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Jeremy Bolm of Touche Amore on Lament, Fighting Self-Doubt, Punk in Your 30s

In 2011 as part of Fun Fun Fun Nites, a series of afterparties associated with Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, I curated a BrooklynVegan party at the now defunct Red 7 with Power Trip, Touche Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth, Dead End Path and more. Power Trip was gaining steam off of their Lockin’ Out EP and Touche Amore was supporting Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me — two years removed from their fan favorite LP …To the Beat of a Dead Horse. The show was not only a resounding success, but the first time I met the hungry Touche frontman Jeremy Bolm and the first time Bolm met Riley Gale.

“At that time, Power Trip was a cool band on the Bridge Nine message board. That was sort of what educated a lot of people’s opinions, those message boards,” recalls Jeremy Bolm. “So I remember seeing them play and thinking they were really awesome and after their set, Riley came over to me and asked if I wanted a shirt. Touche had gone from a loved band to swiftly the most hated band on the board then, so I was feeling really low about myself in that world. But Riley approaching me really sweetly and talking to us in a real and kind way… it really made me love him.”

In the wake of Gale’s passing, much has been written about the ways of the Power Trip frontman, but the story also illustrates a very key thing about Bolm — a cerebral, self-deprecating, humble and emotional frontman who lays all those feelings bare in virtually everything he’s had a hand in.

Bolm’s approach is real and evident in his label imprint Secret Voice, his new outlet The First Ever Podcast as well as the band’s latest LP Lament, “80% completed” prior to the COVID shut down. Across the album’s eleven tracks, the Los Angeles-based band sounds reinvigorated, furious and pensive — a hard feat for a band with six LPs under their belt and a decade-plus into existence. Lament is very much in the corner of what Touche Amore does best: deliver heartfelt and furious post-hardcore with nods to screamo and heaps of melodicism, all while taking steps in new sophisticated yet tasteful directions and showing how to age gracefully. Lament is out now on Epitaph Records.

We caught up with Bolm to discuss Lament, working with a vet like Ross Robinson, approaching punk in your thirties and his favorite pieces of vinyl. Details from that conversation are below.

Hard Noise: So let’s start with Dead Horse… You did a recent anniversary tour playing that, and there was a rerecording. How do you think revisiting that material so intensely taught you about yourself and your process, and how do you think that helped influence Lament?

Jeremy Bolm: I’ve talked to a few friends about this because it seems like it would be a thing where digging into nostalgia would reinvigorate the aggression in the band in a more primitive sense.  That record is highly primitive compared to the records that followed. But with us, we’ve always been a band that played material throughout all the records. So even on previous tours, we were still probably playing at least three or four songs off that record. So it felt very familiar and going in to rerecord it, if I’m being totally honest, was more of a good excuse for us to also track preproduction demos for Lament.

So honestly, we knocked out the re-recording of Dead Horse in a day and a half, and then we spent a day and a half just on the preproduction demos, which I think we were all way more focused on — we can play those Dead Horse songs with our eyes closed. It was nice for us to do that for a lot of reasons but mostly because Elliot and Tyler were not in the band today when we we did that album and they did the majority of the touring off the album. So it was nice for them to be able to play on it and sort of add the energy that we put into the record throughout all those years.

If I was to hear that record, it just drives me crazy at how slow it is, the original version. It’s like, “Oh my God, we play so much faster now.” It was nice to give that record the feeling of what we’ve been applying to it these last 11 years. Also just to update my bad grammar on some of the lyrics (laughing). There’s a line about Morrissey that I took out and replaced with Leonard Cohen because it makes a lot more sense and I’m not trying to give Morrissey any praise at all. So it was nice to kind of take his name out of it.

The choice of Ross Robinson speaks for itself, but how did his style in the studio differ from what you were previously used to and how do you think that may have ultimately benefited the record?

Oh, man. Every single step of the way was dramatically different than anything we had ever experienced before. And I think because of that, we ended up with the record that we have. It couldn’t have happened without all of these things. Most particularly, anytime we’ve ever done a record it’s been track all the drums and then you do the bass, then guitars and then you do the vocals for the whole record. He does song by song, which was super interesting. So I had to sing those songs like 60, 70 times just to get the drums, which is just wild. Also Ross is in the room with us and kind of orchestrating where the song is going. We brought in songs that were 95% of a complete thought and then Ross in there just put Elliot to work explaining drum parts that he should try. It was really, really grueling and quite intense. So it was a lot of rearranging songs and adding things and exploring different ideas.

Ross had me read the lyrics to everybody in the studio out loud in the live room right before we track — go line by line, explaining what every single thing is about and go into detail. Then he’d go and ask one of the members how that makes them feel. It felt very therapy-like. Once we dug into it that deep, we’d go and play. And every day was kind of like that. And even when the other members of the band were tracking, Ross had his — for lack of a better term — head games that he would play with them that would really drill home that it’s okay to fuck up. It’s okay to play bad, just play the song because you’re excited about it and because you believe in it. Don’t worry about the rest. Just play with your heart.

