It's been a quiet few years in the ARMOR FOR SLEEP camp—the band, one many victims of major label exile in the mid-2000s, called it a day in 2008 after the release of their lone album for Sire/Warner, Smile For Them, though an announcment wasn't made until 2009 long after the band had been rendered inactive. Now with the Bamboozle returning to Asbury Park, New Jersey this year, AFS thought it appropriate to revisit their home state for another performance, and to close a chapter of their lives that as you'll read below, didn't initially end on the best of terms. Now Altpress.com can exclusively confirm that the band will be reuniting for a one-off show at the Bamboozle on Friday, May 18.
AP caught up with Armor For Sleep vocalist/guitarist Ben Jorgensen to chat about the upcoming Bamboozle performance, why the band wants to end it on their terms and what he's been up to in the near half-decade since we last heard from AFS.
Interview: Bryne Yancey
I guess the first thing I want to ask you is: How did the reunion come about? The band’s been pretty quiet for a few years now.
We ended things a number of years ago and didn’t really talk that much. At the end there was a lot of disappointment and it was a weird situation for all of us and we just kind of walked away from it and didn’t actually stay in touch with each other that whole time. It was kind of like “we” were a sore subject for all of us. I was hanging out with Anthony [DiIonno] who was our bass player, and we both live in Manhattan now and he was talking about how Bamboozle is going back to Asbury Park this year. That has a lot of value for us because that was the first time we were actually given a chance to play any kind of significant show and we’re from New Jersey, so all our friends who were going to see us play in basements and stuff in New Jersey came out to this festival to show their support and its how a lot of people outside of New Jersey first started hearing us.
Anyway, so he told me that was back in Asbury Park. It was the first time when we actually talked about possibly getting back together to play that. I don’t necessarily think that conversation would have come up if it weren’t for the fact that Bamboozle is going back to Asbury Park. I definitely know for sure that there’s not any new Armor For Sleep music that we’re going to work on. This is more of [us] just putting an end to a chapter in our lives, and we feel like Bamboozle is doing a throwback by going back to Asbury Park. In that spirit, we feel like for some people who didn’t get a chance to see our last show, this would be a great time to give them a chance because things ended so abruptly.
So there’s essentially no other plans for any other Armor For Sleep activity beyond this, I’m guessing on the basis of what you just said.
If there is, it’s not going to be a six-month reunion tour. This is definitely the last time we’re going to play Bamboozle or anything like it. I think maybe since we’re all going to be efficient with our music again, I wouldn’t be opposed to something, but pretty much it’ll be the last thing for sure.
What sort of memories do you have from Bamboozle, as either a performer or an audience member?
My first memory of playing Bamboozle was when we had barely toured at all and the amp that I had would always electrocute me, so I remember playing the biggest show that we’ve ever played and getting endlessly shocked on the microphone and being in so much pain. But at the same time it was the first time I saw people singing along to our songs. I think this was a couple months before Dream To Make Believe, our first album, was even out yet. It was this memory of being in pain and also experiencing this thing that I always hoped I would.
I could point to so many starting points for us at the festival. That was when so many different people from different bands got to see us that had been hearing our demo tapes floating around. Since it was a point [in time] when all these bands in the scene came together, it was the start of a ton of different relationships for us. I think that was the most important thing was that it was this community. The sad part is that in the past five years or something that we’ve been gone that that community has broken down a little bit. So for us going back there is kind of a reminder of how it was when we were coming up.
So what have you been up to since the band broke up a few years ago?
I’ve been working on a couple musical things. I did this industrial project called God Loves A Challenge for like, a year. It was fun. I really had no intentions to tour with it. It was just a studio project and when that was over I did a studio album and actually got to go tour Australia playing solo songs and some Armor For Sleep songs, which was an awesome experience because we never got to tour there. I just got engaged about a couple months ago and I couldn’t be happier in my life.
I think all the other guys are doing their own thing. They’re doing some music, they’re doing some things outside of music in their lives. When the band ended, there was probably a little bit of bitterness and not understanding what happened and now I feel like everyone is just content with their lives and has all this stuff going on and it’s a good time to come together again.
So what kind of performance can fans expect at Bamboozle?
Well, looking back at the Armor For Sleep albums and thinking about what I wanted to play, I was listening back trying to hear the albums from an outsider’s perspective. I think being in a band for so long, I have a tendency to be in the fish bowl and to hate the earlier stuff because I would knitpick it. Now listening back, I think I have more of a connection with what people, at the beginning, really liked about us.
We’re definitely going to play songs from our earlier stuff that we maybe were too snooty to play at the end of our band, which I don’t think that was fair to our fans, but I think that happens sometimes with bands that are still in the bubble. We’re mostly going to play old songs that we weren’t even playing at the end and songs that we actually when we get together are like, “Yeah, these are great songs.” Everyone is a different fan of Armor For Sleep and we hope we can send it out like a band.
How did the relationship with Bamboozle come about? Was it a matter of them approaching you or vice versa?
It was interesting because I [had] talked to Anthony about it, but he brought that up separately. I think and I don’t know, I haven’t talked to them about it, but I get the impression that Bamboozle hints about what bands are potentially going to be playing and they kind of release the roster of who’s playing slowly and I think a lot of our fans that are still around started thinking that they were hinting we were going to play and they started hounding the people from Bamboozle about it. I saw a little bit of that online—and this was a couple months ago—before I even talked about this with anyone else in the band. I was like, “Ugh, they’re going to be disappointed.”
I think that’s when Bamboozle thought about reaching out to us and asking us because they had gotten so much feedback from our fans, so it was kind of like two things happening at once. Then when they approached us about it and said that a lot of kids had been requesting it, we were like, “Well, we were thinking about that, too.” So it was kind of meant to be in that way. alt