 hours was just the most overwhelming thing ever which also helped because it gave me the ability to help my folks with money and pay off bills. When it comes to writing stuff, I never really had it in me to be, like, a poetry guy or anything like that, but I found myself challenging myself to try my hand at this. I used to do a lot of freelance writing myself for different publications in my early 20's, like, for LA Weekly. My first time interviewing anybody was interviewing Jake Bannon from Converge. So I found that interview and I was so excited. I hit up Jake and asked if he minded if I put that in here because it’s kind of a cool thing to reflect on. It’s funny because I reread the interview, and a lot of the answers he gives, I can completely relate to now being somewhat in the same shoes--where he talks about touring things and label things. I’m really proud of it. I’m hoping to do more over time.
Since you have some things in common with Jake, he said he never wanted to be a frontman and he felt shy. Do you feel similar or did you always want the mic?
I always played guitar in bands because I wanted to play an instrument so I started playing guitar when I was in junior high. I hit my peak of talent at about 9th grade and I never got better from there. It was very basic, like, I learned the barre chord and the power chord. I bottomed-out pretty quickly and everyone became so much better than me and I couldn’t keep up. I always wanted to try singing in a band, but I never really felt very confident about it for a lot of reasons and I decided to try my hand at it and I’m glad I did because it’s obviously been a really fun experience. When it comes to bands, I was always infatuated with the vocalist, never the guitar player, so I’m glad I gave it a shot.