Before I would track vocals, he would come into the room with me talk about the song for like an hour and really get into it. And then once we talked about it and gotten deep with one another, he would be like, “alright, let’s go” and then run downstairs and get behind the board. I would track and he would talk to me between takes too. It was a very, very immersive experience, emotionally. But, I think all of those things really, really brought the record to where it was. That was an experience that we’ve never had.

With respect to Secret Voice, obviously the live show is a component towards signing a band. Good songwriting is as well. But what do you think are the intangibles? What are the things that you look for outside of that, and how do you think that manifests in your own band?

I’m lucky enough to already call the bands that I work with friends, so I believe in their expression and what they’re doing. I just feel confident enough to say “Hey, do you mind if I put something out for you?” And I don’t do full lengths, just EPs, because I never feel like I’m available enough and I don’t want to feel like I’m going to fail a band. If I have other things in my life going on, a full length is such a big thing that you need to be 100% dedicated. But EPs are fun.

EPs are a building block on a band’s career and it’s a great way to give exposure to bands that I really, really believe in. I knew Pat Kindlon through Self Defense Family and he started Drug Church and I loved them. So I asked him if I could put out a seven inch. It was pretty simple. Same thing with Dangers and all these bands that I’ve been lucky enough to work with. As far as Soul Glo, they were a band that I was a fan of from the West Coast and never really got a chance to see. When we did those Dead Horse shows on the East Coast, I just hit them up because I was a fan and wanted to see him play. So, they did the shows and we became good friends and towards the end of that tour, I asked them.

A problem that I have is I continuously feel like people from more “credible” punk and DIY worlds in 2020 might not take me seriously because I’m in a band on Epitaph and have been around for a while. I have a hard time believing that I’m cool, I guess.

I always kind of tail-between-my-legs approach a band that I really like, then I’m always taken aback by how wrong I am. Soul Glo was really excited and were like “let’s do it.” We’ve been working together on that for like a year. So, I think just to answer your question, if it’s something that I can connect to emotionally and I get genuinely very, very, very excited about it to where I can see into the future with them, then I’m ready to jump in.

I’m lucky to be in a position where I could go to my best friend Joey, who runs 6131 records and say, “Hey, you should put this out.” Or I could go to Tre at Deathwish who’s one of my other best friends. It’s more about me wanting to be attached to it because I believe in it so much. And that level of belief is what sort of pushes me to work with bands that I have. I just want to be a part of the journey.

One of the things that’s very evident on the new record is the expansiveness and some of the interesting chances that you took along the way. A lot of them reflect influences outside of the punk/hardcore worlds. You’re in your thirties now, and you’ve been involved in hardcore and punk for a long time. Do you ever feel kind of shackled by the genre?

I think that an element of being a hardcore kid at heart is that you kind of don’t know how to do anything else. So as much as all of us listen to wildly different music, once we pick up our instruments and sit down together, this is what comes out. It’s our familiar zone. And so we incorporate different elements into what our musical backgrounds actually are. We still drive towards parts that are aggressive and hit hard. I can speak for myself and say that I don’t think I’m confident enough to try to do any other genre.

So this is me, this is my outlet. If I could sing like a songbird, I would love to be in like a straightforward indie rock band but unfortunately I am limited. One interesting thing to me is that I think once someone experiences playing in a hardcore band and knowing what that audience feels like, I can’t imagine switching gears and having a much more subdued audience. Even though people might like it more or you might draw bigger crowds, that adjustment to a stand still and bob your head kind of crowd is jarring. I feel like there’s no way of escaping the feeling of “are these people liking it?” When you play in a punk band, as soon as you start playing, you know if the audience is down.

What do you think this time at home has taught you about yourself and being in a band?

I think that if you come from any sort of DIY culture or punk culture and you’ve been doing this long enough, you know how to hustle. We all live this world of not committing to having a straight job or a steady paycheck. So we figure out ways to survive. And I think having those DIY instincts of “Oh, I can make things or I know things that I can try to sell,” it’s that feeling. Lately it doesn’t feel much different other than being more steady. When you get home from tour, you usually have a week or two to decompress and then you’re like, “OK, now I got to make money.”

Finding things to fill my time has been my way of coping with it. I started a podcast which has been a nice distraction from everything. It’s also a nice way to connect with people that I admire and talk to them because just getting on the phone and talking to people is nice. I recently got engaged. So there’s things in my life that are keeping me busy and keeping me happy. I’m also thankful that we’re still putting out the record this year because it gave us a lot of opportunity to talk to each other and to work with each other and to make these cool music videos.

Your instagram makes it pretty clear that you are a serious record head. What are some of your prize pieces?

One of the things that I’ll always be really possessive of is starting in around 2012, I asked every band that we tour with to sign a record for me. I keep that as sort of like a yearbook for when I’m older. I can go through those and they’re really sweet. People always write funny messages or whatever. I actually got the idea from Alex Russin. And you know, you always feel a little silly, like going up to the band — maybe they only have a seven inch out and were nice enough to play first — and ask them to autograph it for you. But it’s always a very humbling experience. And because of that, I now have personal signed records from AFI, Rise Against, Circa Survive, Converge… all these different things. I really cherish those.