In Conversation: Touché Amoré’s Jeremy Bolm on Bouncing Back from “Stage Four”
TA’s year of nostalgia is coming to a close, but not before a tour with La Dispute.
2019 has been a hectic year for LA’s post-hardcore five-piece Touché Amoré. August marked ten years since the iconic debut album …To the Beat of a Dead Horse, which called for a batch of re-issues and a 148-page book of photos and memorabilia; autumn meant it was time for a tour alongside Deafheaven and Portrayal of Guilt in Europe, followed by a long-awaited U.S. run with La Dispute; the single “Deflector” was unleashed in September, and reassured us that new—and good—material is in the making. Whew.
The nostalgia is not subtle in the slightest. The book that comes with the deluxe Dead Horse X vinyl bundle is nostalgia incarnate, consisting of old photos, flyers, and writings. “It’s a really in-depth time capsule that we can now all hold and cherish for the rest of our lives,” vocalist Jeremy Bolm says. “If the band breaks up, we always have this cool book to let us remember what it was like when the band started, and the path that everything took.” However, as much reflecting as the band has done this year, “Deflector” proves that they’re prepared to propel into their next chapter as a band.
Tell me the story behind “Deflector.”
It’s how I’ve dealt with interactions with strangers following the effects of Stage Four. Basically, with how I’m feeling about the overall weight and anxiety that putting out that record placed on me, and dealing with the general public altogether. I wrote it just this year, and we recorded it after our Midwest tour; pretty much the week after we got home. I finished the lyrics for it just before that, and we went into the studio with Ross Robinson to see what ideas he had to round out the song, to give it closure. We went in feeling like it was 90 percent done, but we were open to any ideas that he had to take it to a place that we hadn’t considered. That’s basically what he did.
Do you still feel the pressure from releasing Stage Four?
It’s there more than ever [laughs]. This has, without a doubt, been the hardest time I’ve had writing a record because I think following Stage Four is really difficult. There’s no subject matter that will ever—at least I hope not—hit me as hard as [the death of my mother]. But I also need to realize that I don’t need to one-up that album [laughs]. There’s no need to. I just need to write a record that is honest and comes naturally. I’m really excited about what we’ve been doing so far, but, in my own personal lyrical sense, I’m unsure of what I’m necessarily trying to accomplish so far. But I’m getting there.
I’ve been doing these random poetry books, which has been really helpful to keep my brain exercised. I’ve never been the type of lyricist to consistently be writing. It’s one of my downfalls—I’m not someone who wakes up, is inspired, grabs my notebook, and sews it up. So, since Stage Four, I’ve been focusing on trying to do more poetry like that because it actually does exercise my creativity. It takes me to places I wouldn’t normally go when I’m trying to write a song, because with poetry there’s less on the line. I can write a poem that maybe I’m not so overly proud of, but it still feels good to get out. Once that poem is out, it doesn’t mean I have to then sing it for the next five years [laughs]. I had written a poem called “Green,” and that’s what inspired the song “Green,” for example. It’s a process, and we’re pretty far along now with writing for the new record. I’ve just got quite a lot of songs to write lyrically, but musically we’re pretty far along.
How did the tour with La Dispute come about, and what do you think it’ll be like sharing a stage with them after ten years of playing alongside them?
“This has, without a doubt, been the hardest time I’ve had writing a record because I think following Stage Four is really difficult. There’s no subject matter that will ever—at least I hope not—hit me as hard as [the death of my mother].”
We honestly hadn’t planned on doing another U.S. tour, but four months ago, they approached us and we looked at 2019 as the year of nostalgia for us. Considering we just did all this Dead Horse stuff—the reissue of the record, these tours, then we played the record in Europe this last month—we figured, “What’s better for wrapping up a year of nostalgia than doing a tour with them, and playing all the material we were playing when we were growing up together?” We haven’t talked about it with one another, but I’m assuming we’ll end up doing some of those split songs together. I’m really looking forward to it. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands to see live, and getting to watch them play every night for another month is gonna be awesome.
Can you reminisce on what it was like originally recording …To the Beat of a Dead Horse?
We went into the studio, to be honest, with the idea that we weren’t gonna be a band after recording it. Our original drummer had said he was gonna quit the band, but said, “I’ll record the album, but I don’t want to be a part of it.” At the time, we had the idea that without him we weren’t gonna find another drummer that can [do what he did]—that sort of defeatist attitude. We didn’t think anyone outside of LA would hear that album. We were just a bunch of dorks that were playing shows with our friends, like any other local band. We went in being like, “Well, let’s record it because we don’t want to just throw these songs away, and that’s that.” So, we recorded it and then once we heard it back we said, “Well, it would be stupid to break up. We’re really proud of this.”
My best friend in the entire world is Joey Cahill who runs 6131 Records, and he offered to put it out. It was around the time between Joey deciding to put it out and us hearing it back and being proud of it that Geoff Rickly from Thursday became really supportive, and then Jeff Eaton from Modern Life Is War, who also sings on the album, was like, “Just find another fuckin’ drummer. What are you doing? Drummers are hard to find, but not that hard to find.” So, we had a couple of fill-ins for quite a while. We ended up deciding to just put it out with Joey and Geoff. We had a couple of replacement drummers before we found Elliot [Babin] to fully join the band.
I believed in this thing so much, and we were all really excited about it. I think we all didn’t want to admit that we wanted to stay together. It just took one of us to be like, “No, fuck it. Let’s get another drummer.” I remember thinking that it was a sound that hadn’t come out of Southern California in a really long time. It was exactly what I was hoping our band would become, and what our band would sound like.
Any word on the upcoming album?
I wish I had something to talk about. We’re still sort of figuring out when we’re actually going into the studio. I think we’re all looking forward to getting moving on it. This whole year has just been writing, and then taking a break to do a tour, writing, taking a break to do a tour. Once we get home from this La Dispute tour, and the holidays are behind us, I think that’s when we’re all gonna really pin ourselves down and knock this thing out. I can say that what we’ve been doing so far is really exciting. And I’m excited for people to hear the stuff. I think “Deflector” is a good indication of what is to come. FL