Interview: Touche Amore

Touche AmoreLive shows are a hell of a thing. Though other genres and curated getaways like Basilica Soundscape have been transforming the concert experience, it’s hard to one-up the punk scene, especially when a band like Los Angeles’ TOUCHÉ AMORÉ have groomed their sets to fill in the blanks left by Converge, Give Up The Ghost, and Refused. In just a few short years they released two gripping albums while tailoring a new found sense of hardcore, and now their third studio effort, Is Survived By (out 9/24 on Deathwish), aims to expand on their fundamentals that started with a demo EP. With the record set to start a new chapter, we caught up with vocalist Jeremy Bolm to talk about the band’s progress, performing at Riot Fest, and how the social aspect of alternative music is practically priceless.

[Editor’s Note: Just a few hours after our interview, Touché Amoré had their van broken into in Detroit, MI – and still killed it at Riot Fest – so show them some support by going to one of their next shows or picking up some merch!]

As a band, what would you say is the hardest task you’ve faced this past year?

The hardest task… we’ve pretty much been writing the new record this past year – we just recorded it at the beginning of the year – so I’d probably say it’s not being on tour. This is the longest we’ve been at home in five years so we are very happy to finally be out on tour again. Spending that much time at home was just crazy, it was weird. There are great things about it, like you get to familiarize yourself with that life again, but it gets to a point where it’s time to go. You’re glad you got to see everyone again, but it’s just time to go. It took nine months to finally get back out on the road, but we’re happy to be out, even if it includes two overnight drives in a row. Sometimes the bad comes with the good, I guess (laughs). Tonight I will have a nice sleep though. I am very excited about it.
Touché Amoré have recorded quite a few splits with different bands over the years; were they friends beforehand or did you decide to unite because you shared a common style?

All the bands were friends minus The Casket Lottery. Some members of The Casket Lottery are members of a band called Coalesce, who we toured with on the Converge tour in 2010. I’m a huge Coalesce fan, but I’m an even bigger fan of The Casket Lottery. I gave it about two days into the tour before I started embarrassing myself in front of their guitar player, telling him how much I loved the band. When I did, he was like “So you know we’re thinking about getting back together to write a new record”, and I was like, “Well just so you know, if you ever want to do a split 7-inch together, we are fucking on board!”.

That’s how that came to be – we were all huge fans of the band and their guitarist was the one who put it together for us. Other than that, our splits have been with bands that we had toured with or shared common interests or musical styles with. For the most part, splits are just reserved for buds wanting to put stuff out together.
You always hear musicians raving about the fantastic punk scenes they experience while growing up in a small town; what was the music like while growing up in L.A.?

From junior high to high school I was very into metal bands. I used to go to a lot of metal shows, but the punk/hardcore scene in L.A. happens in waves. There will be a few really good years, then there will be a drought where there aren’t a lot of great new local bands because most of them have grown beyond that and moved onto bigger and better things. I’ve seen it go in cycles throughout the years. Right now the L.A. scene is awesome – there’s so many great bands and there’s also a surge of new artists starting to make a name from themselves. I would also say that everyone is always really supportive of each other regardless of which genre you play, which is something I have always really loved. Our band might not fit so well with certain bands, but what people don’t realize is that all of the people involved are friends. It’s cool, it’s a very supportive scene.

“We’re just writing the music that comes out of us… our shows might look crazy to someone who sees a lot of kids jumping on each other and singing along, but we want to create a safe environment. It’s not just ignorant punk music.”

Would you say attending shows in a large city affected that feeling of community?

Definitely not. No matter what scene you’re in, there’s always that high school popularity vibe that happens where there’s the cooler kids. It’s something you can’t really ever escape, but I don’t think anyone is ever downright mean to anyone or anything stupid like that. People do support each other, sometimes a little more than others, but for the most part it’s a very supportive scene.
Is the community aspect still alive and well in the punk/hardcore genre today?

Absolutely, it’s the roots of it, the pulse. The whole DIY aspect of booking tours and shows – even house shows, basement shows, and those at community centers and veterans halls – comes from a community of kids doing shows for other kids and bands. That’s the whole basis of the world we come from and are still a part of.
Touché Amoré is doing their record release party for Is Survived By with Balance and Composure. What motivated you to share your special day with those guys?

