When Touché Amoré tore up London at the end of last month, Alex Andrews caught up with Jeremy Bolm to talk about the anxiety that comes with playing bigger venues and supporting a reformed American Nightmare.
Jeremy Bolm sits perched on a sofa, devouring what’s left of a sauce-covered chicken leg. Having only been introduced to Nando’s the day before by the boys in Basement, the Touché Amoré frontman appears as fascinated with the restaurant as the flocks of professional footballers and celebrities who ironically dine there.
Shovelling chips into his mouth, Bolm talks excitedly about opening up a franchise in Los Angeles. Softly-spoken and remarkably friendly, it takes a moment to get your head ahead around the fact that this is the same man who pens such intensely tortured verses and will later perform front flips off the cramped stage of the Camden Barfly.
Have you got to the stage where touring feels more normal than being back at home?
Absolutely. It’s became one of those things where it’s definitely the comfort zone for us. Last year, we were gone for almost nine months. You get home and feel detached from a lot of things.
Do you ever find it hard to adjust back to life?
It’s hard to stay financially stable. We can’t really get jobs because we’re home for such a short amount of time, that if we’re lucky enough to find a job, we have to quit it pretty quickly. A lot of us find little odd jobs or stuff to sell.
I remember speaking to you after Hevy Festival and you said you found it a little weird playing behind a barrier and on a bigger stage. Is that something that you’ve had to get used to?
We’ve tried to get more comfortable with that scenario, and the tour we’re about to do, starting tomorrow, is a lot of big arena style venues where we’re going to have to be pretty detached from how close the audience is. Clearly, we’d prefer shows like tonight, but we’re excited. We embrace challenge and the more people you get to play to is exciting, so there’s good that comes with the possible anxiety that will occur when we walk out.
Do you feel you’ve gotten better at breaking down that disconnect?
I hope so. It’s always going to feel a little weird for us, because for years now, we’ve been so used to playing such small places, but it has been getting a little more comfortable for us. We’re not walking out completely terrified these days, which we have been in the past.
Watch the video to ‘Home Away From Here’ by Touché Amoré:
Lyrically, you’re incredibly personal, almost to the extent where you make yourself quite vulnerable. Was it hard to get to the stage where you could be so candid?
Most of the songs on the demo are really not personal. They’re just angsty stupid songs that I had no real attachment to. I didn’t think anybody would ever hear our band outside our group of friends. Somehow we’ve lucked out, and so when it came time to write our first record, it was like: “If I’m going to hold a microphone and yell into it and people are going to actually listen, I’m not going to rob them of anything. I’m going to be as honest and direct as possible”.
I’m typically a pretty introverted person in the sense of keeping things to myself, so the band is what keeps me able to express all that stuff. It’s really easy for me to get all that stuff out, as opposed to actually talking about it with normal people. That’s always been a relationship problem, for example. With people I’ve been involved with, they don’t get the most excited about the fact that I keep a lot of stuff in. But when it comes to performing, that’s a whole other thing for me.
Does that feel unusual to you – to switch from being introverted and mild mannered to someone so candid and angry and intense? Almost like a split personality?
It sounds so cliché and corny, but as soon as we get up on stage, that’s the time to get all of that out. If I’ve had a shitty day or if something’s bothering me, or if I’m…hungry – that’s when it’s a good time to have that release. It’s nice to have this way to get all this stuff out. When you’re home, it kind of builds up again, and that’s usually when we start writing.
How would you feel if someone said you’re sharing too much?
It comes back to what I was saying; I feel like I have a responsibility to be honest with whoever wants to listen to us. I don’t want to hold things back. I’m going to yell about what I want to yell about. We’re not a band who are writing to specifically gain an audience, we’re just writing because we like to play music.
What writers have influenced you?
For [Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me] there’s a lot of Leonard Cohen. You want to talk about sad, you want to talk about open and honest, I’d take a big page from him. He wrote some really flinching things. He wrote some stuff that was questionable and he didn’t give a shit. He was doing it because he was an honest dude.
Do you ever think that people might worry about your well-being from the things you write about?
I suppose it comes with the territory. One of the coolest things is when kids will approach me and say: “I can relate to this. Thank you for writing this because I’m going through a similar thing”. And it’s funny because a lot of the time, the things those kids are going through are completely different to what I’m writing about. They’ve interpreted it for themselves, which I think is probably the most important thing about music in general. I haven’t ever had anyone come up to me and say: “Can I give you a hug? Are you okay?” [laughs]
How about with friends and people who know you?
When you’re touring so much you lose touch with a lot of friends, but I think anybody who knows me well enough can probably understand. I’ve never been the most social person. I’m not going to put on an act like I’m this lonely, sad guy who doesn’t talk to anybody; I have friends that I love – the guys in the band are my best friends – but when we’re home I do keep to myself. What I write is who I am. I’m a friendly person and if kids come up and talk to me at a show, I’ll be social and talk to them, but I feel like writing in the band is the core of me. That’s what’s really going on, that I can’t talk about as easily.
What would do if you weren’t in the band?
I don’t know, to be honest with you. I worked at a record store for five-and-a-half years. I’m from Burbank, which is a big entertainment city, so I worked industry post-production jobs and things like that. I’ve always wanted to do a label, which is something which I recently started up. It’s called Secret Voice. It’s through Deathwish Inc [Touché Amoré's label] – they’ve been nice enough to let me do it and I’m putting out a seven-inch by a band called Single Mothers. They’re fucking awesome, they’re the best band in the world, man.
You played one of the American Nightmare shows. Firstly, how was it? And secondly, what’s your opinion on every band under the sun reforming?
I can’t hold it against anybody who wants to get together with their friends and play music again. Who are we to put anybody down for that? Who cares what they’re doing it for? They want to play music with their friends again, who gives a shit?
The thing I’ve always been sceptical about is whether they do actually want to do it. Especially with American Nightmare, because they have spoken out in the past about how they would never do it.
Oh, of course. There was an interview with Wes [Eisold, founder member American Nightmare/Give Up The Ghost] like two months before saying that he was not in the headspace to be in a band like that anymore. But I heard about why and how it came to be and it makes total sense to me. Wes missed it. He’d been doing Cold Cave for a while and it’s not the same. I feel like once you play in a hardcore band, you’re kind of ruined, because you’re used to intense shows and huge crowd interaction, but then playing in a band that doesn’t have that feels totally different.
On top of that, Wes hadn’t talked to the guitar player who was his best friend for like 8 years, and they got back in touch and he was like: “I miss playing music with my best friend”. And the show was great, they fucking killed it. We were thrilled to be on that show because they were one of the biggest influences when our band started.
Do you know whether they’re back for anything more or if it was just a one time deal?
No idea. I think they’re just basing it on how these shows went.
It seemed like all most people were talking about was whether Ryan Gosling was there…
[Laughs] That’s the times for you. It’s 2012 – when some fake, celebrity obsessed rumour becomes more important than what’s actually important. But that’s a whole other topic…
Touché Amoré are currently in the middle of a MASSIVE European and Canadian tour schedule, which sees them on the road all over the Northern hemisphere right up until the end of April. They’re coming back to the UK at the end of the month though, and they’re bringing Pianos Become The Teeth in support. Do not miss these shows.
Touché Amoré March UK tour dates:
23 Birmingham HMV Temple Room
24 Glasgow Stereo
25 Nottingham Basement
26 Bristol Thekla
27 Manchester Sound Control
28 London XOYO