Burbank hardcore group Touché Amoré developed a worldwide following after the 2011 release of Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, sparking strong reactions from newbies and longtime genre fans alike. AbsolutePunk.net called it “one of the most endearing and truly therapeutic records of the year.”
But to really get them, it helped to see their show: While opening for established acts like Converge and Circa Survive, Touché Amoré made crowds who had never heard of them go berserk. On their own, they filled rooms like the Echoplex, and even in such far-away spots as Malaysia, hundreds of local punk fans sang along passionately.
Meanwhile, listeners latched on to their earnestness. On tracks such as “Face Ghost,” vocalist Jeremy Bolm sang: “I admit I'm scared / so fragile, emotionally impaired / damaged goods / so broken, misunderstood.” Their tracks spoke of self-doubt, sadness and heartbreak in a manner that was not condescending.
When it came time to write their new album, however, the angst that had previously inspired Bolm wasn't there. After all, he's clearly in a better place than when he started the band in 2007. Now touring with groups he grew up admiring, he's also in a steady relationship and generally feeling good about things. None of that seems particularly hardcore.
“When I went to pick up the pen to write this record, I thought, 'What do I have to write about?' ” Bolm says, speaking outside Backside Records, the clothing and apparel store where he works while not on tour. “But I am not going to fake sadness for the sake of lyrical content. If someone is going to spend their time listening to you, you owe them honesty. So I had to dig a little deeper.”
Eventually, he decided to get morbid.
“Mortality had been getting more and more on my mind, so that's what ended up on the record,” Bolm says. “There is not a single person on this planet that can say they have never thought about death. Everyone is going to die — there's no walking away from that.”
He recently turned 30, which is not exactly old. Then again, he's had close friends near that age die in recent years. So the theme of death informs the Burbank group's new album, Is Survived By, which was released Sept. 24. As he intended, it's all quite relatable.
Bolm stresses that everything he writes about is deeply personal, and indeed his honesty shines through on the new album; his tortured screams create a sense of a man shredding his throat to fully exorcise the demons in his head. Lead-off track “Just Exist” starts with his wailing in self-deprecation: “I was once asked how I'd like to be remembered / And I simply smiled and said, 'I'd rather stay forever' / It was possibly my loudest cliché.”
“You can tell when someone is screaming because they think that's what they are supposed to do in an aggressive band,” Bolm says. “But you can also tell when someone is screaming because they mean it. If I hear a voice crack in a song, and they don't take it out, that's passion.”
Perhaps this is why Touché Amoré are speaking loudly to hardcore kids right now. Instead of wrapping themselves in fake angst and crummy metaphors, they get straight to the heart of things.
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