Their record and our record was a very incestuous process in the fact that our guitar player designed the art for their album, John from Balance And Composure sings on our record, and Will Yip recorded theirs, as well as John’s vocal parts on ours. Also Brad Wood, who did our album, mixed the B&C record. Like very incestuous, everything was happening at the same time, and our bands have been friends for years and we’ve toured together multiple times. They were going to be in town the same week, so we thought, fuck it, this makes sense, why would we not do this? It’s perfect timing and we’re all very, very much looking forward to that show.
Is there anything you draw upon from your experience of attending shows as a kid in the instance that you’re now the one playing as opposed to attending?

I feel like I have a really good understanding of crowd reaction. There was a kid the other night that I pointed out in the crowd. It was a small show in South Dakota, which we wanted to play because we knew it was going to be a small, intimate show. There were about 100 kids there, but only 30 who were upfront, singing along. I could see the kids upfront, and all of a sudden there was this one kid who ran all the way from the back to the front just to sing one line, and then he disappeared again. My reaction was, “I like that kid”, because I’m that kid these days. I’m the older guy in the back – I’m not going to be the rowdy guy up front, but there’s a certain moment when you listen to a song being played and you’re like, “Aww shit, I can’t just sit here. I have to go be a part of it”.

So you run up and jump on kids to sing along, or whatever. You see the look on their faces when they’re stage diving, and I know exactly what they’re feeling because I’m a music lover too. There are certain bands that come to town that I just have to lose my mind for. For that, I understand it. I get it.

Is there a specific experience you try to create for your audience when you create music?

Not really. We just like to be direct and sincere with the music we put out, so we hope we get the same thing in return. Kids are reacting… sorry, I just got sidetracked, I think there’s two homeless people about to fight in front of the van. Welcome to Detroit (laughs). Oh this is going to be fun…yeah, we never set out to do anything – like to play to a certain audience or to get a certain audience – we’re just writing the music that comes out of us and speaks to us, and if kids are getting the same thing out of it then that’s a plus. There are never fights at our shows.

I can honestly say that of the 600 plus shows we’ve played in the past five years, there have been two fights and they’ve been broken up pretty quickly. We hope for just a really positive and safe environment. Our shows might look crazy to someone on the outside who sees a lot of kids jumping on each other and singing along, but we want to create a safe environment. It’s not just ignorant punk music.
Previously, you shared the stage with American Nightmare, a band you claimed was influential to TA, and this weekend at Riot Fest, you’ll play with The Replacements who are another influence. Do experiences like these help Touché Amoré grow musically, or are they more milestones?

It’s hard to say. There’s no way you can’t just feel like you’re checking off items on the list of just the craziest things ever. At this point we’ve either toured with or played one-off shows with almost every band that has shaped who we are, which is the best thing about punk rock in general because I think it’s one of the only genres where those experiences can happen. It’s not hard to end up playing with the bands that changed your life. Like if you were trying to be an up and coming R&B singer, it’s a lot harder to end up on a bill with Beyonce than it is for a punk band to play with Converge. It just comes with the genre of music, which is awesome, and it’s one of the coolest things about it.

Playing with The Replacements is something I never thought would happen because they are just such a legendary band, and it’s a very thrilling thing. There have been times where we’ve toured with a band who we looked up to, and after watching them play every night you start to understand and adapt to certain things that they do. Next thing you know, you’re writing a song where you might actually be ripping off one of their parts (laughs).
Will you have the opportunity to check out any other sets this weekend?

We’re getting into town tomorrow – and I have no interviews – so I’m excited for that. There are a lot of bands that I do want to see and lots of interviews to do on Sunday, but I’m going to try to work them around my schedule (laughs). I want to see Bad Book, Saves the Day, The Broadways, and The Replacements obviously. Those are the main things I want to catch. Tomorrow, I’m hoping to see Glassjaw, The Lawrence Arms, Rancid, and all that stuff.
As your new material adds to the name Touché Amoré, what are you most looking forward to achieving in the future?

We never really set out to have any goals aside from putting out as much vinyl as possible and touring as much as possible. Those are the two things we’ve continued to do, so the goals were met a long time ago. Anything we continue to do is just extra credit. We feel very flattered and thrilled that we’ve had the opportunities we’ve had, but like I said, everything else that comes now is just extra credit.

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